Top Amazing Things to Do in Orlando Florida
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Finding the best family vacation spot is always on my mind. We have traveled all around the world but if you ask my kids, Orlando is the place they love the most.
There are lots of family-friendly activities throughout the area more than you could possibly do in one vacation.
If you need some ideas of how to spend your vacation, this is the right place!
Now Get Ready For this Great List of Things To Do In Orlando!
Psst! Don’t forget to pin this post for later!
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Disney World is obviously the most visited place in Orlando! Disney World consists of four parks. Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom, and Epcot. It also has two water parks Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon.
Disney World encompasses 30,000 acres! It is a massive resort! There are 25 resort hotels located on the property. 200 food locations and 90 full-service restaurants are located on the property. You can truly drive for 15 minutes and still be on the property.
Disney World is open 365 days a year. Disney even offers extra hours for hotel guests making it possible to go before the park is open to the public or stay after the park closes. Every day at least one park has these hours offered.
Disney World is a dream vacation. It is a top worldwide travel destination, 52 million people visit each year. There is a planning process involved sometimes 6-9 months in advance. 180 days in advance you can make dining reservations, 30-60 days in advance you can book your fast passes. If you would like more information on planning you can join my Disney Planning Facebook Group.
Tickets at a Discount
Usually, the longer you stay the more you save on tickets. Disney has discounts but they are usually in the form of a package deal. They also have special tickets for the Christmas and Halloween parties.
Universal Studios and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Universal is another highlight of Orlando. If you are a Harry Potter fan it should be on the top of your list of places to visit. Universal consists of three parks, Island of Adventure, Universal Studios, and Volcano Bay. Both Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure have the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, in fact, if you want to ride the Hogwarts Express you need to purchase and double park pass.
Differences Between the Parks
Volcano Bay is a full-themed water park. Universal Studios has attractions and rides based more on movies and TV shows. Islands of Adventure is full of thrill rides.
Universal has eight resorts located very close to the parks. The longer you stay the more discount ticket price you will get. Universal runs promotions all the time. (buy 2 days get 2 free and so on) You will have to check what the current promo is. For us, we only had one day, which made the cost more than Disney World!
CityWalk is located right outside of the parks. You can shop for some Harry Potter Souvenirs or other Universal gear. You can also eat at the best restaurants at CityWalk. There are also entertainment options on CityWalk. Planning a Universal Studios vacation is a perfect thing to do in Orlando!
Universal is such a fun park! You are going to have a great time. Discount tickets are usually available on tickets longer than 2 days.
Location: 486 E Buena Vista Dr, Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830
Hours: 10am – 12am Daily
Things to Do at Disney Springs
There are so many things to do at Disney Springs: great shopping, amazing food, and spectacular live entertainment. With FREE parking in their large garages, it’s usually not too difficult to find a spot.
With 106 listed stores, Disney Springs really has it all if you’re looking to do some shopping. Disney merchandise, name-brand stores, gift shops, the Lego store, a year-round Christmas shop, and the list just goes on!
Disney Springs is one of the best Instagramable spots in Florida! It is the perfect place to capture your memories!
Staying Near Disney Springs
We often stay in one of the hotels that are walking distance to Disney Springs when we visit – there are many and we usually can find a great deal or use our reward points.
Eating at Disney Springs
My favorite reason to visit is the restaurant selection. You can find almost every kind of food among their 62 dining options!
Some not to miss options are:
The Basket at Georges Wine Bar for tapas, mouthwatering skirt steak, and a wine list you won’t find anywhere else (we go here EVERY visit to Orlando)
Enzo’s Hideaway for Italian in a beautifully appointed setting
The Rainforest Cafe for an interesting experience for children of all ages!
(Keep in mind that some of the restaurants really require reservations, so plan ahead so you’re not in for a long wait.)
Also, if you’re a dole whip fan, there’s a Marketplace Snacks quick-serve stand where you can grab some for dessert!
Entertainment at Disney Springs
There are 14 options for entertainment at Disney Springs from movies to bowling to live music and dancing. You’ll have to check the website for dates and times for different events. They are also working on a New Cirque du Soleil show.
