Many people plan a trip to Orlando to visit its world-famous theme parks, but there are many things to do in Orlando to complement a Disney vacation. Orlando has been our family’s go-to destination for decades. We Canadians can’t get enough of this central Florida city’s sunshine and theme parks, and trust me, we’ve done it all. From shopping at flea markets to exploring International Drive, Orlando is a fantastic all-round vacation destination for the whole family.
Best Things to Do in Orlando, Florida
It’s no secret that Orlando is the theme park capital of the world. The city is a complete entertainment destination for families and couples with attractions galor. From museums to outdoor adventures, Orlando has a surprising number of things to do outside the usual theme parks. However, they are pretty great, too! So let’s go on a tour of all the things to do in Orlando.
1. Walt Disney World Resort
We won’t spend too long on Orlando’s theme parks since we all know about most of them, but let’s break down what you can see and do at each of them, starting with Walt Disney World Resort. It was this resort that made Orlando famous and when you visit Orlando, you must stop here at least once in your life.
Walt Disney World Resort is the ultimate family escape, encompassing four theme parks and two water parks. You could visit Orlando repeatedly and still not see all of Disney World. Walt Disney World Resort is constantly changing and adding to it to keep people coming back again and again. Let’s break all the theme parks down.
2. Magic Kingdom
The original Magic Kingdom is the classic Disney theme park built around the fairytale castle (modeled after Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany). It’s here that kids love seeing Mickey Mouse, the Haunted Mansion, and Pirates of the Caribbean, while parents love the thrill of Space Mountain. It’s a classic theme park and one of the top things to do in Orlando for first-time visitors. Read more Top 10 Roller Coasters in Florida.
TRON Lightcycle Run is the newest attraction at Magic Kingdom Park. Based on the Disney sci-fi film TRON. Ride one of the fastest coasters of all the Disney theme parks while traveling through The Grid on your very own Lightcycle.
Note: A virtual queue is in place for TRON Lightcycle / Run. Guests must use the My Disney Experience app to enter this attraction.
3. Epcot Center
Epcot Center takes you worldwide without needing to travel with the World Showcase featuring 11 countries where you can immerse in their culture. Go Soarin’ Around the World in the IMAX simulator, create your own concept car to take a spin along the test track, or check out the classic Epcot attraction that takes you on a journey through time. The all-ages attraction will allow guests to explore and engage with water as it travels from the skies to the oceans and back again.
4. Disney’s Hollywood Studios
We always love going to film studios, and Disney’s Hollywood Studios has transformed from its original MGM studio tour to a Hollywood setting, taking you through worlds from the movies. Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge lets you experience everything Star Wars. Go through 3D motion simulators to build your own droid. Kids will love the Toy Story and Pixar themes, too.
6. Typhoon Lagoon
While Orlando doesn’t have beaches, it has plenty of water parks. And if you are a water lover, Disney has a water park! Typhoon Lagoon has water slides and surf pools, beaches and lazy rivers.
So even if you don’t make it to Daytona or Miami Beach, you can still have a beach holiday. But Daytona Beach does make a great trip for Orlando, we have stayed in Daytona and made day trips to Orlando in the past, read more: Best Things to do in Daytona Beach, Florida
7. Disney’s Blizzard Beach Waterpark
The second of Disney’s water parks is Blizzard Beach. This 66-acre water park is a great place to chill out. The theme of this park is a ski resort melted into warm and inviting waters. Since it takes place in a ski resort, many downhill slopes and slides can be enjoyed. There are winter themes such as the snow castle fountain, Tikes Peak, Toboggan Racers, and the Downhill Double Dipper.
If you are feeling fearless, you can tackle Mount Gushmore, one of the world’s fastest and tallest waterslides. There’s also a lazy river and white sandy beaches to remind you that you enjoy fun in the sun. Read 18 Best Beaches in Florida for Fun in the Sun
8. Disney Springs
Disney Springs is also located at Walt Disney World Resort. This expansive outdoor complex has four distinct areas: Marketplace, The Landing, Town Center, and West Side. It combines shopping, dining, and entertainment in one easily accessible location. Shoppers can explore various stores, from big-name brands to unique Disney-themed merchandise at the Marketplace.
One of the coolest things to do in there is to take a hot air balloon ride over Disney Springs. This exhilarating adventure elevates visitors high above the bustling streets, providing panoramic views of Disney Springs and the surrounding area. The tranquil ascent in the early morning or late evening hours captures the essence of Orlando’s scenic beauty, with the iconic Disney landmarks visible from a bird’s eye view.
