Exploring Orlando Beyond the Theme Parks
Orlando, famously known for its world-class theme parks, is a must-visit destination for anyone heading to Florida. However, there is much more to Orlando than just the theme parks. In this article, we will share some of the best things you can do in Orlando beyond the theme parks. Whether you want to explore nature, indulge in some retail therapy, or learn something new, Orlando has something for everyone.
Central Florida Zoo
If you are an animal lover, a visit to the Central Florida Zoo is a must. Located in Sanford, just about 40 minutes away from the theme parks, the zoo is home to more than 500 animals and spans over 23 acres of lush gardens. The zoo includes an insect zoo, a reptile house, and a children’s play area, giving little ones the opportunity to feed and pet the animals. The zoo is a tropical paradise and makes for a great day trip from the Orlando area.
Orlando is surrounded by nature trails and parks, and one of the best things to do in Orlando is to explore the great outdoors. Lake Louisa State Park, located just a short drive away from Orlando, is a perfect place to start. The park offers 20 miles of hiking trails, several lakes and streams, and picturesque cabins to stay in. You can also take a canoe through Shingle Creek and unwind in Winter Park, taking in the beautiful surroundings.
Kennedy Space Center
The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is another must-visit attraction in Orlando. The complex offers an insight into the world of NASA, including exhibits and displays of previously used rockets, memorabilia, and a bus tour of the spaceport. The complex also has two IMAX theaters where you can learn more about the history of this incredible space center. Make sure to book your tickets in advance to save time on arrival.
Bok Tower Gardens
If you are looking for something off the beaten path, why not head to Bok Tower Gardens? This landmark, surrounded by acres of citrus groves, nature trails, woodland gardens, and endangered plants, is a perfect place for a relaxing afternoon. Located just over an hour away from International Drive, the Bok Tower Gardens are a national historic landmark and were given as a gift from Edward Bok, the author, humanitarian, and world peace advocate.
Orlando is a haven for discounted designer outlets and expansive shopping malls, with every store imaginable. The Mall at Millenia and The Florida Mall are both impressive and offer a variety of stalls, while the two locations of the Orlando Premium Outlets offer great fashion for discounted prices.
The Orlando Eye, also known as the wheel, is a perfect way to end a busy day. The oversized Ferris wheel is 400 feet tall and gives amazing views of Orlando. Located in Icon Park, a visit could be paired with a trip to Madame Tussauds, the Sea Life Aquarium, or the Orlando StarFlyer.
Orlando Brewing Company
For beer lovers, a visit to the Orlando Brewing Company is a must. This organic brewer offers the best beers in Florida, and you can take a free tour of the brewery at 6 p.m. every day except Sundays. Then, head to the bar for some sampling. You could even enjoy some great drink deals at the bar after your tour or visit on Fridays and Saturdays for live music.
Just over an hour away from the Disney area, Daytona Beach is full of family fun, including water rides, motorsport attractions, and of course, a glistening beach. Head to the famous Daytona International Speedway before enjoying the Daytona Lagoon Water Park. The main street pier is a great place to chill out for a sunny afternoon and offers fantastic seafood options for foodies.
International Drive is packed full of exciting things to see and do, from kid museums to crazy golf, themed restaurants to indoor rides and experiences. Families can love Fun Spot America and Whirly Dome, while foodies can head to Chocolate Kingdom and Blue Martini. You can try out an escape room, jump on the Orlando Eye like we mentioned before, or try your hand at one of the many mini golf options.
The Crayola Experience is a family-friendly experience located in the Florida Mall, covering two stories and around 70,000 square feet. Here, you can create your own Crayola crayon, enjoy many hands-on activities, and learn how crayons are made in a live show.
Gatorland offers a chance to be up close and personal with alligators, making it a perfect half-day trip before heading back to relax in your hotel or pool. The park is open 365 days of the year and offers free parking. Animal shows run throughout the day, and single-day tickets start at around $40. You can save money when you book tickets online.
Orlando Science Center
The Orlando Science Center is a great way to spend a few hours learning about science and technology through interactive exhibits, theaters, and live programming events. Not far from International Drive is Desiland Park, an indoor attractions area that families can enjoy to escape the heat. This includes axe-throwing, an arcade, bowling, a trampoline park, and go-karting.
Orlando offers plenty of escape room options, with some being more family-friendly than others. Typically, you are given an hour to escape a themed room by solving clues and completing challenges. This makes for a great date night or fun activity with friends.
Orlando offers much more than theme parks! From exploring nature to indulging in retail therapy, there are plenty of things you can do in Orlando beyond the theme parks. If you are planning a trip to Orlando, make sure to check out some of these attractions and activities to make your trip memorable. Stay safe and stay creative!