In 1965, Walt Disney designated Orlando as the location for his second theme park. This decision forever transformed the landscape of this rural city in subtropical Central Florida.
Once dominated by ranches, cypress swamps, and citrus groves, Orlando now sprawls with an epic array of theme parks, golf courses, malls, hotels, and entertainment facilities.
There is truly no place like Orlando anywhere else on the planet. Throughout the years, the city has continued to evolve, undergoing remarkable changes. Downtown Orlando boasts a new cluster of skyscrapers, while Disney and Universal have introduced spectacular new zones. Furthermore, the fabled International Drive has seen the addition of increasingly extravagant attractions.
For visitors, Orlando is synonymous with the exhilarating rush of a rollercoaster, moments of awe as they witness the wonders of the Kennedy Space Center, and the thrill of discovering something special at a designer outlet.
However, Orlando also possesses a wild side. Crystal-clear natural springs and lakes serve as habitats for leisurely alligators, casually strolling along their banks. Additionally, a growing number of museums offer a touch of culture to the vibrant atmosphere.
As an avid travel enthusiast, I have always held a deep fascination for majestic destinations like Orlando. So, allow me to accompany you on your journey through the 55 best things to do in Orlando, Florida. I assure you that this list guarantees a wonderful and memorable visit.
1. Walt Disney World Resort
During my firsthand experience, I discovered that four out of the five most visited theme parks in the United States were located within Orlando’s Walt Disney World Resort.
In order of popularity, these enchanting parks included the Magic Kingdom, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Epcot, and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. It was truly remarkable to witness the continuous increase in attendance at all four parks year after year in this captivating city within a city.
As Disney World expanded, so did the prices. However, the sense of wonder and undeniable charm that emanated from every corner of the resort had the power to win over even the most skeptical of parents.
Now, let me take a moment to catch my breath as I provide you with a thrilling overview of the other incredible attractions on the Disney World property. Prepare to be amazed!
First, there were two remarkable water parks: Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach. Both offered exhilarating aquatic adventures that provided respite from the Florida heat.
For golf enthusiasts, there were three 18-hole golf courses, along with one 9-hole course, each offering lush greens and challenging fairways to test one’s skills.
To accommodate guests, the resort featured an impressive array of 34 distinct resorts and hotels, many of which boasted luxurious spa facilities for relaxation and rejuvenation.
For dining and entertainment, Disney’s Boardwalk and Disney Springs were must-visit destinations. These vibrant areas offered a multitude of exquisite dining options and captivating entertainment experiences, ensuring that guests had a truly magical time.
And lastly, for sports enthusiasts, the ESPN Wide World Of Sports Complex awaited, featuring nine different sporting venues. This expansive complex provided a platform for athletes to showcase their skills and for fans to cheer them on with unbridled enthusiasm.
2. Kennedy Space Center
Having embarked on an extraordinary journey to NASA’s main launch center for human spaceflight, the Kennedy Space Center, I marveled at its significance since 1968. Located on the east coast, just an hour’s drive from Orlando, this adventure was well worth the time invested.
Arriving at the Kennedy Space Center as early as possible was essential to fully immerse myself in this awe-inspiring experience. The visitor complex offered a multitude of captivating attractions, and I wanted to ensure I had ample time to explore them all.
One of the highlights of the complex was the astounding Space Shuttle Atlantis Exhibit. As I entered, I was immediately greeted by the sight of the namesake shuttle, suspended at an angle from the ceiling, seemingly defying gravity. It appeared as if Atlantis were gracefully floating amidst the vastness of space itself.
Inside the exhibit, I delved into the rich history of this remarkable orbiter, learning about its vital role in numerous missions. The depth of knowledge and insight provided was truly remarkable, leaving me with a profound appreciation for the human achievements in space exploration.
To truly understand the sheer power and intensity of a shuttle launch, I decided to partake in the Shuttle Launch Experience. This immersive simulation allowed me to experience, to some extent, the sensations and exhilaration felt by astronauts as they soared into the skies. It was a thrilling encounter that left me in awe of the incredible bravery and dedication displayed by those who venture beyond Earth’s atmosphere.
Book online (includes transport): Kennedy Space Center Tour
3. Magic Kingdom Park
During my firsthand experience at the Magic Kingdom, I marveled at the park that started it all—the iconic Cinderella Castle, its majestic towers serving as a captivating symbol of enchantment.
Similar to Walt Disney’s involvement in the planning of Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, he was deeply engaged in the creation of the Magic Kingdom. However, he tragically passed away before the park’s grand opening in 1971. Nonetheless, his vision and legacy permeated every corner of the park.
Drawing inspiration from the successful template of Disneyland, the Magic Kingdom was organized into six distinct Lands, each with its own unique theme and atmosphere. As I strolled through the park, I found myself stepping into different realms of imagination and adventure.
Main Street U.S.A. welcomed me with open arms, evoking a sense of nostalgia and serving as the opening credits to the magical journey that awaited. Adventureland whisked me away to exotic environments from around the world, immersing me in thrilling escapades.
Frontierland transported me back in time to the rugged landscapes of the Old West, while Liberty Square transported me to a colonial town during the Revolution-era, igniting my curiosity about the birth of a nation. Fantasyland, with its whimsical charm, harked back to a romanticized Medieval period, evoking childhood dreams and fairy tales. And Tomorrowland propelled me into a world of limitless possibilities, capturing the essence of a future yet to unfold.
No visit to the Magic Kingdom would be complete without experiencing its iconic rides. Space Mountain, a thrilling journey through the cosmos, took the top spot on every visitor’s must-do list. Following closely behind were the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad in Frontierland, offering a wild ride through a runaway mine train, and the Haunted Mansion at Liberty Square, a chilling encounter with spectral residents.
Encounters with beloved characters and lively parades were integral to the Magic Kingdom experience. From Mickey Mouse to Disney princesses, these interactions brought smiles and laughter to visitors of all ages. And when night fell, the sky ignited with the Happily Ever After fireworks, a spectacular display of light, music, and storytelling that filled the air with magic and wonder at precisely 9:00 p.m. every evening.
4. Disney’s Animal Kingdom
I had the privilege of visiting Disney World’s youngest theme park, which opened its doors in 1998. This park was uniquely themed around the natural environment and animal conservation, creating a captivating experience for visitors.
Upon arrival, I discovered a sanctuary for approximately 1,000 animals, representing about 200 different species. It was truly remarkable to witness the seamless integration of classic theme park shows and thrilling rides within this animal-centric setting.
What impressed me most was the meticulous planning that went into ensuring that the park’s rides harmoniously coexisted with the animal enclosures. The environmental design across Animal Kingdom’s seven themed areas was a sight to behold—a testament to the commitment to beauty and immersion.
Immersive animal experiences, such as the Maharajah Jungle Trek and Kilimanjaro Safaris, were nothing short of transformative. These encounters allowed me to get up close and personal with majestic creatures like tigers, komodo dragons, giraffes, lions, and zebras, all within beautifully crafted Indian and African-themed environments.
In addition to the animal experiences, Animal Kingdom offered a range of more traditional theme park attractions. One of the most breathtaking was Expedition Everest, an awe-inspiring rollercoaster that took my breath away. Completed in 2006 after an ambitious three-year construction process, it was the most expensive rollercoaster in the world at the time.
A major milestone occurred in 2017 with the opening of Pandora – The World of Avatar. This immersive land featured two sensational rides: the Na’vi River Journey, a mesmerizing boat ride, and the brilliant Avatar: Flight of Passage, an exhilarating simulator experience. Stepping into the world of Avatar was like entering another dimension, with the rides transporting me to extraordinary realms of imagination and adventure.
5. Disney’s Hollywood Studios
I also had the incredible opportunity to explore Hollywood Studios, a theme park infused with the enchantment of show business, designed to capture the essence of Hollywood’s golden age. It was a haven that celebrated the art of filmmaking, animation, and stagecraft.
As I ventured through the park, I discovered that four out of its six lands were inspired by iconic Los Angeles locations immortalized in film. From the bustling Hollywood Boulevard to the serene Echo Lake, reminiscent of Echo Park, and the charming Grand Avenue and Sunset Boulevard, every step transported me into the magical world of movies. Additionally, Toy Story Land and the Animation Courtyard breathed life into Disney’s beloved animated creations, immersing me in their timeless charm.
One of the park’s most iconic attractions, captivating audiences for over 25 years, was The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. This thrilling drop ride, housed in one of the tallest buildings within the entire Disney World Resort, took inspiration from the famous TV series. It provided an exhilarating experience that left me breathless as I plummeted through the darkness, capturing the essence of the eerie Twilight Zone.
Another standout experience was the MuppetVision 3D show. Taking place in a massive auditorium, this comedic spectacle left me in stitches while marveling at the impressive technical wizardry on display. The larger-than-life Muppet characters leaped off the screen, creating a truly immersive and entertaining experience.
For Star Wars enthusiasts like myself, Star Tours: The Adventures Continue offered a thrilling 3D motion simulator adventure through the vast and captivating Star Wars universe. The high-speed journey had me gripping the seat, feeling the adrenaline surge as I embarked on a daring mission alongside beloved characters from the franchise.
Adding to the park’s allure was the condensed yet emotionally captivating Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage. This theatrical production managed to distill the essence of a Broadway musical into a captivating half-hour performance.
6. Universal Studios Florida
I had the exciting opportunity to explore Universal Studios Florida, a younger challenger to the Walt Disney Resort that burst onto the scene in 1990. This dynamic theme park quickly garnered attention for its cutting-edge indoor simulator rides and immersive environments inspired by beloved movies and TV shows.
Universal Studios Florida continuously evolves, embracing the ever-changing landscape of entertainment. While rides like Back to the Future and Jaws have given way to more contemporary productions, such as Harry Potter and The Simpsons, the park’s commitment to delivering unforgettable experiences remains unwavering.
A significant highlight within Universal Studios Florida is Diagon Alley, the park’s portion of the immensely popular Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which is also present at Universal Studios’ sister park, Islands of Adventure. Stepping into Diagon Alley felt like entering the pages of J.K. Rowling’s magical world. The attention to detail was astonishing, immersing visitors in the sights, sounds, and wonders of the wizarding realm.
One of the park’s standout attractions was Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts, a thrilling indoor steel rollercoaster that transported riders on a pulse-pounding journey through the iconic Gringotts bank. The combination of exhilarating twists and turns, along with the impressive performances by cast members, elevated the experience to new heights.
