Orlando is known as the theme park capital with Disney World, Universal Studios, and Sea World. Not to mention Legoland and Busch Gardens are about an hour away. Theme parks are great places during the holidays with their over the top decor and activities. For example, New Year’s at Disney World is a bucket list worthy event. We all love the nostalgia of a wooden rollercoaster, but what if you’ve done the theme park thing? There are plenty of things to do in Orlando besides theme parks.
According to tourism officials, Orlando had more than 75 million visitors in 2018. If you don’t want to be among the throngs crowding into the theme parks, keep reading. These ideas are mainly for families, but there are a lot of great date night ideas in Orlando as well.
I composed this list of exciting things to do in Orlando for those who have done the big theme parks and are looking for something else. I have included some direct links and some sponsored links through Get Your Guide to help you in your planning. You can also quiz each other with these fun U.S. trivia questions while waiting on lines or while traveling to make down time more enjoyable. Need a place to stay during your trip? Check out these cool hotels in Orlando.
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Things to do in Orlando: Attractions
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Fun things to do in Orlando with toddlers and young children
- Dinosaur World– This family attraction is great for small children. Highlights include a sand pit to dig for fossils and numerous paved trails with life size dinosaurs. Plus there are many spots for photo ops. When hungry, you can eat at one of the picnic tables. If you need a break from walking, your kids can play on the playground. This will not take all day, and you can explore this outdoor museum at your own pace. The paths are stroller friendly, but the park is usually not crowded so toddlers can get out and walk without the fear of them being lost in a crowd.
- Orlando Science Center– Here you can explore Pompeii: The Immortal City, experiment with kinetics, or witness new art forms using STEM. For ages 8 and up, visit the Hive where you have access to real tools and materials to make your ideas come to life. Also, for those 7 and under make sure to play in KidsTown. Here kids learn science through play. Don’t forget to check out DinoDigs, Our Planet, and Natureworks. Plus you can use real telescopes to study the sky. Kids of all ages will feel at home here, as there are activities even for the tiny ones. If you are looking for fun things to do indoors to escape the Florida heat, this fits the bill.
- Gatorland– Speaking of gators, this place has a zipline that flies you above alligators. Also, you can Meet a Gator and be a Trainor for the Day. In addition, kiddies can participate in Allie’s Barnyard Petting and Feeding. Then watch the Gator Jumparoo Show. Moreover, you can take the family on a Stompin’ Gator Off-road Adventure tour. We enjoyed this when my son was small. I remember the gift shop had the best homemade fudge. We actually stopped by on another visit to Orlando just to buy some fudge!
- Wonderworks– Where else can you become a human lightning rod, experience an earthquake, or feel category 1 hurricane winds in a safe environment. When you finish that, lie on a bed of nails, play a giant piano, or go through astronaut training. Of course you will work up an appetite. So now its time to eat dinner at the Outta Control Magic Comedy Dinner Show which includes unlimited pizza, salad, beer, wine, soda and dessert. If you are looking for fun things to do in Orlando when it rains, this is a good option. The whole experience is indoors.
Geared for Older Kids and Teens
- Old Town– If you want old fashioned fun, look no further. Ride a rollercoaster, Ferris wheel, or carousel to name a few. Then explore a haunted house. Next watch a magic show or play old time arcade games. If you plan to go on a Friday or Saturday afternoon you will experience classic car shows. When you get hungry, you have your choice of bars, restaurants, or grab n go. Also, Old Town provides many unique shops to browse.
- Ripleys Believe it or Not- Inside you will find the bizarre, from shrunken heads to the tallest man. Highlights include Jimi Hendrix art made from toast, statues created from bubble gum, artwork made from playing cards, and my favorite, The Last Supper made from lint. This attraction will satisfy your curiosity.
