The Coolest Things to Do in Orlando besides Theme Parks

Let me take a wild guess at something. If I were to ask you for another word to associate with the city of Orlando, you’d immediately think Disney. Or Mickey Mouse. But you know what? There are so many other fun things to do in Orlando besides the theme parks that it is becoming one of our favorite destinations in Florida, especially during the winter months. 

The city is a great jumping-off point to explore Central Florida. And because of its popularity, there are a ton of lodging options that range from budget-friendly to 5-star accommodations. We take advantage of the low-cost condo rentals that offer full kitchens which is great for our pocketbook and our sanity for long-term travel.

From adults-only to family-friendly attractions, come discover the other unique things to do in Orlando besides theme parks below. 

Read Next: 10 Super Fun Day Trips from Orlando

Plan a Non-Disney family trip! If you are looking for fun things to do in Orlando besides Disney here are some local attractions, adult things to do, kids activities, and hiking options to get away from the crowds. #Orlando #Florida #nondisneyflorida #familytravel

Things to Do in Orlando besides Disney

NOTE: With everything going on right now, please double-check with each place below to make sure they are open, for requirements and restrictions, and to ask about current hours. Things are changing from day to day. 

Hit Ctrl when clicking the map to open an interactive Google Map in another window.

Things to do in Orlando in November and December: 
Orlando Christmas Guide 

1. Play Around at an Inflatable Water Park

A perfect thing to do on a hot Florida day is to challenge yourself to a floating obstacle course! See if you can conquer Aqua Park at Nona Adventure Park. 

The whole family will have a blast swinging, running, falling, climbing, and jumping on Adventure Lake. The minimum age requirement is 5 years old.

Where: 14086 Centerline Drive, Orlando

There are all kinds of fun things to do in Orlando besides Disney such as Lake Nona's Inflatable Water Park.
Lake Nona’s Inflatable Water Park
Photo Credit: Nona Adventure Park

2. Walk Around Harry P Leu Gardens

If you are into history or nature, make a detour at Harry P Leu Gardens, a 50-acre tropical garden on the banks of Lake Rowena just minutes from downtown Orlando.

Three buildings on the property, including the Leu House Museum, have landed on the National Register of Historic Places. 

It’s great for families too. One reviewer says, “What a great experience! Beautiful and easy for families with strollers. The fairy doors are so creative. My two girls loved finding them and the stories for each one. We were able to eat a packed picnic next to the entrance where they had outdoor tables.”

Where: 1920 N Forest Avenue, Orlando

3. Shoot a Fully Automatic Machine Gun

One of the unique things to do in Orlando besides theme parks is learning how to shoot a machine gun over at Machine Gun America.

Each visitor is given a selection of firearms, eye and ear protection, one-on-one instruction, and a range target. And off you go to target practice. 

Where: 5825 W Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway

 

4. Rent a Swan Boat on Lake Eola

A fun thing to do in downtown Orlando is to get out for a paddle on Lake Eola in one of the swan-shaped boats that hold up to five people. Click here for discounted swan boat rentals. 

The lake, located in the heart of downtown Orlando, is home to five swan species: Trumpeter Swans, Whooper Swans, Black Neck Swans, Australian Black Swans, and Royal Mute Swans. They first arrived at the lake in 1922 and have been coming back ever since. And even have their own Twitter account!

TIP: If you are looking for a free thing to do in Orlando, take a walk on the paved trail around the lake.  

Where: 512 E Washington Street, Orlando

Disclaimer: I earn from qualifying purchases. Some of the links included in this post are affiliate links and will provide me with a commission at no additional cost to you.

There are all kinds of fun things to do in Orlando besides theme parks such as renting swan boats at Lake Eola downtown.
Lake Eola in Downtown Orlando

RELATED: THE CITYWALK AT UNIVERSAL

5. Character Dining Outside of the Theme Parks

Character meals have been suspended for early 2021, check sites for updated information.

You don’t need to pay for a theme park admission to have access to character meals. For a low cost, stress-free option, check out these places below: 

6. Explore Tibet-Butler Nature Preserve

A wooded oasis just a stone’s throw from Disney’s Magic Kingdom, the Tibet-Butler Nature Preserve is a county park with a small nature center, butterfly garden, picnic area, and 3.4 miles of trails and spurs. 

It’s a great place for families to get away from the crowds and work in some exercise. It’s also one of the enjoyable things to do in Orlando for free. 

TIP: Call before you go to check on the trails, flooding occurs in the rainy season. (407) 254-1940.

Where: 8777 Winter Garden Vineland Rd, Orlando

A boardwalk at Tibet-Butler Nature Preserve in Orlando.
Where to find nature near Disney – Check out the Tibet-Butler Nature Preserve that is popular with hikers and outdoorsy families.

