Looking for activities in Orlando? We’ve got your back. For decades, our family’s favorite vacation spot has been Orlando. In fact, we were in Orlando just before returning to Canada in March 2020. (Days before the borders were closed)
Canadians can’t get enough of this central Florida city’s weather and theme parks, and many of us make it a base (or at least spend a few days each trip) to explore everything it has to offer. So, now that Snowbirds can cross the border to escape the cold, let’s have a look at all the top locations to visit in Orlando to help you pick where to base yourself on your next trip to Florida.
There are numerous activities in Orlando to complement your visits to Disney World or Universal Studios. Outside of the conventional amusement parks, Orlando has a surprising amount of things to do, ranging from museums to outdoor excursions. Although they are also quite good! So, let’s take a look at everything there is to do in Orlando, Florida.
It’s no secret that Orlando is the world’s theme park capital. Walt Disney World Resort and Universal Studios are the most well-known.
It appears that Orlando was founded on its amusement parks, with the entire city’s businesses centered on its numerous amusement parks. Most of the companies feel like you’re stepping into a theme park, which we appreciate! Who doesn’t enjoy escaping for a day or two to fantasy land? We won’t spend too much time on Orlando’s theme parks because we’re all familiar with most of them, but let’s go over what you can see and do at each of them. Are you prepared? Let’s get started.
Walt Disney World Resort
It is the mother of all theme parks. Walt Disney World Resort is the ideal family vacation destination, with four theme parks and two waterparks. You could visit Orlando multiple times and still not see everything at Disney World. They are continually modifying and adding to it in order to keep people coming back. Let’s dissect them.
The original Magic Kingdom is a traditional Disney theme park centered on a storybook castle (modeled after Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany). Here, children enjoy seeing Mickey Mouse, the Haunted Mansion, and Pirates of the Caribbean, while adults enjoy the thrill of Space Mountain. It’s a traditional theme park and one of the best attractions in Orlando for first-time visitors.
Epcot Center transports you throughout the world without the need for travel. Yes, America is quite good at keeping people within its borders. Soar around the world in the IMAX simulator, build your own concept car to drive around the test track, or see the legendary Epcot attraction that takes you on a journey through time.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios
We love traveling to movie studios, and Disney’s Hollywood Studios has evolved from its initial MGM studio tour to a Hollywood setting that takes you through movie universes. Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge allows you to immerse yourself in everything Star Wars. Build your own droid using 3D motion simulators. The Toy Story and Pixar elements will also appeal to children.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom
Disney’s Animal Kingdom features creatures from all across the world, as well as a few from Avatar’s Pandora. We haven’t visited Animal Kingdom since we aren’t supporters of zoos and believe that animals should not be put on display for people’s amusement. We prefer sanctuaries, and as travelers who have visited most of the sites presenting these creatures, we’d rather see lions on the African savanna than in a theme park. But at least Disney allows animals to roam freely. You can also be taken from Everest to Kilimanjaro Safaris if you are not an avid traveler. Avatar Flight of Passage, a ride simulation of Pandora, is the main attraction.
If you enjoy the water, don’t worry, Disney offers a water park as well! Water slides and surf pools, beaches, and lazy rivers can be found at Typhoon Lagoon. Even if you can’t get to Daytona or Miami Beach, you can still enjoy a beach vacation.
The next stop on our list of top things to do in Orlando is Universal Orlando Resort. With seven island parks on Universal’s Islands of Adventure, Universal Studios, four hotels, and a waterpark, it undoubtedly gives Walt Disney World Resort a run for its money.
Get your three-park ticket, which allows you to visit Universal Studios Florida, Islands of Adventure, and Volcano Bay. Free cancellation up to 24 hours in advance for a full refund.
Harry Potter and Diagon Alley
We were fortunate to be present for the inauguration of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Diagon Alley. Even as adults, we enjoyed it. It certainly helps that I am a Harry Potter geek!
We like Universal because its rides are oriented toward adults, with several violent roller coasters and simulators. In fact, I was so sick after one ride that I had to skip a couple of rides while my husband rode the roller coasters without me.
Seuss Landing, The Lost Continent, Toon Lagoon, Jurassic Park, Skull Island, and Marvel Superhero Island are among the other themed parks. They all have rides based on their favorite movie genres. Universal Studios is a combination of a theme park and a working studio where you can see Harry Potter’s escape from Gringott’s bank. Harry Potter is so popular that he spans two theme parks!