With so much to do, you’re bound to find something for everyone!
Contributed By: Winedineandroam.com
When in Orlando, it can be easy to spend too much money. Fortunately, Orlando does have some budget-friendly activities. If you want to save some money without missing out on any fun, be sure to check out Gatorland!
Although it’s slightly off the beaten path, it’s only twenty minutes east of Disney. Open 365 days a year, you can visit any day between 10-6.
I’m not exactly a fan of reptiles and had basically no interest in visiting, but am so glad I did! Many different types of animals live there in addition to the 2,000+ alligators. It was really neat to be able to immerse myself in this environment and learn so much about these reptiles!
Since this zoo strives to be interactive, there are many ways to get maximum enjoyment throughout the day. They even offer many activities for thrill-seekers if you need a little adventure in your life. Find out more in this photographic guide to Gatorland!
Contributed By: Mealsandmilemarkers.com
Sea World Orlando
SeaWorld owns many parks in Orlando. SeaWorld Orlando, Discovery Cove, and Aquaticia.
SeaWorld Orlando is a great place to visit. I love the ocean! We live near it; we love to play in it and we love to travel around the world to see different parts of it. You can check out our Whale Watching Tour as well! It’s no surprise I wanted to visit SeaWorld.
They help rescue animals, rehabilitate them and release them back into the wild. SeaWorld has helped more than 35,000 animals and your visit to SeaWorld helps their efforts.
Let’s talk about the park! The girls and I took my Dad and his wife to SeaWorld for one day. Since we had two seniors with us, we chose rides and attractions that would work for all of us. The only ride that didn’t work for everyone was Journey to Atlantis. My dad’s wife and Evelyn went shopping and returned in time to see my dad, Ainsley and I come down the flume. The splash level on this ride says, “soaked and not for everyone,” but it was true for my dad. There is a human dryer next to the ride for $5 if you need it.
Shows and Rides
We divided our time between shows and rides. The killer whale show, as well as the dolphin show, were top on our list. My kids loved feeding different species of sharks in their touch tanks. All these shows and encounters were amazing.
Since neither of the girls was tall enough for the big coasters, we went on the other rides. Of course, I would love to go on the big roller coaster and will the next time we go back.
To get a great overview of the park and the surrounding area we went up the Sky Tower. This ride costs $5 each but was very cool. We then headed over to the Shamu Show but first, we had a ride on the Sea Carousel. Yes, the Sea Carousel has aquatic animals to ride. The killer whale show is thrilling, to say the least. We recommend seeing a show.
Next, we headed over to Antarctica which is an amazing experience. We chose the wild ride and it was fun and not scary at all. After the ride, we saw the penguin colony which is always a treat. I could sit and watch them play for hours.
Since we had cooled off in Antarctica, we were ready to go out to see the dolphin show. Afterward, we went to turtle trek where you get to wear 3D glasses. Who doesn’t love that?
The aquarium is a great indoor activity in Orlando. Seeing the turtles, fish, and manatees in this aquarium was special. Sea turtles are one of my favorite animals. Our last ride was Wild Artic. This ride is a simulation of a helicopter ride over the North Pole to check out the animals and glaciers. The aquarium after this ride houses walrus, beluga whales, and polar bears.
Contributed By: Intheolivegroves.com
Discovery Cove is an all-inclusive day resort owned and operated by Sea World. It is located 5 minutes from Sea World. This is a place where you can live your dream and swim with dolphins.
The park hours are from 8:00 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. In the price of a basic ticket all meals are included, snorkel gear, towels, lockers. Access to the dolphin Lagoon, freshwater oasis, the grand reek, serenity bay, wind away river, and the explorer aviary is also included.
There are upgrades to swimming with sharks or sea venture, which is like scuba diving. This park is recommended for older kids, teens, and adults. Six-year-olds can participate in the dolphin swim and stingray feedings but may not appreciate the whole experience.
If you are excited to swim with dolphins, Discovery Cove is a perfect destination. Plus, certain promotions throughout the year usually give you access to its sister parks Sea World, Aquatica, and Busch Gardens.
