18 Ideas For What to Do in Orlando, Florida

This post may contain affiliate links. We may receive a small commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase. Read Disclosure.

When you think of Orlando in Florida, your mind has probably conjured up images of the Disney Castle. And while the city is known for its theme parks, they are not the only things to do in Orlando, Florida!

Orlando has year-round beach weather, beautiful natural landscapes such as the Everglades, and endless opportunities for adventures and whole family fun.

If you’re not sure what to do in Orlando, then you’ve come to the right place. In this guide, we share our top attractions in Orlando for those looking for the best things to see and do, where to eat, stay, and make the most out of their visit.

palm trees in front of a hotel

Is Orlando Worth Visiting?

Most people visit Orlando for the theme parks. The Walt Disney World Resort offers attractions, shows, dining and shopping on a property that is twice the size of the island of Manhattan in New York. First-time visitors underestimate how massive it really is.

Despite the artificiality that Disney Parks are known for, it’s the quintessential American vacation and it really is an experience like none other.

And with other theme parks like Universal Orlando, Volcano BaySea World, and Busch Gardens Tampa, there are plenty of places to keep you busy.

But theme parks is not all that Orlando has to offer. It’s also surrounded by beautiful nature spots, unique wildlife experiences, excellent shopping, thriving nightlife, and many quirky roadside attractions that add to its charm. For these reasons, Orlando is definitely worth a visit.

Of course, there’s more to Orlando than theme parks, especially if you want to experience what the locals do. But if you want theme parks, below are some handy tips.

Ideas For What to Do in Orlando

Beyond the theme parks, Orlando offers plenty to keep you busy – which is surprising to many. Here’s what’s new in Orlando for 2024.

1. Wild Florida Everglades Airboat & Wildlife Park

alligator in pond with lily pads

Orlando’s top wildlife attractions allow you to get up close with real Florida wildlife in their natural habitat.

While, many visiting Orlando may consider a trip to the Everglades National Park, know that it’s a four hour drive away. (We recommend adding to your Florida Bucket List though!)

You can however, get a small taste of this experience at Wild Florida Everglades Airboat & Wildlife Park, one of the best thing to do in Orlando for many tourists.

It’s located about an hour from Orlando on Lake Cypress, which is considered the Headwaters of the Central Florida Everglades.

Wild Florida gives a glimpse of what it’s like to explore the wild side of Florida. In their Gator Park, there are over 200 animals on display, including exotic animals like zebras, sloths, lemurs, and Watusi.

Most people love visiting for the Orlando airboat tours, where you’ll glide through the iconic swamplands on an airboat, you get to see the diversity of this unique ecosystem.

2. Go to the beaches

woman and children on Clearwater beach
Clearwater Beach

Although not directly next to the ocean, Orlando is not too far away from some of Florida’s best beaches.

From the serene shores of Vero Beach to the vibrant atmosphere of Clearwater Beach, there are many coastal havens you can run to if you want to escape from the city’s hustle and bustle.

My favorite is the sun-kissed Cocoa Beach, known for its surfing culture and lively atmosphere. Cocoa Beach is just a quick 45-minute drive from the city on the Atlantic Coast, and you can find free parking at Ron Jon Surf Shop.

New Smyrna Beach is also a nice beach to visit for a tranquil beach day amidst picturesque surroundings.

3. Go skydiving

two men tandem sky diving

While you’re there, you might as well go skydiving at Skydive Space Center, one of the highest drops in the world at 18,000 feet (5.48km).

If you’ve never been sky diving before, it’s the ultimate adrenaline rush!

What makes Orlando a great place to skydive from is the amazing, picturesque Florida coastal views you get while feeling the unparalleled sensation of free fall.

Whether you’re a first-time tandem diver or a seasoned enthusiast, the opportunity to conquer personal fears, embrace boundless freedom, and savor the unmatched exhilaration of skydiving is one of the top things to do in Orlando.

4. Visit Orlando’s Roadside Attractions

people playing golf Mount Dora

“Old Florida” is a term that is used to describe Florida in the 1950’s, before the theme parks would arrive.

Roadside Americana reigned supreme, and while many of Orlando’s roadside attractions from this era closed down to make way for more modern developments, there are still a few ticking around today..

The ones that stood the test of time, are truly the ones that are the best. Be sure to check out:

  • Gatorland touts itself as the Alligator Capitol of the World, a well-deserved title. The adventurous types can take zip lines over a pool of hungry gators. If you’re up for a drive, Weeki Wachee Springs gives you the chance to see real mermaids.
  • Check out Fun Spot America. While Orlando is famous for its big theme parks, riding the wooden roller coaster at Fun Spot America is like stepping back in time.
  • At night, check out the Silver Moon Drive-In, one of the few remaining Drive-In Movie Theaters around. For $4 per person, you get a double-feature of first-run films from the comfort of your car.
  • For a slower change of pace, visit Mount Dora, a charming town north of Orlando. They are known for their annual craft festivals each year and locally-owned shops. You’ll be sure to find a friend here.

