When it comes to things to do in Orlando, it’s no surprise that the city’s famed lineup of theme parks takes up the bulk of the action – and rightly so. Both Disney and Universal dominate the tourist market here, with nine different parks between them, not to mention all the branded shopping, dining and nightlife experiences that don’t require a day-pass.
Although visiting Orlando without at least saying a quick ‘hello’ to Mickey and Co might feel like you’ve not had the full experience, the city – and surrounding central Florida area – does promise plenty of alternatives. Explore the quaint downtown quarter and the several inner-city parks on foot, airboat your way around the vast alligator-infested swamps, or take a tour to the world-famous Kennedy Space Centre on the eastern shores. Check out our top 10 things to do in Orlando below.
- Gatorland Admission
- Sleuths Mystery Dinner Show
- Eat and Play Card – 1 Card for 4 Travelers
- Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition
- Crayola Experience Admission
- Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament
- Blue Man Group
- Walt Disney World® Resort Magic Your Way Ticket
- Chocolate Kingdom Factory Tour
- SeaWorld Florida Tickets - Choose Your Adventure
Topping the bill of things to do in Orlando simply must be Universal’s Islands of Adventure. While other theme parks around town tend to cater more towards certain age groups or tastes, Islands of Adventure has got it all. Live action stunts shows entertain the kids, rollercoasters and themed rides tower overhead, and immersive simulators place you in the middle of your favorite movie – ideal for those who prefer their adrenalin fix to be a bit closer to the ground. Opened in 1999, Islands of Adventure is made up of seven different areas, with the latest ‘Wizarding World of Harry Potter’ pulling in the most visitors each day, alongside the likes of ‘The Lost Continent’, ‘Toon Lagoon’, Jurassic Park’ and ‘Marvel Super Hero Island’. Read More...
- Address: 6000 Universal Blvd, Orlando, FL 32819, United States
- Tel: +1 407-363-8000
Disney World’s first ever theme park still remains one of its best. Magic Kingdom welcomes a whopping 20 million visitors a year with its six different lands of fun and adventure. The iconic Cinderella Castle stands as the park’s centerpiece, lit up every night at 22.00 by the famous fireworks display (that can be seen for free if you get up close enough). Entrance into the park – which starts at around $100 – unravels a whole world of Disney-inspired shows, parades, rollercoasters, rides and simulators, most of which cater more towards the younger kids. Among the six different ‘lands’ are Adventureland, Fantasyland, Frontierland, Tomorrowland, Main Street, and Liberty Square. Read More...
- Opening Hours: 09:00 – 24:00 daily
- Address: 1180 Seven Seas Dr, Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830, United States
- Tel: +1 407-939-5277
One-half of the wider Universal Orlando complex, Universal Studios draws in the bumper crowds with its long lineup of Hollywood-inspired rides and attractions. Get up close with those naughty yellow minions from Despicable Me, fly across Springfield with The Simpsons, ward-off alien attacks in the MEN IN BLACK simulator or get lost in a world of magic at Harry Potter’s Escape from Gringotts ride. Compared to Universal’s other ‘Islands of Adventure’, the action here is more focused on delivering an immersive movie experience with state-of-the-art technology used throughout the range of simulators. Read More...
- Opening Hours: 09:00 - 22:00
- Address: 6000 Universal Blvd, Orlando, FL 32819
- Tel: +1 407-363-8000
- Price Range: Day-passes are priced at $102, ‘park-to-park’ tickets cost $147
SeaWorld has long been a firm fixture on Orlando’s list of big-name attractions, with plenty of shows, aquatic themed-rides and hands-on animal experiences to keep the family occupied for the day. Venture through the shark tunnel to uncover an underwater world, get up close to the dolphins and rays at ‘Sea of Shallows’ or check out the orca whales showcase their skills at the famous Shamu Stadium. Admission price varies between weekdays and weekends (starting around $80 a ticket), and SeaWorld also has a range of multi-day options with various add-ons for entrance into the adjacent Aquatica waterpark and Discovery Cove. Read More...
- Opening Hours: 09:00 - 20:00 daily
- Address: 8337 International Drive, Orlando, Florida
- Tel: +1 863-307-1569
Sitting on the eastern coast of Florida around 45 minutes’ from downtown Orlando, the Kennedy Space Centre proves year on year to be one of the region’s most popular attractions – away from the all the theme park action, that is. Thanks to Orlando’s relentless tourism boom over the past decade or so, the Kennedy Space Centre has become so much more than just a site for NASA to launch their astronauts off from the surface of the Earth. Now you can get up close with the original Apollo Saturn V rocket, stand nose-to-tail with the huge Atlantis Space Shuttle, take a trip out of the ozone in a simulator, or even arrange to have lunch with a veteran astronaut. Read More...