You don’t even have to enter the park to enjoy Universal Resort; City Walk has numerous entertaining things just outside the gate. Play mini-golf, watch a movie, or grab a bite to eat. It’s a great area to go for a walk and feel the energy.
Blue Spring State Park
Blue Spring State Park, located 45 minutes outside of Orlando in Orange City, is not to be missed. It is the best site to see manatees as they migrate up the St. Johns River in the winter to avoid the cold ocean waters. Manatees can be seen swimming along the 1.3-mile boardwalk. In addition, Blue Spring State Park has designated places for swimming, paddle boarding, and river tubing.
If you want to take a tour, this Manatee Snorkel experience with an airboat ride brings you to Homosassa State Park to swim with the Crystal River’s manatees. A 30-minute airboat excursion on the Withlacoochee River is also included.
International Drive Area
International Drive (also known as I-Drive) is a must-see attraction in Orlando. There are numerous attractions, restaurants, entertainment, and shopping opportunities in this resort region. There are numerous hotels in the neighborhood, making exploration simple. Let’s take a look at some of its rest stops.
Where to Stay on International Drive – We stayed at the Wyndham Orlando Resort, which was excellent. Walking distance to restaurants and the theatre, but far enough away to provide an upscale quiet getaway. Look it up on TripAdvisor.
The Wheel at Icon Park
The Icon Park Wheel is a 400-foot-high wheel that takes 23 minutes to complete a full rotation. This is one of the most popular nighttime activities in Orlando. Make a point of stopping at the Sky Bar to get some bubbly or beer for your journey. The pods are air-conditioned and can accommodate up to 15 people.
You can purchase your tickets in advance – Enjoy the city views from the pod with this flexible ticket that allows you to visit whenever it is convenient for you. Upgrade to include eating experiences or activities such as Starflyer, Madame Tussauds Orlando, or SEA LIFE Orlando tickets. (Simple cancellation with a full refund within 24 hours of ticket arrival)
WonderWorks is an entertaining interactive scientific facility that features attractions such as the Space Discovery Zone, Extreme Weather Zone, Physical Challenge Zone, and Imagination Lab.
The I-Ride Trolley is an excellent way to navigate International Drive. A single fare is $2 for each ride, however, a day pass is recommended. Day passes range from one day for $5 unlimited rides to three, five, seven, and fourteen-day passes. Details can be found on the I-Ride Trolley.
Fun Spot America
Looking for an alternative to Universal and Disney? Fun Spot America is a family-friendly attraction comprising go-kart tracks, a roller coaster, kiddie attractions, and a splash park. Purchase your tickets in advance – they include free parking and access to the water park.
Orlando Museum of Art
Just because you’re in the world’s theme park capital doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy some culture. The Orlando Museum of Art is a modern art museum that houses works by local artists as well as French classic artists such as Cézanne and Gauguin.
Titanic Artifact Museum
The Artifact Exhibition in Orlando houses approximately 200 Titanic relics salvaged by RMS Titanic Inc. for Titanic fans. Titanic exhibitions have always piqued our interest. We visited the Titanic Museum in Belfast, where the Titanic was left from its port, and in Halifax, where the Titanic was rescued and recovered after sinking off the shore.
Purchase your Titanic Artifact Museum tickets in advance. See Titanic artifacts and immerse yourself in the experience with full-scale recreations of her Grand Staircase, First Class Cabin, and more, as actors dressed in period costumes recreate Titanic notables.
Lake Eola Park
Lake Eola, located in the center of downtown Orlando, is nearly a mile of waterfront pathways that round a lovely lake. The Linton E. Allen Memorial Fountain, often known as the Centennial Fountain, is the city of Orlando’s official symbol. This tranquil park is a popular location for concerts and restaurants. You can also rent paddle boards at the park.
Harry P Leu Botanical Gardens
The Harry P Leu Botanical Gardens is another tropical sanctuary just minutes from downtown Orlando. If you’re searching for something unusual to do in Orlando, this 50-acre park is a terrific place to visit. There is a butterfly garden, a tropical rainforest, and unusual plants from all over the world.