5. Visit the Theme Parks in Orlando

Rip Ride Rockit roller coaster Universal Studios Orlando Resort
Rip Ride Rockit roller coaster Universal Studios Orlando Resort

If you are going to visit Orlando, then you simply must spend some time at one of the many theme parks.

Orlando alone has over 18 theme parks, not including water parks. You’ll need at least three weeks to experience it all, since many of these theme parks require multiple days to see.

For shorter lengths of stay, a visit to the Magic Kingdom and Universal Studios Florida and Universal’s Islands of Adventure (where you can experience the Wizarding World of Harry Potter attraction and walk down a real-life Diagon Alley) are the must-dos.

You may also want to visit Volcano Bay, Discovery Cove in Orlando, as well as ICON Park, Legoland Florida and Seaworld Orlando. You can read this helpful guide here. 

One of the newer theme parks is Disney’s Hollywood Studios, where you can find thrill rides and VR experiences, such as stepping into a VR Star Wars world.

Watch our videos of our time at Universal Orlando Resort and read all our tips for Universal Orlando Resort.

How to avoid long lines at theme parks

mother and two daughters outside universal orlando logo

There’s no doubt about it, theme parks draw big crowds and long lines, but savvy visitors to Orlando know how to avoid them.

  • September and January are generally quiet in the parks. Lines for popular attractions will generally average 20 minutes or so (much short than the 60-90 minutes in the summer).
  • Disney offers FastPass, a ride reservation system that virtually eliminates your wait for several top attractions. It’s included with your park admission.
  • Universal Orlando offers a similar experience, for an additional fee.

And if you want to experience Christmas decorations without the crowds, the 1st week in December is the perfect time of the season to visit any of the parks.

If you want to experience Halloween at Disney, check out this useful guide. 

Save Money on Orlando Theme Parks! Discounted theme park tickets are hard to come by for out-of-state visitors. And when you add up an entire week’s worth of food, hotels, and souvenirs, the number can be quite staggering.

Undercover Tourist is our trusted partner that offers authentic theme park tickets at discounted prices!

6. Check out the Lake Eola Park Fountain Display

fountain Lake Eola Park at night in neon lights

At the center of the city is Lake Eola, a nearly one-mile (1.9km) lake that is the focal point of the city.

At night, the iconic Linton E. Allen Memorial Fountain is lit up in a rainbow of colors and on select night, a fountain show synchronized to music will play.

The fountain display takes place at 8.00pm and 9.30pm most nights.

Lake Eola is also a great place to visit in the day if you want something more chilled to do. You can also rent a swan boat, take the kids to the playground, or simply relax on the lawns.

7. Hit the nightclubs

If you’re looking to stay up late, Downtown Orlando has several clubs that keep busy until 2 A.M.

Your best bet for dancing is on Church Street, which offers a range of clubs and bars.

Wall St., located just off Orange Ave, is another popular spot with lots of bars and restaurants. There’s a good chance you’ll stumble upon live music too.

Of course, for that late-night meal after dancing the night away, Bananas Modern Diner is a short drive away. And Steak and Shake, a popular chain in the south will give you the greasy food your tummy deserves!

If you’re staying near the theme parks, Universal Citywalk offers a variety of clubs with individual tickets available for purchase per club, or an all-in-one access pass. A movie theater and mini golf course are also available.

Downtown Disney offers nighttime entertainment with a softer touch, but drinks can be had at Raglan Road, an authentic Irish Pub.

8. Shop ’till you drop!

Orlando is a shopper’s paradise! Both the Florida Mall and Mall at Millenia are popular with both tourists and locals.

The Florida Mall has a great mix of stores for all budgets while the Mall at Millenia caters to the higher-end shopper.

For great deals, be sure to visit the Premium Outlets. You could easily spend a whole day browsing here.

Disney Springs is also a great area for shopping and dining.

9. Attend a festival in Orlando

fireworks at Disney Castle Orlando

Each of the theme parks offers special events throughout the year, so it doesn’t matter what time of year you visit, you can always find a festival to attend.

If you had to only hit one, visit the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival in the fall. You can find sample-size plates available featuring cuisine from around the world. It’s a favorite of tourists and locals alike.

