Places to go in Orlando Besides the Theme Parks

There are many tourist hot spots in Orlando and lots of fun, family destinations that you can make plans to visit While in Orlando, most tourists are there to see the three largest and most popular Theme Parks: “The Mouse” at the Disney World parks, the two Universal Orlando theme parks, and the SeaWorld Theme Parks. However, there are plenty of other things to do in addition to or instead of those major parks. It is always a good idea to break up your vacation time and not spend each day at the theme parks since it is an all-day adventure, spending a little time doing some R & R around town will give you the type of vacation that you will not get home exhausted needing another one! Orlando and the surrounding areas have so much to see, you will definitely see a benefit in getting a car rental and exploring the sites in the surrounding areas. Here is a list of some great recreational suggestions of things to do while in Orlando:

Downtown Disney

If you are not aware of this treasure, you might miss out on some of the best dining and entertainment in Orlando. Downtown Disney is located outside of the Disney theme parks and includes restaurants, shops, and attractions for the whole family or just the adults. Here are some of Downtown Disney’s main features:

  • Cirque Du Soliel – This Cirque show has a permanent residence here and is on par with the level of entertainment and magnificence in Las Vegas.
  • House of Blues – Live music and great food are on tap at this famous restaurant.
  • Disney Quest – An indoor, interactive play area with games, virtual reality, food, and fun.
  • Splitsville Lanes – Bowling at its finest. Perfect for the whole family and a favorite of the pre-teen crowd.
  • Movie Theater – Stadium style, state of the art theater with dining facilities in addition to the usual movie treats like popcorn, sodas, and candy.
  • Pleasure Island – recently renovated and not the same night club hot spot it once was. This area now features live music, shops, and restaurants for the whole family; there is no longer an age limit requirement to visit Pleasure Island.
  • Hot Air Balloon Ride – A 360-degree view of all the magic from up above the lake at the Downtown Disney Marketplace.
  • T-Rex and Rainforest Café Restaurants – Both feature great food and a fun environment filled with animatronics that makes your dining adventure come to life.
  • Lego Store – One of the largest Lego stores, with huge displays of Lego art masterpieces throughout the Downtown Disney area.
  • Bongos Cuban Café – Fun eatery with music and Latin flare are just one of many places to dine in Downtown Disney, there is everything from sit down restaurants to snack shacks and desserts.
  • Bibbidi Boppity Boutique – The perfect place for magical transformations of your little princess or prince. Complete salon transformations including hair, makeup, and costumes are available upon appointment only. Make reservations in advance.

Universal CityWalk

Even though this attraction is at the entrance of Universal’s Theme Parks, it is worth mentioning in our list since you do not have to pay to get into CityWalk and you do not even have to pay for parking at CityWalk at night. Since CityWalk is open late, it is a great escape for adults looking to dance the night away, dine, shop or relax with a drink. Here are some of the highlights among CityWalk’s restaurants, clubs, bars, shops, and attractions:

  • Hollywood Drive-In Golf – Miniature golf with 36 holes and a 1950’s drive-in movie theme.
  • AMC Universal Theater and IMAX Movie Theater – With 20 screens and full dinners served in addition to the regular movie snacks.
  • Hard Rock Café – This is home to the largest Hard Rock Café restaurant in the world, which often hosts live music acts.
  • The Blue Man Group – With nightly performs at CityWalk nightly this is an excellent night of entertainment for everyone.
  • Margaritaville – Jimmy Buffet’s famous bar and restaurant.
  • Rising Star Karaoke Bar – Not just plain old karaoke, but live music and backup singers too!

Old Town

In the neighboring town of Kissimmee, just south of Orlando, there is a fun little stop called Old Town that features rides, shops, and restaurants. The theme is definitely a throwback to the days of the Penny Arcades, Dollar General Stores, and original Merry Go Round and Ferris wheel. This is a fun stop day or night with a quaint little town feeling.

Gatorland

Believe it or not, this attraction is over 60 years old and is still being renovated and revamped all the time. They have recently made some additions to the park including a “Screamin’ Gator Zip Line”, trainer for day programs, night time gator adventures, and a new Florida Panther exhibit.

Wet-N-Wild

Definitely the best water park in Orlando with plenty of slides for single and multiple riders. Although there is a kiddie area for the smaller tots to play in safety, make no mistake, this is not just for kids. Many of the slides tower high above and the quick descents are not for the faint of heart. Wet-N-Wild is definitely worth spending a day splashing and sliding in the Florida sun.

Miniature Golf

Orlando features many options for miniature golf all with different fun themes and many of them have additional things to do like game rooms or ice cream parlors.

International Drive Attractions

International Drive is one of the main strips in Orlando that is home to hotels, restaurants, shops, and many other activities. Some of those are

  • The Titanic Museum
  • Ripley’s Believe it Or Not Museum
  • WonderWorks
  • GoCarts.

Explore Your Hotel

There are many hotels being built in Orlando and Kissimmee that could be classified as attractions in and of themselves. In an attempt to compete with the multitude of other attractions, hotels are building multiple pools with water slides and fun water features for the kids. If you like to stay in and relax as part of your vacation, look for hotels with large pools and day spas, game rooms, restaurants, and planned family activities to make the most out of your stay.

Outlet Mall Shopping

There are dozens of outlet shops that have closeout prices on brand name clothing, shoes, and apparel. Orlando and the surrounding cities have become a mecca for outlet stores.

Dinner Shows

There are quite a few different dinner show options in Orlando. These are entertaining and fun for the whole family. However, do not think that they are exclusively family events, these dinner shows can make a fun night out for the adults. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Medieval Times –It’s exciting to cheer on your knight to win the tournament of champions and save the King, Queen, and the entire kingdom from the evil black knight. Arrive early and tour the medieval village, have a drink in the bar, browse the gift shop, and take a photo with the king and queen! This is definitely the best dinner show in Orlando.
  • Sleuths Murder Mystery Dinner –Featuring a sit-down meal and a murder to solve. Rotating storylines mean you can visit more than once for a new mystery. An entertaining evening for adults and maybe older children.
  • Capone’s – 1920’s style speakeasy serving up an Italian buffet with flappers and gangsters performing songs and dances right out of the era in Chicago.
  • Arabian Nights – Majestic horses, beautiful costumes, and lighting with Shahrazad telling this ancient tale with Aladdin, princes, and genies transported from the Middle East directly to Central Florida.
  • Pirate’s Dinner Show – Ahoy Mateys! Dine surrounding a pirate ship and watch the pirates do battle and travel to enchanted lands.

Dine in Style

Orlando has become a melting pot of cultures from all over the world. The culinary scene has blossomed in Orlando and you can find delicious meals from pretty much every culture around the world. Basically, if you crave it, Orlando has a restaurant for it! Pretty much everything under the sun is available from early morning to late at night from fine dining, steak houses, Hibachi restaurants, Latin and Indian specialties, or inexpensive buffets where you can really fill up and replenish all the energy spent riding rides or playing in the Florida sun. By the way, do not worry about the dress code, other than some of the higher-end eateries, you can pretty much show up anywhere with your mouse ears, Hawaiian shirt, and sandals; but please leave the black socks off for everyone’s sake.

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