Wondering what to do in Orlando Florida that are not Disney? Looking for fun things to do in Orlando besides theme parks? Here are 21 amazing and unique things to do in Orlando Florida that will not remind you of theme parks at all. #Orlando #Florida

21 Fun Things To Do In Orlando Florida Besides Theme Parks

Last Updated on March 6, 2024 by Soumya

Are you looking for fun things to do in Orlando besides theme parks? Not a fan of amusement parks but still want to have a good time?

Done with the parks and looking for what else to do in Orlando? Or maybe you wish to explore an Orlando beyond Disney?

Well, we have you covered. Here are 20 absolutely amazing things to do in Orlando Florida that are not theme parks. As you go through this extensive list of non-theme park attractions, you will learn all about:

  • the best things to do in Orlando that are not Disney or Universal.
  • tips and tricks on how to make the best of your time at each of these unique places to visit in Orlando.

Honestly, I had no clue there was so much stuff to do in Orlando besides theme parks when I started planning for my trip. Well, there were so many other fun facts about Orlando that I did not know!

Since I could do only so much, I went ahead and asked my traveler friends about their favorite non-Disney place in Orlando Florida.

So, here we are with a whopping list of 21 non-theme park attractions in Orlando.

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Wondering what to do in Orlando Florida that are not Disney? Looking for fun things to do in Orlando besides theme parks? Here are 21 amazing and unique things to do in Orlando Florida that will not remind you of theme parks at all. #Orlando #Florida

21 fun things to do in Orlando besides theme parks

Deep dive into space and its mysteries at Kennedy Space Center

Recommended by Debbie from World Adventurists

You will feel out-of-this-world as you explore the gateway to space at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.

An hour drive from Orlando, the Kennedy Space Center is a great way for space lovers to spend the day. Get your admission ticket to Kennedy Space Center here.

Split into mission zones and by chronological eras, the space center will teach you everything from the dawn of space explorations to the facts and goals of current missions.

Everything you learn about is completely real (no fiction here, folks) and it will leave you inspired about the possibilities! 

A huge highlight is visiting the Apollo/Saturn V Visitor center. You will want to go there first, since you can only reach it by a ride on a Kennedy Space Center Tour bus.

Another highlight is being able to witness the Space Shuttle Atlantis. You can also witness a live rocket launch here or train to be an astronaut. Click here to book your astronaut training experience.

With several other interactive exhibits and simulators, the Kennedy Space Center makes learning fun.

Visit Leu Gardens

Located in the middle of the city, right by the side of Lake Rowena, is a beautiful green oasis called Harry P. Leu Gardens.

Apart from lush green gardens and a beautiful water fountain, the garden is also home to a nice cozy museum and stunning art pieces that tell you the story of the place.

Apparently, Leu Gardens has the largest collection of camellias in all of USA. These flowers bloom between October and March.

Plus, there are roses, hibiscus, gulmohars, and lots of tropical beauties. Your kids will love the butterfly garden and the huge flower clock.

Visiting Leu Gardens is one of the best things to do in Orlando besides theme parks.

Do not forget to check out unique sculptures in the garden.

And make sure you get a picture of the huge live oak tree draped all over with Spanish moss. Experience a bit of America’s southern charm here.

Check out our detailed travel guide for Harry Leu Gardens in Orlando.

Swim with manatees

Recommended by Debbie from World Adventurists

Crystal River is a coastal city located in western Florida, and an hour and a half drive from Orlando.

Crystal River’s King’s Bay Wildlife Refuge is the manatee capital of the world, where you have unique privilege to swim with manatees.

During the winter, when water starts to cool in the Gulf of Mexico, the manatees come to Crystal River.

Since it is spring fed, the water remains constant at around 72 degrees. 400 manatees call Crystal River their winter home. The best time to view the manatees is November – March. 

It is best to take an early morning tour if possible, for better water visibility. Also, if you are in the water earlier, there is a better chance that the manatees will be more active, instead of resting or grazing.

While swimming with the manatees, you may also spot some tarpons. Do not be alarmed, they can grow up to eight feet long!

Most importantly is that before you can swim with the manatees, you must be briefed on the dos and don’ts of getting in the water with them. This includes things like no touching, no chasing and pursuing, and not crossing the manatee protection zone.