For entertainment, Disney Springs offers live music, street performers, and a state-of-the-art movie theater. There are plenty of dining options available at The Landing, featuring everything from quick bites to fine dining experiences.
What’s awesome is that Disney Springs has free admission, and is open year-round, making it a convenient and budget-friendly addition to any Orlando trip. You get the feel of being at Disney without the hefty ticket prices.
Where to Stay at Disney
You can book hotels directly at Walt Disney World Resort and we highly recommend this to make the most of your stay. Check out these hotels located directly within Walt Disney World Resort.
9. Universal Orlando Resort
The next on our list of top things to do in Orlando is to make your way to Universal Orlando Resort. It is definitely giving Walt Disney World Resort a run for its money with seven island parks on Universal’s Islands of Adventure, Universal Studios, four hotels and a water park. Universal has some major thrill rides with fast rollercoasters and fun virtual reality rides. Check out: The Best All Inclusive Resorts in Florida
10. Universal Studios Florida
Movie buffs will love Universal Studios Florida with rides inspired by film and TV. There are plenty of 3D rides that will make your stomach jump. From the Shrek 4D and Despicable Me Minion Mayhem (which I totally go sick on) to The Simpsons Ride, you’ll be immersed in animation. If you want roller coasters, this is the place to go with the 70 mph Jurassic World Velocicoaster to the more relaxing 40 mph Revenge of the Mummy.
Get your 3 Park Ticket that give access to Universal Studios Florida, Universal’s Islands of Adventure, and Universal’s Volcano Bay water theme parks. Hassle-free cancelation up to 24 hours in advance to receive a full refund.
11. Harry Potter and Diagon Alley
Universal is a mix of theme park and working studio and you can also check out Harry Potter’s escape from Gringott’s bank. Harry Potter is so popular he crosses over two theme parks!
We were lucky enough to visit the opening of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Diagon Alley. Even as adults, we loved this. It helps that I am a Harry Potter fan!
What we love about Universal is that its rides are geared to adults with some extreme roller coasters, and simulators. In fact, I was so nauseous after one ride I had to take a few rides off as Dave went on some of roller coasters without me.
12. Universal Islands of Adventure
Besides The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Hogsmeade, Universal Islands of Adventure has seven other themed sections. Marvel Super Hero Island, The Lost Continent, Port of Entry, Toon Lagoon, Jurassic Park, Skull Island, and Seuss Landing are all places you can explore. Each of the island parks all has rides geared toward the perspective movie genres.
13. Minion Land
Minion Land opened at Universal Studios, featuring the beloved Despicable Me Minion Mayhem attraction, a new Minion café and more.
Check out The Secret Life of Pets: Off the Leash and head over Despicable Me Minion Mayhem to see your favorite characters.
Illumination’s Villain-Con Minion Blast combines innovative screen technology, state-of-the-art gaming interactivity, and elaborate physical sets to create a one-of-a-kind, game-based adventure where guests encounter immersive environments, nefarious villains, and tons of mischievous Minions from Illumination’s blockbuster film franchise.
14. Universal CityWalk
You don’t even have to necessarily go into the park to enjoy Universal Resort, City Walk has some fun attractions outside the gate. Play a round of mini golf, catch a movie or grab a bite. It’s a fun place to take a stroll and feel the energy.
If you are looking for something unique to do, Universal’s Great Movie Escape at Universal CityWalk is the first-ever escape room experience that features two rooms with interactive state-of-the-art missions. It’s intricately detailed sets were inspired by Universal Pictures and Amblin Entertainment’s blockbuster films Jurassic World and Back to the Future.
Where to Stay at Univeral Orlando Resort
Where to Stay at Universal Resort
15. International Drive (I-Drive)
International Drive (aka I-Drive) is one of the must-visit places in Orlando. International Drive has a midway feel with indoor go-carting, indoor skydiving, arcade games, and mini golf. This resort area has many attractions, restaurants, entertainment, and shopping. It is home to the Orange County Convention Center, so there are plenty of hotels making it a more reasonable place to stay than one of the theme parks in Orlando.
Where to Stay at International Drive – We stayed at Wyndham Orlando Resort, and it was fantastic. It was within walking distance to some of the best attractions on International Drive and nearby restaurants and the movie theater. Yet it was far enough away from it all, giving an upscale quiet retreat. Check it out on TripAdvisor
The area has many hotels, making it easy to explore International Drive from your resort. Let’s check out a few of I-Drive’s top sites.
