THINGS TO DO IN ORLANDO BESIDES THEME PARKS

ORLANDO ESCAPE ROOM

Planning an Orlando vacation? We share the things to do in Orlando besides theme parks, so you can escape the parks and explore Orlando.

Orlando is home to some of the best theme parks in the world but do you really want to wander around in that heat every day? Here are some choices for those days you don’t fancy a theme park – our things to do in Orlando besides Theme Parks.

Things to know before you go to Orlando

Things to do in Orlando besides theme parks

Miami Travel Guide

TAKE A TRIP TO MIAMI

Just over a 3 hour drive away – a day or overnight trip to Miami is ideal for those looking to escape the crowds and experience a relaxed way of life. The Go Orlando Pass offers a 24 hour Big Bus Miami package included in it’s pass as well as admission to the Miami Seaquarium.

EXPLORE NATURE

Orlando is surrounded by nature trails, preserves and parks. Head to Tibet-Butler Nature Preserve for some good hikes and trails or head to Winter Park; just north of Orlando, for some picturesque boat rides.

One of the best things to do in Orlando besides theme parks is to visit Lake Louisa State Park in Clermont. There are 20 miles of hiking trails here, plenty of lakes and streams to discover as well as picturesque cabins. 

Kelly Park and Rock Springs Run is another beautiful area to visit near Disney World whilst Wekiwa River Basin is the perfect outdoors destination for those looking for a kayak experience. 

Take a canoe through Shingle Creek and make sure to relax and unwind in the Harry P.Leu Gardens in Winter Park.

Kennedy Space Center

The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex offers an insight into the world of NASA. It include exhibits and splays of previously used rockets, memorabilia and a bus tour of the spaceport. There are also two IMAX heaters for you to learn more about the history of this incredible space center. 

Book tickets in advance to save time on arrival. You may also wish to book an Astronaut Training Experience or children can learn more with Camp KSC. 

things to do in orlando besides theme parks
ORLANDO ESCAPE ROOM

HIRE A BOAT

 

Finding time to unwinding the hot summer months is essential whilst in Orlando. Our favourite thing to do was hire a boat and go sailing across the lake. Our resort (Westgate Lake Resort) included a massive lake with paddleboat and motorboat hire available. Paddleboat’s are also popular at the Lake Eola Park for a slower pace of life.

 

GOLFING

 

Whether you’re looking for a premium expansive golf course or a fun, family-friendly round of mini-golf, Orlando has it all. Most large resorts offer impressive golf courses and equipment hire whilst the Shingle Creek Golf Club is a popular choice for those looking to do some serious golfing. If, like me you, you like to hit (or dribble) a ball around, then head to the various mini golf courses on International Drive; the Pirates themed course is a great choice for families and couples

 
Orlando Magic NBA Stadium

Orlando Magic

For sports lovers (especially those from across the pond), why not head to a basketball game? The Orlando magic play throughout the season and a single ticket can be purchased on Ticketmaster or directly on the NBA website. 

AIRBOAT SWAMP TOURS

 

There are lots of companies in Orlando offering Swamp Boat Tours, where you can explore the wild and spot some alligators.

These are unique adventures, taking you through the untouched Florida Everglades. Kissimmee Swamp Tours offer fantastic tours and can be found just an hour away from Disney. 

 

SHOPPING

 

Orlando is a haven of 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 stores whilst the Orlando Premium Outlets Vineland Avenue and International Drive are both great for new fashions at discounted prices.

Shopping in Orlando

FOREVER FLORIDA

 

Become a cowboy at the Forever Florida Ranch, where you can go zip lining, horse riding or go on an open coach adventure. The Forever Florida coach tour is included on the Go Orlando Pass.

CHARLES HOMER MORSE MUSEUM

This art museum holds the most comprehensive and impressive collection of works from artist Louis Comfort Tiffany. Admission costs $6 for adults and the museum is closed on Mondays and major holidays. 

ORLANDO BREWING 

The Orlando Brewing Company is an organic brewer offering the best beers in Florida. Take a free tour of the brewery, running at 6pm every day except Sunday, then head to the bar for some sampling! 

Head here on Wednesdays and Thursdays to enjoy great drink deals at the bar after your tour, or visit on Friday and Saturdays for live music. 

DAYTONA BEACH

Just over an hour from Disney, Daytona Beach is full of family fun including water rides, motor-sport attractions and of course, a glistening beach. Head to the famous Daytona International Speedway before enjoying the Daytona Lagoon water park. The Daytona Beach Main Street Pier is a great place to chill out for a sunny afternoon and offers fantastic seafood options for foodies. 

INTERNATIONAL DRIVE

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 will love Fun Spot America and Whirlydome whilst foodies can head to Chocolate Kingdom  and Blue Martini. Try out an escape room, jump on the Orlando Eye or try your hand at one of the many mini golf options. 

Hot Air Balloon Ride

Why not explore Orlando from a different perspective? There are various hot air ballon companies that offer different tours in the area, offering you a unique experience including flights along the southern and western edges of Walt Disney World. Sunrise tours are a great way to start the day whilst night tours are a great way to see the parks and international drive lit up. 

Orlando hot air balloon ride

NIGHTLIFE AT CITY WALK

Every year hundreds of families head to Orlando but so do groups of early twenty-somethings and couples. Families can head to one of the many themed restaurants in the City walk or Downtown Disney area whilst those without the kids can head to the various bars and clubs that Orlando offers after dark. Check out the Ice Bar for a fun and cool night.

ORLANDO EYE

A perfect way to end a busy day, the Orlando Eye gives you the chance to sit back and view this bustling place from a glassed capsule. The oversized ferris wheel is 400 foot tall and gives amazing views of Orlando. 