Manatees are gentle mammals. They may be big creatures, but swimming with them is incredible, and not scary at all. It is an unreal experience that will give you a great respect for them. 

Take a wine tour

Recommended by Paula from Paula Pins the Planet

Orlando offers a large variety of fun things to do that are not theme parks including fun things for adults.

One of them is paying a visit to the wineries and doing a wine tasting tour.

Lakeridge Winery & Vineyards ranks as the largest premium winery in Florida, located only 25-miles outside Orlando, in the town of Clermont.

Here you can try a great variety of wines like muscadine grapes, hybrid grapes, sparkling wines and more.

Their wine tasting and winery tour is open 7-days a week from Mon-Sat from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Sundays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

There is a very cozy wine room where you can sample delicious wine by the glass or half glass.

You will need to purchase a card that you can load with money, and you get to choose the wines you want to try. They also offer food trucks and small plates to accompany your wine venture.

During weekends, entrance is free and they host weekend special events such as picnics and live music. 

Get some stunning views from The Wheel at ICON Park

Now who can forget The Wheel when in Orlando. Yes, your Orlando vacation isn’t really complete until you have gotten into The Wheel at ICON Park and seen the city from a height of 400 ft.

The Wheel is Orlando’s huge Ferris wheel located only 15 minutes away from Disney World.

You can purchase a ticket and ride in your own capsule for a whole 18 minutes.

Enjoy some stunning panoramic views from the top especially that of Cape Canaveral and Downtown Orlando.

Best time to visit is early in the morning when the park opens or later in the day. If you wish to catch views of a glimmering Orlando, come in the evening.

You can purchase combo tickets to include Madame Tussauds, SEA LIFE Orlando, or the Starflyer.

Enjoy a unique ice cream at Abracadabra Ice Cream Factory

Recommended by Erin from Pina Travels

The Abracadabra Ice Cream Factory isn’t your average ice cream shop.

This unique ice cream joint uses liquid nitrogen to freeze your ice cream creation right in front of you.

And that is what makes Abracadabra such an exciting thing to do in Orlando besides the theme parks!

When you drop by Abracadabra, you’ll choose an ice cream size, a base type of ice cream, and then your toss-ins. 

There are tons of toss-in options to choose from like cookie dough, gummy bears, pineapple, coconut, marshmallows and various nuts. Even if you are a traveler with allergies, there will be options that are safe.

Once you’ve made all your choices the shop uses liquid nitrogen, which can reach 328 degrees below zero in temperature, to freeze your ice cream in seconds.

Watching the staff spin your bowl of ice cream in a cloud of cold nitrogen is super exciting!

Although Abracadabra Ice Cream Factory specializes in ice cream, they also have a menu of pizza, wraps, Philly cheesesteaks, and appetizers. The shop has a large patio where you can hang out and enjoy your food, year round.

If you have kids, they will love Abracadabra’s bounce houses! The bounce houses are free to enjoy as long as you make a food or ice cream purchase.

Visit an art museum

It may come as a surprise but Orlando in Florida is home to many wonderful art museums.

Orlando Museum of Art is home to 10-12 regional and international exhibitions on-site and 13 exhibitions off-site every year.

Another favorite of mine is the Albin Polasek Museum complete with a historic home, beautiful art works by Czech-born American sculptor Albin Polasek, and exotic gardens.

Yet another place to find both contemporary and traditional American art is the Mennello Museum of American Art.

All the art lovers out there, don’t miss them!

Meet some alligators at Gatorland

Built over 110 acres and home to thousands of alligators and crocodiles, Gatorland in Orlando is known as the “Alligator Capital of the World.

If you are looking for a thrilling wildlife adventure in Florida, you have to come to Gatorland. A totally unique experience!

Venture into the breeding marsh to get close to scores of alligators (under expert guidance, of course!).

Go flying on the Screamin’ Gator Zip Line. Or get your adrenaline rushing on a Night Shine tour.

Whatever your choice, you will experience the real wild Florida in Gatorland.

Click here to book your full-day admission ticket for Gatorland, Orlando.

Get wowed by the Upside Down House

Recommended by Tanya from Travels and Treasures

There is plenty of fun to be found in Orlando besides theme parks.

If you’re looking for something unique and unusual that will appeal to all ages, sign up for this head-over-heels experience at the Upside Down House (WonderWorks).