16. Fun Spot America
Looking for an amusement park outside Universal and Disney? Fun Spot America is located at International Drive and is fun for the whole family with go-kart tracks, Orlando’s only wooden roller coaster, kids’ rides, and a splash park. Get your tickets in advance, including free parking and water park admission.
Unlike our other Orlando theme parks, Fun Spot does not charge for non-riders – which is perfect for parents of older children. Instead, parents can watch their children enjoy the rides for free and stay safely on the ground.
17. The Wheel at Icon Park
The Wheel at Icon Park is a 400-foot-high observation wheel that takes 23 minutes to do a full rotation. This is one of the more popular things to do in Orlando at night. Make sure to stop at the Sky Bar to pick up some bubbly or beer for your ride. The pods are air-conditioned and hold up to 15 people.
You can get your tickets in advance – Enjoy the city views from the pod with this flexible ticket that lets you visit when it suits your schedule. You can upgrade to include dining experiences or activities such as tickets to the Starflyer, Madame Tussauds Orlando, or SEA LIFE Orlando.(easy cancellation for full refund within 24 hours of ticket entry)
WonderWorks is a fun interactive science center with attractions like the Space Discovery Zone, Extreme Weather Zone, The Physical Challenge Zone, and the Imagination Lab. It is an indoor amusement park for the mind! It has 100 interactive exhibits from the indoor ropes challenge
19. Escape Game
Escape Game on International Drive was rated the #1 Escape Room in Orlando if you love escape rooms. It has 7 Orlando escape rooms for all skill levels, including a prison break, the heist, Gold Rush, and Mission to Mars. There is free parking, and you can combine it with other International Drive attractions, followed by dinner or a ride on The Wheel at ICON Park.
20. I-Ride Trolley
The I-Ride Trolley is a great way to get around International Drive. A single fare is $2 per ride, but it is best to get a day pass. Day passes range from one day for $5 unlimited rides to 3,5,7 and 14-day passes. See the I-Ride Trolley for Details.
21. Madame Tussauds
Madame Tussauds Wax Museums have endured the decades. There’s something that attracts people to famous wax figures when on vacation and Orlando has filled that requirement by having its own Madame Tussauds. If you are into that, check it out.
For more Florida travel information, you may want to check out these articles.
22. Church Street
Most people don’t think of spending time downtown Orlando on their Florida vacations, but there are plenty of things to see and do. Church Street is the heart of downtown with the best restaurants and nightlife. Make your way to the East End Market to see art, food and fruit and vegetables from all around Central Florida or enjoy the bistros and cafes of Thornton Park. Downtown Orlando is also home to the Amway Sports Arena that is home to the NBA Basketball Team, the Orlando Magic.
23. Fringe ArtSpace
The newest attraction in downtown Orlando is the Orlando Fringe at Fringe ArtSpace. The 9100 square foot space is a year round performing arts venue with two theatre spaces. A main stage and the smaller black box venue. Make sure to check it out to see its programs of concerts and theatres plus pop up events and workshops.
24. Amway Center
If you are a basketball fan, head over to the Amway Center and pick up some tickets to see the Orlando Magic, Orlando’s NBA team. Winners of six division championships, this is one popular team! If you can’t get tickets to a game, check out a concert at the arena, there are regular events, and performances and the hockey team Orlando Solar Bears call the Amway Center home as well.
25. Lake Eola Park
Located in the heart of downtown, Lake Eola is nearly a mile of waterfront sidewalks circling a picturesque lake. The Linton E. Allen Memorial Fountain, aka Centennial Fountain, is the official symbol of Orlando. This serene park is a popular place for concerts and dining. You can rent paddleboards in the park as well.
26. Orlando Science Center
Nearly every major city in the world has a science center and Orlando is no exception. These interactive museums are a great way to spark interest in science and technology for the little ones and to escape the heat. ona hot Florida day. Everybody loves the Kinetic Zone offering an introduction to physics or going back millions of years to the age of the dinosaurs. It has it all. Science is cool man.
27. Orlando Museum of Art
Just because you are visiting the theme park capital of the world doesn’t mean you don’t require a bit of culture. The Orlando Museum of Art is a modern art museum housing everything from local artists to French classic artists like Cézanne and Gauguin.