7. Hit the Track, the Go-Kart Track That Is

Technically Fun Spot Orlando is a theme park, but it doesn’t feel like it. It’s a family-owned park, the lines are shorter, it’s on a much smaller scale, and admission and parking are free so you can pay for whatever specific activity you are interested in like Go-Karts!

Fun Spot America offers four multi-level tracks for all ages with karts that get up to 34 mph. 

If you are interested in going in combination with a few other things on the list, here’s where you can find discounted tickets, click here for Fun Spot Orlando admission. 

Where: 5700 Fun Spot Way, Orlando

8. Learn How to Wakeboard

Always dreamt of riding the waves, but don’t know where to begin? Head over to the Orlando Watersports Complex, one of the largest cable wakeboard parks in the United States.

Instead of a boat pulling the rider, a steady cable hangs overhead. The park offers private one-on-one lessons on how to get up riding on your own and offers a get-up-guarantee. Once you get the hang of it, you’re let loose to practice on your own and attempt whatever tricks you want to try. 

Where: 8615 Florida Rock Road, Orlando

9. Learn Something at the Orlando Science Center

Who said you couldn’t learn a thing or two on vacation? The Orlando Science Center is the perfect indoor thing to do in Orlando if it’s raining or too hot to want to explore outdoors. 

The museum has four floors of interactive displays, rotating guest exhibits, labs and workshops, two movie theaters, a domed observatory, and laser light shows. 

Where: 777 E Princeton Street, Orlando

10. Visit the World of Chocolate Museum and Cafe

Chocolate lovers unite! You will learn about where chocolate comes from and be able to try chocolates they make right there in Orlando or try other ones from all over at the World of Chocolate Museum and Cafe. 

The coolest attraction is the two dozen famous landmarks carved from solid chocolate. You’ll recognize buildings like the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Palace of Westminster and Big Ben in London, and the Statue of Liberty to name a few. 

Click here for discounted admission to the World of Chocolate. 

Where: 11701 International Drive, Orlando

11. Discover Disney Springs

Disney Springs, also known as Downtown Disney, is a free outdoor entertainment district with shopping, bars, and restaurants. You’ll find live music, street performers, a bowling alley, a movie theater, and a tethered helium balloon. 

As for things to do in Orlando besides theme parks, take a family-friendly scavenger hunt, shop for Disney souvenirs, visit the Lego store, or meet the Coca-Cola Polar Bear. 

TIP: Most restaurants offer Military discounts so don’t forget to ask. 

Where: 1486 Lake Buena Vista, 

Disney Springs is one of the fun things to do in Orlando besides theme parks. The long boardwalk has many restaurants, bars, and shops along with entertainment.
Air Balloon at Disney Springs

12. Hike at Shingle Creek Nature Preserve

Who would have thought you could take a hike in Orlando?! The Shingle Creek Nature Preserve is a little hidden gem in southwest Orlando.

It’s a short trail along a creek with plenty of opportunities to see wildlife like alligators, woodpeckers, otters, blue herons, and more for free. 

Tip: The trailhead begins behind Hunter’s Creek Middle School.

Where: 13400 Town Loop Blvd, Orlando

13. Eat at the World’s Largest McDonald’s

I would never include a McDonald’s on any of my lists but I am a roadside attractions nut so the “world’s largest” anything always gets my attention.

The large two-story building is 18,716 square feet and also includes an arcade, playland, and a 30-foot tall Ronald McDonald.

And the self-proclaimed epic McDonald’s offers way more food options than their typical menu including custom brick-oven baked pizzas, omelets, pasta, and Belgium waffles.  

Where: 6875 Sand Lake Rd

14. Orlando Tree Trek Adventure Park

Channel your inner Tarzan at the Orlando Tree Trek Adventure Park. With over 97 aerial challenges including rope swings, suspension bridges, balancing airborne skateboards, ladders, and a 425-foot zip line, it’s an adventure among the trees. 

If you’re looking for things to do in Orlando with kids, the two separate kids courses are designed with 21 challenges to wear the kiddos out! There’s something for everyone ages 7 and up. 

Where: 7625 Sinclair Rd

15. The Wheel at ICON Park

Get a bird’s eye view up on The Wheel at ICON Park. You’ll be able to rotate up to 400 feet on what’s fondly known as the Orlando Eye. 

The observation wheel isn’t the only thing going on at the entertainment district. You’ll also find amusement rides, arcades, and fun restaurants to eat at like the Yard House, Sugar Factory, Tin Roof, and Shake Shack.  

Click here for discounted Wheel at ICON tickets here.

TIP: Student and Florida Resident Discounts are available and the parking garage is free.