For adrenaline enthusiasts, the Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit offered a high-speed rollercoaster adventure like no other. What set it apart was the ability to select a song of your choice, ranging from Daft Punk to Kenny Chesney, which played through speakers mounted in the headrest, intensifying the thrill of the ride.
Immersing myself in The Simpsons Ride was a delightfully immersive experience. This motion simulator ride plunged me into an episode of the beloved animated series, taking me on a wild flight through the vibrant and comical world of Springfield.
A testament to the park’s longevity, E.T. Adventure has remained open since its inception in 1990. This timeless ride allowed me to embark on a magical bike ride, assisting E.T. in his escape from pursuing police and NASA officials. It was a nostalgic and heartwarming experience that evoked a sense of childhood wonder.
7. Universal’s Islands of Adventure
I had the pleasure of visiting Universal Islands of Adventure, which, along with Universal CityWalk, completed the transformation of Universal Studios into the magnificent Universal Orlando Resort two decades ago. This theme park, ever-expanding and brimming with excitement, showcased its excellence through a remarkable array of rides and attractions.
What truly stood out was The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, a monumental achievement that transported visitors to iconic locations from the beloved movies. From the enchanting Forbidden Forest to the majestic Hogwarts Castle and the bustling Hogsmeade Village, every step immersed me in the enchanting world created by J.K. Rowling.
A particularly delightful touch was the Hogwarts Express, a train ride that seamlessly transported guests from King’s Cross Station at Universal Studios to the magical realm of Islands of Adventure. However, the highlight of this incredible journey was undoubtedly the dark ride, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. This captivating experience swept me through the enchanting wizarding world, combining breathtaking scenery, captivating storytelling, and thrilling encounters that left me in awe.
Marvel Super Hero Island offered an immersive experience akin to stepping into the vibrant pages of a comic book. The revolutionary Amazing Spider-Man ride, which has been dazzling guests since its opening in 1999, was a true marvel. Its cutting-edge technology and exhilarating sequences brought the beloved superhero to life in a way that left me exhilarated and captivated.
Within the same island, the Incredible Hulk Coaster awaited, offering a heart-pounding experience that matched the excitement of any ride in Orlando. Reaching a top speed of 67 mph and boasting seven inversions, it delivered an adrenaline rush that left me breathless and craving for more.
As I immersed myself in the wonders of Epcot, I couldn’t help but reflect on Walt Disney’s concerns for the world his grandchildren would inherit. In the 1960s, he envisioned a remarkable concept known as the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow (EPCOT), a visionary model city that, although never realized, served as the inspiration for this unique theme park.
Epcot, which opened its gates in 1982, is a celebration of human ingenuity, offering a blend of educational and entertaining attractions that push the boundaries of imagination. Its iconic symbol, Spaceship Earth, a magnificent geodesic sphere, beckoned visitors to embark on a 15-minute dark ride that traversed the history of human communication, highlighting pivotal breakthroughs along the way.
Future World, where Spaceship Earth proudly stood, captivated me with its avant-garde pavilions dedicated to technology and science. Each pavilion showcased the cutting-edge advancements that have shaped our world, igniting a sense of awe and wonder within me.
As I ventured beyond Future World, I discovered the World Showcase—an immersive journey reminiscent of a permanent World’s Fair. This captivating section of the park took me on a whistle-stop tour through the cultures, heritage, and cuisine of 11 nations. Nestled around the man-made World Showcase Lagoon, each pavilion was a testament to the artistry and craftsmanship of its respective country.
Stepping into the German pavilion, I marveled at the timber-framed houses that evoked a sense of old-world charm. The lively biergarten transported me to a traditional gathering, where the rich flavors of German cuisine danced on my taste buds.
Meanwhile, the Mexican pavilion greeted me with lush Yucatan jungle landscaping. The sounds of mariachi bands filled the air, creating a vibrant atmosphere. The pavilion, resembling a pre-Columbian pyramid, immersed me in the rich cultural heritage of Mexico.
9. Winter Park
Having explored the charming suburban city of Winter Park, located a mere ten minutes northeast of downtown Orlando, I couldn’t help but be captivated by its rich history. Established in the late 19th century, Winter Park originally served as a winter refuge for affluent industrialists from the northern states.
As I strolled through the neighborhood, the genteel character of Winter Park unfolded before me. Sprawling lakeside mansions dotted the landscape, exuding an air of elegance and opulence. One of the highlights of my visit was the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art, where I immersed myself in a captivating collection of American artworks.
Winter Park’s allure extended beyond its architectural splendor. With over 70 parks, the city provided ample opportunities to bask in nature’s beauty and enjoy outdoor activities. The meticulously maintained parks offered serene settings for relaxation and recreation.
The city’s reputation as an arts and culture hub was further enhanced by the presence of Rollins College, a prestigious liberal arts institution that has been shaping minds since its establishment in 1885. The college added a vibrant energy to the community and played a vital role in nurturing artistic talent.
What set Winter Park apart was its unique network of navigable canals, which lined the lakeshores. Originally dug to serve a local sawmill on Lake Virginia and prevent flooding, these picturesque canals now served as a cherished part of Winter Park’s townscape. They added a distinct charm to the city and provided a tranquil backdrop for leisurely walks and boat rides.
In addition to its natural beauty and cultural attractions, Winter Park boasted a vibrant shopping and dining scene. The upscale boutiques and gourmet restaurants added a touch of refinement to the city, catering to the discerning tastes of residents and visitors alike.
Included in: City Tour of Orlando with Gospel Brunch
10. International Drive
During my holiday in Orlando, I discovered that there was no need to venture far from International Drive, an 11-mile stretch of road located in the southwest of the city. This bustling thoroughfare served as a hub for entertainment, reminiscent of the vibrant atmosphere found on the Las Vegas Strip. What struck me the most was how conveniently situated International Drive was, just minutes away from both the Disney and Universal resorts, as well as the top water parks in the area.
International Drive offered a plethora of options to suit every taste. Outlet malls beckoned shopaholics, themed restaurants tantalized the taste buds, and nightclubs kept the city alive after dark. The skyline of International Drive was adorned with prominent hotels and major attractions, such as the iconic ICON Park, the thrilling Fun Spot America, and the ever-popular Pirate’s Cove Adventure Golf.
What amazed me was the continuous growth and expansion of International Drive. Even in recent years, new and exciting additions had emerged. The towering Orlando StarFlyer ride had left its mark, providing visitors with an adrenaline-pumping experience. And the most anticipated development was the completion of the impressive $250 million Skyplex in 2020, forever altering the silhouette of International Drive.
You might want to get the International Drive: Trolley Unlimited Ride Pass to get around.
11. ICON Park
In 2015, during my visit to Orlando, I had the opportunity to experience the grand unveiling of the Orlando Eye observation wheel on International Drive. This magnificent structure stood tall at 122 meters, making it one of the tallest observation wheels in the world. With its 30 air-conditioned capsules, each capable of accommodating 15 passengers, it promised breathtaking panoramic views of International Drive and extended northwards, offering glimpses of the iconic Universal Resort and the towering structures of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. On clear days, I even spotted the distant Kennedy Space Center towards the east.
In 2018, the wheel underwent a rebranding and was renamed Icon Orlando. Alongside the impressive observation wheel, a vibrant complex emerged, featuring over 40 attractions, a variety of international restaurants, lively bars, and enticing shops. I had the opportunity to explore many of the exciting attractions housed within this complex, including the thrilling StarFlyer, the captivating SEA Life Orlando, the fascinating Skeleton Museum, and the lifelike Madame Tussauds.
What I found particularly captivating about Icon Orlando was its lively atmosphere and the multitude of events it hosted. Throughout the year, the complex held grand outdoor events, celebrating occasions like Cinco de Mayo and adding a touch of festivity to the calendar. Additionally, every night of the week, the ICON Park Courtyard came alive with electrifying DJ sets, providing a vibrant and dynamic ambiance for visitors to enjoy.
12. Lake Eola Park
During my visit to Orlando, I had the pleasure of exploring the picturesque Lake Eola Park, a serene urban oasis nestled amidst the towering buildings of Downtown Orlando. The focal point of this park is the expansive 23-acre lake, which, interestingly, originated from a sinkhole.
As I strolled along the park’s perimeter, my gaze was captivated by the mesmerizing fountain situated in the center of the lake. Particularly enchanting was the sight of the fountain at night, illuminated by vibrant LED lights that cast a magical glow over the surroundings.
The banks of Lake Eola were adorned with well-manicured flowerbeds and lush lawns, creating a tranquil ambiance. A paved path, shaded by graceful palms, cypresses, and an array of foliage, encircled the lake, inviting visitors to take a leisurely stroll that measured just under a mile in length.
Standing prominently on the park’s western shore was the Walt Disney Amphitheater, its billboard proudly announcing a diverse range of concerts, plays, and outdoor movie screenings. The amphitheater served as a vibrant hub of cultural entertainment, drawing locals and visitors alike to its exciting events.
For a unique experience on the lake, I decided to rent one of the charming swan-shaped pedal boats. Drifting across the serene waters of Lake Eola, I relished the tranquility and admired the scenic views that unfolded before me.
Sundays brought a lively atmosphere to the park’s southeast corner as the Orlando Farmers’ Market set up shop. With over 50 vendors year-round, this vibrant market showcased a delightful array of fresh produce, artisanal crafts, and delectable treats. It was a true feast for the senses.
Lake Eola Park also served as a venue for various community celebrations and events. In June, the park came alive with vibrant pride celebrations, while on July 4th, Fireworks Over The Fountain illuminated the night sky, marking a grand outdoor celebration in honor of Independence Day.
Included in: City Tour of Orlando with Gospel Brunch
13. Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art
During my visit to Winter Park, I had the pleasure of immersing myself in the artistic wonders housed within the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art. Nestled within the leafy environs, this magnificent museum had been captivating art enthusiasts since its establishment at its current location on Park Avenue in 1995, although its rich history traced back to 1942.
A significant milestone in the museum’s journey occurred in 1957 when its founder, Jeannette Genius McKean, acquired a substantial portion of the salvaged treasures from Laurelton Hall, the Long Island estate of the renowned artist and designer, Louis Comfort Tiffany (1848-1933). This acquisition marked a turning point, propelling the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art to prominence as it became the custodian of the most comprehensive collection of Tiffany pieces in the world.
