12 Things to Do in Orlando, Florida
As places to visit go, it is difficult to think of many places in the world that offer more things to do than Orlando, Florida. The city positively overflows with awesome events, attractions, places to eat, see, and visit.
Located in Central Florida and the fifth largest city in the state, Orlando has been called the "The Theme Park Capital of the World". It is America's most visited city and as well as drawing tourists, is one of the busiest destinations for conventions and conferences.
12 Fun Things to do in Orlando
- Walt Disney World
- Harry P. Leu Gardens
- Universal Orlando Resort
- Cornell Fine Arts Museum
- Ripley's Believe It or Not Orlando
- Discovery Cove
- Ocala National Forest
- Kissimmee Ghost Tours
- Kennedy Space Center
- Quantum Leap Winery
- Cocoa Beach
- Legoland Florida
I go into detail regarding each suggestion below.
If you can dream it, you can do it.— Walt Disney
1. Walt Disney World
As far as Disney attractions and events go, there is no place in the world that can compare with Orlando.
There really is something for everyone, no matter what their age, whether it is Magic Kingdom for all the family, Epcot for the adults, and Animal Kingdom for those who love the critters.
Epcot has an excellent food and wine festival which is worth catching if you can.
One of the most awesome facts about Orlando, FL is that Walt Disney World is, according to Forbes, the most visited vacation resort on the planet, with 25 million visitors each year.
2. Harry P. Leu Gardens
If you like beautiful sub-tropical and tropical gardens, Leu Garden consists of nearly 50 acres of landscaped grounds and lakes, with wandering trails, 200 year old oak trees, and exotic flowers. A paradise for those who wish to increase their appreciation of plants.
At the heart of the gardens is the Leu House Museum, with exhibits that demonstrate how the families who once dwelled in the house lived at the turn-of-the century.
The gardens and historical home were started by Mr. Harry P. Leu and his wife, Mary Jane, who traveled the world collecting exotic plants, including an incredible 240 varieties of camillias.
The house and gardens were donated to the City of Orlando in 1961.
3. Universal Orlando Resort
With two theme parks (Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure), plus a night-time entertainment complex (Universal CityWalk Orlando),there is plenty of opportunities for fun and entertainment.
As well as some incredible rides, movie theme areas, and the very popular new island, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, there are also some awesome seasonal events such as Halloween and Mardis Gras that take place each year. Four hotels provide convenient places to stay at the resort site.
4. Cornell Fine Arts Museum
There is plenty to see for art lovers in Orlando. The Cornell Arts Museum is located on the Winter Park campus of Rollins College. It houses 5,000 objects covering a wide period of time, stretching from antiquity up until the present day.
As well as a comprehensive collection of prints, drawings, and photographs, their permanent collection includes rare works by old maters, such as Cosimo Rosselli’s “Madonna Enthroned Nursing the Christ Child" (circa 1470) and Albert Bierstadt’s “Shoshone Indians-Rocky Mountains” (1859).
Note that the museum is closed on Mondays.
5. Ripley's Believe It or Not Orlando
Built deliberately to appear as if it is disappearing into one of Florida's famous sinkholes, the Ripley's Believe It or Not Odditorium in Orlando is a Bavarian style building located on the International Drive tourist corridor.
The Odditorium describes itself as: "The only place in Orlando where you’ll find shrunken heads, an authentic vampire killing kit, a shooting gallery, and a wild spinning vortex tunnel".
6. Discovery Cove
Offering a once in a lifetime experience, this unique tropical sanctuary is many people's favorite Orlando experience as a visitor.
The Discovery Cove offers thrilling encounters with wild animals, such as taking a 30 minute swim with dolphins, snorkeling in the Coral Reef with thousands of tropical fish, and wading in the Ray Lagoon, as well as an opportunity to hand feed exotic birds in the Aviary.
7. Ocala National Forest
Located north of Orlando, the Ocala National Forest covers 350,000 acres and provides the opportunity to explore and experience Florida naturally.
The Ocala National Forest includes over 600 rivers, springs and lakes. There are four separate recreation areas (Alexander Springs, Juniper Springs, Silver Glen Springs and Salt Springs), which as their names suggest, feature natural springs, as well as breathtaking scenery to explore.
You can camp, go boating, hiking, biking, birding, wildlife-viewing, horseback-riding, fishing, or drive one of the multiple 4-wheel trails for ATVs and Jeeps.
8. Kissimmee Ghost Tours
Located southwest of Orlando, Kissimmee Ghost Tours offer a tour of haunted Kissimmee.
An informative guide will show visitors the spookiest sites and explain the ghostly happenings associated with each place.
Spooky stories include: the Hanging Tree, the headless horseman, a small girl in a playground, and the Ghost of the Lake.
Reservations are necessary for the walking tours that leave downtown Kissimmee’s historic Welcome Station each night at 8.30. There is also provision for reservations by private groups of between 2 and 100 people.