28. Titanic Artifact Museum
For Titanic Lovers, the Artifact Exhibition in Orlando houses nearly 200 artifacts from the Titanic recovered by RMS Titanic Inc. We are always fascinated with Titanic exhibitions. We’ve been to the Titanic Museum in Belfast where the Titanic left from its port and in Halifax where the major rescue and recovery took place at the time of its sinking off the coast.
Get your tickets in advance to Titanic Artifact Museum – See artifacts recovered from the Titanic and immerse in the experience through full-scale recreations of her Grand Staircase, First Class Cabin and more while actors in period costumes portray Titanic notables.
29. Morse Museum of American Art
See the works of Louis Comfort Tiffany, an American Art Nouveau artist, and designer who was the son of the founder of Tiffany and Company. He is most famous for working with glass designing lamps, stained glass windows and mosaics. He was also the first design director of Tiffany & Co.
This museum showcases his glass works including a chapel interior that was on display at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago.
30. Harry P Leu Botanical Gardens
Another tropical oasis just minutes from downtown Orlando is the Harry P Leu Gardens. This 50 acre park is a great escape if you are looking for something different to do in Orlando. There’s a butterfly garden, a tropical rainforest and a variety of exotic plants from around the world.
Things to do Near Orlando
My parents spend their winters in Winter Haven. Located 1 hour south of Orlando, it is a popular Snowbird destination and there are quite a few things to do here to add to your Orlando itinerary. My dad made a point of telling me that if I ever wrote about things to do in Orlando, I must include these other Central Florida attractions. So let’s check them out.
31. Kennedy Space Center
With Elon Musk and Richard Branson starting up the space race again, interest in space travel is at an all time high. The Kennedy Space Center has been attracting visitors to Cape Canaveral for decades. Check out the astronaut training center and the Apollo / Saturn V race to the moon. There are plenty of interactive displays and old rockets and space craft on hand.
Pick up your skip the line tickets to the Kennedy Space Center for access to many exhibits including, Space Shuttle Atlantis, Shuttle Launch Experience, Rocket Garden, and IMAX Spacefilms. This Kennedy Space Center Day Trip includes transportation from Orlando, Kissimee, Disney and Lake Buena Vista areas and with access to Kennedy Space Centre attractions and a visit to restricted areas.
32. Old Town Kissimmee
Step back in time and visit the Old Town of Kissimee. This town is modelled after a classic Florida town filled with restaurants, shops and tree lined streets resembling a bygone era. Make sure you visit on a Saturday night for the Saturday Nite Classic Car Cruise and take a ride on the Old Town’s iconic Ferris Wheel.
33. Tree Trek Adventure Park
If you are looking for an adventure, the Tree Trek Adventure Park is fun for the whole family. Experience arial challenges above the forest canopy and a giant 425 foot long zip line. There are courses for all levels including 2 kids courses and adult courses ranging in height and difficulty. Tackle the silver obstacle course for the ultimate challenge.
Tree Trek Adventure Park is located at 7625 Sinclair Rd in Kissimmee, Florida 34747
34. Winter Park
When touring around during a visit with my parents, we stopped in Winter Park and my first thought was “mom and dad should buy a place here!” This Orange County city is filled with parks and its main street Park Avenue has plenty of shopping and dining. The Winter Park Scenic Boat Tour is one of Orlando’s top attractions taking visitors through seven lakes and two canals.
Winter Park has an upscale feeling that is completely different from the Disney and Universal attractions. It is a way to experience Orlando like a local with upscale dining, fine art museums and 2,781 acres of pristine waterways.
35. Bok Tower Gardens
This beautiful day trip from the city is located between Tampa and Orlando. Birders love Bok Tower Gardens with its 126 different species of birds, making it a designated stop on the Great Florida Birding Trail. There are 50 acres of gardens, including a children’s garden around the neo-Gothic Singing Tower carillon. There are only 600 carillons in the world! Professional Carillonneurs play this bell tower. It’s worth visiting for this alone!
Legoland has come a long way baby and Legoland Florida is a combination theme park and waterpark in one. This is definitely a park for the whole family. A very cool fact is that Legoland is on the site of the former Cypress Gardens which was famous for its water shows since 1939. While Cypress Gardens is officially closed, it lives on in Legoland’s Botanical Gardens where the giant Cypress tree still stands.
Leggoland’s newest attraction is opening soon. Pirate River Quest is a treasure hunt adventure that sees guests follow a pirate in search of treasure through the waters of Cypress Gardens to explore its canals.
