What to do in Orlando - Theme Parks, Nature, Art, Adventure and More
Everyone knows that Orlando starts and ends with the theme parks. Visitors travel worldwide to experience the magic - the charming and timeless characters, the adrenaline-pumping roller coasters, and all of the spectacular zones within Walt Disney Resort. Universal Resort Orlando offers up a glimpse at your favorite movie characters, some high-octane thrills and spills in their parks, and much more. The other theme parks and hundreds of attractions bring non-stop fun and discovery to this beloved destination.
Many people don't know the depth and breadth of Orlando as a vibrant and robust destination beyond its theme park persona. There are ample opportunities to connect with the sunshine state's natural beauty and wildlife, dining options to rival any destination, golf, and other outdoor sporting opportunities, fantastic nightlife, rich and diverse cultural opportunities, including a vibrant arts scene, and so much more. If you’re wondering what to do in Orlando, we’ve got you covered.
We've curated our Top Things to Do in Orlando Guide to share some of our favorites in each category. Read on!
- Walt Disney World
It's tough to visit Orlando without making a pilgrimage to Walt Disney World. And frankly, why would you? "When in Rome....." Walt Disney World is enormous. Disney Resort covers 25,000 acres of Orlando, Florida. The property includes the big four theme parks- the Magic Kingdom, Disney's Animal Kingdom, Epcot, and Disney's Hollywood Studios. The MAgic Kingdom alone covers 142 acres, and Disney's Animal Kingdom at 500 acres is the largest Disney park. HINT: Wear comfortable shoes and clothes.
Beyond the "big 4" parks, Disney offers two incredible water parks (see below), three 18-hole golf courses, 34 resorts and hotels, and dining and entertainment areas of Disney's Boardwalk and Disney Springs, and ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.
Disney offers more than 50 rides, so you will want to choose carefully when building your itinerary. It is nearly impossible to visit all of Disney, and with so much to see and do in the Orlando area, we suggest you choose carefully. Focus on one or two of the parks, and plan out your visit before you travel to maximize your time in the parks. The makeup of your party will determine the best parks for you.
- Universal Orlando Resort
Universal Orlando has three incredible theme parks, including a water theme park (see below), a shopping and dining complex at Universal CityWalk, and onsite resorts. Universal Studios Florida will make you the star of the show and give you a peek behind the curtain. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is a must for kids of a certain age. Don't miss the chance to try ButterBeer and visit Diagon Alley. Visit charming Hogsmeade within Universal's Islands of Adventure and thrill to the many themed rides. Universal's Volcano Bay takes you to an island paradise with lots of heart-pounding rides and great places for relaxation.
Again, you should try to experience a taste of Universal while in Orlando. Your choice will be guided by the makeup of your family or party.
Rounding out the collection of top theme parks are SeaWorld Orlando, SeaWorld's Aquatica Orlando, and Discovery Cove. These world-class parks offer unique and exciting experiences for the entire family. You'll get up close and personal with marine animals, thrill to roller- coasters and water slides, and enjoy some time out on the lovely beaches. When it comes to water attractions, Orlando has them all. They make a perfect choice for a steamy Florida day.
For more on Orlando Theme Parks check out Your Guide to Orlando Theme Parks
Attractions Outside of the Theme Parks
Wondering what to do in Orlando once you've had your theme park fix? There’s an entire world of entertainment awaiting. There are over one hundred attractions within the greater Orlando area. Here are just a few of our favorites, based on their uniqueness, thrill, or fun level or simply because they're cool!
- The Wheel at ICON Park
The Wheel at ICON Park is a 400-foot-high observation wheel that will take you soaring over the city of Orlando. You can enjoy the view of Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando, and the entire city from the comfort of a private capsule. The brave at heart may even want to try the Orlando StarFlyer. When the ride is over, ICON Park offers lots more to enjoy, including dining and other top attractions like Madame Tussauds Orlando Wax Museum. Talk about the ultimate selfie!
Head over to International Drive for lots more affordable and fun attractions and adventures outside of a theme park. International Drive is referred to as the Las Vegas Strip of Orlando. Some favorites for family fun are Pirate's Cove Adventure Golf or a tasty visit to the Chocolate Kingdom - Interactive Factory Adventure Tour. Learn how chocolate is made and sample some goodies.
Get the adrenaline going at Andretti Indoor Karting & Games, or for a real thrill, take a shot at iFLY Orlando Indoor Skydiving. That one will make memories. If you're ready for a bite to eat, you'll find plenty of familiar restaurants on International Drive.
Waterbabies Only! - Our Best Water Parks
When the sun is high, and you're looking for your wet and wild fix, Orlando has lots of choices. Visit Disney's Typhoon Lagoon. Visiting these water parks are some of our favorite things to do in Orlando
SeaWorld Aquatica Orlando (SeaWorld's water park) combines the animal encounters of SeaWorld with thrilling rides, beaches, and a lazy river for a day of water entertainment. Discovery Cove is an all-inclusive day resort that offers lots of family fun, including opportunities to get close to the dolphins, snorkel with thousands of tropical fish, feed exotic birds, and unwind on the beach. There are no lines here! You can meander at your own pace and enjoy breakfast, lunch, and beverages which are all included with your admission.
