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 do in Orlando besides theme parks
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 the pass as well as admission to the Miami Seaquarium.
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 outdoor 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 includes 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
Explore beyond Orlando
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 to visit 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.
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!