Within the museum’s walls, an awe-inspiring array of Tiffany’s creations awaited me, spanning various artistic mediums such as stained glass, jewelry, enamels, furniture, mosaics, lamps, pottery, paintings, and even a meticulously recreated chapel that he designed for the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. The museum’s collection celebrated Tiffany’s unparalleled craftsmanship and artistic vision, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in his extraordinary legacy.
Yet, the museum’s allure extended far beyond Tiffany’s works. I delighted in exploring the exquisite decorative art on display, which encompassed stained glass masterpieces by the likes of William Morris and Frank Lloyd Wright, dazzling jewelry crafted by Peter Carl Fabergé and René Lalique, and stunning furniture created by renowned artisans like Louis Majorelle. Each piece exuded its own distinct beauty, showcasing the rich tapestry of artistic talent that flourished during the American art movement.
To my delight, the museum also housed an impressive collection of paintings, featuring notable artists such as John Singer Sargent and Rembrandt. These remarkable works added depth and diversity to the museum’s offerings, allowing visitors to appreciate the broader spectrum of American art history.
14. Harry P. Leu Gardens
I had the pleasure of exploring the enchanting Harry P. Leu Gardens, located just moments away from the city’s central business district. Spanning nearly 50 acres, these meticulously manicured gardens offered a year-round oasis of natural beauty, complete with serene lakes and captivating landscapes.
As I strolled along the garden’s meandering trails, I found solace in the shade provided by majestic oak trees that had stood for over 200 years, adorned with elegant Spanish moss. The tranquility and sense of history that permeated the surroundings made the experience all the more enchanting.
To gain deeper insight into the gardens’ heritage, I joined one of the guided tours offered every hour and half-hour at the Leu House Museum. This historic house, once the residence of Harry and Mary Jane Leu, the visionary founders of the gardens, offered a fascinating glimpse into their lives. The couple had made this place their home in 1936, and their passion for botany and horticulture was evident throughout the gardens.
As a botanical garden, the Harry P. Leu Gardens boasted an impressive array of plant collections, encompassing temperate, subtropical, and tropical species. However, the crowning jewel was undoubtedly the nationally significant camellia collection, comprising over 2,000 plants and more than 230 cultivars. Each delicate bloom added a burst of vibrant color and fragrance to the already picturesque landscape.
The gardens beckoned me to explore the diverse areas within their expansive grounds. From the enchanting butterfly garden to the fragrant citrus grove, from the captivating conifer collection to the ornate floral clock, each section offered its own unique charm. I marveled at the herb garden, reveled in the melodies of the bird garden, and admired the intricate displays of various vines. The palm garden and the subtropical and tropical fruit collection, featuring mouthwatering delights like mangoes, guavas, avocados, macadamias, and pineapples, were a feast for the senses.
Of all the treasures I encountered, the rose garden stood out as a true paradise. It boasted a staggering 650 roses, representing an impressive array of 215 different varieties. As I wandered through the garden, I was enveloped by the delicate fragrance and mesmerized by the exquisite beauty of these magnificent blooms.
I had the opportunity to explore Gatorland, which proudly claims the title of the “alligator capital of the world.” As I sought an alternative to the grandeur of Orlando’s mega-parks, Gatorland provided a refreshing and authentic experience.
Having opened its gates in 1949, Gatorland offered the most convenient and immersive way to encounter Florida’s magnificent reptiles in all their diverse sizes. From tiny grunts that could easily fit in the palm of my hand to colossal four-meter monsters, Gatorland showcased the full spectrum of these impressive creatures.
One of the standout features of Gatorland was its world-renowned collection of white leucistic alligators, which possessed a striking absence of skin pigmentation. These rare and fascinating specimens added a unique element to my encounter with the alligators.
Gatorland was not solely about alligators, however. The park boasted a vast free-flight aviary where vibrant and colorful birds soared through the sky, creating a lively and captivating ambiance. For those seeking an adrenaline rush, the Screamin’ Gator zip-line adventure provided a thrilling experience as I glided above the alligator ponds, marveling at the breathtaking views.
Delving further into the park, I had the chance to engage in up-close encounters with native Floridian snakes. These encounters allowed me to gain a deeper understanding of these fascinating creatures in a safe and controlled environment, enhancing my appreciation for Florida’s diverse wildlife.
Adding a dose of excitement to my visit, I embarked on the Stompin’ Gator Off-Road Adventure. This exhilarating ride took me on a wild journey through the marshy terrains of Gatorland, immersing me in the natural habitats of the park’s inhabitants and providing a thrilling off-road escapade.
Gator wrestling, an integral part of the park since its inception, remained the soul of the attraction. I was amazed by the agility and leaping abilities of these creatures as they soared to great heights during the captivating Jumparoo show, showcasing their determination to secure their meat.
Recommended tour: Gators, Gators, Gators! Airboat Ride & Gatorland
16. Orlando International Premium Outlets
As part of my stay in Orlando, I had the opportunity to explore the sprawling Orlando International Premium Outlets, located at the northern end of International Drive. Situated just a stone’s throw away from both Universal and Disney, this outlet mall claimed the title of the largest in Florida.
With over 17 million shoppers flocking to this retail haven annually, it was no surprise that people were drawn to the enticing discounts of up to 65% on luxury fashion and sports brands. The sheer magnitude of the crowds could have been overwhelming, but thanks to the well-designed town-center layout, the shopping experience remained surprisingly relaxed, especially if one arrived early in the day.
Orlando International Premium Outlets boasted an impressive lineup of over 180 outlet stores. Additionally, the nearby Orlando Outlet Marketplace, part of the same shopping complex, provided even more options for the avid shopper.
The brand names on offer were truly remarkable, ranging from Polo, Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, and Lacoste to Nike, Hugo Boss, Ted Baker, The North Face, Under Armour, and Michael Kors, just to name a few. The selection was truly extensive, ensuring that shoppers could find something to suit their preferences and style.
Roaming through the outlet mall, I found myself immersed in a world of discounted luxury and sporting brands, tempted by the incredible savings and the opportunity to acquire high-quality merchandise at a fraction of the original price. The abundance of stores catered to every fashion enthusiast’s desires, making it a true shopper’s paradise.
Exploring the various boutiques and browsing through the extensive range of products became an enjoyable experience in itself. Whether searching for the latest trends or seeking out timeless classics, the diverse offerings at Orlando International Premium Outlets catered to a wide range of tastes and preferences.
17. Winter Park Scenic Boat Tour
I had the pleasure of embarking on an hour-long water tour, which I discovered to be the best way to immerse myself in the natural beauty of this leafy city. Departing from Lake Osceola, the tour offered a captivating journey through Winter Park’s enchanting waterways.
Departures were available every hour from 10:00 to 16:00, ensuring convenient access to this delightful experience. The tour encompassed three of Winter Park’s seven scenic lakes, providing a comprehensive exploration of the area. Additionally, we had the opportunity to navigate through two of Winter Park’s famous canals, further enhancing the adventure.
As we ventured through this suburban paradise, I was delighted to witness an abundance of wildlife. Graceful cranes elegantly maneuvered through the waters, skillfully catching fish, while alligators basked lazily on the sun-drenched shores of the lakes. The presence of such diverse wildlife added an element of excitement and awe to the tour.
The journey unfolded amidst a picturesque backdrop of subtropical flowers, majestic 250-year-old oaks, towering cypress trees, swaying palms, and lush ferns. The landscape exuded a tranquil beauty that captivated my senses and offered a momentary escape from the bustling urban environment.
The tour also provided glimpses of the lavish homes that dotted the shoreline, many of which were designed by renowned architect James Gamble Rogers II (1901-1990). Rogers’ contributions to Winter Park’s architectural heritage were evident in the numerous Historicist mansions that graced the area during the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s. The opulent residences stood as testament to the city’s rich history and added an air of elegance to the surroundings.
As we leisurely cruised through the interconnected waterways, I marveled at the tranquility and serenity that enveloped us. It was a truly immersive experience, allowing me to appreciate the unique charm and natural splendor of Winter Park from a distinct perspective.
To my delight, we even encountered rowing crews from Rollins College during our cruise. The sight of these skilled athletes gliding across the water added a sense of liveliness and energy to the peaceful atmosphere.
18. Clearwater Beach Daytrip
During my exploration of Florida’s coastal offerings, I discovered a multitude of enticing beach options along the Atlantic coast, including popular destinations like Daytona Beach, Cocoa Beach, and sections of the Canaveral National Seashore.
However, for those seeking an extraordinary beach experience and willing to venture a bit further, the Gulf Coast boasts one of the finest beaches in the entire United States.
Clearwater Beach, in particular, seemed almost too good to be true. Its pristine shoreline showcased silky white sand, gentle waves, shallow waters, and breathtaking sunsets that could make anyone’s heart soar with joy.
What amazed me even more was the proximity of Clearwater Beach to the theme parks. Within just a few hours’ drive, I found myself in this coastal paradise, enjoying its unparalleled beauty and tranquility.
To make the most of my visit, I turned to GetYourGuide.com, a convenient platform that offered various day trip options to Clearwater Beach. Whether I desired a straightforward “Transport Only” transfer or sought more comprehensive packages that included lunch and a dolphin-spotting cruise or a thrilling high-speed “Sea Screamer Boat Ride,” the website provided ample choices to suit my preferences.
Embarking on the cruise, I had the chance to witness rowing crews from Rollins College gliding gracefully across the water, their synchronized movements adding an element of grace and athleticism to the scenic surroundings.
Clearwater Beach proved to be an idyllic getaway, surpassing my expectations in every way. Its soft sands, gentle waves, and inviting shallow waters created the perfect environment for relaxation and rejuvenation. The mesmerizing sunsets served as the perfect finale to each day, leaving me in awe of nature’s wonders.
19. Legoland Florida
Legoland Florida, a captivating theme park and resort designed specifically for children. This expansive complex evolved gradually throughout the 2010s, gradually taking shape and enchanting visitors of all ages.
Before Legoland’s arrival, the site had been home to Cypress Gardens, a prominent Orlando attraction that had captivated audiences from 1936 to 2009. Legoland, recognizing the historical significance of the location, made a conscious effort to preserve the site’s iconic landscaping, ensuring a seamless blend of the old and the new.
Spanning an impressive 145 acres, Legoland boasted an abundance of green spaces and an array of captivating experiences. Each themed section, such as Fun Town, Duplo Valley, Lego City, and Lego Technic, offered a diverse selection of rides, shows, and amusements to captivate the imaginations of its young visitors.