Attractions Near Orlando
If you are looking for more things to do in Orlando for adults or outdoor things to do in Orlando there are a few options just outside of the city limits. Orlando is amazing but you might want to take a little road trip and explore more of the deep south! There are so many great day trips from Orlando.
The following attractions are not located in the city of Orlando but qualify for our top things to do in Orlando post because they are within a short driving distance.
Natural Springs Near Orlando
If you’re looking to take a break from the crowds at most of the popular tourist attractions in Orlando, consider driving just 45 minutes northwest of the city to paddle along Rock Springs Run in Apopka, Florida.
This natural spring pumps out 73-degree crystal clear water and has some fun activities like kayaking, tubing, and swimming that both visitors and locals love to enjoy year-round.
Things to Do at the Natural Springs
Playing in the shallow waters or tubing from the headsprings can be accessed through the Kelly Rock Springs gate and is perfect for kids of all ages. If you are looking for more of an adventure, rent a kayak or canoe from King’s Landing to navigate about 2 miles upstream through the dense forest of the beautiful Emerald Cut (pictured).
Rock Springs Run
For an even more wild Florida experience, paddle the length of Rock Springs Run which is 8.5 miles with the current to Wekiva Island, and reward yourself at The Tooting Otter with a local craft beer.
Rock Springs Run has something for everyone and its unique beauty alone is reason enough to visit during your next Florida vacation. For more information about paddling Rock Springs Run, visit Kayaking From King’s Landing. This is a great thing to do in Orlando other than Disney!
Contributed By: impulse4adventure.com
Beaches Near Orlando Florida
Clearwater Beach © Adventure Dragon
There are a few options for beaches near Disney World or Orlando in general. You can go toward the Atlantic Ocean side or the Gulf of Mexico side. The Atlantic Oceanside is about an hour away. Cocoa Beach is one of the popular choices in that direction. On the Gulf of Mexico side, Clear Water is a very popular choice.
Clearwater Beach is just a two-hour drive from Orlando and is well worth the trip!
To find pretty blue ocean water, you typically have to travel somewhere outside of mainland USA–like the Caribbean islands–because the ocean in the states often appears as a dull, grey-tinted color. The water in Clearwater, however, is pretty turquoise! It’s actually the bluest water I’ve seen anywhere in the USA, and that’s probably why Clearwater Beach is consistently ranked as the number one beach in America.
#1 Beach in America
The water is also warm, shallow, and free of large waves, so it’s an ideal location for swimming without worrying too much about safety. I actually unexpectedly swam with manatees in the wild at this beach! They came into shore and swam around us for close to three hours, occasionally getting close enough to brush up against our legs. Manatee sightings and dolphin sightings are both incredibly common at this beach. There are even Clearwater Beach dolphin cruises that will take you on tours just to see them.
Sunsets at the pier are also spectacularly breathtaking, so I highly recommend staying in a Clearwater Beach hotel near Pier 60 if you decide to stay overnight. Before you drive back to Orlando, you should also take a stroll down the pier, dine at one of the yummy beachfront restaurants, and shop for souvenirs in one of the quirky shops located along the Beach Walk.
Transportation to Clearwater Beach
Didn’t rent a car? No problem. Isango has a tour to Clearwater Beach that includes your transportation and lunch.
Contributed By: Adventuredragon.com[
Legoland Orlando Florida
When looking for things to do in Orlando you don’t want to miss Legoland, FL. Situated in Winter Haven, Legoland has a Lego-themed hotel, amusement park, and water park.
Legoland opens at 10 am and stays open to 7 pm (depending on the season). If staying in Orlando, Legoland provides reservation-based round trip transportation from I-Drive 360 for $5 (plus tax).
The park is geared for children ages 2-12. However, whether it’s watching their famous water ski show or riding their Lego-themed rides, Legoland is an amusement park with something for the whole family.
Why We Love Legoland
We love Legoland not only because it is a great place to play and use our imaginations, but it usually does not have the crowds that typical Orlando attractions have.