Madame Tussauds Wax Museums have stood the test of time. When people go on vacation, they are drawn to famous wax figures, and Orlando has met that need by opening its own Madame Tussauds. Check it out if that’s your thing.
Orlando Science Center
A scientific center can be found in almost every major city across the world, and Orlando is no exception. These interactive museums are excellent for piqueing children’s interest in science and technology. Everyone enjoys the Kinetic Zone, which ranges from an introduction to physics to a journey back millions of years to the age of the dinosaurs. It has everything. Science is awesome, man.
Orlando Magic and Amway Center
If you enjoy basketball, go to the Amway Center and purchase tickets to see the Orlando Magic, the city’s NBA club. This popular team has won six division championships! If you can’t get tickets to a game, go to a concert at the Amway Center. There are regular events and concerts, and the Orlando Solar Bears play their games there.
Things to do Near Orlando
Winter Haven is where my parents spend their winters. It is a popular Snowbird destination one hour south of Orlando, and there are plenty of activities to do here to round out your Orlando itinerary. My father insisted that if I ever wrote about things to do in Orlando, I add these other Central Florida sites. So let’s have a look at them.
Kennedy Space Center
With Elon Musk and Richard Branson reigniting the space race, enthusiasm for space flight has reached an all-time high. For decades, the Kennedy Space Center has drawn visitors to Cape Canaveral. Visit the astronaut training facility and the Apollo / Saturn V moon race. There are numerous interactive displays as well as vintage rockets and spacecraft on hand.
Pick up your skip-the-line tickets to the Kennedy Space Center to have entry to a variety of exhibits such as the Space Shuttle Atlantis, Shuttle Launch Experience, Rocket Garden, and IMAX Spacefilms.
This Kennedy Space Center Day Trip includes transportation from Orlando, Kissimmee, Disney, and Lake Buena Vista, as well as admission to Kennedy Space Center activities and entry to restricted areas.
Manatee Day Trip and Air Boats
Taking a tour is one of the finest ways to get up and personal with Manatees. If the manatees are not there in Blue Spring State Park (because they are only present seasonally), this Manatee Snorkel adventure with airboat ride brings you to Homosassa State Park to swim with the Crystal River manatees. A 30-minute airboat excursion on the Withlacoochee River is also included.
Old Town Kissimmee
Visit Kissimmee’s Old Town to travel back in time. This town is modeled after a traditional Florida town, complete with restaurants, stores, and tree-lined streets reminiscent of a bygone period. Visit on a Saturday night for the Saturday Nite Classic Car Cruise and ride the renowned Ferris Wheel in Old Town.
When my parents and I were driving around during a visit, we arrived in Winter Park, and my first thought was, “Mom and Dad should buy a property here!” This Orange County city boasts a lot of parks, and its main thoroughfare, Park Avenue, provides a lot of shopping and dining options. Winter Park offers a premium ambiance that is distinct from the Disney and Universal attractions. With upmarket cuisine, excellent art institutions, and 2,781 acres of pure waterways, it is a chance to experience Orlando like a local.
Bok Tower Gardens
This great day excursion from the city is located between Tampa and Orlando. Birders adore Bok Tower Gardens, which has 126 different bird species and is a recognized destination on the Great Florida Birding Trail. The gardens include 50 acres and include a children’s garden centered on the neo-Gothic Singing Tower carillon. Only 600 carillons exist around the globe! Professional Carillonneurs play the bell tower. It’s worth going just for this!
Legoland has gone a long way, and Legoland Florida is a theme park and waterpark all in one. This is unquestionably a family-friendly park. A fascinating fact is that Legoland is located on the former location of Cypress Gardens, which was famous for its water performances since 1939. While Cypress Gardens is officially closed, the giant Cypress tree lives on in Legoland’s Botanical Gardens.
A place called Gatorland can only be found in Florida. If you haven’t seen enough gators on Orlando’s golf courses, head to Gatorland to view the unofficial icon of Florida, the Florida Gator. It has evolved into much more than just gators loitering on the grounds. The Screaming Gator and the Gauntlet Zipline are the two zip line courses. Plus, the wild cats at Gatorland are rescues, which makes me happy.
These are just a few of the incredible things to do in Orlando, Florida. We constantly discover something fresh after returning. Florida has tourists catering down to a science, and the individuals in charge are constantly brainstorming new ways to draw visitors to the state. Orlando is a terrific spot to start!