Have you ever wondered what are the best things to do in Orlando that aren’t theme parks? If you’ve ever been to Orlando, Florida, you’re probably no stranger to the massive variety of parks that attract millions of tourists each year. Although these places amaze us every time, it can get a bit tiring at some point if that’s the only thing you do during your trip.
The good news is you can find tons of non-theme park things to do in Orlando!
Well-known entertainment spots like Disney World and Universal Studios have made Florida one of the most popular tourist locations in the world. However, the sunshine state has so much more to offer to its visitors whether you’re looking for adult-only activities or family-friendly attractions.
The 10 Best Things To Do In Orlando (That Aren’t Theme Parks)
From exciting, thrilling adventures to peaceful or educational experiences, this city has enough to keep all types of travelers entertained for weeks!
*Psst* If you’re still looking for a place to stay, check out my all-time favorite hotel in Orlando – The Marriott Village, Orlando
If you’re searching for family things to do in Orlando, Blue Spring State Park is the one place you can’t leave out of your bucket list. This tranquil 2,600-acre park – only about 45 minutes from Orlando – is popular for being a refuge for hundreds of manatees and having lots of exciting water activities, such as:
For a $6 parking fee, you and your whole family will be able to spend the day exploring the park and admiring the variety of animal species that can be found, including manatees, alligators, fish, and birds – some of which you can see up close!
Although the park is open all year, you might want to go during manatee season from November to March for greater chances to see these beautiful creatures. However, keep in mind that all water activities are closed during winter. So, if you’re planning your next trip, you should consider choosing the date that works best for you.
Tip: If you want to have a closer encounter swimming with manatees, check out this tour in Crystal River!
Things to do At Blue Spring State Park
Make sure you make the most out of your visit to the park to ensure an unforgettable experience.
Here are a few of the best activities in Blue Spring State Park:
- Swimming, Diving & Snorkeling – You can do these anywhere within the designated areas. Chill out in crystal clear waters and explore an underwater cave!
- Tubing – Bring your tube (or rent one at the Camp Store) and enjoy a relaxing 1-hour ride surrounded by beautiful sights of trees and the clear, blue water.
- Canoeing, Kayaking, & Paddleboarding – Explore the spring waters and take a closer look at the different animals in the area. You’re also provided with a little map to guide you along your ride. Keep in mind that paddleboards, kayaks, and canoes are only available from 8 am to 11 am, so it’s important to be early for this.
- Walking And Hiking – You can take Blue Springs Broadwalk Trail for a peaceful day walking through flora and fauna or hike along Blue Springs State Park’s main trail, Pine Island Trail for those who like a more challenging path.
- Camping – Make your visit even more memorable by staying at any of the 51 dog-friendly campsites in the park, or rent one of the 6 cabins available.
A great way to find things to do in Orlando that aren’t theme parks and still have the ‘Disney experience’ is by visiting Disney Springs, which has evolved over the years and has become one of the hottest entertainment, dining, and shopping districts in Orlando. It is totally free to enter and has so many things to do that you could spend a whole day inside.
Things To Do At Disney Springs
Plan your perfect visit to Disney Springs with this list of activities and recommendations so you don’t miss a thing!
Eat & Drink
There are over 60 restaurants, bars, lounges, and snack stands in Disney Springs. There are plenty of options for all tastes and budgets, and each one of them provides you with a unique experience whether you’re in the mood for a fun night out with your friends or a nice meal with family-friendly entertainment.
Here are my recommendations for the best places to eat in Disney Springs:
- T-REX Café – Apart from a full-service restaurant with vegan-friendly and gluten-free options, delight in a prehistoric adventure with T-REX’s fantastic attractions, including life-sized animatronic dinosaurs, simulated meteor showers, an eye-catching Octopus Bar, and a dinosaur-themed gift shop.
- Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar – A vintage airplane-themed bar with an incredibly lively atmosphere to enjoy live music and some colorful drinks.
- The Boathouse – best lobster roll ever, says the girl who lives in Boston
- Morimoto Asia – The best Chinese, Japanese, and Korean cuisine with exhibition kitchens so you can see the behind-the-scenes of the chefs in action – Don’t miss the second-level sushi bar!
- The Boathouse – Picturesque restaurant with outstanding service and an award-winning menu, including vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options. After your meal, hop on a vintage-car boat tour at the Boathouse Amphicar.
- Gideon’s Bakehouse – Don’t forget dessert! This is a small store so the wait tends to be long, but the variety and quality of cookies and cakes will be absolutely worth it. Make sure to take photos of the adorable, spooky vibe of the shop and packaging.
If you’re the kind of traveler that can’t go back home without bringing a suitcase full of souvenirs, the wide selection of stores at Disney Springs will drive you crazy. If there’s something on your gift list that you forgot to buy on your visit to Walt Disney World, you can get it at any of the several Disney merchandise stores, like:
- Days of Christmas Store
- The World of Disney (the world’s largest Disney store!)
