Fittingly nicknamed the ‘Theme Park Capital of the World’, Orlando is not only home to Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando but countless other attractions, water parks, and entertainment options too. All of its thrilling rides, exciting shows, and the innumerable shopping malls, restaurants, and hotels that accompany them combine to make it one of the most visited cities in the world.
Although visiting an amusement park is certainly on everybody’s list of things to do in Orlando, the city itself also looks a treat with pretty parks and lovely lakes dotted about here and there. Due to this, it is often called ‘The City Beautiful’ with excellent museums and theaters also to be found alongside picturesque gardens, music venues, and art galleries.
With so much going for it, Orlando and all its tourist attractions and amusement parks is the highlight of many people’s visit not just to Florida but the States in general.
In this post, we'll cover:
12. Harry P. Leu Botanical Gardens
A very peaceful and picturesque place to wander around, the Harry P. Leu Botanical Gardens lie just ten minutes’ drive northeast of downtown Orlando. Home to some absolutely gorgeous, landscaped grounds and lakes, it is a treat to explore with colorful flowers, plants and trees wherever you look.
Since being founded by Mr. and Mrs. Harry P. Leu in the 1930s, the idyllic gardens have expanded considerably and now include exotic plants from all around the world. While some scenic sections are home to arid or tropical collections, others instead boast lovely roses, magnolias, and palm trees.
In addition to all its stunning scenery and romantic waterways, you can also find fantastic fountains, exquisite artworks, and the excellent Leu House Museum tucked away among the verdant foliage.
11. Orlando International Premium Outlets
As it is home to a huge array of shops, stores, and eateries, the enormous Orlando International Premium Outlets attracts millions of visitors each year. Its popularity is in part due to its proximity to Universal Orlando and Walt Disney World with its sprawling site lying just fifteen minutes’ drive southwest of the center.
First opened in 2007, it is now impressively the largest outlet shopping destination in Florida with over 180 shops and numerous restaurants and cafes scattered about. Despite the huge number of people who visit daily, it rarely gets too busy thanks to its open-air layout and design.
Besides its endless name-brand outlets and boutiques, the colossal complex is also renowned for its huge discounts and deals which makes shopping for luxury accessories and clothes a steal.
10. Lake Eola Park
Bordering Downtown Orlando, you can find the lovely Lake Eola Park which is very popular with locals and tourists alike. Dominated by the sparkling lake at its center, it is the perfect place to relax and unwind with countless outdoor activities and fine views on offer.
Actually a large sinkhole, the lake and its immediate surroundings were turned into a park in the 1880s. While its reflective waters look delightful at any time of day, its standout feature is the iconic centennial fountain that lies at its heart and so magically lights up at night.
In addition to strolling along its pretty paths and basking in magnificent views over the lake, visitors can rent swan-shaped paddleboats and take to its waters with playgrounds, park benches, and picnic areas also dotted about.
9. Orlando Science Center
A very interesting place to visit, the excellent Orlando Science Center can be found just ten minutes’ drive to the north of the center. As well as its extensive array of interactive exhibitions, the massive museum is home to two terrific movie theaters which put on all kinds of educational films.
Since being founded in 1955, the science center has been a firm favorite with families and schools thanks to its engaging yet informative exhibits. These explore everything from our planet and the universe to energy, electricity, and the ecosystems of Central Florida.
Aside from enjoying all the hands-on activities, children and adults alike can delight in digging for dinosaur bones at Jurassic Ridge and searching the heavens for stars at the Crosby Observatory.
8. ICON Park
Sure to be fun for all the family, ICON Park is an enormous entertainment complex that is home to countless attractions, eateries, and amusement rides. Located alongside International Drive, it lies at the heart of Orlando’s world-renowned tourism district, not far from most of the city’s main sights.
Only opened in 2015, the humongous park boasts an almost endless array of exciting arcade games and exhilarating rides with its over forty restaurants, cafes, and bars serving up delicious food from all around the world. Among its main attractions are Madame Tussauds, the amazing Museum of Illusions, and the super Sea Life Orlando Aquarium.
Not to be missed, however, is an unforgettable ride on its whopping 122-meter-tall observation wheel which offers up simply phenomenal views over Orlando and its innumerable amusement parks.
Just ten minutes further on from ICON Park, you’ll come across the massive marine-themed park of SeaWorld which has long been one of Orlando’s most popular attractions. On top of all its extensive aquaria and animal exhibits, the park has a myriad of fun amusement rides and entertainment shows for guests to enjoy with a wonderful water park also being on offer.
