Orlando is the perfect vacation spot for friends and families, solo travelers, couples and adrenaline junkies alike. Pulling over 50 million visitors every year, it is unarguably the best theme park capitol of the world.
If you are visiting Orlando for the first time, there is a whole bunch of theme parks, water parks, and adventure sports to try. And if you are already done with all this stuff, don’t just give up. Orlando is way beyond the mandatory Universal Studios and Disneyland.
So in my blog, I am going to take account of all kinds of places this Floridian city has to offer. Whether you are a first-timer or been here a number of times, you will find something new to explore outside the Theme park bubble.
Things to do if you are visiting Orlando for the first time
Splurge out at the Walt Disney World Resort
This enchanting la-la land may leave a hole in your wallet, but is totally worth it in the end. It’s huge…so wear your most comfortable shoes. It hosts four theme parks- Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Epcot and The Magic Kingdom along with 2 water parks (Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon and Disney’s Blizzard Beach) along with plenteous hotels, eateries and entertainments complexes. So basically, you don’t need to step out from here, looking for fun. Prefer visiting in off-season, or on a weekday to avoid exhausting queues and bustle.
Be a kid all over again at the Universal Orlando Resort
This sprawling entertainment extravaganza has theme parks and a dreamy Citywalk snaking through restaurants, shops, movie theaters and nightclubs. The 3D Minion Mayhem Ride and the Simpsons Ride is every visitor’s favorite. But I loved the roller-coasters at the Universal’s Island of Adventure. Kids love the Jurassic Park themed ride while the Volcano Bay water park entertains people from all age groups alike. Check out the website for prior bookings.
Try a wrestle with a gator at Gatorland
If you are not up for the opulent theme parks, Gatorland would give you a sigh of relief. This reptile preserve housing crocodiles, alligators, turtles, toads and snakes lets you feed the largest white alligators on the planet (for an extra cost of course).
Go crazy with the Seaworld Orlando
Animal experiences here at SeaWorld are spectacular. Try planning your travel before 2019 to check out the ‘One Ocean’ Show. It is supposed to go off air post that. Other than that, this place hosts Orlando’s fastest, tallest and longest ride. Enough said!
Take animal encounters to next level at the Discovery Cove
The rave reviews written by past visitors make this place all the more intriguing. A companion site of the SeaWorld, Discovery Cove offers you a number of chances to make friends with dolphins, manta rays, otters and a number of exotic birds. The best part is that the visitors’ capacity is capped. So you can explore the place with ease.
Fun Spot America is another great alternative for an amusement park
If you are up for some basic amusement park fun and not one of those fancy, Harry Potter style rides, then Fun Spot is at your service. Try carousals, Gokarting and ride up with your kids in tea cups and Ferris wheel. For adrenaline junkies, there are some thrilling roller-coaster rides too.
Explore the versatile International Drive Resort Area
This one is almost like mini Orlando. There are so many places for shopping, dining and having a gala time, it may take several days to actually explore I Drive. There are multiple malls, Wonderworks, Ripley’s Believe it or Not center, a miniature Golf Course and world’s largest permanent ice bar all in one place. Oh wait there’s more! If you are a night owl, try I-Drive’s Blues Club, a Howl at the Moon dueling Pianos venue besides countless restaurants offering a wide variety of cuisines.
Go shopping at the Orlando International Premium Outlets
If you are in Orlando for a vacation, you’ve got to be Richie rich. Hence, shopping becomes inevitable. Apart from the vast shopping opportunities offered by I Drive, International Premium Outlets showcase some of the best shops across the planet. This place is more talked about than other counterparts for the amazing sales and discounts it has to offer. From Armani to Claire’s, you can get everything at much cheaper rates. Avoid visiting in rainy days, as it is an open air place.
The Mall at Millennia is not to be missed either
This is a shopping avenue for all kinds of pockets. Buy fairly priced souvenirs for all your loved ones here, instead of binging on the high-priced theme park ones. The variety of dining options is one to die for! Try a dish at P.F.Chang’s followed by a dessert at the Cheesecake Factory. If you are craving for more formal cuisines, head on to Capitol Grille.
Enjoy some leisure at the Harry P.Leu Gardens
Take a break from trundling your tots one amusement park to another and feel the city vibe for a change. This Botanical oasis offers you a perfect getaway from the city bustle to relax and smell the flowers. Take up some Horticulture classes or explore one of the art exhibits here.
Places to visit if you have visited all the Theme Parks in Orlando
Visit the Morse Museum of American Art
It houses the largest collection of Tiffany glass. Sparkling jewelry, lamps, leaded glass window and pottery besides other 250 artifacts are all exhibited in this gigantic property. One of its major draws is a 1,082 sq. ft. Tiffany Chapel, that took the workers 2 ½ years to merely reassemble it here after it was brought in from Chicago.
Don’t miss out on the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex
This place is such a wonderful relief from the hustling theme parks. Kennedy Space Center is a great getaway for every NASA buff. Though located a little outside the main city of Orlando, it’s absolutely worth your time. Make sure to catch a space themed IMAX movie here.
Go sporty with Golf
Orlando and the neighborhood is home to more than 170 Golf courses! Four of them are in Walt Disney beside the other public and private ones.
Take up a Kayak Eco-tour
Enough of fake jungle and motor ride experience. Tone your muscle with some real sport adventure. The mossy Shingle Creek Regional Park lets you kayak among some real alligators!
There’s Orlando Magic for the Basketball fans
No Magic Kingdom can match the magnitude of Orlando’s NBA Team popularity. Catch a game between October and June at the Amway Center downtown.
Sip a glass of Old Wine
Some terrific restaurants and wine bars are located at The Park Avenue. Try a sip at The Wine Room offering 156 handpicked wines. Then there is Carmel Cafe and Eola Wine Company to offer some amazing old and new vintages. Wraps, Tacos and Flatbreads go perfect with your glass.
Indulge in a luxury Spa
Whether you are here for a romantic getaway or simply exhausted with the theme parks strolls, some pampering at one of Orlando’s Top Spas is a must. Get yourself a facial at the 24,000 sq. ft. Waldorf Astoria Spa by Guerlain; it’s out of the world! The Ritz-Carlton Spa offers fresh citrus based treatments to rejuvenate your body. Also, try this unique Heated Shell Massage at the Grand Bohemian Hotel.
Get acquainted with the Boho neighborhoods
Orlando’s lakeside vicinities are all for surreal restaurants and eccentric eateries. Santiago’s Bodega in Ivanhoe village, Cask & Larder in Winter Park are some places not to be missed!
Go hiking in the Ocala National Forest
The second largest National Forest in Florida has a lot of gorgeous vistas to explore while you take the slow transportation. Plan a canoe trip with your kiddos down the palm-lines stream. Lake Dorr and Sweetwater Spring offer large cabins for families to rest. You can even try your hands on Boating in one of the amazing water bodies here.
Bike along the SnowHill Trail
This mountain bike trail in the Little Big Econ State Forest has a number of single pine-needle layered trails to cross. Try your luck at the river-crossing suspension bridge if you are really up for some adventure.
Grab a Biscuit at the Drunken Monkey Coffee Bar
Anzac biscuits available here were originally supposed to be for Australian Soldiers. But you won’t be denied the crispy deliciousness of this greatest cookie in town.
Go Airboating at the Black Hammock Adventures
Located on the gator-abundant Lake Jesup, Black Hammock gives you the opportunity to gawk at these reptiles while airboating.
So now you have enough on your Orlando bucketlist. Make sure you make the most of it! Bon Voyage!