Orlando, Florida is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, and for good reason. The city is home to some of the most famous theme parks in the world, including Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando, and SeaWorld. However, Orlando has much more to offer than just theme parks.
Interesting facts about Orlando:
- Orlando is known as “The City Beautiful” due to its many parks and green spaces, including Lake Eola Park, Harry P. Leu Gardens, and Bill Frederick Park.
- The city is home to over 100 lakes, making it a popular destination for boating and fishing.
- Orlando is one of the most visited cities in the world, with over 75 million visitors in 2019.
- The Orlando International Airport is the busiest airport in Florida, with over 50 million passengers annually.
- Orlando is the birthplace of several famous people, including pop star Ariana Grande, astronaut John Young, and actor Wesley Snipes.
- Walt Disney World Resort is the largest single-site employer in the United States, with over 75,000 employees.
- The first theme park to open in Orlando was Gatorland, which opened in 1949.
- The Orlando Science Center is home to the largest refractor telescope in the state of Florida, which can be used to view planets, stars, and galaxies.
- The Orlando Magic basketball team was named after the city’s history as a hub for the citrus industry, which used the phrase “magic” to describe the taste of its fruit.
- The Orlando Eye, a 400-foot tall observation wheel located on International Drive, offers stunning views of the city and surrounding area.
- The city is also home to several universities, including the University of Central Florida, Rollins College, and Valencia College.
- The Walt Disney World Resort is so large that it has its own government, known as the Reedy Creek Improvement District.
- Orlando has a thriving arts scene, with many galleries, theaters, and museums, including the Orlando Museum of Art and the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts.
- The city has a diverse population, with large communities of Hispanic, African American, and Asian American residents.
- Orlando is home to several professional sports teams, including the Orlando Magic (NBA), Orlando City SC (MLS), and Orlando Pride (NWSL).
In this article, we will explore the 19 best things to do in Orlando, Florida, beyond the theme parks.
Visit Lake Eola Park
Lake Eola Park is a beautiful oasis in the heart of downtown Orlando. The park is centered around a large lake, which visitors can explore by renting swan-shaped paddle boats. There are also plenty of walking paths and picnic areas, making it a great place to spend a relaxing afternoon. Visitors can enjoy the park’s many events and concerts throughout the year, as well as the daily swan feeding. The park is especially beautiful at night, when the city skyline is illuminated by the lake’s fountain.
Take a Hot Air Balloon Ride
For a unique and unforgettable view of Orlando, visitors can take a hot air balloon ride. The rides usually take off early in the morning, providing stunning views of the city as the sun rises. The balloons drift over forests, fields, and lakes, and offer panoramic views of the theme parks and downtown Orlando. The rides usually last about an hour and end with a champagne toast.
Go on a Helicopter Tour
A helicopter tour is another great way to see Orlando from above. Helicopter tours offer breathtaking views of the theme parks, downtown Orlando, and the surrounding countryside. The tours typically last about 15-20 minutes and are a thrilling way to see the city.
Explore Harry P. Leu Gardens
Harry P. Leu Gardens is a beautiful botanical garden located just north of downtown Orlando. The gardens feature over 50 acres of plants and flowers from around the world, as well as several historic homes that have been restored and turned into museums. Visitors can enjoy the many walking paths and gardens, as well as the several events that take place throughout the year.
Go Shopping at The Mall at Millenia
The Mall at Millenia is Orlando’s premier shopping destination. The mall features over 150 high-end stores, including Bloomingdale’s, Macy’s, and Neiman Marcus. Visitors can also enjoy a variety of restaurants and cafes, as well as a movie theater. The mall is especially beautiful during the holiday season, when it is decorated with elaborate Christmas decorations.
Visit the Orlando Science Center
The Orlando Science Center is a great place to take kids and adults alike. The center features several hands-on exhibits, as well as a planetarium and an IMAX theater. Visitors can explore the science of the human body, weather, and space, among many other topics. The science center also hosts many educational programs throughout the year, including summer camps and after-school programs.
Discover the Kennedy Space Center
The Kennedy Space Center is located about an hour’s drive east of Orlando and is home to the United States’ space program. Visitors can tour the center and see the Space Shuttle Atlantis, as well as other historic spacecraft and exhibits. The center also offers many interactive exhibits, such as the Shuttle Launch Experience, which simulates a space shuttle launch.
Take a Nature Walk at Tibet-Butler Preserve
The Tibet-Butler Preserve is a beautiful nature preserve located just southwest of Orlando. The preserve features several miles of hiking trails, as well as a nature center and picnic areas. Visitors can see a variety of wildlife, including deer, turkeys, and many species of birds. The preserve is a great place to escape the city and enjoy the natural beauty of Florida.