Located at 9067 International Drive, the structure stands out as a zany residence.

Not only is it awesome on the outside, but the inside hosts three floors of unique science games and hands-on experiences like a bubble lab, virtual reality station, laser tag, impressive optical illusions, a bed of nails, and more!

Tickets may be purchased online and range from $25 – $60 per person depending on age group and choice of package.

Give yourself about 2 hours to see everything in WonderWorks.

Patrons line up for show seating from 30 to 45 minutes in advance. 

The VIP Combo of the Outta Control Magic Comedy Dinner Show and WonderWorks is very popular and sells out quickly.

With this package, you can purchase tickets for the magic-comedy show and attend WonderWorks anytime before the performance begins.

Visit the town of Celebration

Recommended by Nichola from Globalmouse Travels

The town of Celebration is like a hidden corner of Orlando, somewhere very different from the theme parks and big thrills of the rest of the city.

It does have a huge Disney link though as it was conceived by Walt Disney as a model town with all the different elements – from a water tower to retro cinema. Today it’s the perfect place for a wander.

There’s a large lake at the center with lovely rocking chairs to sit and enjoy the location from.

A fantastic water fountain provides the perfect spot to cool off on hot sunny days.

Celebration is filled with gorgeous little boutique stores so it’s a great place to shop too.

Some of the best family resorts in Florida are close by, so it’s a lovely place to base yourself.

Named as one of the 10 prettiest towns in America you can also enjoy it by taking one of the organized tours here.

Feed a giraffe at Giraffe Ranch

Get a first-hand experience of the lives of giraffes, camels, rhinos, and many other species at the Giraffe Ranch in Dade City, Florida.

You have the option of choosing between 5 intimate safaris where you can get up and close with the animals. All of them include giraffe feeding too.

This is a fun experience to have near Orlando besides theme parks.

Make sure you reserve your safari tour before you head to the ranch.

Experience a glorious sunset at Cocoa Beach

Recommended by Jyoti from Story at Every Corner

To the east of Orlando, there is an extremely thin strip of land in the Atlantic Ocean.

You would have heard of Cape Canaveral for the famous space shuttle launches. You many have even watched launches from the areas around Cape Canaveral.

From there, if you travel south on Highway A1A, you’ll find yourself driving on the thin strip of land with water on both sides.

The strip of land goes north to south, so you can watch a beautiful sunrise in the east and a glorious sunset in the west on the water. 

If you have time you can drive for miles on A1A but if you’re short on time, you can station your self in Cocoa beach.

Along Cocoa beach you can enjoy quiet and empty beaches for free.

Indulge in good food at some amazing restaurants.

Stay back for sunset and view the glorious bright orange colors and dramatic cloud formations as if they were paintings by Mother Nature. 

Relax at Bok Tower Gardens

Need to escape into nature? Spend some time in the middle of plants, flowers, and birds? Head to Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales, Florida.

Bok Tower Gardens is home to the famous Singing Tower, landscaped gardens teeming with birds and animals, and several nature trails.

There is a beautiful Mediterranean-style mansion called Pinewood Estate for the history lovers and a Children’s Garden to keep the young ones engaged.

Shop at Millenia Mall

Recommended by Vanessa from East End Taste Magazine

The Mall at Millenia is a top luxury shopping destination in Orlando for all ages.

Also known as The Millenia Mall, it originally opened in 2002 and is located just off of Interstate 4. 

Notable designers and shops that grace the mall in central Florida include Lilly Pulitzer, Janie and Jack, Burberry, Jimmy Choo, Hermès, and Tiffany & Co.

Designers have also created special installations and pop ups throughout the mall. A recent pop up includes the Louis Vuitton Twist Cube. 

One of their newest experiences here is a complimentary 2-hour Personal Stylist Session.

A personalized session begins with creating a style profile at least five days in advance of your visit. Your experience takes place in your reserved Personal Stylist Suite at the upper level of the mall.

There, customers meet one-on-one with their stylist to create their perfect look by incorporating designers and pieces that fit their unique personality. 

Continue to shop hands-free after your experience as your parcels may be delivered to your home or hotel, free of charge. Millenia Express or package pickup is also available. 

Ride a Boggy Creek Airboat

Recommended by Charles from McCool Travel

Boggy Creek Airboat Adventures is one of the most fun things to do in Kissimmee and an exciting alternative to Orlando’s theme parks. 

