Top 25 Things To Do in Orlando

From world-famous theme parks to hidden natural springs, Orlando casts a spell of enchantment far beyond Mickey's magical kingdom.

West Parker
By
West Parker
July 18, 2024

Picture this: You're floating in crystal-clear spring water, surrounded by lush subtropical foliage. The only sounds are birdsong and the gentle lapping of water. This isn't some far-flung tropical paradise – it's Orlando, and it's just a short drive from the roller coasters and costumed characters the city is famous for.

While Orlando's reputation as the theme park capital of the world is well-deserved, the city's allure extends far beyond its manufactured attractions. From world-class art museums to pristine nature preserves, cutting-edge culinary scenes to historic neighborhoods, Orlando is a city of contrasts and surprises.

So pack your sense of adventure (and maybe some mouse ears) as we dive into the 25 best things to do in Orlando. Whether you're a thrill-seeker, nature lover, culture vulture, or foodie, the City Beautiful has something magical in store for you.

Experience the Magic at Walt Disney World

Family with Mickey Mouse at Magic Kingdom entrance, Walt Disney World, capturing the excitement of arriving at the park
First stop: Magic Kingdom! Meeting Mickey right at the entrance was the perfect way to kick off our Disney adventure. The kids' faces lit up brighter than Cinderella's Castle!

No Orlando trip is complete without a visit to the Mouse House. Walt Disney World isn't just a theme park; it's four of them, each with its own flavor of enchantment. Brave Space Mountain's cosmic thrills at Magic Kingdom, journey around the globe at Epcot, explore movie magic at Hollywood Studios, or embark on a safari at Animal Kingdom. And let's not forget Disney Springs, a wonderland of shops, restaurants, and entertainment. Pro tip: invest in a Park Hopper pass to maximize your Disney adventure.

  • Location: Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830
  • Hours: Vary by park, typically 9am-9pm
  • Admission: Single-day tickets start at $109

Why Visit: It's the ultimate family vacation destination, blending nostalgia and cutting-edge attractions.

Insider Tip: Use the Disney Genie+ service to skip lines on popular rides and make the most of your day.

Cast Spells at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Visitors enjoying Butterbeer in Diagon Alley, Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Universal Orlando, amidst magical surroundings
Sipping on Butterbeer in Diagon Alley feels like stepping right into the pages of Harry Potter. The attention to detail here is absolutely spellbinding!

Muggles, rejoice! At Universal Orlando Resort, you can step into the pages of J.K. Rowling's beloved series. Wander the cobblestone streets of Diagon Alley, sip on frothy Butterbeer, and ride the Hogwarts Express to Hogsmeade. The attention to detail is spellbinding – from the fire-breathing dragon atop Gringotts Bank to the wand-selection experience at Ollivanders. Don't miss the heart-pounding Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride, where you'll soar above Hogwarts Castle.

  • Location: 6000 Universal Blvd, Orlando, FL 32819
  • Hours: Typically 9am-10pm, varies by season
  • Admission: Single-day tickets start at $109

Why Visit: It's the closest you'll get to living out your Hogwarts dreams in the Muggle world.

Insider Tip: Visit Diagon Alley at night for a truly magical atmosphere with fewer crowds.

Dive into Marine Life at SeaWorld Orlando

Orca performing during a show at SeaWorld Orlando, with audience in background, showcasing marine life entertainment
Watched the orca show at SeaWorld today. It's incredible to see these majestic creatures up close, but I'm glad to learn about SeaWorld's conservation efforts too.

SeaWorld Orlando offers a unique blend of marine life encounters and thrill rides. Watch in awe as killer whales perform incredible feats, get up close with playful dolphins, or brave the Mako hypercoaster – Orlando's tallest, fastest, and longest roller coaster. The park's conservation efforts are on full display at the Rescue Center, where you can learn about SeaWorld's work in rehabilitating and releasing injured animals. For a more immersive experience, book the Walrus Up-Close Tour to meet these gentle giants face-to-whisker.

  • Location: 7007 Sea World Dr, Orlando, FL 32821
  • Hours: 10am-6pm, extended in summer
  • Admission: Tickets from $84.99 online

Why Visit: It's a perfect blend of education and entertainment, with a side of adrenaline-pumping rides.

Insider Tip: Visit during feeding times for the best animal shows and interactions.

Blast Off at Kennedy Space Center

Space Shuttle Atlantis exhibit at Kennedy Space Center, Florida, showcasing the iconic NASA spacecraft
Standing next to the actual Space Shuttle Atlantis at Kennedy Space Center. It's mind-blowing to think this vehicle has been to space and back!

Just an hour's drive from Orlando, the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is your gateway to the cosmos. Stand in awe beneath the massive Saturn V rocket, touch a moon rock, and meet a real-life astronaut. The crown jewel is the Space Shuttle Atlantis exhibit, where you can see the orbiter up close and experience a simulated launch. For the ultimate space buff experience, time your visit to coincide with a rocket launch – there's nothing quite like feeling the ground shake as a rocket pierces the sky.