During the winter months, the Orlando Improv Festival, has grown in popularity, and every February, the Plant City Strawberry Festival draws huge crowds who celebrate the best fruit around, the strawberry!

The springtime brings the Florida Film Festival – a week of independent films with emerging and well-established industry talent, but as summer approaches, GayDays Orlando is the festival to see! It is celebrated on the first weekend in June with over 150,000 people in attendance at the theme parks.

It’s one of the biggest events in Orlando.

10. Visit Kennedy Space Center

rocket launching Kennedy Space Center

For the astronaut in you, the Kennedy Space Center Visitor’s Complex gives you a glimpse into America’s Space Program.

Founded in the 1960s, this iconic facility has witnessed pivotal moments in space exploration, including the launch of the first American astronaut to the Moon.

As you wander the museum, you can learn about its history and heritage, from the Vertical Processing Facility to the Visitor Complex, where enthralling exhibits and interactive experiences make learning about space exploration fun.

See towering rockets, shop for astronaut memorabilia in the gift shop, and even learn about veteran space explorers.

Be sure to sign up for the guided tour which takes you all around the facility and in the near future, one of the retired space shuttles will be on display. Get your entry tickets here.

11. Go tubing down the Rainbow River

people paddling on Rainbow Springs State Park
Kelly Park

One of my favorite local spots is the Rainbow River, which is a great place to go tubing.

As you drift along the crystalline, turquoise waters, you’re surrounded by lush nature which makes for an idyllic backdrop as you relax in a tube.

While tubing isn’t allowed within the day-use or headsprings areas of the park, the nearby KP Hole Park provides a perfect launch point.

If you don’t have a tube, don’t worry, there are tube rentals and shuttle services available from Rainbow Springs State Park.

Load up your car with a picnic lunch, rent an inner tube and drift aimlessly away down the crystal clear, sparkling river – it’s pure relaxation!

Tubing is open from April 1st until 30th September, from 8.00am until 12.45pm.

12. Relax in Harry P Leu Gardens

dinosaur statue Harry P Leu Gardens

For more relaxing things to do in Orlando, head to the alluring botanical gardens of Harry P. Leu Gardens, a botanical paradise spanning nearly 50 acres.

This idyllic haven boasts a mesmerizing tapestry of aroids, azaleas, bamboo, citrus, and an array of vibrant flora. The gardens belong to the estate of Harry P. and Mary Jane Leu, who purchased the house (now a museum) in 1936.

He was a successful industrial supply company owner with a fondness for travel, and bought back many plants and seeds to grow in his garden. The result is a beautiful garden with global plants that you won’t find anywhere else in the states.

What makes this garden unique is the dinosaur exhibit with life-size dinosaur sculptures!

13. Be amazed at Ripley’s Believe It or Not!

You may have heard about the bizarre wonders at Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Museum, which has museums located all over the world.

In Orlando, you can delve into the mesmerizing world of oddities and curiosities that have made this museum franchise famous!

Within the “Odditorium,” you’ll discover 16 galleries that showcase an incredible array of unbelievable exhibits, from peculiar artifacts such as a shrunken heads and egyptian mummies, there is no shortage of weird and wonderful things to see here.

As well as the exhibits, there are also fun activities and workshops for kids, such as creating a wax mold of your hands!

14. Ride a Winter Park Scenic Boat Tour

Winter Park is a picturesque chain of lakes that are best seen from a scenic boat tour.

As you glide along the tranquil waterways on a charming pontoon boat, you’ll see the towering cypress trees, swamps, man-made canals, vibrant flora, and even some opulent homes.

The boat tour only carries 18 passengers, so the beauty of the area is not lost to overcrowded boats.

15. Break out of an Escape Room at Escape Game Orlando

If you’re visiting Orlando with teenagers, a fun family activity to do is escape the room!

Escape Rooms are so much fun! You and your team have a dedicated amount of time to solve puzzles and riddles, in order to beat the game and escape the room before the time limit runs out.

If you’ve never done an Escape Room before, Escape Game Orlando is a great place for beginners, since they have a variety of rooms that cater to beginners (and seasoned escapers too!)

Whether you’re tasked with escaping from prison, pulling off an impossible heist, finding gold from the Gold Rush or launching a space ship, there is an escape room for every taste and experience level.

16. Check out the Crayola Experience

Unleash your inner creativity at the Crayola Experience, where creativity and fun unite!

This huge facilities, spanning over 70,000 square feet, is full of whimsical adventures, from coloring classes to demonstrations on how the crayons are made to a giant soft play.

You and your kids can sculpt, draw, and explore a kaleidoscope of ways to create unique artwork.

17. Get educated at Orlando Science Center

Another great place to take the kids for an educational and fun day out is the Orlando Science Center, where curiosity knows no bounds.

