Orlando, Florida is famous for being the theme park capital of the world, with millions of people visiting the area for this specific reason every year. However, there is plenty to do around the Orlando area that doesn’t involve roller coasters and large crowds of people. Once you leave the theme parks behind, you'll find the path less taken offers great adventures for the whole family to enjoy. Here are some of those locations you may want to add to your itinerary.
Don’t want to venture too far from where you are staying? International Drive runs right through the middle of the theme park area, as well as being central to the hotels and resorts, but there are some lesser-known attractions to enjoy. Visit I-Drive NASCAR Indoor Kart Racing, with electric karts to go around a half-mile indoor track, or bowl and play in the state-of-the-art arcade. Andretti Indoor Karting & Games also features high speed karts, bowling, arcade, laser tag, simulators and 7-D ride. Topgolf Orlando is another fun attraction for the whole family, with 100+ climate-controlled hitting bays, a Toptracer shot tracker, and a full-service restaurant & bars.
I-Drive 360, a small section of attractions also on International Drive, features a new attraction, the Orlando Starflyer. A 425-foot-tall open air swing ride, it is perfect for the adrenaline junkies (and definitely not for the faint of heart). This area also features the Icon Orlando 360, the iconic 400-foot tall observation wheel that provides breathtaking views of Central Florida in all directions. There is also the SEA LIFE Orlando Aquarium with more than 5,000 creatures including colorful fish, seahorses and jellyfish, and surround yourself with turtles and sharks in our immersive 360-degree ocean tunnel. Also, check out Madame Tussauds Orlando, the world’s most famous celebrity wax attraction, provides visitors the opportunity to check out your favorite celebs up close and personal.
Downtown Orlando is the perfect place for catching a show at the Dr. Phillips Center, or a concert at the Amway Center. The Church Street District offers a glimpse of the past but also has an array of trendy restaurants and nightclubs. The Orlando Science Center is perfect for the kids to explore, experiment and discover, with hands-on educational exhibits, programs, planetarium shows, and 3D theaters. Harry P. Leu Gardens offers up three miles of paved scenic walkways so visitors can enjoy a wide array of temperate and tropical plants, a butterfly garden, bamboo gardens and even a museum.
Winter Park is a suburb north of Orlando. There are plenty of quaint shops and delicious restaurants to enjoy along Park Ave, and you can relax in Central Park around one of the fountains, or at one of the cafes. Take a look at the beautiful architecture and wildlife on the Winter Park Scenic Boat Tour, which is an hour-long guided tour on a pontoon boat. Some unique museums to check out, such as Casa Feliz Historic Home Museum, a masterfully restored Spanish farmhouse; the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum, home to the world’s largest collection of Louis Comfort Tiffany art; the Cornell Fine Arts Museum, with important pieces by Chagall, Picasso, Warhol, Moore, Basquiat, and more; and the Albin Polasek Museum and Sculpture Gardens.
Mount Dora is another smaller city to the northwest of Orlando. It's known for its antique shops and annual festivals. Check out Renninger's Vintage Antique Center & Farmer's Flea Market on the weekends, located on 117 acres of scenic, rolling land, there is a lot to explore and examine. Take a stroll through the Mount Dora Museum Of Speed to see some unique automobiles and history. Or if you prefer more current art, the Modernism Museum is dedicated to showcasing the largest known collection of Modernist art.
Other Sites to Visit:
- Gatorland - this 100+ acre attraction features a free-flight aviary, petting zoo, animal shows, alligator breeding marsh, a Screamin' Gator Zip Line, and the chance to see lots and lots of alligators and crocodiles.
- Jack Kerouac House - the author lived in this house while he wrote the novel 'The Dharma Bums.' Today, the house is home to a highly esteemed 'Writers in Residence' Program and welcomes interested guests who arrange visits beforehand.
- Holy Land Experience - Christian theme park based on the religious history of first-century Jerusalem.
- Forever Florida - enjoy ziplining, horseback riding, camping, and adventuring through the wild on a beautiful nature conservancy in St. Cloud, Florida.
- Wekiwa Springs State Park — canoe, kayak, or swim on the Wekiva River while experiencing the beautiful, untouched wonders of Florida, or bike or hike along 13 miles of trails.