  • Location: Space Commerce Way, Merritt Island, FL 32953
  • Hours: 9am-5pm daily
  • Admission: $75 for adults, $65 for children

Why Visit: It's an out-of-this-world experience that brings space exploration to life.

Insider Tip: Book the "Lunch With An Astronaut" program for fascinating stories from space.

Stroll Around Lake Eola Park

Swan-shaped paddleboats on Lake Eola, Orlando, with city skyline in background, showcasing urban recreation
Took a spin on these adorable swan boats at Lake Eola. Such a peaceful oasis in the heart of downtown Orlando!

In the heart of downtown Orlando, Lake Eola Park offers a serene escape from the theme park hustle. The park's centerpiece is a beautiful fountain that lights up in a rainbow of colors at night. Rent a swan-shaped paddleboat for a leisurely cruise, or simply stroll the mile-long path around the lake. On Sundays, the Orlando Farmers Market takes over the east side of the park, offering local produce, artisanal goods, and live music. It's the perfect spot to people-watch and get a feel for local life in Orlando.

  • Location: 512 E Washington St, Orlando, FL 32801
  • Hours: 6am-12am daily
  • Admission: Free

Why Visit: It's a slice of tranquility in the city center, offering a glimpse of local Orlando life.

Insider Tip: Catch a show at the Walt Disney Amphitheater for a magical evening by the lake.

Smell the Roses at Harry P. Leu Gardens

Vibrant rose garden at Harry P. Leu Gardens, Orlando, displaying a variety of colorful blooms in a lush setting
Stumbled upon this gorgeous rose garden at Harry P. Leu Gardens. The scent is intoxicating! Did you know they have over 215 varieties of roses here?

Escape the concrete jungle and lose yourself in the lush beauty of Harry P. Leu Gardens. This 50-acre botanical oasis boasts over 40 diverse plant collections, including the largest camellia collection outside of California. Wander through the butterfly garden, marvel at the towering bamboo forest, or find a quiet bench in the rose garden to soak in the fragrant air. The historic Leu House Museum, nestled within the gardens, offers a glimpse into 19th-century Florida life. Don't miss the seasonal exhibits, which often feature whimsical sculptures or art installations among the foliage.

  • Location: 1920 N Forest Ave, Orlando, FL 32803
  • Hours: 9am-5pm daily
  • Admission: $10 for adults, $5 for children

Why Visit: It's a breathtaking natural retreat that showcases Florida's diverse flora.

Insider Tip: Visit on the first Monday of each month for free admission.

Kayak Through Shingle Creek Regional Park

Kayaker navigating through cypress-lined waterways at Shingle Creek Regional Park, Orlando, showcasing natural Florida
Kayaking through Shingle Creek feels like stepping back in time to old Florida. Spotted an alligator sunning on the bank - talk about a close encounter!

Paddle into the heart of Florida's natural beauty at Shingle Creek, known as the "Headwaters to the Everglades." This hidden gem offers a stark contrast to Orlando's theme parks, with its tranquil waters and abundant wildlife. Rent a kayak or canoe and glide through cypress-lined waterways, keeping an eye out for alligators, turtles, and a variety of birds. The park also features hiking trails and fishing spots for those who prefer to stay on dry land. For a truly immersive experience, book a guided eco-tour to learn about the area's rich ecosystem and history.

  • Location: 4266 W Vine St, Kissimmee, FL 34741
  • Hours: Sunrise to sunset
  • Admission: Free (kayak rentals extra)

Why Visit: It's a peaceful escape into Florida's wild side, just minutes from the tourist hotspots.

Insider Tip: Go early morning for the best wildlife viewing and cooler temperatures.

Swim in Crystal Clear Waters at Wekiwa Springs State Park

Swimmers enjoying the crystal-clear waters of Wekiwa Springs State Park, Orlando, surrounded by lush vegetation
Found the perfect spot to beat the Florida heat! The water at Wekiwa Springs stays a refreshing 72 degrees year-round. Nature's own air conditioning!

On a hot Florida day, there's no better refreshment than taking a dip in the cool, crystal-clear waters of Wekiwa Springs. This natural oasis, just 20 minutes from downtown Orlando, offers a constant 72-degree spring for swimming, snorkeling, and kayaking. The park's 7,000 acres are also crisscrossed with hiking and biking trails, perfect for spotting local wildlife like deer, turkeys, and even the occasional black bear. For a unique experience, rent a kayak or canoe and paddle down the Wekiva River, where you might spot a lazy alligator sunning on the bank.

  • Location: 1800 Wekiwa Circle, Apopka, FL 32712
  • Hours: 8am-sundown, 365 days a year
  • Admission: $6 per vehicle

Why Visit: It's a refreshing natural playground that showcases Florida's pristine springs and wildlife.

Insider Tip: Arrive early on weekends and holidays – the park often reaches capacity by mid-morning.

Explore Art and Science at Loch Haven Cultural Park

Visitor observing artwork at Orlando Museum of Art in Loch Haven Cultural Park, showcasing Orlando's cultural scene
Spent the afternoon museum-hopping at Loch Haven Cultural Park. The Orlando Museum of Art has an impressive collection of American art - definitely worth a visit!