- Orlando Ice Bar– If you have teens, this is a unique family attraction. The bar provides parkas and gloves, but you can pay extra for a fur coat. Begin in the Ice Bar where the bartender serves your drinks in glassware made from ice. Non-alcoholic drinks are available. Then head to the Fire Lounge where you can warm up with flaming drinks and some warm food. They permit kids 8 and up between the hours of 5-9pm. If you are looking for fun things t do in Orlando for adults, this is a great experience. There are also plenty of photo opts with the ice sculptures.
Things to do in Orlando at night: Dinner Theaters
- Medieval Times– Start by touring the medieval village. If you have small children you might want to skip the torture exhibits towards the end of the village. Upon entering the castle, browse the many shops full of medieval swords, dress, jewelry, and order a medieval beverage. After that, you will be ushered into the stands to watch a two hour jousting tournament with 6 competing knights while you eat a 4 course meal with your hands. Come on people, it is 11th century Spain. Forks haven’t been invented yet! If you like being loud while cheering for your champion, you will feel right at home.
- Pirate’s Dinner Theater– You might get your chance at an acting debut. During this pirate show several audience members, young and old alike, participate in the show. The show takes place aboard an 18th century Spanish galleon. While watching the show enjoy a three course dinner. What kid isn’t into pirates?
- Capone’s Dinner Theater– Looking for fun things to do in Orlando for couples? Go back in time to Chicago in 1931. Begin by entering an old fashioned speakeasy. Then you need to knock on the secret door and give the password to enter into the dining room. Shady characters will escort you to your table where you will be served a four course Italian meal. The meal includes alcoholic beverages. While you enjoy your feast, you will watch a musical comedy show right out the 30s.
Things to do in Orlando for free
- Disney Springs – Those on a budget can still experience the magic of Walt Disney. This entertainment complex, at Disney World Resort, has tons of cool shops to browse, live performances, and plenty of themed restaurants for folks who are willing to spend a bit more. Kids love exploring the Lego store and building with those colorful bricks. Walt Disney World provides ferries to some of their theme parks from here. The magic is that even if you don’t have tickets to the theme parks, you can enjoy these scenic boat tours for free. We used to do this when my son was a toddler. Little kids are infatuated with transportation.
- Disney Boardwalk – This complex is modeled after turn of the century Atlantic City. There are numerous restaurants, but to stroll around and enjoy the sights is free. Jugglers, and other entertainers offer free performances in the evenings. This is also connected to the Disney ferry system. This is another place we used to go when my son was small. If I remember correctly, you may have to pay for parking, but I think if you are going to eat at one of the restaurants parking is free.
- Universal Studios City Walk – This complex, located at Universal Orlando Resort, has restaurants, clubs, and shopping opportunities. They even have a splash area for kids. If you are looking for fun things to do in Orlando with family, you came to the right place. Parking is free after 6pm.
- Lakeridge Winery – This is a gem that we found many years ago. This winery offers free tours with tastings and hosts many events throughout the year. During the weekend, from noon until 4pm, experience live entertainment. You can purchase tasty treats from the food court and wine bar. While you can’t bring outside food and beverages, you will need to bring your own chairs or picnic blanket. When we had a tie dye business, we participated in numerous craft shows held here and made many friends.
- Lake Eola Park – Located in downtown Orlando, this park often hosts events throughout the year. The park is lined by amazing restaurants and shops, and has swan paddle boats you can take out on the lake for a nominal fee. We participated in several craft shows at this location as well. Lake Eola also hosts free movie nights during the summer months with family friendly films.
- Icon Park – This complex is free to hang out and do some people watching.
Want more? Here are some great day trips from Orlando to do with kids. Kennedy Space Center is only an hour away. While you can get to St. Augustine in under two.
If you enjoyed reading this you may want to read 20 Greatest Things to do in South Florida for Families.
Donna Emperador is a travel and food blogger and copywriter. Donna believes in learning about different cultures while sharing good food and cocktails. She has lived in South Florida for over 20 years and enjoys spending time exploring the road to find unique places to share with readers. She can be found on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.