If you’re planning a trip to Orlando, it probably includes a trip to one of the major theme parks. The fact is, however, Central Florida is one of the world’s greatest travel destinations – and not just for its theme parks.
If you get too focused on just visiting the major theme parks, you’ll miss out on a wealth of other fun, educational, and interesting opportunities to maximize the value of your trip.
To help you with your first-time visit or vacation to the Orlando area, here’s a list of fun things to do in Orlando besides theme parks, including other entertainment and amusement options to help maximize your experience, such as…
- ICON Orlando (formerly Coca-Cola Orlando Eye)
- Kennedy Space Center
- Gatorland: The Alligator Capital of the World
- Madame Tussauds Orlando
- and many more!
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ICON Orlando (formerly Coca-Cola Orlando Eye)
The Orlando Eye is located on International Drive and is part of the I-360 complex. Be sure to add this high up on your list of things to do while in Orlando.
First opened in 2015, this 400-foot observation wheel has quickly become an iconic part of the Orlando skyline and Orlando experience.
ICON Orlando offers stunning views of downtown Orlando and on a clear day, you may be able to see Cape Canaveral to the East.
A brief, uplifting family-oriented film is included before departure on your flight.
Exiting the attraction will be through a well-appointed gift shop that’s worth a look, especially if you’re looking to pick up a few souvenirs to bring home.
Tips: Free ground level parking is available behind the Eye off Universal Blvd. Free ground and garage parking is also available just north of this attraction off I-Drive. Viewing the ICON Orlando from the rear and from the ground up will give you a greater sense of its magnitude. The wheel is lit every evening and sunset flights may be a perfect choice.
Getting in: ICON Orlando tickets are included with the Go Orlando Card All-Inclusive Pass.
Kennedy Space Center
Visit NASA’s launch headquarters, the only place on Earth where you can see real launch areas, meet astronauts, see rockets, experience flight simulations, and even see a real launch (check the launch schedule in advance).
The Kennedy Space Center is just an hour east of Orlando near Titusville and well worth the drive!
Not only was American history made here, world history was made on these grounds. Base admission includes a bus tour of the grounds and attractions like…
- The Shuttle Launch Experience
- The Space Shuttle Atlantis Exhibit
- The Apollo/Saturn V Exhibit
- The Rocket Garden
- The Astronaut Experience, IMAX Theaters
- The Astronaut Memorial
- and more…
The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex features educational and engaging ‘Mission Zones’ where attractions and tours are organized by chronological era – from the beginning of space exploration to current and ongoing projects in space.
Interested in seeing a real launch? Check the Kennedy Space Center schedule of events and see if you can plan your visit around any of the upcoming launches (included with all general admission tickets to the Kennedy Space Center).
Tips: Arrive early to take full advantage of your visit. The Visitor’s Center opens at 9 am. There is much to see and do indoors so weather is not a factor. Advanced research will help you better appreciate the significance and history of the area. Wear comfortable shoes.
Getting in: General admission Kennedy Space Center tickets are included with the Go Orlando Card All-Inclusive Pass.
Gatorland: The Alligator Capital of the World
Also known as the ‘Alligator Capitol of the World,’ Gatorland is a must-see for anyone who wants to get a real feel for Everglades nature, culture, and animals.
This 110-acre theme park and wildlife preserve is filled with charming exhibits, exciting rides, and thrilling gator-themed entertainment.
Here you will find 1,200 feet of zip lines for the whole family, take part in “rookie” gator wrestling for young visitors, climb an observation tower, take a train ride through the park and step inside an aviary.
Check out one of the multiple shows scheduled daily. Be sure not to miss the four rare “white” alligators at the park.
Tips: Wear comfortable shoes and bring sunscreen. Make sure your cell phone is fully charged. There is a children’s water park inside Gatorland so bring appropriate clothing. Get and use the park schedule and map given to you upon entering. Plan on grabbing lunch at the park.
Getting in: Gatorland tickets are included with the Go Orlando Card All-Inclusive Pass.
Boggy Creek Airboat Rides
No Florida trip is complete without an airboat ride – go on a Boggy Creek Airboats adventure and explore the Central Florida Everglades (home to lots of alligators, turtles, birds, and other diverse Florida wildlife).
Enjoy the speed and thrills of skimming above the water’s surface while getting an up-close look at plenty of native wildlife in Central Florida.
This is the perfect thing to do for families, as it combines an adrenaline rush, appreciation of the environment, and Florida’s natural beauty.
Hang on to your hats, speeds can reach 35 miles per hour!
Tips: Make sure you wear sunscreen. Fully charge your cell phone camera before heading out. Make reservations ahead of time. Consider the sunset tour as it is cooler and the setting sun adds to the atmosphere.
Getting in: Boggy Creek Airboat ride tickets are included with the Go Orlando Card All-Inclusive Pass.