Located less than an hour from Orlando International Airport (through downtown Kissimmee on UAS 17), Boggy Creek is located on Lake Tohopekaliga and at the northern headwaters of the Florida Everglades and offers a truly memorable Old Florida experience.

The most popular reason to visit Boggy Creek is an airboat ride into a pristine and natural Florida environment. 30 minute rides are a great intro but choose the hour ride for a better adventure.

Private, sunset, and night rides are available, and also ask about “drive an airboat” options. Reserve your spot in advance so that you are not locked out during busy periods. 

Other Boggy Creek activities include experiencing living history at an authentic Native American Village replica, seeing and feeding dozens of gators at Alligator Oasis, finding precious gems in the Fossil Mine, eating at the Boggy Bottom BBQ restaurant and tiki bar, or enjoying your own picnic in the covered pavilions.

Explore Lake Eola

Recommended by Amy from The Florida Travel Girl

The Lake Eola area is technically known as Orlando’s Downtown. Because of this, it has tons of Orlando things to do besides theme parks. You can almost forget you aren’t in a huge tourist destination here.

There is plenty of parking around the lake for a small fee.

A favorite thing to do here is to rent a swan boat. For only $15, you and up to 5 people can paddle a swan boat around Lake Eola.

The views are gorgeous and it’s a great way to burn some calories! You must purchase a ticket at the dock and cannot book it ahead of time.

After your swan ride, check out the art sculptures and local businesses in the area. 

Some of the most popular ones are Jinya Ramen or The Stubborn Mule for food and Motorworks and Craft & Common for drinks.

If you visit on a Sunday, there are endless ways to fill the day here. A Farmers Market goes on around the lake all day and there is yoga class on the lawn at 11 AM.

It’s always a good idea to check out the show schedule for the amphitheater here as they frequently put on concerts, plays, and movies.

See Orlando from above on a balloon ride

Want to get some amazing views of Orlando from the very top? Try a hot air balloon ride over Orlando at sunrise.

Ascend into the skies and take in gorgeous views as you slowly glide over beautiful resorts, natural reserves, parks and waterways.

The views are especially spectacular in the early morning sunlight.

Once on the ground, enjoy a champagne toast with snacks while fondly remembering the mind-blowing experience you have just had!

Explore the natural springs of Blue Spring State Park

Recommended by Lori from Travlinmad

The unique limestone geology of Central Florida makes for some of the most breathtaking scenery in all of Florida.

Secluded state parks and beautiful natural springs here make the perfect day trips from Orlando and great places to cool down during the humid summer months.

The first place to visit near Orlando is the popular Blue Spring State Park. You will see lots of manatees in the winter, as the constant water temp of 72 degrees (F) keeps them warm.

Visitors can hike the 4.5-mile Pine Island Trail or launch a canoe or kayak (rentals are available at the park) or take a guided river boat cruise.

While you can’t swim with manatees at Blue Spring State Park, you can kayak near them and see straight down to the bottom of the spring.  

The Park is open year round and the entrance fee is nominal at just $6 per vehicle.

From Blue Spring, there are several more springs you can explore between Orlando and Gainesville via FL 40.

Spend a few days between the two cities hiking at San Felasco and Paynes Prairie State Park.

The must-visit springs in the area include Ginnie Springs, Ichetucknee Springs, Gilchrist Blue Springs, Rum Island Springs, and O’Leno State Park.

Enjoy a tour of Chocolate Kingdom

Visit Chocolate Kingdom for a unique chocolate encounter in Orlando. Their factory adventure tours and interactive chocolate experiences make a trip here really unique.

You have the option of participating in chocolate activities, tasting red and white wines paired with a wide variety of chocolates, and dipping lots of different things into chocolate fountains. Doesn’t that sound real fun?

Chocolate Kingdom is a great place to be with family and friends. And one of the most fun things to do in Orlando besides theme parks.

Read more reviews of Chocolate Kingdom’s Factory Adventure Tour here.

Check out Disney Springs

Recommended by Lisa from Planning Away

One of the best things to do in Orlando is checking out Disney Springs. 

Disney Springs is a shopping and restaurant district located on the Disney World property. You do not need a ticket to explore this area.  