Located in Icon Park, a visit could be paired up with a trip to Madame Tussauds, the Sea Life Aquarium or the Orlando StarFlyer. 

things to do on International Drive

GATORLAND

Gatorland offers a chance to be up close and personal to alligators, a perfect ‘half-day’ trip before heading back to relax in your hotel or villa pool. The park is open 365 days of the year from 10am to 5pm and there are is plenty of free parking here too. Animal shows run throughout the date and holiday events are also available at certain times of the year. Single day tickets cost $39.99 but you can save money when booking tickets online. 

THE ORLANDO SCIENCE CENTER

With various exhibits and interactive sections, the Orlando Science Center is a great way to spend a few hours exploring. Learn about science and technology through interactive exhibits and check out the theaters and live programming to learn more. 

Save money in Orlando

Explore beyond Orlando

Florida Keys Romantic places in the usa

There are many things to do in Orlando besides the theme parks but where else is there to do in Florida? If you are looking to escape Orlando for a bit (even just a day), here are some of the best places you can head to in Florida, including some romantic getaways in Florida:

  • Fort Lauderdale – Fort Lauderdale offers seven miles of beaches to enjoy and just a short drive aware is the popular Hollywood Beach with nearby outdoor cafes, shops and a farmers market. 
  • Sanibel Island  If your family love water adventures, then this is the place for you. Enjoy snorkelling, swimming and cycling around this barrier island which is home to 15 miles of beautiful beaches.
  • Destin, Fort Walton – Enjoy the white beaches and clear waters in Destin. If you love theme parks but want a quieter alternative to the Orlando parks, then head to the Big Kahuna’s Water and Adventure Park or the Gulfarium Marine adventure Park in the area. 
  • Florida Keys – If your family enjoy snorkelling then make sure to visit Florida Keys. Home to the only living-coral barrier reef in the USA, make sure to head to John Pennekamp State Park or the Fort Zachery Taylor State Park and Beach to explore the waters. There are several centres you can visit if you are looking to swim with dolphins, and for a quirkier night stay, you can try camping on the beach.
  • Tampa – When you aren’t enjoying the thrills of Busch Gardens or Adventure Island, you and your family can take park in one of the many water activities available in Tampa. Whether it is dolphin spotting, play water zones or water biking, there is something for everyone. 
  • Jacksonville – Ideal for those looking for a budget-friendly Florida getaway, Jacksonville offers awesome beaches, surging opportunities, delicious food and airboat tours on the Intracoastal Waterway. 

Helpful resources

Travel essentials:

Orlando things to do

What to pack:

We have a full Disney packing list here! 

There is so much more to Orlando than just the Theme Parks – but if you are thinking about heading to the parks, the Practical Wanderlust guide is a life saver and make sure you read our tips on how to survive the parks. 

Have fun and tell us about your time in Orlando in the comments below!

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24 Comments

  1. I had to double take the Machine Gun America bullet point.

    I heard that the bass fishing in the lakes around Epcot is amazing. In addition to trophy bass, you also get the surreal backdrop of Disney behind you.

  2. Wow that are some cool tips that you are sharing there. I’ve never been in orlando but i lll save this post for later (and stumbled as well!) I would love to see the kennedy park.

  3. I’m ashamed that I spent months living in Orlando while working at Disney and did almost none of these! Clearly I need to take your guide with me next time we go back 😛 My favorite by far on this list is the airboat swamp tours! SO much fun. Another good one that we did frequently was visiting Cocoa Beach!

  4. Hey, this is really an useful information! I went to Orlando last time just purely for the theme park only (because that’s all I knew that time). Haha…I wish to go back again other time to revisit the theme park as well as going to those places you mentioned. The airboat swamp tour looks interesting. 🙂

  5. Some really great suggestions here! I’m
    Not a massive fan of theme parks so would never visit for that. Daytona Beach though, I wouldn’t love to see!

    Thanks for sharing!

  6. The closest I have been to Florida so far has been Georgia. Reading through such a comprehensive list on your post has really alerted me to the massive number of things to do. As a nature lover, I would also love to do some of the hikes and trails you mentioned in #3. You are certainly lucky to have so much to see and do right on your doorstep!

  7. There are things to do in Orlando besides theme parks?!?! Whaaaat? Jk 🙂 the outdoor stuff sounds great – I never turn down some kayaking!! This is really helpful, saving it in case I ever make it there!

  8. I haven’t tried a hot air balloon ride ever. That would be something fun to try! I love that there are so many things to do in Orlando and a wide variety of them too!

  9. I lived in Orlando for 6 months a few years ago and am pleased to say that I did a few of the things you listed – but unfortunately not all. I am a huge fan of theme parks though, so it was a hard task to pry me away from them on my precious days off!

  10. Not going to lie, whenever I think of Orlando, the first (and only) thing that comes to mind is Disney. If I ever get roped into going to Orlando (not a big fan of Disney), I would love to rent a boat or go on a kayaking trip. The swamp tour sounds interesting as well, as that is such a big part of FL and I’ve never seen gators up close before!

  11. Orlando is just amazing & its really has so many things to offer to its tourists. I loved all the activities. I hope I will get a chance to visit & I would love to have that adventurous hot air balloon ride. Thanks a lot for sharing such a informative guide.

  12. I have never been and just associate it with theme parks so its great to know Orlando has so much more to offer! Will share the post 🙂

  13. Hi people can u help my family out with any recommendations
    We are heading to Orlando for Xmas & new year
    My boys r looking for a gun range of there is one
    B very grateful for any advice

  14. […] your trip to Walt Disney World; you have worked out how you are going to survive the theme parks, what you are going to do besides the theme park and even spent some time looking at the theme parks themselves! You have planned what Disney […]


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