Looking for things to do in Orlando? We’ve got you covered. Orlando has been our family’s go-to destination for decades. In fact, we were in Orlando just before crossing the border back to Canada in March, 2020. (literally days before the borders closed)
Canadian’s can’t get enough of the sunshine and theme parks of this central Florida city, and many of us make it a base (or at least spend a few days each trip) to explore everything Orlando has to offer. So now that Snowbirds see a future where they can cross the border to escape the cold, let’s look all the top places to visit in Orlando to help you decide where to make a base on your next trip to Florida.
Best Things to do in Orlando, Florida
Table of Contents
There are so many things to do in Orlando to complement your trips to Disney World or Universal Studios. From museums to to outdoor adventures Orlando has a surprising amount of things to do outside the usual theme parks. Although they are pretty great too! So let’s go on a tour of all the things to do in Orlando, Florida.
Orlando Theme Parks
It’s no secret that Orlando is the theme park capital of the world. The most popular being, Walt Disney World Resort and Universal Studios.
It seems like Orlando was built around its amusement parks with the entire city focusing their businesses around its many amusement parks. Heck most of the businesses feel like you are walking into a theme park and we like it like that! Who doesn’t love escaping to a fantasy land for a day or two. We won’t spend too long on Orlando’s theme parks since we all know about most of them, but let’s break down what you can see and do at each of them. Are you ready? Let’s go.
1. Walt Disney World Resort
It’s the grand daddy of all theme parks. Walt Disney World Resort is the ultimate family escape encompassing four theme parks and two waterparks. You could visit Orlando again and again and still not see all of Disney World. They are constantly changing and adding to it to keep people coming back again and again. Let’s break them down.
2. Magic Kingdom
The original Magic Kingdom is the classic Disney theme park built around the fairytale castle (modelled after Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany). It’s here that kids love seeing Mickey Mouse, the Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean while parents love the thrill of Space Mountain. It’s a classic theme park and one of the top things to do in Orlando for first time visitors. Read more Top 10 Roller Coasters in Florida
3. Epcot Center
Epcot Center takes you around the world without needing to travel. Yep, America is so good at making sure people stay within its borders. 😉 Go Soarin’ Around the World in the IMAX simulator, or create your own concept car to take spin along the test track or check out the classic Epcot attraction, that takes you on a journey through time.
4. Disney’s Hollywood Studios
We always love going to film studios, and Disney’s Hollywood Studios has transformed from its original MGM studio tour to a Hollywood setting taking you through worlds from the movies. Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge let’s you experience everything Star Wars. Go through 3D motion simulators to building your own droid. Kids will love the Toy Story and Pixar themes too.
5. Disney’s Animal Kingdom
Disney’s Animal Kingdom celebrates the earth’s animals plus a few from Avatar’s Pandora. We personally haven’t been to Animal Kingdom as we aren’t fans of zoos and don’t think that animals should be put on display for people’s entertainment. We are more fans of sanctuaries and since we are travelers and have been to most of the destinations showcasing these animals, we’d rather see lions on the African savanna rather than in a theme park. But at least Disney gives animals plenty of room to roam. And if you aren’t an avid traveler you can be transported from Everest to Kilimanjaro Safaris. The star attraction is Avatar Flight of Passage, a ride simulation through Pandora.
6. Typhoon Lagoon
Don’t worry if you are a water lover, Disney has a water park too! Typhoon Lagoon has water slides and surf pools, beaches and lazy rivers. So even if you don’t make it to Daytona or Miami Beach, you can still have a beach holiday. Read 18 Best Beaches in Florida for Fun in the Sun
Where to Stay at Disney
You can book hotels directly at Walt Disney World Resort and we highly recommend this to make the most of your stay. Check out these hotels located directly within Walt Disney World Resort
- Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort – Four Seasons are our favourite hotel chain with highest of standards. This AAA Five Diamond Resort is a luxury retreat. Prices and reviews on TripAdvisor
- Disney Port Orleans Resort French Quarter – Be transported to New Orleans complete with Jazz musicians, wrought iron balconies and cobblestone streets.
- The Grove Resort Orlando – Located outside the park, it’s just a short drive to the resort and it has its own waterpark.
7. Universal Studios
The next on our list of top things to do in Orlando is to make your way to Universal Orlando Resort. It is definitely giving Walt Disney World Resort a run for its money with seven island parks on Universal’s Islands of Adventure, Universal Studios, four hotels and a waterpark.
Get your 3 Park Ticket giving access to Universal Studios Florida, Universal’s Islands of Adventure, and Universal’s Volcano Bay water theme parks. Hassle free cancelation up to 24 hours in advance to receive a full refund
8. Harry Potter and Diagon Alley
We were lucky enough to visit for the opening the The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Diagon Alley. Even as adults we loved this. It helps that I am a Harry Potter fan!