Visit the Orlando Museum of Art
The Orlando Museum of Art is a great place to experience art from around the world. The museum features several permanent collections, as well as rotating exhibits throughout the year. Visitors can see art from many different cultures and time periods, as well as participate in many educational programs.
Attend an Orlando Magic Game
The Orlando Magic are Orlando’s NBA team and play their home games at the Amway Center in downtown Orlando. Attending a game is a fun and exciting way to spend an evening in Orlando. The arena offers great views from every seat, as well as plenty of food and drink options. The team has a loyal following and offers a high-energy atmosphere for basketball fans.
Take a Boat Tour of Winter Park
Winter Park is a charming city located just north of Orlando. Visitors can take a boat tour of the city’s many lakes and canals, which are lined with beautiful homes and gardens. The tours provide a unique view of the city, as well as its many beautiful waterways. Visitors can also explore the city’s many parks and historic buildings.
Gatorland is a unique theme park that is home to thousands of alligators and crocodiles. Visitors can see these creatures up close, as well as watch them perform in shows and demonstrations. The park also features many other animals, such as snakes, birds, and tortoises. Visitors can even zip-line over the alligator-infested ponds for an adrenaline rush.
Explore the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art
The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art is located in Winter Park and features one of the most extensive collections of Tiffany glass in the world. The museum also has a large collection of American art and decorative arts, as well as many rotating exhibits. Visitors can see the beautiful Tiffany windows, lamps, and other pieces created by the famous glass artist Louis Comfort Tiffany.
For the ultimate adrenaline rush, visitors can go skydiving in Orlando. Several companies offer skydiving experiences, including tandem jumps for beginners. Visitors can experience the thrill of free-falling from over 10,000 feet, while taking in stunning views of the city and surrounding countryside.
Take a Day Trip to Clearwater Beach
Clearwater Beach is located about two hours west of Orlando and is one of the most beautiful beaches in Florida. Visitors can enjoy the white sand beaches, clear water, and a variety of water sports and activities. The beach also offers many restaurants and bars, as well as a bustling nightlife.
Visit the Orange County Regional History Center
The Orange County Regional History Center is a great place to learn about the history of Orlando and the surrounding area. The museum features exhibits on the area’s Native American history, as well as its growth and development over the years. Visitors can see artifacts and exhibits from various periods of the region’s history, including the Spanish colonial period, the Civil War, and the Civil Rights Movement.
Take a Segway Tour of Celebration
Celebration is a master-planned community located just south of Orlando. Visitors can take a Segway tour of the town, which features beautiful homes, parks, and lakes. The tour is a fun and unique way to see the community and learn about its history and architecture.
Go on a Safari at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge
Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge offers a unique safari experience where visitors can see animals from Africa up close. The lodge also features several restaurants and a variety of other activities. The safari offers a great opportunity to see animals like giraffes, zebras, and antelopes, while learning about their habitats and behavior.
Explore the Cornell Fine Arts Museum
The Cornell Fine Arts Museum is located on the campus of Rollins College in Winter Park. The museum features a collection of art from around the world, as well as several rotating exhibits throughout the year. Visitors can see works by artists like Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, and Henri Matisse, among many others.
Orlando, Florida offers a variety of activities beyond the theme parks. Visitors can enjoy nature walks, art museums, shopping, and sports games, as well as unique experiences like hot air balloon rides and skydiving. No matter what your interests are, Orlando has something for everyone.
What is the best time of year to visit Orlando?
The best time to visit Orlando is during the off-season, which is from January to early May and from September to early December.
What is the weather like in Orlando?
Orlando has a humid subtropical climate, which means it is hot and humid in the summer and mild in the winter.
Can I visit Kennedy Space Center without a car?
Yes, several companies offer transportation from Orlando to Kennedy Space Center.
What is the cost of a hot air balloon ride in Orlando?
The cost of a hot air balloon ride in Orlando varies depending on the company and the length of the ride, but expect to pay around $200-$300 per person.
Is Gatorland suitable for young children?
Yes, Gatorland is suitable for children of all ages and offers several activities that kids will enjoy, such as the petting zoo and the shows.
Can I visit Lake Eola Park at night?
Yes, Lake Eola Park is open until 11 pm and offers beautiful views of the city skyline at night.
Are there any free things to do in Orlando?
Yes, there are several free activities in Orlando, including visiting Lake Eola Park, exploring the Harry P. Leu Gardens, and attending the nightly fireworks shows at Disney’s Magic Kingdom.
What is the best way to get around Orlando?
The best way to get around Orlando is by car, but there are also several public transportation options, including buses and a light rail system.
Is it worth visiting Orlando if I don’t like theme parks?
Yes, Orlando has plenty to offer beyond the theme parks, including museums, nature preserves, and sports games.
Can I see all of the 19 best things to do in Orlando in one trip?
It may be difficult to see all 19 things in one trip, but visitors can prioritize the activities that interest them the most and plan their trip accordingly.