This hands-on museum has regular events and classes for children under 4, as well as hosts a variety of interactive exhibits that delve into natural sciences and futuristic technologies.

From mind-bending displays on ecosystems to engaging experiences in teleportation and brain games, the center ignites a passion for learning in a fun way.

18. Play a round of golf at Topgolf Orlando!

For golfing enthusiasts, a visit to Topgolf Orlando is a must. With climate-controlled driving bays akin to bowling lanes, this venue offers fun and competitive golf games for all skill levels.

It also has a wonderful restaurant and sports bar with a roof terrace and fire pits.

Where to Eat in Orlando

At first glance, Orlando seems to have nothing but chain restaurants. But if you have your own car, and know a local, they’ll steer you to some fantastic gems.

  • Around the theme parks, Press 101 offers gourmet sandwiches and wines at reasonable prices. Live music is played on the weekend.
  • For a special occasion, neighboring Seasons 52, offers a fine dining experience with an ever-changing menu, freshly prepared food and great wines.
  • In downtown Orlando, Pine Twenty2 offers locally-sourced, all-natural hamburgers that are just bursting with flavor. You can build your own or order one of the house specialities.
  • For a sweet ending, stop by The Dessert Lady for freshly made gourmet cakes that are gigantic.
  • Pom Pom’s Teahouse & Sandwicheria is located in the Milk District, a short ride from downtown (near the milk factory). They offer an eclectic array of teas and delicious sandwiches in an urban vibe.

But for a true taste of Orlando, you need to schedule your culinary visit around one of The Daily City Food Truck Events.

Scheduled on a weekly basis, rotating venues every week, 20-30 food trucks line up with every imaginable cuisine. My recommendation, go direct to the Yum Yum Cupcake Truck.

Best Time of Year to Visit Orlando

woman and child in pool
Volcano Bay

The best time to visit Orlando is in October and March.

Each month is warm enough for you to take full advantage of beaches, water parks and all the other outdoor activities, but without the humidity that the summer is notorious for.

October tends to be less crowded at the theme parks than March (popular with school spring break), but there is always the looming threat of a hurricane interrupting your trip – though the likelihood for that is minimal.

Getting To & Around Orlando

two girls sitting in sidecar in Diagon Alley Universal Studios Orlando (2)

With Orlando being such a popular destination, direct routes from most major airports in the United States are almost always available and competition keeps prices reasonably affordable.

Direct flights from destinations in Europe and South America are also plentiful.

Orlando is served by both busses and rail, but the logistics of getting to the main tourist corridor are cumbersome at best. You’re better off renting a car from the airport.

Downtown Orlando is a very walkable city, and walking is the preferred way of getting around. But Orlando is a city that sprawls out, so if you’d like to visit anything not in downtown, you’ll need to travel by car.

Public transport by bus is available (GoLynx), but not convenient if time is important to you. You’ll need to make several transfers to get anywhere and the frequency of busses is not timely.

If you’re staying along international drive, there is a trolley that runs up and down the length of the street, making frequent stops.

Don’t forget Uber as a way to get around. This is widely used in Orlando.

Look for your rental car on DiscoverCars.com to browse all the top companies in one place.

Where to Stay in Orlando

Cabana Bay Beach Resort swimming pool
Cabana Bay Beach Resort, Orlando,Universal Orlando Resort Florida

If there’s one thing Orlando has, it’s plenty of hotels that cater to all travel budgets.

Places to Stay at Disney

If you’re looking to stay on Disney Property the All-Star Sports Resort, the All Star Music Resort, or the All Star Movies Resort is your best bet for the cheapest price (but still pricey).

If you have the budget, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge is my favorite, while Disney’s Boardwalk is located near one of the theme parks, Epcot.

Places to Stay at Universal Studios

For Universal Studios, check out:

HOT TIP: If you are traveling with a large group of friends or family, check out this 10 bedroom vacation home near Disney World. Try and find a group of people and split the cost, as accommodation in Orlando can be expensive.

Final Thoughts

You can almost guarantee that when the rest of the country (and the world for that matter) are bundling up to keep warm, Orlando is experiencing sunshine and perfect weather all year round.

Pin To Save On Pinterest

City Guide - What to do in Orlando, Florida. Where to stay, eat, drink, shop, explore and much more!
Image: Joe Penniston

Do you have any tips on what to do in Orlando? Share in the comments.

4 Powerful Ways to Travel More & Create Better Memories
Want to know how we've made a lifetime of travel for 25 years? In
This is what gives us incredible memories to share around the campfire. Join our community for insider tips and updates!
Scroll to Top