- Opening Hours: 09:00 - 19:00 daily
- Address: Kennedy Space Center, SR 405, FL 32899
- Price Range: Full day passes for adults start at $50 + tax and $40 + tax for children under 12 (prices as of 2015).
Orlando has a fair few water parks to choose from and one of the best is Aquatica, located next to the larger SeaWorld complex. Alongside all the water park essentials like head-to-head slides, rapids, and high-speed flumes, Aquatica also delivers a few slightly more unique attractions. One such example is the ‘Dolphin Plunge’, where your transparent flume passes through a pool full of dolphins (they’ll even try to race you as you zip along… if you’re lucky), as well as the oblivion-style drop at ‘Ihu’s breakaway Falls’. Read More...
- Opening Hours: 09:00 – 18:00 daily
- Address: 5800 Water Play Way, Orlando, FL 32821
For a theme park with a difference, Orlando’s highly-rated Gatorland provides a little extra ‘bite’ – home to dozens of live alligators and crocodiles. The timetable of live shows and demonstrations here provide a great way of learning more about Orlando’s most famous reptiles, but what will really leave a lasting memory is the park’s much-talked-about zip line ride over the gator-infested swamps - easily beating any other rollercoaster in the city to the title of Orlando’s Scariest Attraction! Entrance is very reasonable too, with this being one of the cheapest of Orlando’s many tourist attractions - although you do pay a little extra for things like the zip line and gator training sessions. Read More...
- Address: 14501S. Orange Blossom Trail, Orlando, Florida 32837
- Tel: +1 407-855-5496 or +1 800-393-5297
Disney’s second installment of theme park fun to make our top 10 things to do in Orlando is their Hollywood Studios. This is where movie magic comes alive, with the collection of family-friendly shows, rides, and attractions inspired by Disney’s 1930s and 1940s films drawing in millions every year. Rides like ‘Tower of Terror’ and the ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Coaster’ provide some more heartbeat raising excitement alongside live action rides and immersive simulators. Movie buffs shouldn’t forget to check out the excellent ‘Animation Courtyard’ either, home to a few particularly interesting exhibits detailing the life and work of Walt Disney himself. Read More...
- Opening Hours: 09:00 - 22:00 daily
- Address: 351 S Studio Dr, Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830
- Tel: +1 407-939-5277
Legoland’s largest park ever built sits right next to Lake Eloise in the Lakeland region, around one hour drive from Downtown Orlando – but the good news is that there is a $5 shuttle serve that runs to the park every day from International Drive (at 09:00). As for the park itself, expect heaps of things to see and do, including rollercoasters, huge Lego-built models (such as Florida, New York, Kennedy Space Center and Daytona Speedway), shows and performances. Most of the rides here are geared towards kids in the 2-12-year-old age bracket, such as their popular DUPLO fairground-style rides, the indoor-outdoor ‘Dragon’ rollercoaster, wooden ‘coastersaurous’ and safari trek. A range of flexible day passes are available for LEGOLAND with prices structured for adults and children; there’s also a LEGOLAND Water Park next door which costs around $100 for a combined ‘park-hopper’ pass.
- Opening Hours: 10:30 - 19:00
- Address: 1 Legoland Way, Winter Haven, FL 33884
- Tel: +1 877 350 5346
- Price Range: $74 for adults, $66 for children
As an alternative to the slightly more commercialized SeaWorld, head to the adjacent Discovery Cove for a more intimate and altogether more unique experience. The top-rated activity here is easily their ‘Dolphin Lagoon’, which lays on 30-minute small-group sessions with the dolphins in the water, allowing you to swim, hug and even kiss the dolphins (if that’s your thing). The ‘Freshwater Oasis’ zone offers much of the same thing, just with different animals like otters and marmosets, while ‘The Grand Reef’ is the place to check out some exotic fish with a snorkel set provided. ‘Wind-Away River’ is a slow flowing river that passes through landscaped jungles, caves and waterfalls. Almost all the attractions here involve getting in the water – so don’t forget your swimming costumes! Packages are fully customizable and best booked well in advance via their website. Read More...
- Opening Hours: 09:00 - 17:30
- Address: 6000 Discovery Cove Way, Orlando, FL 32821
- Tel: +1 877-557-7404