- Disney Style
- Art of Disney Gallery
Other iconic shops in Disney Springs that are worth checking out are:
- Coca-Cola Store
- LEGO Store
- Star Wars Trading Outpost
- M&M Store
Best Activities In Disney Springs
It’s not all shops and restaurants, there are also plenty of unique activities to make your Disney experience even more memorable.
Here’s my top list of activities:
- Aerophile – Fly 400 ft above Disney Springs on a hot air balloon for a stunning view of Walt Disney World Resort and Lake Buena Vista.
- Cirque du Soleil – You can’t miss the magical Drawn to Life live performance, featuring acrobats, dancers, and an immersive story for the whole family.
- AMC Dine-In Theaters – Have your food and drink directly delivered to your seat. Although watching a movie might not be a typical vacation activity, Disney Springs dine-in theaters are perfect for a relaxing break after a day full of adventure.
- Splitsville Luxury Lanes – This is not your average bowling alley in town. Splitsville Luxury Lanes is a bowling and dining complex with a nostalgic vibe. It has 30 luxury bowling lanes, billiard tables, bars, and restaurants with live entertainment and outdoor seating. Excellent for events and birthday parties.
- Live entertainment – While wandering the springs, you’ll surely come across free entertainment like magic shows, music, and acrobatic performances.
Looking for other travel necessities? Check out my ultimate Amazon list here!
Disney Springs has 3 garages and surface lots with free parking. And if you’re staying at one of the Disney World resorts, you have free bus transportation to Disney Springs.
Need a hotel? Check out the best hotels in Marriott Village, Orlando.
Not staying for long? Check out my Itinerary for an Orlando Weekend Getaway!
Want to explore more in Florida? Discover the best Miami Florida Parks.
What started as a temporary Visitor Information Center in the 60s with a couple of small exhibits, has now evolved and become one of the top things to do in Orlando that aren’t theme parks.
If you’re a space enthusiast, the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is the perfect addition to your itinerary. And even if you’re not, you’d be surprised at how much you can learn here – Who said a holiday trip can’t be educational and fun at the same time?
Tip: There’s a lot to see and do, consider buying a two-day admission ticket, so you can come back the next day and see the rest.
Kennedy Space Center offers different ticket packages and tours to provide you with the best experience possible:
- General admission ticket with guided bus tour
Tip: Make sure to check their event calendar before going, since there are different events every day.
Must-See Attractions At Kennedy Space Center
Prepare to take a deep dive into the history of NASA and space exploration with the center’s mind-blowing displays and interactive exhibits that are regularly updated, so there’s always something new to see.
Kennedy Space Center Bus Tour
This transportation option when you buy the admission tickets includes a bus tour of the Apollo and Saturn V Center. The ride also passes by the Vehicle Assembly Building, where NASA’s rockets are built and prepared for launch.
Watch A Rocket Launch
Witnessing a rocket launch at the Kennedy Space Center is an experience like no other. Launches are included in your general admission ticket and you can visit the Center’s website to buy tickets for upcoming launches. You also have access to the Rocket Garden to learn about the history of rocket science and take a look at authentic NASA rockets that took part in the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs.
Space Shuttle Atlantis
Get an up-close look at the full-scale exhibit of Atlantis, the ship that transported astronauts during NASA’s 30-year Space Shuttle Program. Enjoy an introductory IMAX movie and interactive displays, and try the Shuttle Launch simulation ride to feel what NASA astronauts experienced on their trips to space.
You can meet actual NASA astronauts at live performances daily at the Center. Depending on the season, different professionals are invited to speak about their experiences in space, answer questions from visitors and sign autographs. So, prepare your camera and your questions for this one!
Where to eat at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex
You bet that after a whole day exploring and getting into spaceships, you’ll be starving. The Visitor Complex has several dining options for all tastes:
4. Take a spooky tour at Greenwood Cemetery
When looking for fun things to do in Orlando that aren’t theme parks, you probably wouldn’t think of visiting a cemetery, but the Greenwood Cemetery offers visitors a spooky outdoor experience that you’re not gonna want to miss. Once a month, the cemetery opens its doors to take you on a 2-hour walking tour under the full moon, while you visit about 100 graves and hear the stories of the notable people in Orlando’s history buried in them, including veterans from the Civil War, and World War I and II.
There are tickets for private tours and group tours that you can book on Greenwood Cemetery’s website, and you can check their calendar for upcoming shows and events.
You can’t miss the opportunity to explore Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition. You’ll find over 300 authentic artifacts and replicas, and full-scale room recreations of the ship like the Grand Staircase, the First Class Parlor Suite, and Verandah Cafe – There’s even a simulation room with a frozen ice peak inside so you can feel how cold it was, so bring a coat!