Where: 8375 International Drive

16. SEA LIFE Aquarium

Also located at ICON Park, the SEA LIFE Orlando Aquarium is an enjoyable place for adults and children. It’s on the smaller side but is nicely designed and has many sea creatures and interactive exhibits.

Make your way through the 360-degree ocean tunnel as young sharks, sea turtles, and stingrays, circle around you. 

Where: 8375 International Drive

17. Gatorland

It doesn’t get any more old-school Florida than alligators and swamp shows. Before there was Disney World, Gatorland opened as one of Central Florida’s first attractions. 

Inside the park and wildlife preserve, you’ll be able to take a boardwalk stroll above wetlands, see thousands of alligators, snakes, and crocodiles, climb an observation tower, discover a bird aviary, see an alligator wrestling and feeding show, and pet small animals. They also have a few zip lines (some over gators, of course) and a small splash park. 

Make it an all-day experience with a discounted ticket to Gatorland, Alligator Capital of the World.

Where: 14501 Orange Blossom Trail

18. Take in a Show or a Concert

There are ten Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament locations in the United States, and Orlando is one of them.

We took our nephews a few years ago in Chicago and we all had a blast. It is an entertaining night of knights, jousting, and talented horseback riding, all while eating your dinner medieval-style – with your hands – up in the stands.

Read about our Medieval Times Chicago experience here. 

At The Walt Disney Theatre, you will find an array of family entertainment including musicals, plays, concerts, and other live events. Down the street at the Camping World Stadium, visitors can watch wrestling, soccer games, live concerts, and events like the Monster Jam. 

19. Hot Air Balloon Ride

There are a few hot air balloon companies, but Painted Horizons has been around since 1991 and has trustworthy pilots. For many, a hot air balloon ride is a bucket list item.

So go float with the wind and take in the spectacular views. Then afterward, enjoy some champagne or sparkling cider with pastries, cheese, and crackers.

Where: 12559 FL-535, Orlando

20. Play a Round of Golf

There are many public golf courses in Central Florida with a few of them highly rated. Designed by the renowned Arnold Palmer Design Company, Shingle Creek Golf Club was named “Best Golf Course in Orlando” for 2020. 

Orange County National features two championship courses, a 9 hole short course, and one of the largest driving ranges and practice facilities in America. And has been deemed, “a must-play course” in the area.

21. Escape Room

Challenge your mind at The Asylum Escape. Step into a customized room and solve clues and puzzles to figure out how to get out!

The big question is who among your group will be able to crack the code?

Where: 8723 International Drive

22. Indoor Skydive at iFLY Orlando

If you’ve ever been interested in skydiving, but are not quite sure you want to jump out of an airplane, indoor skydiving is the way to go!

At iFLY, you are only feet from the ground but still get that thrilling feeling of flying through the air. Adults and kids alike get a kick out of this experience. 

Click here for discounted skydiving tickets here. 

Where: 8969 International Drive, Orlando

23. Outlet Malls

Shop till you drop! Orlando has made a name for itself as a shopper’s paradise. But my tip is always to look for good deals. 

If you like high-end products, visit the Orlando Premium Outlets on International Drive and Vineland Avenue. But if you want some Disney Souvenirs, Old Navy, or Under Armour gear head over to Lake Buena Vista Factory. Shopping is one of the most popular things to do in Orlando besides theme parks, you’ll never see a parking lot empty. 

24. Crayola Experience

If you’re looking for things to do near Orlando airport with kids, the Crayola Experience is a fantastic place to spend a few hours.

With hands-on activities such as creating your own custom crayon and playing with clay, selfie stations, and a live show, you’ll “make colorful family memories that will last a lifetime!” just like Crayola says.

Where: 8001 S Orange Blossom Trail

RELATED: THINGS TO DO IN KISSIMMEE

Things to Do in Orlando for Adults

25. Get a Couples Massage

No kids and looking for a way to turn your trip into a romantic one? Head over to St Somewhere Spa (<discounted offer) for a hot stone couples massage, glass of wine or champagne, and access to a coed steam room and sauna, salt room, and pools. 

26. Check out the Craft Beer Scene

If you like trying local craft beer, there are many options in and around Orlando. You can spend weeks trying them all!

You will find Orlando Brewing, Rockpit Brewing, Hourglass Brewing, and Dead Lizard Brewing Company near downtown.

In northern Orlando, there’s Something’s Brewing Florida, The Bear and Peacock Brewery, Ivanhoe Park Brewing Company, Broken Strings, Ten10 Brewery, and Sideward Brewing. And the list goes on and on. 

Orlando Brewery is just one of the breweries downtown in Central Florida.
Don’t forget to pick up an Ale Trail passport, available at most breweries! If you like beer, trying different craft breweries should be on your list of things to do in Orlando besides the theme parks.

