Things to Do in Orlando FL Other Than Disney – 2024 Ultimate Guide

Table of Contents

Welcome

Welcome to Orlando, the vibrant city in Florida that offers a plethora of exciting activities beyond the enchanting world of Disney. While Disney is undoubtedly a major draw, Orlando has so much more to offer visitors looking to explore beyond the theme parks. From thrilling outdoor adventures to cultural experiences and delicious dining options, Orlando is a diverse destination that caters to all interests. Let’s dive into the top things to do in Orlando other than Disney, and discover the hidden gems that make this city a must-visit for any traveler.

Can’t-Miss Attractions

When visiting Orlando, there are plenty of exciting things to do beyond the famous Disney parks. Here are the top 5 must-see attractions that showcase the diverse offerings of this vibrant city:

1. Lake Eola Park:
Located in the heart of downtown Orlando, Lake Eola Park is a serene oasis offering a peaceful escape from the bustling city life. The park features a picturesque lake where visitors can rent swan-shaped paddle boats and enjoy a relaxing ride on the water. Surrounding the lake are lush green spaces perfect for picnics, as well as a playground for children. The iconic Lake Eola Fountain is a focal point of the park, providing a stunning backdrop for leisurely strolls and Instagram-worthy photos. This park is a must-visit for nature lovers and anyone looking to unwind in a beautiful urban setting.

2. Harry P. Leu Gardens:
For those with a green thumb or a love for botanical beauty, Harry P. Leu Gardens is a hidden gem in Orlando. Spanning over 50 acres, this botanical garden boasts a diverse collection of plants from around the world, including tropical and subtropical species. Visitors can meander through themed gardens, such as the butterfly garden and the rose garden, and marvel at the vibrant colors and fragrant blooms. The peaceful ambiance and educational opportunities make Harry P. Leu Gardens a must-see attraction for nature enthusiasts and anyone seeking a tranquil escape.

3. Orlando Science Center:
Offering a fun and educational experience for visitors of all ages, the Orlando Science Center is a top attraction for families and science enthusiasts. With interactive exhibits exploring topics like astronomy, physics, and biology, this science center provides a hands-on learning environment that is both engaging and informative. Visitors can enjoy live science demonstrations, planetarium shows, and even a giant-screen theater for an immersive experience. The Orlando Science Center is a must-visit for those looking to expand their knowledge and have a blast while doing so.

4. Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts:
For a dose of culture and entertainment, the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts is a premier destination in Orlando. This state-of-the-art venue hosts a variety of performances, including Broadway shows, concerts, dance recitals, and more. The stunning architecture of the center itself is a sight to behold, with modern design elements and world-class facilities. Whether you’re a theater buff, a music lover, or simply appreciate the arts, a visit to the Dr. Phillips Center is a must for a memorable cultural experience in Orlando.

5. Gatorland:
For a taste of Florida’s wild side, Gatorland is a unique attraction that offers thrilling experiences with the state’s most famous reptile residents. As the “Alligator Capital of the World,” Gatorland features thousands of alligators and crocodiles in their natural habitat, providing visitors with up-close encounters through various shows and exhibits. Guests can watch gator wrestling demonstrations, zip line over alligator-infested waters, and even feed these formidable creatures. With its blend of excitement and education, Gatorland is a must-visit for wildlife enthusiasts and adrenaline junkies alike.

These top 5 attractions in Orlando offer a diverse range of experiences that showcase the city’s natural beauty, cultural richness, and entertainment offerings beyond the Disney parks. Whether you’re seeking tranquility in a botanical garden, excitement at a wildlife park, or enlightenment at a science center, Orlando has something for everyone to enjoy.

One-day trip

Looking for exciting day trips near Orlando that don’t involve Disney? Here are five fantastic destinations within a 2-hour drive that offer a mix of outdoor adventures and cultural experiences:

1. Blue Spring State Park:
Known for its crystal-clear waters and abundant wildlife, Blue Spring State Park is located just 45 minutes north of Orlando. Visitors can enjoy activities such as swimming, snorkeling, and kayaking in the spring-fed river. The park is also a designated manatee refuge, offering a unique opportunity to see these gentle giants up close during the winter months.

2. Mount Dora:
Situated less than an hour northwest of Orlando, Mount Dora is a charming historic town known for its quaint shops, art galleries, and scenic lakefront. Visitors can stroll along tree-lined streets, explore local boutiques, and dine in cozy cafes. Don’t miss the Mount Dora Center for the Arts, which showcases the work of local and regional artists.

3. Canaveral National Seashore:
Just over an hour east of Orlando, Canaveral National Seashore is a pristine barrier island offering miles of unspoiled beaches and diverse ecosystems. Outdoor enthusiasts can hike, birdwatch, swim, or fish in this protected natural area. The seashore is also home to historic sites such as the Eldora State House, providing a glimpse into Florida’s past.

4. Winter Park:
Located only 30 minutes from Orlando, Winter Park is a picturesque city known for its beautiful parks, upscale shopping, and cultural attractions. Visitors can take a scenic boat tour on the chain of lakes, visit the Morse Museum to see the world’s largest collection of Tiffany glass, or explore the Albin Polasek Museum and Sculpture Gardens.