Some of the fun stores located at Disney Springs are the Lego sSore, Coca Cola Store, Build-A-Bear, and the M&M Store. 

The restaurants at Disney Springs are amazing! Planet Hollywood, T-Rex. and Rainforest Cafe are all themed restaurants. 

There are also specialty shops like Ghiradelli Chocolate Shop, Sprinkles Cupcakes, and Haagen Dazs.

If you are looking for things to do at Disney Springs, you will not be disappointed. 

There are live performers (music performers as well as Irish dancers), a train ride, a NBA experience, and even an air balloon called the Aerophile that will take you high above Disney Springs. 

You can also take a boat ride or a vintage amphicar (car/boat) across the lake.

There are also traditional activities such as a movie theater and a bowling alley. Disney Springs is one of the best things to do in Orlando apart from theme parks! 

Dive into underwater life at SEA LIFE Orlando Aquarium

Learn all about life under water at SEA LIFE Orlando Aquarium.

Here, you will explore Florida’s only 360-degree underwater tunnel, come face to face with sharks and turtles, and click some great pictures at the Jelly Wall Exhibit.

Get your entry ticket to Sea Life Orlando here.

The aquarium is usually open between 11am – 7/8pm, 7 days a week.

Last admission is 1 hour before closing time although I highly recommend spending a couple of hours here so that you can see all the exhibits.

Practical information for visiting Orlando, Florida

Best time to visit Orlando, FL

Orlando Florida has a warm climate throughout the year. Therefore, it makes for the best winter travel destination in the USA.

Winters are cool and not muggy though the city can get really crowded during school holidays.

If you can be flexible with your dates, end of February – March is a great time. Spring (March – May) is also pleasant because temperatures are mild and humidity is low.

Orlando gets really hot and crowded between June – August.

June is also when the hurricane season starts in Orlando and goes all the way up to October.

Carry umbrellas if you plan to visit during this time. I would strongly recommend checking the weather forecast before you plan.

We went in July and it was terribly terribly hot. Plus, it poured like anything on a couple of days.

Given a choice, I would never plan a summer trip to Orlando again. Spring is so much better.

Best places to stay in Orlando, FL

Getting to Orlando in Florida

If you are flying, then get to Orlando International Airport which is less than 30 minutes away from Disney World.

Here’s a complete list of airlines that operate out of Orlando International Airport.

If you are driving, I-95, I-75, and I-4 are the highways you should be looking at.

You also have the option to arrive by train. Silver Meteor and Silver Star trains stop at the Orlando Amtrak Station located at 1400 Sligh Blvd. Find all the details here.

Getting around Orlando

The easiest way to get around Orlando is by car. I-4 connects almost all the major theme parks in the city.

Rent your car here. Book a reliable airport transfer from the Orlando Airport to your hotel here.

Public transport is also available if you wish to try that. LYMMO Bus is a great way to navigate downtown Orlando.

Plus, it is free and you save on parking fee. Lynx is Central Florida’s bus system and provides easy access in the Greater Orlando Area.

Orlando Travel Essentials

  • Use Get Your Guide to find great deals and discounts on tours, attractions, and more across the city. I highly recommend it and use it all the time.
  • Get a Go Orlando All Inclusive Pass if you wish to see a lot when you are here. This helps you save a lot and is quite popular among families. It has a good number of non-theme park Orlando attractions too.
  • Find the best hotels in Orlando Florida.
  • Read our post on 20 fun facts about Orlando to enjoy your trip some more.
  • Carry your sunscreen, hat, and lots of water when you step out. You are in the Sunshine State, after all!
  • Carry an umbrella if you are traveling to Orlando between May – October. Afternoon showers are pretty common during this time.

Keen to do more in Orlando besides theme parks? Pin our post for later!

Soumya is an acclaimed travel writer who has traveled to 30+ countries and lived in 8 while pursuing her passion for history and culture. Her writings have been published in BBC Travel, Architectural Digest, National Herald, and many more. She loves exploring world heritage sites and has a deep affinity for everything ancient, especially the lost civilizations of Mesoamerica!

5 thoughts on “21 Fun Things To Do In Orlando Florida Besides Theme Parks

  1. I love this post! Orlando can be busy and touristy, but there are hidden gems around the area to explore and get to explore the beauty of nature, and it offers so many fun activities too. Thanks for sharing all these incredible ideas.

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