If you’re looking for a great vacation with family or friends, sunny Orlando is the place to be.
There’s a seemingly endless supply of things to do, from expansive golf courses to theme parks galore. You don’t have to be a Disney fanatic to love Orlando—we’ve compiled our 14 favorite things to do in the area that will be fun for the whole family. From world-famous shopping at Universal’s Citywalk to Kayak the Wekiva River to spotting gators and soaking up the Florida sunshine, there’s something for everyone—kids and grownups alike. With its great weather, family-friendly fun, and incredible nature , it’s easy to fall for Orlando. Here’s what to do and see in the Florida city made for memories. And when it’s time to rest, we’ve got you covered with Orlando’s best hotels.
Ride the Mega-Coasters at Universal Orlando
Adrenaline junkies, rejoice! Universal Orlando is home to some of the country’s biggest and most exciting rollercoasters. At Universal’s Islands of Adventure, the thrills just don’t stop. Hold on for the Incredible Hulk, scream at Doctor Doom’s Fearfall, or get soaked at Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls.
If mega-coasters aren’t your thing, head over to Universal Studios, which has plenty of attractions that put you right into the movies. Go behind the scenes with a studio tour, journey to Ancient Egypt for some archeological sights (though you might not want to disturb the mummy), or follow along with some minion mayhem with the minions from Despicable Me.
Shop ’til You Drop at Citywalk
For a relaxing date night out and about, head to Universal’s Citywalk. Like Disney Springs, this outdoor mall is full of shops, restaurants, and entertainment. At Citywalk, you can find everything from Blue Man Group to mini-golf to celebrity chefs and everything in between. It’ll seem more like being in Las Vegas than Orlando with the nightlife you’ll find. As Universal calls it, it’s the “Epicenter of Awesome.”
Related: Orlando Travel Guide
Channel Your Inner Child at Legoland
There is an entire theme park dedicated to your favorite building blocks that’s great for kids and adults alike. And bonus: You can even stay the night! Explore the different lands of LEGO, from the new Ninjago World to LEGOLAND’s water park.
LEGOLAND is a great option if you’ve got slightly younger kids that can’t quite ride all the mega-coasters in Universal—while there are a few bigger coasters, most of them are kid-friendly, from the Coastersaurus and Boating School to the Aquazone Wave Racers. Don’t forget to bring mini-figures to trade!
INSIDER TIPLEGOLAND is about a 45-minute drive from Orlando, so make sure to plan accordingly if you’re not staying at the resort. If you do stay on-property, you’ll be able to get into the parks a little earlier—which can be a huge advantage to beat the lines.
Ride Jurassic Park
At Universal Islands of Adventure, Jurassic Park: River Adventure puts you right back into the classic movie. Your ride begins with a gentle river cruise designed to observe some of the newest attractions in Jurassic Park—but quickly things go awry. You’ll be on the run (down an 85-foot drop!) from some of man’s biggest predators, like the fearsome T-Rex.
INSIDER TIPYou will get wet on this one.
Splash Around at Discovery Cove
Spend a relaxing day at Discovery Cove, an all-inclusive water park and resort. You’ll be able to snorkel with colorful reef fish, feed tropical birds, float down a lazy river, and soak up the sunshine. It’s an unforgettable experience for you and the whole family.
Related: The Best Hotel Pools in Orlando
Stroll Through Garden Paths
If theme parks aren’t your thing, you can relax in over 50 acres of lush greenery at the Harry P. Leu Gardens. Open year-round, you’ll find flora and fauna from all over the world in this beautiful space. Marvel at the 50-foot floral clock and see the gorgeous collection of historical plants, many of which were classified before 1900. Pack a picnic or stop by for one of their free movie nights or jazz concerts on the lawn.
Note: Due to Hurricane Irma damage, the Leu House Museum (but not the Garden) is currently closed.
INSIDER TIPAdmission is free on the first Monday of the month from January through September.
Canoe or Kayak the Wekiva River
Located on the Wekiva River, Wekiwa Springs State Park gives you a break from the go-go-go vibe from all the parks. About an hour’s drive away, you’ll find thirteen miles of trails, plenty of space for a picnic, and lots of opportunities to enjoy the water. Rent a canoe or kayak and spend the day exploring Florida’s wilderness.
Related: Orlando Travel Guide
Take a Scenic Boat Ride
Winter Park is one of Orlando’s hidden gems. If your wallet needs a break from the ridiculous theme park prices, this place is a great way to spend some quality family time without breaking the bank.
Stroll through the cute downtown area and enjoy the sunshine at one of the outdoor cafes and bistros. You’ll find plenty of boutiques to do some shopping before taking a scenic boat ride across the lake.
INSIDER TIPIf you’re in town Saturday, don’t miss the farmer’s market downtown for yummy treats and fresh Florida produce. What it lacks in size it makes up for in charm and taste.
Sip Butterbeer at Hogwarts
Whether you’re secretly waiting for your acceptance to Hogwarts or just want to get in on the fun, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal is a delight for any fan. Catch a ride on the Hogwarts Express, try (at your peril) a Bertie Botts Every Flavor Bean, and find your true wand at Ollivander’s. Remember, the wand chooses the wizard!
Of course, no trip is complete until you’ve sampled one of our favorite park treats: Butterbeer! This non-alcoholic beverage brings you right into the story.
INSIDER TIPIf this is high on your list, head to the parks as early as you can and hit the Wizarding World first. Lines are long here but the wait time is always worth it!
Putt Putt Your Way to Victory at Pirate’s Grove
Arrr, matey! This pirate-themed mini-golf course will unleash your inner swashbuckler. Pirate’s Cove offers several elaborate courses to choose from. You’ll follow Blackbeard through spooky caves, over waterfalls, and around sunken ships in the quest for victory.
INSIDER TIPPirate’s Cove has two locations near the parks, in Lake Buena Vista and in Orlando proper.
See the Gators in Gatorland
Florida’s mascot is the gator for a reason—they’re everywhere! If you’re into all things reptile, Gatorland is the place for you. They’ve got alligators and crocodiles, but if you’re in need of more thrills, they’ve also got a zip line across the whole park—just don’t look down!
Reach for the Stars at Kennedy Space Center
3-2-1…blast off! Re-live one of history’s greatest moments—landing on the moon—at Kennedy Space Center. At this working NASA facility, you’ll be able to take a tour of the launch pad and learn about the history of space exploration. This museum is chock-full of space race artifacts and you’ll be able to see retired spacecraft like those from the Apollo moon missions and the 363-foot Saturn V Rocket.
INSIDER TIPCheck the schedule to see if there will be a launch while you’re there. You might even be able to watch it!
Beat the Heat at Volcano Bay
Get ready to get wet! Universal’s brand new water park, Volcano Bay, features a mix of wild roller coasters, wave pools, lazy rivers, and water slides that will help you beat the Florida heat. Volcano Bay transports you to the Pacific Islands, where you can spend a day living completely carefree.
INSIDER TIPPurchase one of the park’s wearable bracelets—called a TapuTapu—so you can skip the lines, get access to exclusive photo ops, and more.
Soak Up The Sun on Cocoa Beach
There’s a ton of different things you can do in Orlando, but if all you really want is a nice, relaxing day at the beach, that’s easy, too. Head to Cocoa Beach, about an hour’s drive away, to lay out your towel and soak up the sun. With parking, spaces to set up a picnic, and lifeguards in season, it’s a great option for the whole family. Plus, you can hang out at Canaveral Pier and watch surfers ride the waves.