One of the standout features was Miniland USA, a meticulously crafted exhibit showcasing intricate Lego-scale models of renowned landmarks, including the Empire State Building and the Kennedy Space Center. Additionally, it featured iconic locations from the beloved Star Wars universe, bringing joy to fans of all ages.
True to its name, The Lego Movie World delighted visitors with attractions inspired by the popular Lego Movies, immersing guests in the whimsical and vibrant world depicted on the silver screen. Meanwhile, at Lego City’s Ford Driving School, children aged six to thirteen had the opportunity to participate in a thrilling driving experience and even qualify for their very own Legoland driver’s license—a cherished memento of their visit.
On scorching hot days, Legoland’s onsite Water Park provided a welcome oasis for guests seeking respite from the heat. With its exhilarating slides, gentle wave pool, and interactive water play areas designed specifically for children and toddlers, it offered a delightful escape for water enthusiasts of all ages.
20. The Mall at Millenia
When I stepped into The Mall at Millenia, a luminous and spacious shopping center, back in 2002, I instantly knew it was something special. It marked the advent of an upscale retail experience in Central Florida, and to this day, it remains the premier shopping destination for those seeking top-tier brands.
The mall’s impressive lineup of anchor stores, including the first Macy’s in the Orlando area, Nordstrom, Bloomingdales, and Neiman Marcus, set the tone for a truly luxurious shopping experience. As I ventured through its halls, I discovered a harmonious blend of high-end fashion boutiques such as Hermes, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Chanel, Emporio Armani, Versace, Yves Saint Laurent, Prada, and Carolina Herrera, alongside beloved main street staples like H&M, Gap, and Banana Republic.
After indulging in a successful shopping spree, I treated myself to a delightful lunch at one of the mall’s renowned dining establishments. Whether it was the refined ambiance of Capital Grille, the tempting desserts at Cheesecake Factory, the savory flavors of P.F. Chang’s, or the classic American fare of Johnny Rockets, there was a diverse range of culinary options to satisfy any craving.
21. Fun Spot America Orlando
Fun Spot America, a refreshing departure from the massive corporate theme parks that dominate the area. Nestled near Universal Orlando, this smaller-scale amusement park offered free admission, allowing guests to pay only for the individual attractions they wished to experience. As a result, the lines were noticeably shorter, making for a more enjoyable and efficient visit.
One of the notable aspects of Fun Spot America was its collection of rides, many of which were acquired from other theme parks. Take, for example, the awe-inspiring SkyCoaster, a towering attraction standing at 76 meters high. It had been relocated from MGM Grand Adventures in 2013, providing an exhilarating experience for thrill-seekers. Another standout was the bone-shuddering White Lightning, Orlando’s sole wooden rollercoaster. With a maximum drop of 20 meters and a top speed exceeding 44 mph, it delivered an adrenaline-pumping adventure unlike any other.
Fun Spot America’s lineup of attractions didn’t end with rollercoasters and thrill rides. The park also boasted an array of midway games, classic amusements, and fairground rides that catered to all ages. From bumper cars to carousels, there was something for everyone to enjoy.
What intrigued me even more was the park’s go-kart tracks, which had been a staple of Fun Spot America since its establishment in 1998. These tracks offered a unique twist, with three of them featuring multi-level designs that added an extra layer of excitement to the racing experience.
22. Universal Citywalk Orlando
I had the opportunity to explore CityWalk Orlando, a vibrant district that served as more than just a gateway to Universal Studios. Located on the former parking lot site and accessible via water taxi from Universal’s on-site hotels, CityWalk offered a dazzling array of entertainment, shopping, and dining experiences.
One of the highlights of CityWalk was its electrifying atmosphere, with neon lights illuminating the streets and creating a captivating ambiance. It was the perfect place to catch a performance by the renowned Blue Man Group or unleash your inner rock star at Rising Star, where live bands accompanied karaoke sessions.
When it came to dining, CityWalk catered to every palate. Whether you craved Caribbean flavors at Bob Marley – A Tribute to Freedom, authentic Italian cuisine at VIVO Italian Kitchen, classic American fare at Hard Rock Cafe or Hot Dog Hall of Fame, Mexican delights at Antojitos, or pan-Asian dishes at Fusion Bistro Sushi & Sake Bar, there was a wide range of options to satisfy any craving. After a delicious meal, indulging in a sweet treat from Cold Stone Creamery or Cinnabon was a delightful way to round off the culinary experience.
CityWalk wasn’t just about entertainment and dining; it also offered a variety of activities to keep visitors engaged. I had the chance to explore shops like the Universal Studios Store, where I found a treasure trove of merchandise related to my favorite movies and characters. Additionally, mini-golf enthusiasts could test their skills at the onsite mini-golf course. For those who wanted to dance the night away, CityWalk’s nightspots remained open until the early hours, providing ample opportunities to groove and have a great time.
23. Wekiwa Springs State Park
Wekiwa Springs State Park, a vast natural haven spanning 7,000 acres. Located at the source of the Wekiva River, this park offered a welcoming retreat into the wilderness.
One of the remarkable features of the Wekiva River is its designation as “Wild and Scenic.” Despite its close proximity to downtown Orlando, the river has never been dammed or rerouted, preserving its natural beauty and integrity.
The park’s main attraction was the Wekiwa Springs, a captivating spring that gushed forth with a staggering 163 million liters of water each day. Fed by two sources, this spring created a half-acre pool of crystal-clear waters, providing visitors with the perfect spot for swimming and snorkeling. The temperature of the springs remained a refreshing 22°C year-round, ensuring a delightful experience for all.
However, what truly captivated me and many others was the opportunity to explore the Wekiva River by canoe or kayak. Equipped with a hat, insect repellent, and sunscreen, I embarked on a journey through lush woodlands and dense undergrowth. As I glided along the pristine waters, I had the chance to spot alligators basking in the sun, adding an exhilarating touch to the experience. Navigating the Wekiva River was undoubtedly one of the most unforgettable Orlando adventures.
For a half-day excursion, I decided to paddle to the Buffalo Tram Camp and back, immersing myself further in the park’s untamed beauty. The serenity and tranquility of the surroundings were truly awe-inspiring, making it a journey to remember.
24. The Florida Mall
With over 250 retail and dining options, The Florida Mall catered to every taste and preference. Prominent stores such as Macy’s, JCPenney, Dillard’s, H&M, Apple, Zara, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and Victoria’s Secret enticed shoppers with their wide range of offerings. It is a retail haven that sprawled across more than 167,000 square meters. As the largest shopping center in Central Florida and one of the largest single-story malls in the United States, it offered an unparalleled shopping experience.
What truly elevated The Florida Mall’s appeal, particularly for visitors like myself, were its exclusive shopping experiences. I had the pleasure of exploring Carlo’s Bakery, brought to life by the renowned Cake Boss Buddy Valastro. The Disney Store, M&M’s World, and the awe-inspiring American Girl doll shop added to the mall’s allure, providing unique and memorable shopping opportunities.
Moreover, The Florida Mall was home to the captivating Crayola Experience, an attraction that deserved special mention. Immersed in a world of color and creativity, I delved into the interactive exhibits and hands-on activities offered by the Crayola Experience, making it a highlight of my mall experience.
When it came to dining, The Florida Mall exceeded expectations with its diverse culinary offerings. Alongside international fast-casual favorites like Shake Shack, Five Guys, and Sbarro, I savored delicious sushi, indulged in pan-Asian delights, explored the flavors of Brazilian cuisine at Hocca Bar, and enjoyed classic Italian dishes. For those seeking familiar fast-food options, Subway and Taco Bell were also readily available.
25. Blue Spring State Park
In the cooler months from November to March, I had the incredible opportunity to witness a remarkable natural phenomenon not far north of Orlando. Scores of majestic manatees would gracefully make their way to the spring that flowed into the St. John’s River.
To get a closer look at these gentle giants, I strolled along a boardwalk that stretched for about a third of a mile. From this vantage point, I could capture breathtaking photographs of the manatees, creating lasting memories of their presence.
While the manatees were a wintertime attraction, Blue State Spring Park offered a plethora of water activities throughout the year. The crystal-clear waters of the spring beckoned visitors to take a refreshing swim. With a constant temperature of 23°C year-round, the water provided an inviting escape from the outside world.
For those seeking a more immersive experience, qualified scuba divers were drawn to the spring’s captivating cave, ready to explore its hidden depths. Above the surface, the park offered kayak, canoe, and stand-up paddleboard rentals, allowing adventurers like myself to navigate the waters and discover the beauty that awaited us.
To enhance the experience, the park provided picnic tables scattered throughout its grounds. These serene spots offered the perfect setting for enjoying a leisurely meal surrounded by nature’s tranquility. Additionally, for those who wished to extend their stay, the park offered 51 campsites and 6 cabins for rental, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in the natural beauty of the area for a more prolonged period.
Recommended tour: Orlando: 3-Hour Manatee Encounter by Kayak
26. Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon Water Park
I had the pleasure of experiencing the tropical oasis of Typhoon Lagoon, a water park that opened its doors in 1989. What sets this attraction apart is its ability to provide enjoyment year-round, thanks to the use of heated water during the cooler months.
It came as no surprise to me that Typhoon Lagoon holds the esteemed title of being the second most visited water park in the world. With its lush tropical foliage creating a captivating atmosphere, there was an undeniable sense of adventure in the air.
The park boasted a wide array of water slides and streams, each offering its own unique thrills. From the exhilarating speed of Humunga Kowabunga, where riders reached astonishing speeds of nearly 40 mph, to the more relaxed and family-friendly Gang Plank Falls, there was something for everyone to enjoy.
One of the park’s standout attractions was the surf pool, situated beneath the towering volcanic mountain that dramatically impaled a shrimp boat. Every 90 seconds, this pool generated waves that reached impressive heights, creating an authentic surf experience for thrill-seekers and wave enthusiasts alike.
Typhoon Lagoon also catered to younger visitors with Ketchakiddee Creek, a charming water wonderland designed to ensure endless fun and safety. Complete with gentle rides, playful jets, a cave featuring a cascading waterfall, and a small sandy beach, it provided a delightful haven for the little ones.
