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It’s no secret that most out-of-towners think Orlando and theme parks like Disney World, Sea World or Universal Studios all go hand in hand, but this central Florida metropolis has plenty else to offer. So, if you’re not feeling like standing in line all day, don’t want to spend that much money, or maybe that part of your trip is just over now, we’ve got you covered.
Whether you’re planning a move, a vacation, or a day trip, here are things to do in Orlando besides go to a theme park!
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It wouldn’t be fair to leave out International Drive as a whole destination in itself. This major highway in the heart of tourist town Orlando is right where you want to be for all the campy attractions tourists know and love. There’s plenty of shopping, restaurants, shows, and more. In fact, many of the destinations on this list are within I-Drive’s territory.
If you’re in a rush, you can eat at the largest McDonald’s in the world right where interstate 4 exits onto the highway. The menu is different, and dare we say far better than what you might be expecting.
At iFly you can get the feeling of jumping out of a plane without actually having to, well, actually jump out of a plane. The vertical wind tunnel provides all the free-fall conditions you would get from actually skydiving. It’s safe for adults, children as young as 3 and even seniors of any age! The whole family can get the rush of a lifetime in a safe environment. It’s hard to miss the large oddly-shaped building as you’re traveling along the interstate.
Ready to engage in all the space-based history you can handle? The Kennedy Space Center has all the details of the history of space travel in the United States. It is interactive, informative, and unlike anything else. It’s family friendly, makes for great photos and is great for a short day trip full of history, technology, and the majesty of space travel.
You are in the south after all, why not take a rare chance at shooting a firearm? Not just any firearm, automatic weapons. You’ll receive proper extensive instruction and can participate in live shooting experiences and high-tech simulators.
The Florida Mall has a massive M&M’s store that’s loads of fun, among plenty of other stores and attractions. The Mall at Millenia is too, one of the most popular malls in the state and is a slightly higher price point than that of The Florida Mall. The Orlando International Premium Outlets is a winner of a TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence, as is the Orlando Premium Outlets on Vineland Avenue, and Pointe Orlando is full of interesting things to do and see and buy.
Test your wits at a premiere Orlando attraction. At The Escape Game, you can solve million dollar heists, decode secret missions and try to navigate your way through escape scenarios. It’s hugely popular for puzzle and gaming enthusiasts who are looking to test their skills in a fun, and challenging scheme. With five challenges to choose from like, “The Heist,” “Prison Break” and “Mission: Mars,” players have 1 hour to find clues, solve puzzles, and find a way out before the clock runs out.
A massive standing Ferris Wheel in the heart of Orlando, you ride up as you would in any Ferris Wheel, but on The Wheel at ICON Park you don’t sit in a booth and go around. Also perfect for a romantic date in Orlando, passengers stand in a glass enclosure and gaze out on the cityscapes from the peak of this “400-foot tall observation wheel.” The 360-degree view is unlike anything else in the area and on a clear day you can see as far as Cape Canaveral.
Again, you are in Florida, and what comes to mind when you think of Florida? Among other things, the Florida Alligator is definitely on the list. Gatorland offers an up-close experience with the state’s oldest inhabitants. You can even take a speedy zip line ride over the park itself and look down on the alligator marsh! There’s also training experiences, wrestling, jumping shows and more!
Perfect for beating the heat in Florida, this unique park is focused solely on watersports like wakeboarding, wakeskating, kneeboarding, waterskiing and more! Whether you’re an expert or are there to learn how you’re certain to have a blast on the water. Constructed with two full sized cable systems, a two tower system and a lake for boating, they are fully equipped and ready for every comfort zone. It’s appropriate for a wide range of ages so kids will love this fun day on the water! Adrenaline not your thing? You can also paddleboard or on certain days enjoy paddleboard yoga!
You’ll know you’ve arrived when you see a building that looks like it’s been turned upside down in a terrifying tornado. WonderWorks is a must-visit interactive experience. It’s full of science experiments, exhibits, a build your own roller coaster, physics fun, arcade-style games and more.
Leu Gardens is often described as a hidden gem in Orlando. It’s 50 acres of lush, gorgeous foliage in this expansive garden that is positively captivating, which makes it perfect for a romantic outing or a family trip to remember.
If you’re hoping to swim with the dolphins during your Florida excursion, Discovery Cove is the place to go. Once you’re done feeding the bottlenose dolphins you can feed tropical birds, play near the resident otters and more. There is also an underwater walking tour where you’re fitted with scuba gear, and you do not have to be scuba certified. In 2014 TripAdvisor ranked Discovery Cove as the number 1 amusement park in the world based on votes by millions of happy travelers. We admit, we’re cheating a little bit here, as this is certainly considered an amusement park, but we just couldn’t leave it out.
The Orlando Museum of Art is the “leading cultural institution in the region,” and certainly among the most popular. Featuring 10-12 exhibitions on-site annually, and at least that many off-site, this stellar museum is a must-visit spot for a dose of culture.
If you’re more interested in seeing Florida wildlife in their natural habitat, then consider taking an air boat ride through the Florida swamp. Kissimmee Swamp Tours has a TripAdvisor certificate of excellence, and are more than capable to take you on a fun and exciting journey through Florida’s marshy wetlands. You’ll see live alligators and native birds as you gaze upon “Real Old Florida” territory. It’s a bit of a drive outside of the larger, more popular tourist areas in Orlando, but an expansive swampy thrill ride on an air boat is a rare opportunity that’s more than worth the drive.
Next door to the Orlando Museum of Art lies the Orlando Science Center. It features fun for all ages, with two movie theaters for educational and Hollywood films, and interactive exhibits. Past exhibitions have included DinoDigs, KidsTown, NatureWorks, model trains, a hands-on engineering experience where guests can design a prototype and test a product, and the largest public refractor telescope ready for stargazing. The mission of the museum is to offer “experience-based” learning endeavors to promote the public understanding of science.
If you’re hoping to indulge in a delicious Orlando meal, check out some of Orlando’s Best Hidden Restaurants.
Here are ideas for things to do in Orlando on a budget.