What we love about Universal is that its rides are geared to adults with some extreme roller coasters, and simulators. In fact, I was so nauseous after one ride I had to take a few rides off as Dave went on some of roller coasters without me.
9. Island Parks
The other themed parks include Seuss Landing, The Lost Continent, Toon Lagoon, Jurassic Park, Skull Island, and Marvel Superhero Island. They all have rides geared towards their perspective movie genres. Universal Studios is a mix of theme park and working studio and you can also check out Harry Potter’s escape from Gringott’s bank. Harry Potter is so popular he crosses over two theme parks!
10. City Walk
You don’t even have to necessarily go into the park to enjoy Universal Resort, City Walk has some fun attractions outside the gate. Play a round of mini golf, catch a movie or grab a bite. It’s a fun place to take a stroll and feel the energy.
Where to Stay at Univeral Orlando
Where to Stay at Universal Resort
- Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort – The fun retro designed resort feels like you’ve stepped back in time to a 1960s beach club.
- Universal’s Endless Summer Resort -Surfside Inn and Suites – Get a surfer Dude vibe as you stay at this family oriented value hotel
- Loews Portofino Bay Hotel – Be transported to the Italian Riviera in this luxury resort that feels like a little slice of paradise.
11. Blue Spring State Park
Located 45 minutes outside of Orlando in Orange City, Blue Spring State Park is not to be missed. It is the premier place to view manatees as they make their way up the St. Johns River during the winter months to avoid the cold ocean waters. Take a walk along the 1.3-mile boardwalk to see manatees swimming. You can also get in the water at Blue Spring State Park and do some swimming, paddle boarding and river tubing in designated areas.
If you want to take a tour, this Manatee Snorkel experience with airboat ride is highly rated and takes you to Homosassa State Park to swim with the manatees of the Crystal River. It also includes a 30 Minute airboat ride on the Withlacoochee River.
International Drive Area
International Drive (aka I-Drive) is one of the must visit places in Orlando. This resort area is filled with tons of attractions, restaurants, entertainment and shopping. There are many hotels in the area, making it easy to explore. Let’s check out a few of its stop sites.
12. International Drive
Where to Stay at International Drive – We stayed at Wyndham Orlando Resort and it was fantastic. Walking distance to restaurants and the theater, yet away from it all giving an upscale quiet retreat. Check it out on TripAdvisor
13. The Wheel at Icon Park
The Wheel at Icon Park is a 400 feet high wheel that takes 23 minutes to do a full rotation. This is one of the more popular things to do in Orlando at night. Make sure to stop at the Sky Bar to pick up some bubbly or beer for your ride. The pods are air conditioned and hold up to 15 people.
You can get your tickets in advance – Enjoy the city views from the pod with this flexible ticket that lets you visit when it suits your schedule. You can upgrade to include dining experiences or activities such as tickets to the Starflyer, Madame Tussauds Orlando, or SEA LIFE Orlando.(easy cancellation for full refund within 24 hours of ticket entry)
WonderWorks is a fun interactive science center with attractions like the Space Discovery Zone, Extreme Weather Zone, The Physical Challenge Zone and the Imagination Lab.
15. I-Ride Trolley
The I-Ride Trolley is a great way to get around International Drive. A single fare is $2 per ride, but it is best to get a day pass. Day passes range from one day for $5 unlimited rides to 3,5,7 and 14 day passes. See the I-Ride Trolley for Details.
16. Fun Spot America
Looking for an amusement park outside Universal and Disney? Fun Spot America is fun for the whole family with go-kart tracks, roller coaster, kids rides, and a splash park. Get your tickets in advance – includes free parking and admission to water park.
17. Orlando Museum of Art
Just because you are visiting the theme park capital of the world doesn’t mean you don’t require a bit of culture. The Orlando Museum of Art is a modern art museum housing everything from local artists to French classic artists like Cézanne and Gauguin.
18. Titanic Artifact Museum
For Titanic Lovers, the The Artifact Exhibition in Orlando houses nearly 200 artifacts from the Titanic recovered by RMS Titanic Inc. We are always fascinated with Titanic exhibitions. We’ve been to the Titanic Museum in Belfast where the Titanic left from its port and in Halifax where the major rescue and recovery took place at the time of its sinking off the coast.
Get your tickets in advance to Titanic Artifact Museum – See artifacts recovered from the Titanic and immerse in the experience through full-scale recreations of her Grand Staircase, First Class Cabin and more while actors in period costumes portray Titanic notables.
19. Lake Eola Park
Located in the heart of downtown Orlando, Lake Eola is nearly a mile of waterfront sidewalks circling a picturesque lake. The Linton E. Allen Memorial Fountain aka Centennial Fountain is the official symbol of Orlando. This serene park is a popular place for concerts and dining. You can rent paddle boards in the park as well.
