10 Things To Do in Orlando After You’ve Visited Disney World
Got a “been-there, done-that” feeling about the theme park capital of the world? Here are 10 things to do in Orlando that’ll have you seeing the sunshine state in a whole new light.
Looking for things to do in Orlando after you’ve visited Disney World?
More than three million Canadians visit Florida each year, with Orlando serving as the biggest draw for families, particularly during March Break and school holidays. Although a lot of that travel is fuelled by popular theme parks like Disney World, Universal Orlando, Legoland and SeaWorld; it turns out there’s much more to explore in the city, where you can enjoy that famous Florida sunshine without the massive crowds and hefty admission fees. Whether you’re looking for natural wonders, great eats or memorable museums, here are 10 things do in Orlando that lie outside the gates of the Magic Kingdom.
Lake Eola Park
Located in the heart of downtown Orlando, Lake Eola Park is consistently rated one of the best things to do in Orlando by both visitors and locals alike. Whether you’re in the mood for a leisurely stroll or a heart-pumping jog, you can soak up the peaceful scenery along the one-and-a-half-kilometre pathway that lines the lake. Feeling romantic? Take your sweetie onto the lake itself in one of the swan-shaped paddle boats that are available for rent, then catch a live performance at the Walt Disney Amphitheater. If you time your visit just right, you can sample some fresh-picked produce at the Orlando Farmers Market, which is hosted here every Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Looking for things to do in Orlando after you’ve visited Disney World? Families should make a beeline for I-Drive 360: an 18-acre entertainment complex centred around a 400-foot tall observation wheel—the Coca-Cola Orlando Eye—that offers breathtaking views of Central Florida. Two on-site museums boast exhibits and collections that achieve the near-impossible in captivating kids, teens and adults alike. The first, Skeletons: Museum of Osteology, features 500 complete animal skeletons (humanely sourced from zoos, aquariums and nature reserves) that provide remarkable insight into the world of wildlife. The second, Sea Life Orlando, is an interactive underwater adventure allowing you to observe aquatic species up close from inside a thrilling 360-degree ocean tunnel.
Although you’re never too old for the magic of Disney, there may come a time when you’d rather stay off-resort when visiting Orlando. Located on International Drive, the boutique Castle Hotel (part of the Autograph Collection by Marriott) gives you the best of both worlds: its enchanting Bavarian-style architecture and exceptional service making it an grown-up attraction in itself. Leave ample room in your Orlando itinerary to make use of the hotel’s heated outdoor pool, on-site dining options and fitness facilities. Even the original artwork dotted throughout the hotel is worth stopping to admire.
No, your eyes aren’t playing tricks on you… WonderWorks was actually built to look as though it was dropped upside-down on an otherwise ordinary Orlando city block! Kids of all ages will find the 100-plus hands-on exhibits inside the striking structure just as mind-blowing, from the natural disasters-themed displays (which nail that often-elusive mix of education and entertainment), to a 36-foot-high indoor ropes course. Want to make a full day of it? Book your tickets early for the Outta Control Magic Comedy Dinner Show, which plays daily at 6:00 p.m—and claims to be “Orlando’s best kept secret.”
Located in between Disney World, Universal Orlando and SeaWorld, Orlando’s Restaurant Rowstretches along Sand Lake Road through the Dr. Phillips neighbourhood. Ranging from upscale dining to fast food chains, the strip boasts eateries for every budget—and palate. For American fare with a twist, try SLATE, where chef Dominic Rice’s elevates locally-sourced ingredients into high art. Highlights of the menu (which is constantly changing to reflect what’s in season) include the hearth-roasted snapper and in-house smoked brisket. For a more interactive meal, head to The Melting Pot—an award-winning fondue restaurant where you’ll choose your own bread and crudités to pair with cheese or chocolate fondue. Bon appetit!
Boggy Creek Airboat Adventures
You simply can’t leave Orlando without getting up close and personal with a Florida gator. One of the best ways to check that off of your bucket list is through Boggy Creek Airboat Adventures, which will take you into the headwaters of the natural wonder that is the Florida Everglades. Boggy Creek offers small group or private airboat tours through Lake Tohopekaliga (known locally as “Lake Toho”), where you’ll tear through the shallow, swampy waters at speeds up to 80 km/h. The reeds, grasses and lily pads lining the cove area provide the perfect habitat for alligators, as well as countless other reptiles, birds and that make up this lush ecosystem. Make sure your smartphone is fully charged for picture-taking—and bring along a few lens wipes: you’re bound to get splashed!
If you’re looking for things to do in Orlando that offer respite from that famed Floridian sunshine, look no further than the Amway Center. From October to April, it plays host to 44 home games for the city’s NBA team, the Orlando Magic. Regardless of who the team is playing (or whether or not you’re a basketball fan to begin with), the atmosphere is electric, and the tickets start at just $10 USD, offering some of the biggest bang-for-your-buck in all Orlando.
The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club Orlando, Grande Lakes
Fancy a day on the links? The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club Orlando, Grande Lakes, is a luxury golf course designed by two time British Open Champion, Greg Norman. The impeccably-maintained 18-hole course (open to the public as well as guests of the hotel) makes the most of Florida’s natural beauty, while at the same time preserving it as a designated Audubon Cooperative sanctuary. If you’re teeing off between October and May, take advantage of golf instruction from former PGA Tour player, Larry Rinker. Visiting with your family? Children under the age of 17 can play with no extra charge with each paid adult round of golf. If you’d prefer hitting the links without the wee ones, take advantage of the child-minding services at the Ritz-Carlton Orlandothrough the Ritz Kids program, available from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Loch Haven Cultural Park
Got a spare day on your Orlando itinerary? You can easily fill it at one destination alone: The Loch Haven Cultural Park. Nestled between three lakes (Lake Estelle on the north, Lake Rowena on the east and Lake Formosa on the south) this 45-acre gem is home to no fewer than eight see-worthy attractions, from sprawling galleries to interactive exhibitions. Adults often gravitate towards the Orlando Museum of Art and Mennello Museum of American Art (above) to admire the expansive collections of paintings and sculptures. A more family-friendly option, the Orlando Science Center boasts an impressive array of hands-on exhibits and a planetarium show that’s sure to delight everyone from toddlers to teens.
College Park Neighbourhood
If you ask a local for things to do in Orlando, nine times out of 10, they’ll point you in the direction of College Park. Voted “Orlando’s Best Neighbourhood,” it’s here you’ll find the Dubsdread Golf Course (the only public golf course in the city), and some of the best boutique shops and eateries Orlando has to offer. Stop by Infusion Tea for a vegetarian nibble, washed down by a cup of Orlando’s best loose-leaf tea, then top it off with locally-made ice cream from The Soda Fountain. In the fall, College Park plays host to an immensely popular Jazz Festival, with as many as 10 bands playing on three stages dotted throughout the neighbourhood.