Since opening in 1973, SeaWorld Orlando has welcomed millions of visitors coming to see its awe-inspiring marine life and spellbinding shows. Aside from learning everything there is to know about sharks, sea lions, and penguins, guests can see graceful dolphins and orcas up close and personal.
In addition, the park has lots of roller coasters and rides to enjoy with numerous eateries, shops and even hotels dotted about.
6. Kennedy Space Center
Although it is located a bit further away than all of Orlando’s other main attractions and amusement parks, the incredible Kennedy Space Center is definitely well worth visiting if you have the chance. Home to the US space program, its sprawling complex and all its interesting artifacts and interactive exhibits lie an hour’s drive to the east of the city.
A fun and fascinating day out for the whole family, the immense center boasts everything from moon rocks and astronaut memorabilia to sparkling space shuttles, real-life rockets, and much, much more.
Besides learning about the history of lunar exploration and the many achievements of the US space program, you can also experience a shuttle take off simulation, see NASA mission launch sites, and watch 3D films on space flight.
5. Disney Springs
Set just under half an hour’s drive to the southwest of the center is Disney Springs – one of the most popular places to shop, dine, and enjoy live music and shows in the city. Located right next to Walt Disney World, the huge complex contains hundreds of shops, restaurants, and bars with attractions and entertainment options on offer.
Since opening in 1975 along the shores of Lake Buena Vista, the site has been expanded, renovated, and renamed numerous times. Now divided into four themed areas, the fictional town has a marina and marketplace for guests to stroll around as well as a lovely Spanish Revival-style CBD.
In addition to boasting the world’s biggest Disney store, it also has a Rainforest Cafe, LEGO store, and Planet Hollywood with its innumerable daily shows lending it a lively yet laidback ambience.
One of the first attractions to open in the area, Gatorland has been a firm favorite with families since 1949. The ‘Alligator Capital of the World’, it houses thousands of the incredible creatures and countless crocs with its daily shows and demonstrations being the highlight of most peoples’ visit.
Lying half an hour’s drive south of the city, the family-owned wildlife reserve makes for a pleasant change from Orlando’s multitude of mega-parks and is an iconic attraction not to be missed. Besides wandering along its boardwalk and seeing hundreds of the gators, you can also watch them leap out of the water or even wrestle at some of the park’s shows.
In addition, guests can sometimes feed or even pet them, see the world’s largest collection of white leucitic alligators, and shoot along the park’s adrenaline-pumping ziplines.
3. Discovery Cove
Not far from both SeaWorld and the Sea Life Orlando Aquarium is yet another of the city’s amazing marine attractions – the delightful Discovery Cove. Although it is particularly well known for its playful bottlenose dolphins, the park also has a huge aviary to explore and a terrific tropical swim area for guests to laze about at.
Both a resort and marine theme park, Discovery Cove has a lovely tropical look and feel to it with beautiful beaches and winding waterways dotting its lush rainforest landscapes. Since 2000, it has delighted visitors with its awesome experiences which see you snorkel above coral reefs, stroke stingrays, and even swim with dolphins.
Besides lounging on its welcoming white sands or seeing toucans, parrots, and otters, guests can also go on an unforgettable underwater walk as countless fish, sharks, and rays swim by.
2. Universal Orlando
One of the most visited resorts in the world, the enormous Universal Orlando is located just fifteen minutes’ drive from the center of Orlando and is one of the main reasons that so many people visit the city. The hugely popular attraction not only contains two theme parks and a water park but an almost endless array of shops, hotels, and entertainment options too.
While Islands of Adventure is home to most of its exhilarating rides and roller coasters, Universal Studios instead boasts film-themed attractions and shows as well as the wonderful Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
At Volcano Bay you can splash about in its waters and enjoy wild and wet rides before later drying off and heading to CityWalk, the resort’s dining and entertainment district for a show, some drinks, or a meal.
1. Walt Disney World
The undisputed champion of things to do in Orlando, Walt Disney World is one of the biggest and best resorts in not just the States but the world. Every year, millions of guests visit for its astounding array of attractions, fantastic firework shows, and fun parades.
Opened in 1971, the world-famous resort sprawls over a vast area, encompassing four theme parks, two water parks, and a whole host of amenities and entertainment options. While the fantastic Magic Kingdom and film-focused Hollywood Studios attract lots of people, just as many go to see Epcot and the Animal Kingdom’s incredible attractions.
With so much to see and do, guests could spend weeks exploring Walt Disney World’s spellbinding sights. With innumerable dining and entertainment options to choose from, great golf courses to try, and super stores to stop by, it really does have something for everyone to enjoy.