Many people view Orlando, Florida as home to the most iconic theme parks in the world. Both Walt Disney World and Universal Parks and Resorts call the Orlando area home. But there is so much more to this city than that. I lived there for five glorious years and truly loved it so I definitely know a thing or two about the area and what to do! I’ll admit, writing this post had me jonesing for a trip to Florida to partake in all these incredible activities! But are there things to do in Orlando besides theme parks? Yes, lots! Read on, because we’re giving you ten.
10 things to do in Orlando besides theme parks:
1. Shop at the Mall at Millenia
Now, I must preface this by saying that I’m NOT a shopper. Shopping for clothes, especially, is one of my least favorite things to do. But even if you’re not a fan of shopping for apparel I have to let you know that the Mall at Millenia is a beautiful mall. It has a lot of shops from jewellery, to clothing, chocolates and more. There are also a lot of great restaurants in the mall and right near it to try. The main front facade’s palm trees alone are reason enough to go there. Visit – you won’t be disappointed.
2, Explore Downtown Orlando
Downtown Orlando is a real urban metropolis. There’s so much to do there, from strolling through Lake Eola park to dancing the night away at the downtown clubs. I especially like a restaurant called Hamburger Mary’s, which has great food but also really fun Drag Queen shows. Into sports? Check to see if there’s an Orlando Magic basketball game when you’re in town – they play at Downtown Orlando’s Amway Center.
3. Check out the outlet stores
Since tourists – both international and domestic – flock to Orlando, it’s full of outlet stores! If you’ve ever dreamed af shopping at an outlet store of your favorite brand, chances are you’ll find it at one of the two major outlet centers:
- Orlando Vineland Premium Outlets (closest to Walt Disney World)
- Orlando International Premium Outlets (closest to Universal)
4. Enjoy Wekiwa Springs
Just north of Orlando is Wekiwa Springs State Park. There are so many wonderful activities to enjoy there from riding horses, to camping, to having an outdoor picnic. One of my ultimate must-do activities whenever I have the opportunity is kayaking. Luckily, they have rentals available by blocks of half hours.
5. Have a meal on Park Avenue
Nearby Winter Park is one of the most beautiful areas of Orlando. If you’re in the mood to enjoy the outdoors and walk into some cute boutiques, Park Avenue is the place. It’s also the go-to street for al fresco dining. With sunshine being a perk of a Floridian lifestyle, you’ll definitely enjoy eating outside! They also have a beautiful park called ‘Central Park’ if you feeling like reading a book or magazine in the beautiful, fresh air.
6. Take a scenic boat ride
Another great thing about Winter Park is the option to take a scenic boat ride. It’s an incredibly affluent area so the houses you see on the lake and it’s back canals are beautiful. Check out Scenic Boat Tours for more information.
7. Visit I-Drive
I-Drive is short for ‘International Drive’, a well known street in Orlando, close to Universal. There is SO much to do there. You can visit Ripley’s Believe It or Not museum, depart for a helicopter tour of the city, sing at Howl at the Moon, have a happy hour cocktail at one of over 100 restaurants there, or simply see a movie.
8. Get ice cream at Twistee Treat
Florida is what most consider ‘hot’ nearly 10 months out of 12. Even when it’s ‘cold’, it’s usually nearly 15 degrees Celsius (60 degrees Fahrenheit). Twistee Treat has been around over thirty years and they have several locations throughout Orlando. They serve both hard and soft serve ice cream. My favorite treat, however is a mint chocolate cookie Twirl. The best part is their stand-alone stores are often shaped like ice cream swirls!
9. Smell the flowers at Leu Gardens
I absolutely love tropical plants and flowers! They abound at Leu Gardens. I first learned of the gardens as a wedding photographer. What kept me going back was how peaceful, inviting and beautiful it is. Hibiscus, camelias, heliconias and banana plants are just some of the various incredible plants that bloom here. They have pathways through their rose garden, into their formal garden (complete with a pretty fountain) and an overlook to Lake Rowena too. I especially love the hanging Spanish Moss dripping from some of the trees on property.
10. Play a round of golf
If there’s anything that is abundant in Orlando it’s golf courses. The options truly seem endless. Choose to enjoy a resort’s course, like Tranquilo at The Four Seasons or an attractive public course (usually more affordable), like Deltona Club. For a list of plentiful options try browsing Golf Now Orlando.
Looking for more USA travel inspiration? Check out these posts next:
- The Best of San Diego: A First-Timer’s Guide
- A Beginner’s Guide to LA: 20 Things to Know Before You Go
- 5 Mistakes to Avoid at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter
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Feature image by Matthew Paulson via Flickr
Over to you: share your tips on things to do in Orlando besides theme parks in the comments!