37. Florida Everglades Tours
Exploring the Florida Everglades is a thrilling day trip from Orlando, just three hours away. This vast, natural wetland is a top attraction for visitors seeking an adventure beyond the city’s theme parks. Book this Everglades tour to see alligators, birds and the scenery as you skim through the high grass of the Everglades.
Tours of the Everglades are highly popular and highly likely to sell out offering an up-close look at this unique ecosystem through airboat rides, which glide over the marshes, providing an opportunity to spot alligators, exotic birds, and native flora.
Guided tours are recommended to fully appreciate the area’s rich biodiversity and to learn about the Everglades’ ecological importance. Besides airboat rides, visitors can engage in hiking, bird watching, and photography, immersing themselves in the tranquility of nature. This excursion adds a refreshing contrast to the usual Orlando itinerary, making it a must-do for those wanting to experience Florida’s wild side.
38. Blue Spring State Park
Located 45 minutes outside of Orlando in Orange City, Blue Spring State Park is not to be missed. It is the premier place to view manatees as they make their way up the St. Johns River during the winter months to avoid the cold ocean waters. The natural springs remain a balmey 72 degrees throughout the winter. Take a walk along the 1.3-mile boardwalk to see manatees swimming. You can also get in the water at Blue Spring State Park and do some swimming, paddle boarding and river tubing in designated areas.
39. Manatee Day Trip
One of the best ways to get up close and personal with Manatees is to take a tour in the Great Outdoors. If the Manatees aren’t in Blue Spring State Park (since they are only there seasonally) you can go to Homosassa State Park to see the Manatees of Crystal River. It also includes a 30 Minute airboat ride on the Withlacoochee River.
Visiting animals in their natural habitat is our preferred way of experiencing wildlife. We suggest airboat tours, kayaking tours or snorkeling tours over places such as the Central Florida Zoo, SeaWorld or Gatorland.
40. Animal Welfare
We are not fans of zoos and don’t think that animals should be put on display for people’s entertainment. We prefer visiting sanctuaries and seeing animals in their natural habitat. However, we wanted to include these animal attractions as other Orlando guides mention them and we want to give our opinion so that you can make up your own minds.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom – When it comes to Disney’s Animal Kingdom, we’d rather see lions on the African savanna rather than in a theme park. I know not everyone can do this, but there are amazing virtual reality and documentaries out there. But at least Disney gives animals plenty of room to roam. Disney says that it celebrates the earth’s animals plus a few from Avatar’s Pandora. We personally, haven’t been to Animal Kingdom and prefer to enjoy animal encounters in the wild.
Seaworld Orlando – We never recommend a visit to Seaworld Orlando. While they claim to do a lot of conservation and rescues, they put marine life on display for human entertainment and this is not right. It causes stress on marine life to have to perform and interact with strangers. I wish Seaworld would change.
SEA Life Orlando Aquarium
If you want to visit an aquarium, SEA Life Orlando Aquarium is the best option. Unlike traditional marine parks like SeaWorld, SEA Life places a strong emphasis on education and conservation.
The aquarium is renowned for its efforts in rescuing and rehabilitating injured marine animals, along with its initiatives to protect ocean habitats. Visitors can explore a variety of exhibits that showcase a wide range of marine species, from colorful fish to majestic sea turtles, in environments that mimic their natural habitats. Interactive experiences, such as the 360-degree ocean tunnel, offer an immersive way to learn about marine ecosystems and the importance of preserving them.
Does Orlando have Beaches?
While Orlando itself is not home to beaches, it’s ideally positioned within driving distance of some of Florida’s most picturesque coastlines. To escape the Florida heat, a day at the beach is just the ticket. Just an hour’s drive east, visitors can reach the Atlantic shores of Cocoa Beach, famous for its surf-friendly waves and family-friendly atmosphere. A two-hour journey west leads to the Gulf Coast’s Clearwater Beach.
And these are just some of the fantastic attractions in Orlando. After visiting again and again, we always find something new. Florida has catered to tourists down to a science and the people in charge are forever thinking of new ways to entice visitors to the State. And a great place to start is Orlando!
Orlando is a fantastic vacation destination for the whole family. With world-class entertainment, excellent location for day trips, and endless Orlando activities, it’s the perfect destination to visit Central Florida’s top attractions. Or you never need to leave the city, the possibilities are endless.
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