Young travelers will especially appreciate the 100+ hands-on science exhibits at WonderWorks.
Parents will love the educational aspects. Just north of the Orange County Convention Center on I-Drive, WonderWorks’ upside-down construction is attention-getting! Inside visitors will find laser tag, a rope course (see tip below), a 6D motion ride, and lots more.
Lie on a bed of nails and learn about how the distribution of your weight keeps you from getting impaled, experience a 5.3-degree earthquake simulation, design your own roller coaster, feel the winds of a 74-mile per hour hurricane, and more.
Tips: Wear comfortable shoes – if your child wants to climb on the ropes course, they must wear close-toed shoes and pants or shorts (no dresses/skirts). Paid parking is available nearby. Best times to visit are early in the day during the week. Since Wonderworks activities are indoor, it is a perfect rainy day option.
Getting in: WonderWorks tickets are included with the Go Orlando Card All-Inclusive Pass.
World famous for their life-sized, realistic wax figures, Madame Tussauds Orlando is selfie heaven!
Pose with such famous “people” as Kung Fu Panda, Jimmy Fallon, Pitbull, Scarlett Johansson, Brad Pitt, Michael Jackson, Shrek and many more.
While photos are not allowed in some Orlando attractions, Madame Tussauds encourages them! This is a self-guided attraction so take your time visiting with your favorites stars.
Tips: This attraction is part of the I-360 attraction on I-Drive. Free ground level and garage parking is usually plentiful just north of this attraction off International Drive. Ground level parking is also available off Universal Blvd. Enjoy one of the plentiful eateries along I-Drive in this area and certainly make sure your cell phone camera is sufficiently charged. Don’t forget group photos!
Getting in: Madame Tussauds tickets are included with the Go Orlando Card All-Inclusive Pass.
The Cirque Magique Dinner Show
This family-oriented magical and mysterious circus themed performance includes a family style meal with ice cream for dessert.
The Cirque Magique Dinner Show is an interactive dinner theater show which includes circus performers from across the globe including a comedy magician, clowns, acrobats and even adorable performing puppies.
This is an uplifting show with lots of laughs. Family themed shows perform three times per week, Friday through Sundays. Dinner theater performances take place at the Treasure Tavern Theater on Carrier Road, near the International Drive tourist district.
Tips: Call ahead for reservations and show times. It is a terrific way to start or end a day visiting I-Drive attractions. The menu has vegetarian options.
Getting in: Cirque Magique Dinner Show tickets are included with the Go Orlando Card All-Inclusive Pass.
Ripley’s Believe It or Not!
Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Orlando is a 10,000 square foot collection of oddities, rare items, one of a kind items and a wide-variety of other interesting objects. See a shrunken head, an authentic vampire killing kit, and a Tibetan skull.
Pose inside the world’s largest tire and witness an anti-gravity pool table.
View an incredible portrait of Beyonce made out of candy and a dress made of licorice sticks.
There are sixteen separate themed galleries here to amaze, amuse and educate. This is an attraction that will challenge most of your senses.
Tips: Photos are allowed at this attraction. There is on-site parking available with addition parking just to the South. Be prepared to take your time and do a LOT of reading to get the most out of your visit. This is a self-guided tour so you can spend as much time here as you wish. Visit early when there are less crowds. Restrooms are available only at the start of your tour, so plan accordingly. Tours end into a nice gift and souvenir shop.
Getting in: Ripley’s Believe It or Not! tickets are included with the Go Orlando Card All-Inclusive Pass.
SEA LIFE Aquarium Orlando
Part of the I-360 complex along I-Drive, SEA LIFE Aquarium provides a glimpse into the future of aquariums.
It has a terrific, soothing atmosphere. This attraction is engineered to provide visitors, and especially young visitors, with experiences that are up close and personal.
Explore the world’s oceans through amazing plexiglass windows and tunnels. Visitors will experience sharks, rays, turtles and a hands-on touch pool experience. This is a visually stunning experience for adults and an educational one for children.
The gift shop at the end offers a variety of souvenirs and gifts, and provides a prize for small visitors who complete their passport through the aquarium.
Tips: Free garage and ground level parking is close by. While this is a self-guided tour, groups are placed in a staging area so it doesn’t get too crowded. You’ll want plenty of photos of this beautiful facility. An excellent option for rainy days. Make sure young ones take advantage of in-tank plexiglass “bubbles” that give them “fish-eye” views.
Getting in: SEA LIFE Aquarium tickets are included with the Go Orlando Card All-Inclusive Pass.
Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition
This attraction is at times beautiful, educational, and stirring.
Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition is a must-see for history fans and those who loved the Leonardo DeCaprio/Kate Winslet blockbuster film. Tours are hosted by knowledgeable actors playing the parts of actual passengers and crew.