For Nature Lovers -Things to do In Orlando Besides the Parks
Did you know you can get close to nature and enjoy the great outdoors of Orlando without getting out of town? Visit Lake Eola Park, an oasis in downtown Orlando that offers the opportunity to enjoy Lake Eola, a 23-acre lake with a beautiful LED-lit fountain at night. The lake banks are beautifully manicured with flower beds and trees and a mile-long walking path shaded by palms and cypresses. This is an ideal way to get away from the crowds. Take a cruise on a swan-boat, feed the swans, or find a shady place to picnic. This is truly an oasis. Sundays bring the Farmers' Market with lots of local vendors, and you may catch a show at night in the Disney Amphitheater.
Another outdoor favorite is Harry P. Leu Gardens. This year-round haven offers close to 50 acres of landscaped grounds and lakes. Towering oaks and Spanish moss shade the paths. Take the one and one-half tour of the Leu House Museum, which was the former home of the founders, Harry and Mary Jane Leu. The botanical gardens have vast collections of subtropical and tropical plans and a prized collection of camellias. Visit the butterfly garden, herb garden, palm garden, and tropical fruit collection. Don't miss the rose garden with its 650 roses from 215 varieties. Bring a picnic and enjoy! You'll want to allow a few hours for this one.
These are a couple of nearby favorites, but if you are an adventurer, check out Wekiwa Springs State Park for 7000 acres of Florida wilderness and the 16-mile Wekiva River. Swim, snorkel, canoe, or kayak for a great day of nature.
The Orlando area has a surprisingly vibrant art scene. With world-class museums, local exhibits, and pop-up events, Orlando has something for every art lover.
The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of Art is one of our eclectic favorites. They are home to the most complete collection of pieces by Tiffany of any museum in the world. You'll see stained glass, jewelry. enamels. lamps and more. There is also lots more to see, including stained glass by William Morris and Frank Loyd Wright. You'll also work from John Singer Sargent and Rembrandt as part of the extensive painting collection. The Morse is located in charming Winter Park, a destination in itself. While you're there enjoy, the lovely downtown with its boutiques and galleries and stop by Cornell Fine Arts Museum with over 5500 works ranging from antiquity to contemporary. Note: Not all of the collection is on view at the same time, but there is plenty to see.
Other notable venues for art and culture lovers are The Mennello Museum of American Art. For something edgier, catch CITY unseen, an augmented reality art project that includes murals that come to life and projection mapping, all available with a free mobile app.
Night Owls Only
Orlando comes alive at night. You'll find live music, high-energy dance clubs, and edgy lounges in Downtown Orlando. Be sure to check out Wall St. Plaza with its collection of seven bars in the district.
Head to Disney Springs for another hit of the magic. A highlight is The Edison, which is a steampunk-influenced restaurant and bar and a great hotspot. You may even catch a burlesque show. The House of Blues, Paradiso 37, and Jock Lindsey's Hangar Bar all keep the action going in Disney after dark.
Universal CityWalk is one of Orlando's best concert venues and home to Hard Rock Live Orlando. There are lots of dining and entertainment options to explore. Some favorites are Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville and NBC Sports Grill and Brew.
Shopping 'Til You're Dropping
Orlando is a shopper's haven. You'll find the luxury malls with the most premium brands, discount outlets, unique boutiques with local wares, and all of the themed Disney and Universal swag you'll ever want, all within a 15-mile radius. Wear your comfortable shoes.
One of Orlando's malls is The Mall at Millenia features luxury brands, valet parking, and a premier shopping experience. They have over 150 stores and eateries and some of the most in-demand brands, including Hermes, Chanel, and Gucci. Come for the day and window shop. The Florida Mall, which sits just minutes from the airport, is Central Florida's largest shopping center, covering 1.8 million square feet. This is a great family shopping experience with exclusive stores like American Girl, Crayola Experience, and The Disney Store.
If outlet shopping is your thing, you're in luck with Lake Buena Vista Factory Stores offering 50 well-known outlet stores. On International Drive, visit Orlando International Premium Outlets for everything from luxury brands to value pricing. Don't miss Orlando Vineland Premium Outlets for great budget and style.
For that authentic Florida experience do some boutique shopping in the Downtown Orlando neighborhoods. We recommend Thornton Park, Ivanhoe Village, and College Park.
Only in Florida
Don't leave the sunshine state without these signature Florida adventures. Hop in the car and go east an hour to visit Kennedy Space Center. Located in Cape Canaveral, this is your chance to get up close to the space shuttle Atlantis, visit the astronaut hall of fame mission control
Another "must-visit" is the Florida Everglades. Zip across the Florida Everglades in an airboat powered by an enormous (and noisy) fan at 50 mph. You'll travel through acres of Everglades and probably get to see an alligator or two.
Hit the Beach!
There are several excellent options for Florida beaches on the Atlantic Coast. (That's east by an hour.) Hop in the car and visit Daytona Beach or Cocoa Beach. If you want to travel slightly further, you can check out the sugar-white sand of Clearwater Beach and the Gulf Coast. The surf is light, and the sunsets are gorgeous.
Check out some of our top tips on what to do in Orlando and create the Orlando trip of your dreams. The sunshine state awaits and there are plenty of things to do in Orlando! For more Orlando fun, check out Unique Things to Do In Orlando.
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