After the tour, you can wander freely through the museum and then have some tea or dinner while enjoying entertainment with costumed actors impersonating passengers from the Titanic.
Book a tour with a dinner gala included!
It’s an outdoor amusement park with lots of restaurants and bars, a shopping mall area, and attractions for all ages. Although it is known for the famous Ferris Wheel, this district is constantly growing and they’re adding more and more activities – definitely one of my favorite things to do in Orlando that aren’t theme parks!
Can’t-Miss Attractions In ICON Park
In this entertainment district, you’ll find countless attractions, shops, bars, and restaurants.
Ride The Iconic Ferris Wheel
This gigantic observation wheel in ICON Park is a true Orlando icon that provides visitors with stunning views of the area. The ride is approximately 20 minutes long and it takes you 400 ft above the ground. At this point, you’ll be able to see Universal Orlando, Walt Disney World, and nearby lakes from a distance. This is definitely a must-try attraction – or at the very least an Instagram-worthy spot for your selfies.
The SEA LIFE Orlando Aquarium is an excellent place for both children and adults to visit, with interactive exhibits and more than 5,000 species to see and learn from.
Walk through the one-of-a-kind 360° ocean tunnel and watch how fish, sharks, sea turtles, and sharks swim all around you.
You can book the tickets for your tour here.
Have a group photo with The Justice League or take a selfie with Taylor Swift! Madame Tussauds is known as the world’s greatest wax museum where you have the opportunity to meet almost identical real-life-size wax versions of celebrities, movie characters, and important figures – You also get a little behind-the-scenes on how the wax statues are made.
Taste International Cuisine
In case you’re hungry after getting on so many rides, ICON Park has over 40 restaurants where you can try different international dishes. Here are some places you should definitely check out:
This Orlando attraction is not just a giant swamp full of alligators. Gatorland is one of the most famous things to do in Orlando besides theme parks, it is a 110-acre park featuring:
- Thousands of alligators and crocodiles
- Petting zoo
- Breeding marsh
- Reptilian shows
- Water park
- Gator zipline
- Free parking!
Best Things To Do At Gatorland
Gatorland provides a safe environment so that all the activities are enjoyable for kids and adults. Here are some of the highlights of this adventurous destination.
Don’t miss the Gator Wrestling Show and the Gator Jumparoo Show for an exciting close-up encounter with alligators and the chance to get a photo with one of them. These shows are funny as well as informative, so you’ll learn a lot during your visit.
Take a walk along the breeding marsh to enjoy the views of the swamp and local wildlife. You can also buy food and feed any alligator in the park as much as you want.
Screamin’ Gator Zipline
The Screamin’ Gator Zipline was voted “Best Zip Line in the USA” by AOL Travel and it takes you along a 1,200 feet flying adventure over the park’s greatest attractions, so you can see the alligators from above.
You’ll be provided with a helmet, harness, and safety indications to ensure you have the best experience.
Get your admission tickets to Gatorland here.
This popular meeting known as Winter Park Farmers’ Market is held every Saturday morning from 7 am to 1 pm at Winter Park. It’s one of the largest farmers’ markets in Central Florida where local vendors gather and offer a wide range of goods at quite reasonable prices, such as:
- Local produce
- Artisanal foods
- Plants and flowers
Spend the day sampling and purchasing fresh, high-quality honey, cheeses, coffee, fruits, vegetables, and more! You can also bring your kids, dogs, or cats since the place has a nice atmosphere and people are very friendly. So make sure to reserve a couple of hours on Saturday to hang out at this must-visit spot in Orlando.
Yes, a beer spa! My Beer Spa offers an unconventional but fun experience perfect for solo travelers, besties, or couples needing a relaxing self-care day.
Chill in one of the gorgeous private spa rooms. Each room includes:
- Thermal tubs for a beer treatment bath
- A sauna
- A private bathroom
- Towels, robes, and sheets
- A beer/wine tap to drink as much as you want!
Head to SAK Comedy Lab for a hilarious night. SAK Comedy Lab is a fun place with comedy shows for all ages, so it’s a great activity to do with the whole family. Grab a seat, some snacks, and a glass of wine, and enjoy a good laugh with award-winning live performances by talented comedians and improvisations around the public’s suggestions.
You can also get a free improv class! SAK offers periodic free workshops with fun group games and exercises.
Final Thoughts On Best Things To Do In Orlando
As you can see, there are so many things to do in Orlando that aren’t theme parks. This lively city offers options that tourists of all ages can enjoy and has so many unique areas and activities that you’re gonna want to come back over and over!
So, now there’s nothing holding you back from having an amazing vacation trip and creating wonderful memories.
P.S. If you don’t have a place to stay yet, check out the amazing Marriott Village Orlando – I LOVED everything about my stay there!