27. Make it a Comedy Night

There are a few comedy venues in and around Orlando. If you’re a fan of the television show “Whose Line is it Anyway,” head over to Sak Comedy Lab where Wayne Brady was once a cast member. It has been voted one of the “50 best comedy clubs in America.” 

For another fast-paced improv experience, join Mama’s Comedy Show at Sleuths Mystery Dinner Show every Friday night for an adults-only night out of dinner and drinks. 

If improv doesn’t tickle your fancy, hit up Bonkerz Comedy Club for stellar stand-up acts that’ll have you in stitches. 

28. DIY Bar Crawl including an Ice Bar

Head over to International Drive for a do-it-yourself pub crawl. Start out at The Pub for appetizers and drinks. 

Then, head over to the ICEBAR Orlando, the largest permanent ICEBAR in the world. It’s made of 70 tons of ice! They will provide you with thermal coats and gloves for a very “cool” experience. 

End the night at ICON Park for some live music, hit up Ole Red for country, and Tin Roof for a variety.

And if you REALLY want to make it a memorable night, buy a ticket for Sky Bar 360. It is a private capsule (for up to 10 people) on The Wheel with unlimited drinks high in the sky! 

29. Join a Cooking Class

A cooking class is an entertaining way to spend an evening whether you’re with your significant other, friends, or flying solo. Publix Aprons Cooking School has all kinds of classes to learn how to cook hearty soups to holiday-themed appetizers to full-blown wine and dine meals. Their couples-only option changes monthly, but always includes a hands-on learning experience covering excellent dishes. 

CozyMeal offers a wide range of group cooking classes that is great for adults including a Fun and Simple Weekend Brunch and Intro to Traditional Sushi Rolls. 

With over 38 years of experience, Truffles and Trifles, is one of the largest cooking schools in the Southeast. Food Network included the school as one of the “Nation’s Top Five Cooking Schools for Fun.” A few favorites include a Girl’s Night Out, Healthy Low Carb Cooking, and Date Night Cooking with Wine. 

30. Outdoor Movie Night at Leu Gardens

The first Friday of every month is Date Night at Leu Gardens. Grab some chairs or a blanket, pick up a bottle of wine (alcohol is permitted) and a to-go dinner, and get situated in the garden for their feature film. 

Times vary throughout the year: for February, March, October thru December movie time is 7:30 pm. From April thru August, it is 8:30 pm. And September’s movie time is 8:00 pm. Doors/gates open usually an hour to an hour and a half ahead of time. 

31. Take a Food Tour

Even though at first glance Orlando seems to be the epicenter of chain restaurant-land, the city surprisingly has a thriving food scene. 

Take the Ivanhoe Village tour, a three-hour foodie adventure where you’ll visit five favorite local establishments to sample delicious food. 

Get acquainted with the indie vibe and historical charm of the lake community.

32. Visit a Post-Apocalyptic Themed Craft Beer Bar 

Found at the back of Gods and Monsters comic book store, Vault 5421 is advertised as a post-apocalyptic wasteland.  It’s small, dark, and there’s a whole lotta skulls hanging around reminiscent of a villain’s lair.

The gaming bar beckons comic book enthusiasts and “road warrior vagabonds” looking to escape the norm. 

Featuring an end-of-the-world vibe, it’s not necessarily for everyone but definitely an off-the-beaten-path experience. 

Vault 5421 is open Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday nights only.

WHERE: 5421 International Drive, Orlando, FL 32819 

33. Axe Throwing

I’m not really sure what this new craze is all about, but axe throwing seems to be all the rage and I want in! Epic Axe Throwing has rave reviews and since they serve alcohol and is for ages 13+ it’s perfect for an adults-only outing. 

“Had a great time visiting here! Staff was very welcoming and friendly. Good music. Similar to bowling, you rent the throwing area for an hour at a time. About $25 a person. Wear closed-toe shoes. Certainly a fun, unique experience!”

Other Interesting Things to Do in Florida that’s Close to Orlando

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Do you have any other suggestions on things to do in Orlando besides the theme parks? We’d love to hear about them below in the comments!

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The ultimate Orlando bucket list! The best things to do in Orlando include local attractions, alligators, fun bars, and kids activities more! Whether you are an adult looking for entertainment or a family with kids looking to do things besides the parks, check this list out! #orlando #florida #besidesdisney #couples

Here are the best things to do in Orlando besides parks! Yes, this city in Florida is known as the "Theme Park Capital of the World," but there are so many other cool things to do in Orlando with Kids besides the theme parks. | Orlando without Disney | What to do in Orlando | Orlando without Universal | City Guide | #orlando #CentralFlorida #besidesdisney #family

 

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