Legoland usually has discounted tickets. If you are staying at the resort the package deal is usually really good.
Contributed By: peachykeenes.com
Busch Gardens (Tampa near Orlando)
That Travel Chick’s Experience at Busch Gardens
Take a short 2-hour road trip from Orlando to Tampa Florida to visit one of South Florida’s unique amusement parks, Busch Gardens. Open at 10 am daily, while closing time varies between 6 pm – 9 pm depending on the day.
Check out their newest thrill addition Tigris. This is a forward and backward coaster with a 150 food surge and inverted roll all at more than 60 mph. Busch Gardens has over 200 species of animals to gander at, beautiful gardens and displays, and thrill rides for all.
You’re never too young or old to enjoy what Busch Gardens has to offer. Learn about my last trip to Busch Gardens.
If you are looking for discounted tickets always ask me! SeaWorld is one of my top brands I work with. I am up to date on all the latest promotions. Busch Gardens is part of the SeaWorld brand.
Kennedy Space Center
Kennedy Space Center is located 45 minutes from Orlando. Once you arrive you can park for a $10 fee. The hours of operation are from 9:00 a.m. till anywhere between 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. depending on the season. Ticket Prices are $47-$57 for a one-day ticket price. There are discount tickets for seniors and active military.
I would highly suggest going to the Kennedy Space Center Website to plan out your trip. There is an amazing trip planner option that allows you to answer a question about your trip such as, how many days are you planning, will you have children with you and if so how old. It is really detailed and very helpful!
Dine With An Astronaut
One amazing experience you might love is the ability to dine with an astronaut. You will be able to get all your question’s answered by the men and women who have actually been to space. Restricted access is another great perk of this tour.
If you love space or have children that are really interested they will love this place!
Swimming with the Manatees
Swimming with manatees is one of the best day trips from Orlando! Manatee season peaks during the winter and has almost finished by the time President’s Day Weekend rolls around, but those are the best time to be in Orlando anyway.
The best place to swim with manatees is Crystal River, which is about an hour and a half drive west of Orlando. Manatee tours are three hours long, and your guide boat takes you to spots with high manatee activities, usually in clear water with great visibility.
How to Swim with Manatees
You’ll have a wetsuit, mask and snorkel, and floaty. Your job is to sit as still as possible and observe the manatees in their natural environment. If you’re lucky, they might even come up and visit you. Either way, manatees are just about the cutest thing ever and a unique way to explore Florida.
Tour From Orlando to Swim with the Manatees
A guided tour to see the manatees is a great idea. They will pick you up in Orlando and take you to the state park to swim with the manatees. The tour includes snorkeling gear, a boat ride, breakfast and lunch, and the park entrance fee. It is really a great option!
Contributed By: Colemanconcierge.com
Ocala National Forest
What do you think of when people say Florida? I’m sure it’s beautiful beaches and Disney, but there are many more things that make Florida a special destination. One of these special places are the numerous natural springs.
We finally made the time to visit several of the springs in the Ocala National Forest. Salt Springs is about a 1.5-hour drive from the Orlando area. It’s a great day trip to explore the natural side of Florida, and the perfect alternative to the beach.
You can enjoy swimming, snorkeling, trail walking, and even just relaxing in the shade under some majestic oak trees. It may not even feel like you are in Florida. Salt Springs is a hidden gem you are sure to love.
Contributed By: Howwefindhappy.com[
Orlando Science Center
Photo courtesy of HHCP
If you just love science this museum will not disappoint. This museum is located in downtown Orlando. The hours of operation are 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Parking is $5 and is located on the south side across the street.
The Science Center has four floors of interactive science exhibits. There are also shows throughout the day that are interactive, fun, and engaging. Also, included in your admission is a 3D theater that features great educational and Hollywood films.
The best part about this museum is that it is a part of the ASTC program. So, if you are traveling and have a membership to a partner facility in your own state you can get into this museum for free!
Hotels in Orlando
If you are looking for a nice hotel in Orlando you have many choices! I personally recommend staying close to whatever attraction you are visiting. The Disney World hotels have so many options from low budget to luxury. Universal has a wide variety as well. There are many vacation club resorts in the area.
