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Orlando Travel Guide

10 Things to Do in Orlando Besides Disney World

If you’re looking for a great vacation with family or friends, sunny Orlando is the place to be.

If you’re looking for a great vacation with family or friends, sunny Orlando is the place to be. You may be thinking, “Is there anything in Orlando besides Disney?” While Walt Disney World takes up 43 square miles of land (the size of San Francisco, if you’re wondering), you have six other major theme parks to choose from.

But there are plenty of things to do in Orlando besides theme parks. Orlando is a major tourist destination in its own right, drawing nearly 50 million visitors each year. 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.

How many days in Orlando is enough? That depends on how many parks you hope to visit in your time there. Generally, five to seven days gives you enough time to do a few theme parks, stay at your hotel or the beach, and explore Orlando properly.

With its great weather, family-friendly fun, and incredible nature, it’s easy to fall for Orlando. You don’t have to be a Disney fanatic to love Orlando—we’ve compiled our 10 favorite things to do in the area that will be fun for the whole family. And when it’s time to rest, we’ve got you covered with Orlando’s best hotels.

1 OF 10

Ride the Mega-Coasters at Universal Orlando

Adrenaline junkies, rejoice! Disney is just one of several major theme parks Orlando has to offer.

Universal Orlando is home to some of the country’s biggest and most exciting roller coasters. Start with Universal’s Islands of Adventure, where the thrills just don’t stop. Hold on for the Incredible Hulk, hurtle 70mph on the VelociCoaster, or take to the skies with Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure.

If mega-coasters aren’t your thing, head over to Universal Studios Florida, which has plenty of attractions that put you right into the movies. Go behind the scenes with a studio tour, journey to Ancient Egypt (though you might not want to disturb the mummy), or follow along with some minion mayhem with the minions from Despicable Me. If you’re traveling with kids, this is one of the most fun things to do in Orlando besides Disney—most of the rides in this park have lower height restrictions.

If you’re secretly waiting for your acceptance letter to Hogwarts, you can capture the magic at both parks. Islands of Adventure sends you to the quaint village of Hogsmeade, where you can enjoy butterbeer at the Three Broomsticks, try (at your peril) a Bertie Botts Every Flavor Bean at Honeydukes, or ride several coasters. Take the Hogwarts Express over to Diagon Alley at Universal Studios to ride Escape from Gringotts, choose a wand at Ollivander’s, and marvel at magical prank items at Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes.

INSIDER TIPIf this is high on your list, head to the parks as early as you can and hit the Islands of Adventure side of Wizarding World first. Lines are long here, but the wait time is always worth it!

Related: The Best Theme Park Attractions in Orlando

Universal plans to open a new theme park called Epic Universe that will double their footprint in 2025. While not much is known about the park, it’s guaranteed to be full of attractions for thrill-seekers.

2 OF 10

Shop ’til You Drop at Citywalk

One of the best things to do in Orlando for adults is to 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 live music to mini-golf to celebrity chefs and everything that keeps the party going until 2 a.m. 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


3 OF 10

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 par.

LEGOLAND is a great option if you’ve got younger kids that can’t 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.



4 OF 10

Stroll Through Garden Paths

Looking for things to do in Orlando, Florida, besides theme parks? 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.

INSIDER TIPAdmission is free from January through April on the first Monday of the month.


5 OF 10

Canoe or Kayak the Wekiva River

Florida designates more than 4 million acres of land for conservation. While Orlando may be a bit too far to enjoy Everglades National Park, the Wekiva River is the next best thing. Wekiwa Springs State Park gives you a break from the go-go-go vibe of 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.


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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. Town-wide festivals like the Sidewalk Art Festival in March and the Autumn Art Festival in October are especially fun times to visit.

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.



7 OF 10

Meet Your Toddler’s Favorite Pig

If you don’t know who Peppa Pig is, keep scrolling (and be thankful). But if your little one is obsessed with this British pig and her family, then you’re in luck. The newest theme park to come to Orlando is a toddler-friendly, pig-themed paradise. Ride on Peppa Pig’s Big Balloon Ride, climb on Peppa Pig’s Treehouse, or play in the Muddy Puddles Splash Pad. Unlike other major theme parks, Peppa Pig Theme Park is on a smaller scale at 4.5 acres, (compared to Universal Islands of Adventure’s 110 acres), so it’s just right for your little ones.

INSIDER TIPPeppa Pig Theme Park shares a parking lot with LEGOLAND. You can purchase dual-ticket vacation packages and walk between them and one of the LEGOLAND hotels.



8 OF 10

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. This attraction is one of the most unique things to do in Orlando besides the theme parks.

 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. Launches tend to happen once a month, both at Kennedy Space Center and at Cape Canaveral, about an hour’s drive away. You might even be able to watch one!

9 OF 10

Beat the Heat at a Water Park

Get ready to get wet! With year-round temperatures averaging in the 80s, adding a water park to your trip can be a fun way to stay cool. One of the best things to do in Orlando besides Disney’s Blizzard Beach or Typhoon Lagoon, is to visit Universal’s Volcano Bay or LEGOLAND’s toddler-friendly water play areas.

The best water park in Orlando besides Disney is Universal’s Volcano Bay. Featuring 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 and get access to exclusive photo ops.


10 OF 10

Soak up the Sun on Cocoa Beach

They don’t call Florida the “Sunshine State” for nothing. If you’re looking for the best things to do in Orlando besides theme parks, head for the coast. The best place to go to the beach in Orlando is Cocoa Beach, about an hour’s drive away. With parking, spaces to set up a picnic, and lifeguards in season, it’s a great option for the whole family.

Go manatee and turtle spotting at the 140,000-acre Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge on foot or by bike.  Known as one of the best places to surf on the east coast (and hometown of pro Kelly Slater), Canaveral Pier is a great spot to learn to surf for the first time—or just to watch.