When it came time to refuel and recharge, the park left no one wanting. Countless dining options were scattered throughout, offering a variety of refreshments to satisfy any craving. Whether it was a juicy burger, delectable sundae, or a desire to indulge in a refreshing strawberry margarita by the pool, Typhoon Lagoon had it all covered.
27. Orange County Regional History Center
During my exploration of Central Florida’s rich history and heritage, I discovered the magnificent Neoclassical former Orange County Courthouse nestled in downtown Orlando. This architectural gem, Orange County Regional History Center, dating back to 1927, captivated my attention as it now housed a meticulously curated museum, offering a glimpse into the region’s past. Since its transformation in 2000, this museum has been a treasure trove of knowledge, presenting exhibits that spanned an impressive 12,000 years of local history.
As I delved into the exhibits, I embarked on a captivating journey, uncovering the lives of Florida’s indigenous people before the arrival of European settlers in the 1500s. It was fascinating to learn about their ancient customs and way of life. The museum also shed light on the dominance of cattle ranches and citrus groves that shaped the landscape well into the 20th century, providing a comprehensive understanding of Florida’s agricultural heritage.
One section of the museum was dedicated to exploring the achievements and struggles faced by Florida’s African American community throughout history. It was a powerful reminder of the challenges overcome and the significant contributions made by individuals within this community. Additionally, the museum offered a detailed examination of Florida’s diverse animal and plant life, showcasing the unique ecological wonders of the region.
As I wandered through the exhibits, I came across a meticulously recreated pioneer cabin from the 19th century, transporting me back in time to experience the frontier lifestyle of early settlers. Another captivating display delved into the birth and evolution of Orlando’s renowned theme parks, providing insight into their remarkable impact on the region’s culture and tourism.
The museum also paid homage to the pivotal role Central Florida played in aviation history. Through informative displays, I discovered the significant milestones achieved in the realm of flight, forever etching this region into the annals of aviation.
What truly enhanced my experience were the countless artifacts adorning the exhibitions. From 19th-century steamships to remnants of long-lost ranches and citrus farms, each item seemed to hold a story waiting to be unraveled. Among the most extraordinary was the Timacuan canoe, believed to date back to around 1000, serving as a tangible connection to the indigenous peoples who once navigated the waterways. Additionally, arrowheads and pottery dating back 2,500 years showcased the artistic and technological prowess of those who preceded us.
28. De Leon Springs State Park
I had the opportunity to visit De Leon Springs State Park, a serene oasis known to the Timucuan Indians as “Acuera” or “Healing Waters.” Located just a short drive north of Orlando, this park provided a much-needed respite after days spent traversing Orlando’s bustling theme parks.
Upon arrival, I was immediately drawn to the inviting spring pool, its cool and crystal-clear waters beckoning me to take a refreshing dip. The tranquil ambiance was a stark contrast to the energetic atmosphere of the nearby attractions. I reveled in the therapeutic embrace of the spring’s waters, fully immersing myself in their restorative properties.
Eager to further explore the park’s natural wonders, I embarked on the Wild Persimmon Hiking Trail. This scenic trail meandered through diverse landscapes, including cypress swamps, remnants of farmland, and enchanting hardwood hammocks. As I ventured deeper into the trail, I marveled at the majestic 600-year-old cypress tree, a living testament to the park’s rich history. I treaded lightly, allowing the tranquility to envelop me, increasing my chances of encountering the local wildlife. With every step, I hoped to catch a glimpse of elusive creatures such as turkeys, wild hogs, and perhaps even the majestic black bear that calls this park home.
Similar to Blue Spring, De Leon Springs is renowned for attracting manatees during the winter months. These gentle giants migrate up the river, seeking refuge in the warm embrace of the springs. Although my visit did not coincide with their arrival, I could appreciate the significance of this natural phenomenon.
To enhance my understanding of the park’s cultural and ecological significance, I visited the visitor center. The center proved to be a valuable resource, providing insights into the human and natural history of the area. I was captivated by the stories woven into the landscape, immersing myself in the tales of those who have inhabited this region for centuries.
For those seeking a more immersive experience, guided boat tours were available, providing an opportunity to explore the vastness of the Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge. Encompassing an impressive 21,574 acres, the refuge showcased the region’s diverse flora and fauna, offering a glimpse into the delicate balance of this remarkable ecosystem.
29. Orlando Museum of Art
During my visit to the Orlando Museum of Art, I was treated to a captivating cultural experience that unfolded over the course of the 20th century. Situated in close proximity to the Orlando Science Center, the museum’s complex boasted an architectural style influenced by mid-century design, crafted by the talented hands of Nils Schweizer and Duane Stark, both of whom had studied under the renowned Frank Lloyd Wright.
The museum’s collections were a testament to its diverse range of artistic offerings. Spanning various genres and eras, they encompassed contemporary art, African art, a remarkable assortment of art from the Ancient Americas, and American art dating back to the 1700s, with a particular focus on works produced up until 1945. I was thrilled to discover that, at the time of my visit in 2019, the museum had recently acquired an extensive collection by the Belgian Post-Impressionist, Louis Dewis. This acquisition marked a significant milestone for the museum, as it showcased over 100 pieces from Dewis’ oeuvre in the first major exhibition dedicated to the artist in the United States.
Exploring the museum’s galleries was a journey through time and across continents, as I delved into the rich tapestry of artistic expression spanning centuries. Each exhibit was thoughtfully curated, offering profound insights into the cultural and historical significance of the artworks on display. The contemporary art collection invited contemplation and reflection, while the African art section provided a glimpse into the diverse artistic traditions of the continent. The cache of art from the Ancient Americas was a mesmerizing window into the civilizations that once thrived in this region, and the American art collection showcased the evolution of artistic styles and themes throughout the nation’s history.
As I strolled through the museum, I marveled at the meticulous craftsmanship and profound creativity that infused each piece. The atmosphere within the museum was one of reverence and appreciation, as visitors from all walks of life came together to immerse themselves in the beauty and depth of artistic expression.
30. Bok Tower Gardens
When I visited Bok Tower Gardens, nestled in the picturesque hills adorned with citrus groves in Lake Wales, I found myself standing at one of the highest points in Peninsular Florida. The allure of this enchanting place unfolded before me as I explored its meticulously designed landscape.
The gardens came into existence in the 1920s, when the visionary magazine editor, Edward W. Bok, enlisted the renowned landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmsted Jr., to transform a once arid 90-meter sandhill into a breathtaking oasis of natural beauty. Olmsted’s artistic touch graced the land with the planting of 10,000 azaleas, 1,000 majestic live oaks, and a variety of palms, fruit shrubs, gordonias, and magnolias. This previously barren terrain was reborn under Olmsted’s stewardship.
Perched atop the hill, known as Iron Mountain, stood the magnificent 62-meter Singing Tower, a testament to the fusion of neo-Gothic and Art Deco architectural styles. Completed in 1929, it stood as a testament to human creativity and ingenuity. The Singing Tower housed a resplendent 60-bell carillon, which emitted enchanting melodies during two daily concerts, captivating visitors’ hearts at 1:00 PM and 3:00 PM. For the best view of the tower, I found myself drawn to the reflection pool, located just north of this architectural marvel.
My exploration of Bok Tower Gardens continued as I embarked on a self-guided tour of the exquisite 20-room Mediterranean Revival mansion known as Pinewood Estate. This magnificent structure, built in 1932, served as a winter retreat for the esteemed steel industrialist, C. August Buck. The mansion exuded an air of elegance and grandeur, transporting me back to a bygone era.
As I wandered through the gardens, I was captivated by the harmonious blend of nature and human artistry. The vibrant colors of blooming flowers, the serenity of tranquil ponds, and the symphony of melodies emanating from the Singing Tower enveloped me in a sense of tranquility and wonder. Bok Tower Gardens stood as a testament to the transformative power of human creativity and the enduring beauty of the natural world.
31. Orlando Science Center
I had the opportunity to visit the Orlando Science Center, a private science museum that had been around since 1955. The museum underwent a significant expansion in the 90s, resulting in a perfect blend of breathtaking exhibits and engaging hands-on experiences.
As I entered the Science Center, I found myself on Level 1, where NatureWorks awaited. It was a remarkable recreation of Florida’s natural habitats, including cypress swamps, mangroves, and coral reefs. Inside, I encountered a fascinating array of live fish and reptiles, truly capturing the essence of these diverse ecosystems.
Continuing my exploration, I ascended to the next level, where the Kinetic Zone beckoned me. This interactive area housed a collection of exhibits that delved into the realm of forces, such as gravity, electricity, and magnetism. I couldn’t help but engage with the hands-on displays, which offered a deeper understanding of these fundamental principles.
Moving on to Level 4, I discovered DinoDigs, a haven for children captivated by dinosaurs. This section featured an enormous dig pit where young enthusiasts could unearth fossils and embark on their own archaeological adventures. The sheer excitement and wonder on their faces were truly priceless.
Adjacent to DinoDigs was Our Planet, an exhibition that offered more hands-on experiences. It explored the intricacies of the Solar System and the various systems that shape our Earth. One highlight was the opportunity to view live images from the NASA Hubble Space Telescope, a captivating glimpse into the vast expanse of the cosmos.
What amazed me even further was that admission to the Orlando Science Center included shows at the magnificent Dr. Phillips CineDome, a domed giant-screen theater, and the high-definition 3D Adventure Theater. These additional attractions complemented the museum experience perfectly. Before my visit, I made sure to check the schedules of these theaters to see if any shows piqued my interest.
32. Crayola Experience
As soon as we entered the Crayola Experience, it became evident that creativity was at the heart of this vibrant attraction. There were numerous activities and attractions designed to engage and inspire young minds. The Ultimate Coloring Station, in particular, was a haven for kids who wanted to unleash their artistic talents. They could color to their hearts’ content, surrounded by an array of mesmerizing colors and designs.
One of the highlights of the Crayola Experience was the opportunity to create a personalized crayon. Children could choose their favorite colors and customize their crayons with unique names or designs. It was a delightful experience to witness the joy on their faces as they held their one-of-a-kind creations.
Another exciting activity was the chance to compose a painting using melted crayons. This unique technique allowed children to experiment with different textures and techniques, resulting in stunning and colorful masterpieces. The sheer joy and sense of accomplishment radiated from the young artists as they admired their creations.
The two-story Color Playground was a favorite among the kids. They enthusiastically climbed, slid, and explored every corner of this captivating play area. It provided a perfect blend of physical activity and creative exploration, ensuring endless hours of fun and adventure.