We have stayed a quite a few of these locations and loved them!
Other Orlando Attractions
Orlando Scavenger Hunt American Girls Store, Crayola Discovery Center, Helicopter Tour, WonderWorks, Exotic Animal Experience, SeaWorld’s Aquatica Skeletons Museum, Madame Tussaud’s, Holy Land Experience, Titanic the Artifact Exhibition, Ripley’s Believe it or Not!, Icon Park, Lukas Nursery Butterfly encounter, Medieval Times, Orlando’s Museum of Art, Blue Man Group and the list goes on and on!
There is an Orlando flex pass that will let you choose multiple locations to visit at one low price. Or if you want a discount for some of the less popular attractions checks out the Orlando Attraction Explorer Pass.
I hope this gives you an idea of what to do in the Orlando area!
If you have question’s, we love to help answer them join my Facebook Group!
It really is amazing how much there is to do in Orland, FL. My dad lives in Ocala and we’ve been to the National Park but never to the salt springs. It will be on our list for our next visit to Florida as well as the Kennedy Space Center.
Yes, As I put this all together I realized how much more than Disney there is in the area!
This is such a great list! We live in the Orlando area and there are still some of these we have not tried out yet. Thanks for the suggestions 🙂
So many awesome things in this area! I want to go more often!
Wow looks like I’ll need to allow several days when I visit! Awesome list. Thank you.
I know there is so many things to do and personally, I like to spend at least 6 at Disney World! I’m ready to try some new adventures!
I am really looking forward to visiting more places in Florida! This list of Orlando highlights is great for me to refer back to when planning. Thanks so much for sharing!!
No problem! I hope it does help!
So many great places to visit. I think we’ll have to put swimming with the manatees on our list for next time. That just sounds way too cool!
I know, I want to try that out too!
I just love this area and you are right, there is so much to do! Great roundup of ideas and activities.
So many things to do in Orlando! I’ve mainly visited the amusement parks, but some of these other things sound great as well. Thanks for the ideas!
This is why we love living so close to Orlando! We live in the Tampa suburbs and there is never a shortage of things to do. There’s lots of things to do in Tampa alone, but having both cities so close together makes it a great place to live.
What an awesome article! This really covers great stuff to do in Orlando!
Love all these recommendations from all these Orlando experts! I’m now a travel agent and currently have two clients going to Orlando. I will definitely share this blog post with them so they can discover new and alternative things to do!
Great list! I love the “off the beaten path” places like that natural springs and Ocala National Park. Thank you for sharing!
What a great post! I used to travel to Orlando all the time, but the trips were really short and I didn’t get to do a lot of the things on this list! I pinned your post for when I can finally make it back and have the time to explore! Thank you!
Thanks! I hope it helps!
I never knew there was such much to do outside Disney and universal in Orlando. Thnaksk for this wonderful post.
30,000 acres! We have not visited yet. It would take us weeks to experience everything.
Disney has not developed all of that land yet but you still have to drive on it to get from one side to another!
This is an awesome guide to Orlando, and I am definitely saving it for future reference. Honestly, I would LOVE to check out all those places…I have never been to any of the major amusement parks out there, and it’s time I did something about it! 🙂
I love Disney but now I know of so many more places to visit!
There’s so much to do! So little time! Great list!
I know! So much to do so little time!
There is so much to do in the Orlando area! I haven’t ventured out to from from Disney, but maybe in the future we will. After our Disney trips, we usually drive to St. Augustine. I’ve been wanting to explore the other side of Florida. That Legoland Hotel looks so cool, by the way!
The Legoland Hotel is amazing! The best themed hotel I have ever stayed in! We only stayed there in California but I bet Orlando is similar!
This is quite the guide- coming from someone who lived in O-town for 10 years and been everywhere there. Great job!
So many great ideas!! Thanks for sharing!
Even though we live outside Orlando, I need to add some of these adventures to our list!
I feel like there are so many it would take a long time to do them all, you are lucky you live so close!
Wow what a lot of fantastic things to do besides Disney World! I’d be happy to experience most of them.
