Walt Disney World is one of the most popular tourist destinations on the planet. People visit Orlando to visit the most magical place on earth year round. However, the crowds and the cost of theme parks can be quite overwhelming. Luckily the city beautiful has plenty of other attractions that can help you have a magical experience without Mickey.
1. Enjoy a ride without a line
Orlando just so happens to be home to the country’s tallest ferris wheel, and it is well worth a visit. Instead of waiting in line for hours at Disney, take a ride on the Orlando Eye and catch an unrivaled view of the entire city scape. There are no loops or drops, but you will soar higher than Tinker Bell, and you can even sip a glass of champagne in the comfortable, air-conditioned capsule while you ride.
2. Taste delicious cuisine without spending a fortune
The Orlando area is a gold-mine of restaurants serving every type of cuisine imaginable. Restaurants range from casual and delicious, to elegant and refined, plus everything in between or outside the box. Head over to Winter Park to try the Ravenous Pig or its sister restaurant Cask and Larder if you’re looking for some delicious comfort food and good local brew. Or embrace the fresh Florida seafood at the upscale Todd English’s Bluezoo off International Drive. If you can’t decide on something, grab some friends and venture to one of the popular tapas restaurants such as Ceviche or Hawkers on Mills Avenue.
3. See some castles without the crowds
They might not be actual castles, but the houses in Winter Park are gorgeous enough to make even Cinderella envious. Take a boat tour around the Winter Park chain of lakes and you can enjoy the Florida sunshine with great views while learning fun facts about the area’s history. After the boat tour, be sure to walk across the street to the Charles Homer Morse Museum of American Art, which is home to the largest known collection of gorgeous Tiffany glass.
4. Embrace your inner child
If you have kids, or just feel like one sometimes, stop by the Florida Mall and let loose for a bit. The Crayola experience at the mall offers interactive activities for any artistic soul. You can make your own coloring book, animate your drawings, and even personalize some crayons to bring home with you. After you color, keep the color theme going at the M&M store also in the mall and end your day on a sweet note.
5. Shop for souvenirs that make everyone happy
Whether you’re looking for souvenirs to bring home to friends, or seeking something for yourself, Orlando has shops to satisfy anyone’s tastes. Find great deals on designer clothes and accessories at the outlets on International Drive, or shop the boutiques of Winter Park for something truly unique. The best part is not everything is covered in mice.
6. Get up close to amazing animals outside Animal Kingdom
If Timon and Pumbaa are your favorite Disney characters, head to the Central Florida Zoo and meet some of the hundreds of animals who live there. The zoo has tours for the whole family, and the animals themselves are entertainment enough for a whole day out. The Sanford Zoo is also a fantastic animal encounter, and features a zip-line course through the woods for some added adventure.
7. See a show
Skip the Mousketeers and head to downtown Orlando for some truly phenomenal performances. The Dr. Phillip’s Center for the Performing Arts hosts broadway hits year round, while smaller venues such as Mad Cow and the Orlando Shakespeare Center offer smaller stages with captivating, up-close and personal shows guaranteed to engage any audience. More adventurous Orlando visitors should not miss Hamburger Mary’s for an unforgettable brunch.
For an animated outing minus the animation, Orlando City Soccer games are a fun activity for any sports fan, whether you follow soccer or not. It’s easy to be swept up in the excitement when you can feel the energy from the crowd for miles, and sense the passion from both the fans and the players. Not soccer season? Not a problem! The Orlando Solar Bears play just down the road at the Amway Center. They may be a minor league ice hockey team, but they play with major heart. And if hockey sounds too frozen for Florida, the Orlando Magic play basketball in the same venue.
9. Get a sense of Florida’s best scenery
There are some surprisingly beautiful oases of nature that can be a welcome escape from the city in and around Orlando. If you’re looking for a relaxing day of exploring Florida’s landscape, Wekiva Springs is a fantastic alternative to driving out to the coast. There are kayaks and canoes for rent, or you can simply relax in the sun by the cool spring water. Blue Springs state park is another natural Florida wonder where you can watch manatees swimming serenely while you walk the wooded paths, or even paddle along with them.
10. Enjoy the night-life
Orlando becomes a vibrant hub of activity after dark. Whether you visit Church Street downtown for live outdoor music and a variety of clubs, or head to Pointe Orlando for premier bars and performance dining experiences such as Cafe TuTu Tango, the ball definitely will not be over at midnight. Kick off the glass slippers and dance at the The Fire Lounge, sing some karaoke at Rising Star, and party all night long.