9. Kennedy Space Center
Located around an hour east of Orlando with shuttles and bus services that provide a shuttle service from Orlando hotels, the Kennedy Space Center Visitors' Complex is an experience of a lifetime and well worth a visit.
You can see everything from the tiny early capsules to the huge Saturn V rockets that took the Apollo astronauts to the Moon. There are exhibits showing the space suits worn on historic trips into space, as well as shuttle launch simulators. You can visit the enormous Vertical Assembly Building, where they build the space shuttles.
The K.S.C. is open daily 9am-6pm with the exception of Christmas Day and some launch days.
10. Quantum Leap Winery
Down a side street and hidden from the main road, Quantum Leap Winery has a cozy, intimate atmosphere that is difficult to find elsewhere in Orlando.
Check out the gorgeous wine barrel room. With some great restaurants nearby, you can drink wine first then eat some excellent food nearby.
The winery can be booked private events too.
11. Cocoa Beach
Just a short drive from Orlando, Cocoa Beach is an awesome place to visit, and while you're in Florida you have to tip your sandy toes in the ocean, don't you?
A great place for surfing, as well as lounging (check out the original Ron Jon Surf Shop while you're there) Cocoa Beach has lots of places to eat and drink, as well as stay.
The Kennedy Space Center is also nearby, so you can combine a trip to the beach with an informative and fun trip to the internationally famous NASA facility.
12. Legoland Florida
Legoland Florida is another awesome attraction that is within easy travel distance from Orlando.
Second in size only to LEGOLAND Windsor in the UK, the Florida is designed for families and has 45 rides, attractions, restaurants, shows, and shops. There is also a botanical garden and a water park.
There should also be a hotel open in the Summer of 2015 to provide a place for people to stay.
What's the Best Time of Year to Visit Orlando?
My advice would be to avoid the summer months, if you can. The weather can be oppressively hot and humid, it can get very crowded, and the tourist businesses, such as hotels, tend to inflate their prices, especially during the school break.
The fall tends to be cooler, more affordable, and less busy, the only downside being that it is also hurricane season. Although Orlando is inland and so is very unlikely to suffer a direct hit, any hurricanes passing up the coast can still cause disruption to your holiday plans. That said, it is very unlikely that a hurricane will happen during your trip, but it's something that you may want to take into account.
Between late November and February, the weather is cooler, the attractions less crowded, but the room rates can still be high due to relatives traveling around during the holiday season.
My recommendation therefore is to visit during March, April, or May. Prices are more affordable, the weather is generally sunny without the unbearable humidity of summer, and you don't have to stress out about hurricanes or tropical storms disrupting your plans. You should always try to book ahead to get maximum value though, especially if traveling around Easter or Spring Break.
6 Things to Do in Downtown Orlando
So many visitors to the Orlando area spend all their time at the theme parks and miss out on all the fun things to do Downtown. The Downtown area is relatively small, making it easy to walk around. There's plenty of history and culture to experience, as well as restaurants, theaters, bars, and late-night clubs.
Here are 6 suggestions for some fun things to do:
- Church Street. At the heart of Downtown Orlando is Church Street. As well as finding many of the city's best restaurants and a thriving night scene here, you can also see the historic old Railroad Depot, which was built in 1889, long before the arrival of Disney World. Next door is the newly built SunRail project, which can be used to access other parts of the city.
- Dr. Phillips Center. Located on Downtown Orlando’s Magnolia Avenue, the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts is an entertainment complex where you can experience high quality musicals, opera, drama, and comedy shows. The impressively designed two block complex features two theaters, as well as venues for smaller events, both private and public.
- SAK Comedy Lab. Everybody needs a laugh sometimes and the SAK Comedy Lab has a reputation for delivering quality entertainment. It specializes in improvisational comedy making every show a unique and vibrant experience. If you like the show, “Whose Line is it Anyway”, you will love it here.
- Orlando Science Center. Located just outside the Downtown area, the Orlando Science Center features an interesting mix of exhibitions and hands-on activities. The star attraction is the Nature Works, a giant space that demonstrates how the living things of Central Florida all interact and depend upon each other for their survival.
- The Pop Parlour. This popsicle place is personal favorite of mine and a great option for when you need to cool down on a hot day. The Pop Parlour has a well-deserved reputation for using only fresh, high quality ingredients. The wide array of flavors include cocktails such as Pineapple Mimosa and Mango Rum, as well as more traditional fruity popsicles.
- Amway Center. The Amway Center is the city's main venue for sports and live entertainment. It's built to be versatile and can transform itself into a suitable venue for live music, ice hockey, basketball, or indoor football. It's the home of three sports teams: Orlando Magic (NBA), the Orlando Predators (Arena Football League), and the Orlando Solar Bears ice hockey team.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
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© 2015 Paul Goodman