20. Harry P Leu Botanical Gardens
Another tropical oasis just minutes from downtown Orlando is the Harry P Leu Botanical Gardens. This 50 acre park is a great escape if you are looking for something different to do in Orlando. There’s a butterfly garden, a tropical rainforest and a variety of exotic plants from around the world.
21. Madame Tussauds
Madame Tussauds Wax Museums have endured the decades. There’s something that attracts people to famous wax figures when on vacation and Orlando has filled that requirement by having its own Madame Tussauds. If you are into that, check it out.
22. Orlando Science Center
Nearly every major city in the world has a science center and Orlando is no exception. These interactive museums are a great way to spark interest in science and technology for the little ones. Everybody loves the Kinetic Zone offering an introduction to physics to going back millions of years to the age of the dinosaurs. It has it all. Science is cool man.
23. Orlando Magic and Amway Center
If you are a basketball fan, head over to the Amway Center and pick up some tickets to see the Orlando Magic, Orlando’s NBA team. Winners of six division championships, this is one popular team! If you can’t get tickets to a game, check out a concert at the arena, there are regular events, performances and the hockey team Orlando Solar Bears call the Amway Center home as well.
Things to do Near Orlando
My parents spend their winters in Winter Haven. Located 1 hour south of Orlando, it is a popular Snowbird destination and there are quite a few things to do here to add to your Orlando itinerary. My dad made a point of telling me that if I ever wrote about things to do in Orlando, I must include these other Central Florida attractions. So let’s check them out.
24. Kennedy Space Center
With Elon Musk and Richard Branson starting up the space race again, interest in Space travel is at an all time high. The Kennedy Space Center has been attracting visitors to Cape Canaveral for decades. Check out the astronaut training center and the Apollo / Saturn V race to the moon. There are plenty of interactive displays and old rockets and space craft on hand.
Pick up your skip the line tickets to the Kennedy Space Center for access to many exhibits including, Space Shuttle Atlantis, Shuttle Launch Experience, Rocket Garden, and IMAX Spacefilms.
This Kennedy Space Center Day Trip includes transportation from Orlando, Kissimee, Disney and Lake Buena Vista areas and with access to Kennedy Space Centre attractions and a visit to restricted areas.
25. Manatee Day Trip and Air Boats
One of the best ways to get up close and personal with Manatees is to take a tour. If the Manatees aren’t in Blue Spring State Park (since they are only there seasonally)This Manatee Snorkel experience with airboat ride takes you to Homosassa State Park to swim with the manatees of the Crystal River. It also includes a 30 Minute airboat ride on the Withlacoochee River.
26. Old Town Kissimmee
Step back in time and visit the Old Town of Kissimee. This town is modelled after a classic Florida town filled with restaurants, shops and tree lined streets resembling a bygone era. Make sure you visit on a Saturday night for the Saturday Nite Classic Car Cruise and take a ride on the Old Town’s iconic Ferris Wheel.
27. Winter Park
When touring around during a visit with my parents, we stopped in Winter Park and my first thought was “mom and dad should buy a place here!” This Orange County city is filled with parks and its main street Park Avenue has plenty of shopping and dining. Winter Park has an upscale feeling that is completely different from the Disney and Universal attractions. It is a way to experience Orlando like a local with upscale dining, fine art museums and 2,781 acres of pristine waterways.
28. Bok Tower Gardens
Located between Tampa and Orlando, this is a beautiful day trip from the city. Birders love Bok Tower Gardens with its 126 different species of birds making it a designated stop on the Great Florida Birding Trail. There are 50 acres of gardens including a children’s garden situated around the neo-Gothic Singing Tower carillon. There are only 600 carillons in the world! This bell tower is played by professional Carillonneurs. It’s worth visiting for this alone!
Legoland has come a long way baby and Legoland Florida is a combination theme park and waterpark in one. This is definitely a park for the whole family. A very cool fact is that Legoland is one the site of the former Cypress Gardens which was famous for its water shows since 1939. While Cypress Gardens is officially closed, it lives on in Legoland’s Botanical Gardens where the giant Cypress tree still stands.
Only in Florida will you have a place called Gatorland. If you haven’t seen enough gators on the golf courses of Orlando, make your way to Gatorland to see the unofficial symbol of Florida, the Florida Gator. It has expanded to much more than just gators hanging out on the grounds. There are two zip line courses The Screaming Gator and the Gauntlet Zipline. Plus the wild cats at Gatorland are rescues so that makes me happy to know.
And these are just some of the amazing things to do in Orlando, Florida. After visiting again and again, we always find something new. Florida has catered to tourists down to a science and the people in charge are forever thinking of new ways to entice visitors to the State. And a great place to start is Orlando!