Me too! I am looking forward to one day!
Hi Lisa, thanks for your wonderful review of places to see in Orlando! It looks like a perfect family vacation spot that has activities as well as good learning opportunities for all.
I love Orlando! I wish we could go more often!
Omg, sooo much to do. I would need to be there 2 weeks or so – the Manatees, wow!
I could spend 2 week at Disney alone, but maybe I will try some of these cool activities next time we go!
Great list packed with fun activities! Thank you for sharing!
Wow! What a fantastic rundown!
Holy cow! Did you fit all that into one trip? How many days did you stay? (if you don’t mind me asking) Great pics!
No, I have not done all of these. This is a collaboration post with lots of other bloggers who contributed. I have been to Disney World and Universal and that’s about it, we go once a year to Orlando but never get to far away from Disney!
Oh, I want to do it all! I never realized there was so much in Orlando. Those natural springs and swimming with manatees would be at the very top of my list. I am seriously considering a trip to Orlando in the middle of a MN winter now. Thanks for the inspiring post, Lisa!
I hope you can go and do some of these fun activities. Winter is the best time in Orlando!
What a great list! I’m taking my 2 kiddos to Florida next year and am so excited to see that there is so much more for us than just Disney world! Thank you!!
I can’t believe how much more there is to do!
Such an amazing list. Gator Land is where I’d love to visit.
That one scares me! But I bet you would have a great time!
I have done and love all of these! This is a great comprehensive list! Thank you!
Wow, impressive that you have done all of them!
What great idea! I’ve done Disney and Universal, but not the other locations! I had no idea about swimming with manatees…I want to try that!
I know, I just learned about that too!
We visited Universal then stayed near Clearwater for a week after. I wish we had had more time to explore Orlando & do Disney which we’ve never done & all the wonderful-sounding things you’ve listed here. I really enjoyed Harry Potter World, but the Gulf beaches were my favorite. Coincidentally, when we were there the last FL hurricane was looming (2017…forgot the name) & evacuations were happening. We didn’t leave until the last day of our week-long reservation but by then everything was closed & they were kicking us off the island. We took back roads all the way to NC & stayed off the interstate which was packed. I’ll never forget that trip. I know another hurricane is looming, and I hope you & your family are safe. 🙂
That is crazy! What a vacation to remember. Actually, I am based in Utah, we just love going to Orlando!
The natural springs look amazing! I never knew those were there!
I did not either, I love working with other bloggers who live in the area!
Great list of suggestions. I loved Crystal River and swimming with the manatees in their natural habitat. Memorable for sure!
I know that would be incredible!
Orlando is such a fun place! I’ve visited many of these places yet discovered new adventures waiting for me too.
It is my favorite vacation!
So many options!!
I know it is a great place for a family vacation!
It looks hot!! I didn’t get a decent warm day once this year. But honestly, I didn’t realize there was do much more to do in Orlando besides Disney. That is awesome.
I like to go to Orlando in winter for sure!
WOW! so much to do besides Disney World! One of these days we are going to have to venture outside the “bubble”. LOL Thanks for all the great ideas!
I know! I am ready to go back!
There are soooo may things to see and do here in central Florida!! We’ve only been here a few years and still have things to tackle on our bucket list. Thanks for the list – very comprehensive and even gave me a few ideas!
If you ve always wanted to experience skydiving but aren t too keen on the whole jumping out of a plane aspect, head to this attraction on International Drive. There s no parachute and no jumping. Instead, you ll float on a cushion of air thanks to iFLY s innovative wind-tunnel technology. It s safe for guests as young as 3, and you ll be guided by a personal flight instructor. Head to Florida s east coast, about an hour from downtown Orlando, to explore the past, present and future of space travel without ever leaving earth. Admission nets you the chance to see Space Shuttle Atlantis and the Saturn V moon rocket, plus a wealth of other artifacts, replicas and displays, but the fun doesn t stop there. You can also experience Heroes Legend, an immersive experience where the stories of NASA s pioneering astronauts come to life, plus other features.
Thanks for sharing.