One of the most impressive attractions was Bluetiful, the world’s largest crayon, measuring an astounding 4.75 meters long. The sheer size of this iconic crayon left both children and adults in awe, serving as a testament to the boundless imagination and innovation of the Crayola brand.
Technology also played a significant role in enhancing the Crayola Experience. Augmented reality displays, such as Color Magic, brought children’s creations to life, immersing them in a digital realm where their artwork became animated and interactive. It was a remarkable fusion of art and technology that sparked wonder and amazement among the young visitors.
Furthermore, the Crayon Factory Show offered a fascinating glimpse into the manufacturing process of Crayola crayons. Utilizing real manufacturing equipment, the show provided an educational and captivating demonstration, revealing the intricate steps involved in creating these beloved coloring tools. It was a unique opportunity to witness firsthand how the crayons that inspired generations were made.
33. Reptile World Serpentarium
Reptile World Serpentarium was founded in the 1970s by the renowned herpetologist, George van Horn. This remarkable facility served not only as a visitor attraction but also as a vital venom supply center for the production of antidotes. It was a place where the intersection of science, education, and adventure came together.
As I delved deeper into the world of reptiles, I learned that George van Horn, the fearless founder, had been bitten by snakes on multiple occasions. In fact, he had encountered the venomous fangs of these creatures a staggering twelve times, including two encounters with the formidable king cobra. The dedication and courage exhibited by George were truly awe-inspiring.
The visit to Reptile World Serpentarium offered a range of engaging activities. We had the opportunity to feed turtles, a delightful experience that allowed us to interact with these ancient creatures. Additionally, we were able to handle non-venomous snakes and even baby alligators, an exhilarating encounter that provided a hands-on understanding of these fascinating reptiles.
As we explored the facility, we embarked on an enlightening tour of enclosures and terrariums housing a diverse array of reptiles. The green mambas and monocled cobras were among the captivating species we encountered. Observing these creatures up close, in a safe and controlled environment, allowed us to appreciate their unique beauty and understand the importance of conservation efforts.
While every moment at Reptile World Serpentarium was thrilling, the true highlights of our visit were the venom extraction shows. These captivating demonstrations took place at 12:00 and 15:00, captivating audiences with the expertise and precision of George and his wife, Rosa. We were privileged to witness as they skillfully milked venom from cottonmouths, rattlesnakes, and cobras using beakers topped with plastic wrap. The meticulous process was both fascinating and nerve-wracking, a testament to the dedication and expertise required in this specialized field.
34. SEA LIFE Orlando Aquarium
As I entered the SEA LIFE Orlando Aquarium, I was immediately struck by the uniqueness of this exhibit. It was the only one of its kind in all of Florida, and it offered a truly immersive experience. Cleverly designed lighting created a dazzling atmosphere as I found myself surrounded by a multitude of marine creatures. Sharks, turtles, vibrant fish, and graceful eels gracefully swam above, beside, and beneath me, providing a captivating perspective that I will not soon forget. The standout feature, without a doubt, was the mesmerizing 360° viewing tunnel.
The aquarium also boasted a timetable of dive shows, adding an extra layer of excitement to the experience. Knowledgeable presenters fearlessly plunged into the tanks, conducting engaging wildlife demonstrations that both educated and entertained the audience. Witnessing these captivating shows allowed me to gain a deeper appreciation for the marine life and their unique behaviors.
For those seeking a hands-on experience, SEA LIFE Orlando offered touch tanks. Here, visitors had the opportunity to interact with starfish and sea anemones, discovering firsthand what these fascinating creatures felt like. It was a tactile and educational encounter that added an extra dimension to the overall experience.
One of the most renowned residents of the aquarium was Ted, the sea turtle. Ted held a special place in the hearts of the conservationists at SEA LIFE Orlando. In fact, he played a vital role in the development of the Turtle Excluder Device, which has had a significant impact on turtle conservation worldwide. This device allows sea turtles to escape from trawler nets, reducing turtle deaths and promoting their preservation. Ted’s presence served as a reminder of the importance of conservation efforts and the positive impact that can be made through dedication and innovation.
Combo ticket: Madame Tussauds and SEA LIFE Aquarium Combo Ticket
35. Boggy Creek Airboat Adventures
Boggy Creek Airboat Adventures emerged as the perfect destination for my airboat tour. With a variety of tours to choose from, each offering a blend of excitement and education, I eagerly set off in search of alligators and water snakes. As the airboat glided across the water at speeds of up to 45 mph, I couldn’t help but feel a surge of adrenaline. The wind rushing through my hair and the thrill of the high-speed journey added an extra level of excitement to the experience.
I soon learned that timing played a crucial role in spotting alligators. On hot days, it was best to embark on the tour before 10:00 am, as the alligators were more active during the early hours. On cooler days, it was recommended to take the tour in the afternoon, as the alligators tended to become more active later in the day. Armed with this knowledge, I kept my eyes peeled, eagerly anticipating my encounter with these magnificent reptiles.
Beyond the exhilarating airboat tour, Boggy Creek offered additional options to enhance the adventure. Private trips were available for those seeking a more personalized experience. Sunset cruises provided a tranquil and picturesque setting as the sun dipped below the horizon, casting a warm glow over the surrounding landscape. For the adventurous souls, there was even a session where visitors could take the controls and navigate the airboat themselves—an opportunity I couldn’t resist.
To further immerse myself in the natural surroundings, I decided to rent a bike and explore the 32-acre lakeside park. Pedaling through the serene environment, I marveled at the beauty of the mangrove forests and took in the scenic views. At the Gator Pond, I was treated to a captivating sight—a collection of over 30 juvenile alligators. Observing these young reptiles up close provided a fascinating glimpse into their early stages of life.
Related tour: 90-Minute Airboat Everglades Adventure Tour
36. Skeletons: Museum of Osteology
Skeletons: Museum of Osteology proved to be a haven for aspiring doctors and veterinarians, as it meticulously showcased these skeletal wonders in lifelike poses and intricate tableaux. Each exhibit was carefully mounted, allowing visitors to admire the intricate structure of the bones and gain a deeper understanding of the animal kingdom. This unique establishment boasted an impressive collection of over 500 genuine animal skeletons, artfully displayed in 40 exhibits.
As I began my exploration, I was greeted by a diverse array of skeletons representing various species. From humans and monkeys to ungulates, alligators, elephants, hippos, whales, and an assortment of birds ranging from penguins to toucans, the museum offered a comprehensive overview of the animal world through the lens of osteology.
To enhance the educational experience, every exhibit was accompanied by informative yet accessible information panels. These labels provided valuable insights into the anatomy, behavior, and unique characteristics of each species, enriching my understanding of the animal kingdom.
For the more curious and adventurous adults, Skeletons: Museum of Osteology even offered a special event called Forensic Night. During this fascinating evening, attendees had the opportunity to study real human skulls and delve into the intricacies of forensic analysis. By examining these skulls, participants could determine factors such as age, sex, and even the cause of death—a thrilling and thought-provoking experience that allowed for a deeper exploration of human anatomy.
Book here: SKELETONS: Museum of Osteology Admission
WonderWorks—an indoor amusement park designed specifically for kids. The building itself was a whimsical creation, resembling a mansion that had been upended by a tornado.
Legend has it that this peculiar structure served as both the home and laboratory of Professor Wonder. According to the story, the professor was inadvertently transported here from the mysterious Bermuda Triangle through a vortex caused by a failed experiment. It was an intriguing backstory that added an extra layer of excitement to the WonderWorks experience.
As I stepped inside, I was greeted by a wonderland of more than 100 hands-on exhibits. What made these exhibits truly special was their clever integration of education and entertainment, loosely based on various scientific concepts. WonderWorks had ingeniously organized these exhibits into six distinct “Wonder Zones”: Far Out Gallery, Imagination Lab, Light and Sound, Natural Disasters, Physical Challenges, and Space Discovery.
The Far Out Gallery invited young minds to explore imaginative and mind-bending artwork. In the Imagination Lab, kids were encouraged to unleash their creativity through interactive experiments and challenges. The Light and Sound zone offered a sensory experience where children could manipulate light, sound, and optical illusions.
The Natural Disasters section allowed kids to experience the power and effects of natural calamities firsthand, such as feeling hurricane-force winds. The Physical Challenges zone offered thrilling activities, including the opportunity to lie down on a bed of nails—an exhilarating test of bravery. In the Space Discovery area, young adventurers could embark on a journey to Mars and discover the wonders of the universe.
WonderWorks didn’t stop at immersive exhibits alone. The basement held even more thrilling attractions, including a 4D motion simulator ride that took visitors on a dynamic sensory journey. For those seeking an adrenaline rush, there was laser tag—an exciting competition of skill and strategy. And if that wasn’t enough, a towering three-story high ropes course challenged young explorers to test their balance and bravery.
Get tickets: WonderWorks All Access
38. Orlando Vineland Premium Outlets
Stepping into Orlando Vineland Premium Outlet, I found myself surrounded by a plethora of renowned brands. From Jimmy Choo and Burberry to Prada, Armani, Hugo Boss, Guess, Karl Lagerfeld, and Tommy Hilfiger, the selection was truly exquisite. These prestigious names were complemented by a range of esteemed sports brands, including Adidas, Nike, Reebok, Asics, and New Balance. Additionally, a variety of midmarket favorites such as Gap, Converse, Clarks, and Superdry were also present, catering to diverse tastes and budgets. It’s an exclusive shopping destination offering luxurious brands at incredible discounts of up to 60%. The expansive complex boasted an impressive lineup of stores, both indoors and outdoors, nestled along palm-shaded streets.
As I strolled through the outlets, I couldn’t help but notice the unique offerings that catered to every member of the family. Disney’s Character Warehouse, in particular, was a must-visit for families, offering an array of Disney-themed merchandise that delighted children and adults alike. And when hunger struck, the dining options at Orlando Vineland Premium Outlets were equally enticing. Sushi, crepes, burritos, Italian cuisine, Philly steaks, Subway—whatever your craving, there was something to satisfy every palate. Indulgent treats like Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, frozen yogurt, and pretzels provided the perfect sweet finale to a day of shopping.
Orlando Vineland Premium Outlets truly surpassed my expectations, delivering a shopping experience that blended luxury, affordability, and variety. With its wide selection of prestigious brands, sports apparel, and midmarket favorites, it catered to diverse fashion tastes. The addition of family-friendly attractions like Disney’s Character Warehouse and a range of delicious dining options made it an ideal destination for everyone.
39. Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition
Having recently visited the exhibition commemorating the centenary of the Titanic’s fateful sinking in 1912, I was enthralled by an experience that captured the world’s imagination. Nestled on International Drive, this captivating exhibition offered a glimpse into the ill-fated ocean liner’s grandeur.
Spanning across 17 meticulously crafted galleries, the exhibition meticulously recreated the opulent decor of the Titanic. I found myself marveling at the exact replicas of the First-Class Parlour Suite, Boiler Room, Promenade, and Grand Staircase—each detail painstakingly recreated to transport visitors back in time.
As I ventured further into the exhibition, I encountered a remarkable sight—the second-largest piece ever recovered from the Titanic’s wreckage. This colossal three-ton section of the ship’s hull stood as a solemn reminder of the tragic events that unfolded that fateful night.
In addition to the stunning replicas and historical displays, the exhibition housed an extensive collection of over 400 artifacts retrieved from the wreckage. Each item held its own story, offering a poignant glimpse into the lives of those onboard the ill-fated ship. Moreover, I was astonished to find a genuine chunk of an iceberg on display, inviting visitors to touch the frozen relic—an evocative reminder of the treacherous conditions that led to the Titanic’s demise.
Book online: Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition
40. Amway Center
The Amway Center, the home of the Orlando Magic at that time, I was immediately struck by the grandeur and modernity of the arena. Having opened its doors in 2010, the Amway Center provided seating for an impressive 18,846 spectators during exhilarating basketball games.
As I approached the arena, my attention was instantly drawn to the massive LED screen facing the highway. This impressive display served as a captivating focal point, showcasing vibrant visuals and adding a dynamic touch to the exterior of the building. Additionally, the towering 55-meter tower positioned the Amway Center as a prominent landmark within the cityscape of Orlando.
The Orlando Magic had a reputation for competitiveness and nurturing up-and-coming stars. Throughout their history, esteemed players such as Shaw O’Neill, Penny Hardaway, and Dwight Howard all graced the court in the early stages of their careers, leaving an indelible mark on both the team and the fans. Moreover, the franchise boasted an impressive record of 15 playoff appearances in the 30 years since its inception, guaranteeing a level of excitement and dedication from its loyal supporters.
During my time at the Amway Center, I made sure to explore the Orlando Magic Team Shop, which remained open every day of the year. This store offered a wide array of authentic jerseys and hats, providing fans with the opportunity to proudly display their support for the team.
41. Pirate’s Cove Adventure Golf
Pirate’s Cove, the highly acclaimed adventure golf destination in Florida as recognized by Orlando Magazine, I was enthralled by the swashbuckling experience that awaited me. The venue boasted two distinct eighteen-hole courses: Captain’s Course and Blackbeard’s Challenge.
As I embarked on my miniature golf journey, I marveled at the cleverly designed holes that lay before me. The lush tropical vegetation, meticulously maintained landscaping, and immersive pirate-themed elements brought the courses to life. Waterfalls cascaded gracefully, sunken ships provided intriguing obstacles, rope bridges and wooden walkways added an adventurous touch, and a pirate dungeon added a hint of mystery and excitement.
The Captain’s Course, while challenging, offered a more forgiving experience for golfers of all skill levels. Its layout allowed players to navigate through the course with relative ease, providing an enjoyable and engaging adventure.
On the other hand, Blackbeard’s Challenge beckoned to those seeking a more technically demanding endeavor. The intricacies of this course pushed me to hone my skills and make calculated shots, showcasing the true artistry of miniature golf.
For those eager to fully immerse themselves in the Pirate’s Cove experience, I highly recommend embarking on the “36-hole Adventure.” This marathon session combines both courses, allowing golf enthusiasts to save a few dollars while indulging in an extended and unforgettable golfing expedition.
42. Tibet-Butler Nature Preserve
During my visit to the 440-acre wilderness area across Lake Tibet from Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill Club & Lodge, I was immediately immersed in the natural beauty and diverse ecosystems that awaited me. This expansive preserve encompassed a variety of landscapes, including scrub, marshes, bay swamps, cypress swamps, and pine flatwoods.
The preserve welcomed visitors year-round, providing access to its 3.6-mile trail network from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm. As I embarked on my hike, I remained attentive, hoping to catch a glimpse of the fascinating wildlife that called this place home. Among the notable sightings were North American river otters, gopher tortoises, and the majestic American alligators, along with an array of reptiles that added to the preserve’s natural diversity.
One of the preserve’s highlights was its abundant birdlife. With over 100 species documented within its boundaries, I found myself captivated by the avian wonders that graced the skies. Magnificent ospreys, majestic bald eagles, and charming eastern screech owls were just a few of the remarkable species that I had the privilege to observe and appreciate.
Before embarking on the trails, I made a point to visit the Vera Carter Environmental Center, which served as an informative hub for visitors. Inside, I discovered an array of taxidermy displays, live exhibits, and interactive presentations that deepened my understanding of the preserve’s unique habitats and the fascinating wildlife that thrived within them.
43. Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts
When I visited the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, I was impressed by its modern architecture and the vibrant cultural scene it offered. Having opened its doors in 2014, this glass-fronted venue had already established itself as a prominent cultural landmark in Orlando. Additionally, I learned that the center was undergoing a second phase of development in 2019, demonstrating its commitment to further enhancing the arts in the city.
The Dr. Phillips Center hosted an impressive lineup of over 300 shows annually, encompassing a wide range of artistic disciplines. From captivating Broadway productions to the performances of renowned recording artists, side-splitting comedy acts, engaging family shows, exquisite opera performances, symphonies, and mesmerizing dance performances, the venue catered to diverse artistic tastes.
The centerpiece of the center was the Walt Disney Theater, a grand auditorium with a seating capacity of 2,731. Its spacious and well-designed layout ensured that even from the back row, I enjoyed a clear view of the stage, immersing myself fully in the performances. Additionally, the Pugh Theater, with its 300 seats, provided an intimate setting for smaller-scale concerts and plays.
Looking ahead, the center had plans to introduce the Steinmetz Hall after 2020. This new addition, with a capacity of 1,700, was specifically designed to accommodate operas and orchestral performances, further expanding the center’s artistic offerings.
During my visit, I was pleased to find that the concert-going experience was seamless and well-organized. The lines for the bars and restrooms during intermission were short, allowing for quick and convenient access. Whether seated near the front or at the back, I felt connected to the performances and enjoyed an unobstructed view of the stage in the Walt Disney Theater.
44. Orlando Helicopter Tour from International Drive Area
Having witnessed the astounding transformation of Orlando from its humble beginnings as a land of swamps, lakes, forests, and orange groves into the global capital of theme parks, I was eager to gain a bird’s-eye view of this remarkable cityscape. To satisfy my curiosity, I opted for a thrilling helicopter flight over Orlando, which proved to be an unforgettable experience.
I discovered this exhilarating adventure through Viator, where I had the choice of six different flight options. For those seeking a shorter excursion, the flights offered panoramic views of renowned attractions such as Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, or SeaWorld. I was intrigued by the prospect of observing these iconic destinations from above, providing a fresh perspective on their grandeur.
However, I opted for the longer trip, which lasted nearly half an hour. As our helicopter gracefully soared through the sky, the pilot served as our knowledgeable guide, pointing out notable landmarks and sharing fascinating insights. We had the privilege of marveling at the opulent homes of celebrities, further immersing ourselves in the allure of Orlando’s glamorous allure.
Of course, no aerial tour of Orlando would be complete without beholding the magnificent theme parks that have become synonymous with the city’s identity. From the vantage point of the helicopter, I marveled at the sprawling landscapes of these iconic destinations, their vibrant colors and thrilling rides visible from above. The sheer magnitude of these theme parks left me in awe of the imagination and creativity that had transformed Orlando into a mecca for entertainment.
Additionally, our flight allowed us to witness the shimmering beauty of the Butler Chain of Lakes. The sun’s rays danced upon the tranquil waters, creating a mesmerizing spectacle that added to the overall enchantment of the experience. The sheer natural beauty intertwined with the man-made wonders of the city, providing a captivating contrast that showcased the diverse allure of Orlando.
45. Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens
As I stepped into the world of Albin Polasek, the renowned Czech-American sculptor, I found myself surrounded by the legacy of a true artistic genius. Nestled on the tranquil south shore of Lake Osceola in Winter Park, the Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens beckoned me to explore the profound beauty within.
With over 400 masterpieces crafted by Polasek throughout his illustrious career, I was in for a treat as I delved into his captivating world. The museum provided a rare glimpse into the artist’s personal life, as I wandered through his former home and personal galleries. Every corner seemed to whisper stories of inspiration and creativity, allowing me to connect with Polasek’s artistic journey on a deeply personal level.
Stepping into the well-tended sculpture gardens, a sense of serenity washed over me. The carefully curated collection of sculptures dotted the landscape, harmoniously blending with nature’s beauty. It was evident that the gardens were not only a reflection of Polasek’s artistic vision but also a testament to his profound appreciation for the interplay between art and the natural world.
The Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens holds a prestigious position as one of the 36 Historic Artists’ Homes and Studios in the United States, and I felt privileged to explore this unique artistic sanctuary in the heart of Florida. It was a testament to the enduring legacy of an artist whose impact reached far beyond the confines of his studio.
Within the museum’s galleries, I encountered not only Polasek’s own remarkable creations but also ever-changing exhibitions featuring talented artists from the region. This dynamic space provided a platform for artistic dialogue and showcased the vibrant artistic community that thrived in Winter Park.
46. Camping World Stadium
In 1936, the impressive Camping World Stadium was constructed, and in 2014, it underwent its most recent renovation, with a hefty price tag of $207 million. This stadium has the capacity to accommodate over 65,000 spectators and serves as the venue for some of the most significant college football games.
One of the marquee events held at the stadium is the Citrus Bowl, a highly anticipated matchup between two top-ranked NCAA teams. Traditionally played at 1:00 PM on New Year’s Day, this game is renowned for its substantial payout, which reached $8,550,000 in 2019. Just a few days earlier, the Camping World Bowl, another prominent post-season game, takes place at the same venue. Additionally, the Pro Bowl, the NFL’s all-star game, made its move to the Camping World Stadium in 2017 and kicks off at the end of January.