On your visit you’ll see artifacts from the Titanic era along with actual artifacts of the ship recovered from the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. This attraction features an almost life size reproduction of the Titanic’s famous staircase, a replica stateroom and one of the largest pieces of the ships steel hull ever recovered.
The tour ends with a stirring tribute to those lost. Upon leaving you’ll have the opportunity to feel a frozen replica of an iceberg, experiencing the water temperatures that lost passengers felt before perishing at sea.
Tips: Since no photos are allowed inside the exhibition, get family photos outside or in the lobby. You can enhance your visit by doing a little research before attending. There is on-site ground level parking.
Getting in: Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition tickets are included with the Go Orlando Card All-Inclusive Pass.
Congo River Adventure Golf
Located conveniently along I-Drive, Congo River Adventure Golf won the 2015 TripAdvisor Hall of Fame Award.
This is more than just a game of miniature golf. Here you can explore caves, feed live alligators, play video games, challenge family members to Florida’s most unique basketball hoops game and take part in gem mining.
Play the Exploration Game, a game within a game as you go through your adventure. Find the necessary artifacts and return to Safari Headquarters to claim your reward.
Be sure to grab some souvenirs and gifts from the Supply Outpost.
Tips: This is not your average mini-golf course. Plan to spend enough time here to fully enjoy everything it offers. This is a fun memory maker so take pictures and be sure to share them.
Getting in: Congo River Adventure Golf tickets are included with the Go Orlando Card All-Inclusive Pass.
Gray Line Orlando Tours
One of the best ways to really “see” Orlando through Gray Line Orlando Tours.
Orlando is a large metropolitan area with a vibrant downtown. It has earned its reputation as “City Beautiful” and Orlando tours include the Lake Eola area and other significant points of interests.
Sit back and relax in air conditioned comfort in their modern coaches as you experience your fully-guided tour.
Tips: Check ahead for scheduled tour times. Gray Line Orlando offers transportation options to other attractions in the region as well. Window seats are most desired.
Getting in: Gray Line Orlando Tours tickets are included with the Go Orlando Card All-Inclusive Pass.
Winter Park Scenic Boat Tours
One way to prevent “vacation exhaustion” is to schedule in less-hectic activities.
One such activity is a scenic pontoon boat tour of the pristine Chain of Lakes in Orlando’s Winter Park area. These tours offer hour-long, guided cruises through three of the seven lakes and two, narrow man-made canals on the tranquil waters.
Tours include views of opulent private homes and mansions, palms swaying in the breezes, and the occasional alligator basking on the shoreline.
Tips: Tours leave every hour on the hour. Get there 30 minutes early. This attraction has been around since 1938 and takes cash or checks only. While trips are only an hour long, sunscreen is still recommended in the Florida sun. Take a deep breath before boarding and relax and enjoy!
Getting in: Winter Park Scenic Boat Tours tickets are included with the Go Orlando Card All-Inclusive Pass.
Green Meadows Petting Farm
If you are looking for wholesome family fun for your young family, Green Meadows Petting Farm is just minutes from Orlando in nearby Kissimmee.
There are over 300 animals on the petting farm with plenty of other activities like pony rides and train rides.
See donkeys, llamas, ostriches, cows, horses and more. Its a fun and educational way to broaden your vacation experience.
Tips: There are going to be plenty of adorable pictures to be had so make sure your camera has a full charge. Dress properly for the Florida weather.
Getting in: Green Meadows Petting Farm tickets are included with the Go Orlando Card All-Inclusive Pass.
Forever Florida Coach Tour
Just southeast of Orlando lies 4,700 acres of the Forever Florida Nature Preserve.
While the preserve offers a variety of activities like horseback riding and ziplining, it also offers a unique, upclose view of the Florida ecosystem through its Wild Coach Adventure Tour.
In spite of its name, this is a relaxing two hour tour that explores the nine pristine and distinct Florida ecosystems here. You’ll board specially built, multi-terrain safari coaches with over-sized tires and lifted 5 feet off the ground.
Keep an eye out for a range of Florida wildlife like black bears, alligators, turtles, white tail deer, and wild turkeys. Breathe in some of Florida’s most pure air.
This is truly an off-the-beaten path adventure that you and your family won’t soon forget.
Tips: Sunscreen and bug-spray is recommended. If you’re hungry, grab a country meal at the Cypress Restaurant at the Visitor’s Center. Grab a rocking chair on the veranda and watch the alligator in the lake for a spell. This is an exceptional way to see the real Florida close up.
Getting in: Forever Florida Coach Tour tickets are included with the Go Orlando Card All-Inclusive Pass.
Save on Attraction Admission
So when you are planning a trip to Orlando and are looking for things to do besides the theme parks, check out a few of these popular attraction choices.
You can save up to 50% on combined admission vs paying at the gate with the Go Orlando Card.