5. DeLand:
Less than an hour’s drive north of Orlando, DeLand is a vibrant college town with a rich history and a thriving arts scene. Visitors can wander through the historic downtown area, lined with colorful murals and unique shops. Don’t miss the Museum of Art – DeLand, which features rotating exhibitions of contemporary and traditional artwork.

These five destinations offer a mix of outdoor adventures and cultural experiences, making them ideal choices for day-trippers looking to explore beyond the theme parks. Whether you’re interested in nature, history, art, or simply relaxing by the water, there’s something for everyone within a short drive of Orlando.

Restaurants and bars

When visiting Orlando, there are numerous fantastic dining options beyond the realm of Disney. Here are five must-visit restaurants that offer a diverse culinary experience:

1. The Rusty Spoon – Indulge in modern American cuisine at The Rusty Spoon, known for its farm-to-table concept. Signature dishes include the mouthwatering Braised Short Ribs and the delectable Shrimp and Grits. The restaurant’s commitment to using fresh, locally sourced ingredients sets it apart.

2. Santiago’s Bodega – Experience a taste of Spain at Santiago’s Bodega, a tapas-style restaurant offering a wide array of small plates perfect for sharing. Don’t miss their famous Patatas Bravas and flavorful Chorizo al Vino. The cozy ambiance and extensive wine selection make it a favorite among locals and tourists alike.

3. Hawkers Asian Street Fare – Transport your taste buds to Asia at Hawkers, where you can savor street food-inspired dishes from various Asian countries. Crowd favorites include the Malaysian-inspired Roti Canai and the Vietnamese Pho. The vibrant and bustling atmosphere adds to the overall dining experience.

4. The Stubborn Mule – Enjoy a contemporary twist on comfort food at The Stubborn Mule, where classic dishes are reinvented with a creative flair. Be sure to try their award-winning Mule Burger and innovative Truffle Mac and Cheese. The restaurant’s laid-back vibe and craft cocktail menu make it a popular choice for locals.

5. Se7en Bites – For a taste of Southern comfort, head to Se7en Bites, a charming bakery and café known for its delicious homemade pies and hearty brunch options. Indulge in the famous Buttermilk Biscuits with Sausage Gravy or the decadent Peanut Butter Pie. The cozy setting and friendly service make it a beloved spot in Orlando.

When it comes to cafes and bars, Orlando offers some hidden gems worth exploring:

1. Drunken Monkey Coffee Bar – This quirky café is a favorite among locals for its artisanal coffee blends and cozy atmosphere. Unique offerings like the Lavender Honey Latte and Nutella Banana Crepe have garnered a loyal following. The laid-back vibe and friendly staff make it a perfect spot to unwind.

2. Mathers Social Gathering – Step back in time at Mathers, a vintage-inspired cocktail bar known for its sophisticated ambiance and handcrafted drinks. Sip on a classic Old Fashioned or try one of their signature cocktails like the Lavender Lemon Drop. The elegant décor and rooftop terrace with stunning views make it a top choice for a night out in Orlando.

Whether you’re a food enthusiast, coffee lover, or cocktail connoisseur, Orlando has a diverse culinary scene that caters to every palate. Be sure to explore these unique dining establishments and watering holes to make the most of your visit to the City Beautiful.

Interesting Facts

When exploring Orlando, there is more to discover beyond the enchanting world of Disney. Here are three intriguing facts that showcase the diverse offerings of this vibrant city:

1. Cultural Haven: Orlando boasts a rich cultural scene beyond its theme parks. Visitors can immerse themselves in the vibrant arts community by visiting the Orlando Museum of Art, which features a diverse collection of contemporary pieces and rotating exhibitions. For a taste of local creativity, the CityArts Factory in downtown Orlando showcases the work of talented local artists, from paintings to sculptures, providing a unique insight into the city’s artistic pulse.

2. Natural Oasis: While Orlando is known for its bustling city life, it also harbors serene natural escapes. The Harry P. Leu Gardens offer a peaceful retreat with stunning botanical displays, including tropical plants, roses, and camellias spread across 50 acres of meticulously landscaped gardens. Nature enthusiasts can also explore the Tibet-Butler Nature Preserve, a hidden gem where hiking trails wind through lush forests, offering a glimpse of Florida’s diverse ecosystems.

3. Culinary Delights: Orlando’s culinary scene is a melting pot of flavors, reflecting the city’s diverse population. Foodies can embark on a gastronomic journey through the Mills 50 district, known for its eclectic mix of international cuisines, from Vietnamese pho to authentic Cuban sandwiches. For a taste of local delicacies, the East End Market is a foodie haven, housing artisanal vendors offering everything from freshly baked pastries to organic produce, providing a true taste of Orlando’s culinary creativity.

These lesser-known facets of Orlando showcase the city’s multifaceted charm, inviting visitors to delve deeper into its cultural, natural, and culinary treasures beyond the realm of theme parks.

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