Soccer enthusiasts may recognize the Camping World Stadium as one of the host venues for the 1994 World Cup and the Copa América Centenario in 2016. Throughout the year, the stadium also hosts a variety of other events, such as thrilling monster truck rallies, the Drum Corps International marching music competition held in June, and the Orlando edition of the Electric Daisy Carnival musical festival, which takes place in November.
When it comes to Orlando, it would be incomplete not to dedicate a paragraph to the beloved sport of golf.
Within the boundaries of Orlando itself, there are 26 golf courses, and if you’re willing to venture within a 20-mile radius of the city, you’ll find an additional 41 courses awaiting your tee-off.
Given Florida’s year-round favorable climate, it’s no surprise that golf is a popular activity throughout the seasons. Many professional golfers have chosen to make Orlando their home, and a significant number of courses in the area bear the signature design of legends such as Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, and Tom Watson.
For those seeking prestige, Bay Hill Club & Lodge (Bay Hill) is an iconic destination. Serving as Arnold Palmer’s winter home, this course has earned the accolade of being ranked as the third-best public course in Florida by Golf Magazine.
For a golfing experience unlike any other in Orlando, Jack Nicklaus’ Grand Cypress Resort offers a course designed to emulate the renowned Old Course at St Andrews. Every swing will transport you to the hallowed grounds of Scotland’s golfing heritage.
Meanwhile, for an authentic taste of golfing history, look no further than Dubsdread, the municipal course in Orlando. Founded in 1924, this course boasts tapered fairways and small greens, providing a challenge that harkens back to the golden age of the sport.
48. Old Town
One of the most enjoyable evenings I had in Orlando was spent at Old Town. This charming area spans 18 acres or four blocks, with its tree-lined brick streets designed to resemble a traditional Florida townscape.
Old Town offers a delightful blend of live entertainment and a pedestrian mall featuring over 70 eateries and unique, non-chain stores selling souvenirs and collectibles. The atmosphere is vibrant and lively, with something for everyone to enjoy.
As I strolled through Old Town, I couldn’t resist stepping into the video arcade and witnessing captivating magic shows. There was even a haunted house that intrigued the brave souls. One of the highlights was the magnificent 26-meter Ferris wheel, a captivating sight imported all the way from Italy.
Since its opening, Old Town has been hosting car shows every weekend, adding an exciting element to the experience. On Friday evenings, I was treated to a thrilling muscle car cruise, with powerful vehicles parading down the street. Saturdays, on the other hand, brought a display of timeless classic cars, a nostalgic sight to behold.
For motorcycle enthusiasts, Thursdays offered the Bike Show, where a remarkable collection of Harleys, Indians, trikes, and slingshots were showcased for everyone to admire.
Additionally, Old Town surprised me with a diverse schedule of events. Family movie nights, karaoke sessions, and an abundance of live music performances created an engaging and lively atmosphere.
49. The Escape Game Orlando
During my time in Orlando, I couldn’t resist joining in on the escape room craze that has taken the city by storm. The Escape Game Orlando, located near ICON Park on International Drive, offered a unique and theme park-inspired twist on this popular activity.
Upon entering The Escape Game Orlando, I was immediately captivated by the social and immersive atmosphere. The escape rooms presented a range of thrilling challenges, each with its own unique theme. I found myself transported to various transformative environments, such as a gold rush cabin, an art gallery ripe for a heist, a prison setting, and even a futuristic spaceship equipped with interactive touch screens.
Whether you were a seasoned escape room enthusiast or a newcomer like me, The Escape Game Orlando had something to offer. They had thoughtfully designed rooms that were forgiving to beginners while still delivering a rewarding experience. One such room was Playground, where we had to complete unconventional assignments before earning our well-deserved summer vacation.
The escape rooms at The Escape Game Orlando accommodated groups of 2 to 8 players and typically required an hour to solve. Successfully escaping from a room came with a sense of accomplishment, and the staff at The Escape Game Orlando celebrated our victories by awarding us a pin for each completed room. Their enthusiasm and encouragement made us feel like rock stars as we emerged triumphant.
Check availability: 60-minute Escape Room Adventure
50. Orlando Sunrise Hot-Air Balloon Ride
As part of my trip to Orlando, I had the opportunity to indulge in a leisurely way of experiencing the cityscape: a one-hour hot-air balloon flight at sunrise. Arriving an hour before sunrise, we had ample time to prepare for the adventure ahead. It took around 20 minutes for the balloon to inflate, and as the first rays of sunlight painted the sky, we gracefully ascended into the air, greeted by the promise of a new day in Central Florida’s vast playground.
This incredible experience was made possible through GetYourGuide.com, which provided a seamless booking process and ensured our safety and enjoyment throughout the journey. As we soared above Orlando, we were treated to breathtaking views of the city’s iconic theme parks, shimmering lakes, untamed swamps, lush forests, and even the remnants of its once-thriving orange groves. It was a mesmerizing sight that allowed us to appreciate the diverse landscapes and natural beauty that make up this remarkable region.
As the flight came to an end, our skilled pilot gently guided the balloon back to the ground. We celebrated the completion of our journey with a toast, raising glasses of champagne to the new day and the unforgettable experience we had just shared. The take-off location and duration of the flight, which lasted up to an impressive one hour and 45 minutes, were determined by the speed and direction of the wind, ensuring a unique and ever-changing adventure.
51. Orlando StarFlyer
I witnessed a remarkable transformation of the skyline along International Drive. It was the year when the construction of the Orlando StarFlyer, a breathtaking 130-meter swing ride, reached its completion.
Standing tall and proud, the Orlando StarFlyer claimed its place as the tallest among the numerous StarFlyers scattered across cities worldwide. With its two-person open-air bench, this exhilarating ride lifted us to a staggering height of approximately 106 meters above the ground. As it began to spin, reaching speeds exceeding 40 mph, an adrenaline-fueled thrill coursed through our veins.
But the true marvel of the Orlando StarFlyer was the unparalleled view it offered. Before reaching its peak speed, we were granted ample time to soak in the awe-inspiring panorama of Orlando’s skyline. From this vantage point, it felt as though we had been granted a glimpse of the entire cityscape, a sight that would remain etched in our memories.
As if the Orlando StarFlyer wasn’t enough, we learned that in 2020, International Drive would welcome yet another groundbreaking addition to its skyline. The highly anticipated Skyplex would take its place, boasting an even taller tower, reaching an astonishing height of 170 meters. What set this development apart was the inclusion of the world’s tallest rollercoaster, Skyscraper, seamlessly integrated into the structure of the tower.
52. Madame Tussauds
Situated next to the iconic wheel, I had the opportunity to explore Orlando’s Madame Tussauds, a renowned wax museum that never fails to attract eager visitors seeking memorable photo opportunities.
Stepping inside, I found myself surrounded by an impressive collection of waxworks, meticulously crafted to resemble an array of well-known personalities. The museum’s commitment to keeping the exhibits up to date ensured that every member of the family could easily recognize and connect with the familiar faces on display.
Some of the wax figures were astonishingly lifelike, causing me to do a double-take as I stood beside the uncanny likenesses of Oprah Winfrey, Jim Parsons, Anne Hathaway, Justin Bieber, Neymar, Jimmy Fallon, and Jackie Chan. Their striking resemblance to the real individuals added an extra layer of excitement to the experience.
Of course, not all of the figures were meant to be indistinguishable from their living counterparts, but that only added to the playful and entertaining atmosphere. It was all part of the fun, appreciating the artistry and craftsmanship behind each creation.
Since 2018, Madame Tussauds had introduced an exciting addition to its lineup: Justice League: A Call for Heroes. This immersive exhibit allowed visitors to get up close and personal with the likes of Henry Cavill’s Superman, Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman, Jason Momoa’s Aquaman, and Ben Affleck’s Batman. These highly accurate and captivating figures were meticulously sculpted, capturing every intricate detail of the superheroes. I marveled at the fact that they were “sculpted from a sitting,” ensuring an astonishing level of accuracy.
Combo ticket: Madame Tussauds and SEA LIFE Aquarium Combo Ticket
53. Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary, Queen of the Universe
For Roman Catholics, a magnificent and expansive Latin Rites basilica was consecrated in 1979 on Vineland Avenue, just a few minutes away from the renowned Disneyworld Resort.
Known as the Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary, Queen of the Universe, this remarkable structure embraced a Roman architectural style, characterized by its grand entrance adorned with an arcade of round-headed arches. The immense nave, flanked by these arches, created a sense of awe-inspiring beauty.
Inside the basilica, a seating capacity of 2,000 provided ample space for worshipers. However, the spiritual journey didn’t end there. The basilica was accompanied by a museum and a serene rosary garden, offering additional spaces for reflection and contemplation.
During my visit, I made it a point to seek out the magnificent rose window gracing the main facade. This impressive stained glass window showcased a captivating 2.4-meter sculpture of Mary with Child, meticulously crafted from Carrara marble. The level of detail and craftsmanship was truly awe-inspiring.
Moreover, within the museum, a captivating collection of statuary and paintings awaited me. Some of these precious artworks dated back to the 1500s, offering a glimpse into the rich history of the Catholic faith.
54. Nona Adventure Park
During my visit to Orlando, I discovered another exciting opportunity to embrace the city’s abundant water resources. Located southeast of the city, just beyond Orlando International Airport, I found myself at the captivating Nona Adventure Park, situated on the lake of the same name.
Upon arrival, I was greeted by the sight of a sprawling floating Aqua Park that stretched over 300 meters across the water. This aqua playground was filled with exhilarating and challenging obstacles, including a tire run, ninja jump, whirlpool, and two Mount Rainiers. It was a paradise for adventure seekers and water enthusiasts alike.
In addition to the Aqua Park, Nona Adventure Park offered a cable park featuring two tracks, each capable of accommodating up to ten riders at a time. The first track catered to beginners and intermediate riders, providing a suitable environment for honing their skills. Meanwhile, the second track was designed to test the abilities of seasoned wakeboarders, spanning over 750 meters in length and propelling riders to thrilling speeds of up to 36 mph.
For those seeking adventure beyond the water, Nona Adventure Park had more to offer. A towering climbing tower awaited, with ropes extending to an impressive height of nearly 20 meters. It provided a thrilling and challenging experience for those brave enough to ascend its heights. Additionally, I discovered two towering climbing walls, reaching 15 meters in height, offering a vertical challenge to test my climbing skills.