Loch Haven Park is Orlando's cultural heart, home to a trio of enlightening institutions. Start at the Orlando Museum of Art, where you can peruse an impressive collection of American, African, and ancient American art. Next door, the Orlando Science Center offers four floors of interactive exhibits, perfect for curious minds of all ages. Don't miss the giant screen at the Dr. Phillips CineDome for an immersive documentary experience. Round out your cultural tour at the Mennello Museum of American Art, known for its collection of folk art. Between museums, enjoy a picnic on the lawn or catch an outdoor Shakespeare performance if you're lucky.

  • Location: 900 E Princeton St, Orlando, FL 32803
  • Hours: Vary by venue, typically 10am-5pm
  • Admission: Varies by venue, combo tickets available

Why Visit: It's a one-stop cultural feast, perfect for art lovers and science enthusiasts alike.

Insider Tip: Visit on the first Thursday of the month when the Orlando Museum of Art offers free admission from 5-8pm.

Step Back in Time at Casa Feliz Historic Home Museum

Exterior of Casa Feliz Historic Home Museum in Winter Park, showcasing Spanish farmhouse architecture
Stepped back in time at Casa Feliz in Winter Park. This 1933 Spanish farmhouse was literally moved across the street to save it from demolition in 2000!

Nestled in the charming city of Winter Park, Casa Feliz is a slice of Mediterranean revival architecture that transports you to another era. This beautifully restored Spanish farmhouse, built in 1933, offers a glimpse into the elegant lifestyle of Florida's early 20th century elite. Wander through the rustic interior, admiring period furnishings and artwork, then step outside to enjoy the lush gardens and lakeside views. The home regularly hosts art exhibitions and live music events, adding a modern touch to its historic charm. For a truly magical experience, attend one of their Sunday afternoon music performances on the front lawn.

  • Location: 656 N Park Ave, Winter Park, FL 32789
  • Hours: Tuesday-Thursday 10am-12pm, Sunday 12pm-3pm
  • Admission: Free (donations appreciated)

Why Visit: It's a beautifully preserved piece of Florida history in a picturesque setting.

Insider Tip: Combine your visit with a stroll down Park Avenue for shopping and dining in Winter Park.

Cruise the Chain of Lakes on Winter Park Scenic Boat Tour

Tourists on Winter Park Scenic Boat Tour, passing waterfront mansion on Chain of Lakes, showcasing local luxury
Cruising through the 'Venice of America' on the Winter Park Scenic Boat Tour. The guide's stories about the waterfront mansions are hilarious and fascinating!

Glide through the pristine lakes and canals of Winter Park on this charming hour-long boat tour. As you cruise past opulent mansions and lush gardens, your guide will regale you with local history and amusing anecdotes about the area's famous residents. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife – you might spot a great blue heron fishing in the shallows or an alligator sunning on the bank. The tour offers a unique perspective on some of Central Florida's most beautiful natural scenery and architecture. It's a refreshing way to see a side of Orlando that many visitors miss, and the photo opportunities are endless.

  • Location: 312 E Morse Blvd, Winter Park, FL 32789
  • Hours: 10am-4pm daily, tours depart hourly
  • Admission: $16 for adults, $8 for children

Why Visit: It's a relaxing way to see the "Venice of America" and get a glimpse of Florida's natural beauty.

Insider Tip: Grab a seat on the right side of the boat for the best views of the estates.

Get Wild at Gatorland

Visitor ziplining over alligator-filled waters at Gatorland, Orlando, showcasing adventure and wildlife
Conquered my fears on the Gator Gauntlet zipline at Gatorland! Soaring over dozens of alligators is both terrifying and exhilarating. What a rush!

Welcome to the "Alligator Capital of the World"! Gatorland is a 110-acre theme park and wildlife preserve that's been thrilling visitors since 1949. Watch in awe as handlers wrestle with massive gators, or get your adrenaline pumping on the Screamin' Gator Zip Line, which sends you soaring over a pool of alligators. For a more serene experience, stroll through the free-flight aviary or spot rare white alligators in their special enclosure. Don't miss the Gator Gauntlet, a wheelchair-accessible zip line that proves adventure is for everyone.

  • Location: 14501 S Orange Blossom Trail, Orlando, FL 32837
  • Hours: 10am-5pm daily
  • Admission: $32.99 for adults, $22.99 for children

Why Visit: It's a uniquely Floridian adventure that blends wildlife education with thrilling experiences.

Insider Tip: Book the "Gator Night Shine" tour for a spine-tingling look at hundreds of glowing gator eyes in the dark.

Take in the Views from ICON Park

The Wheel at ICON Park illuminated at night, Orlando skyline in background, showcasing entertainment complex
Night views from The Wheel at ICON Park are breathtaking! You can see all the way to the theme parks. Pro tip: go at sunset for the most magical experience.

ICON Park is an entertainment complex that packs a lot of fun into its 20 acres. The centerpiece is The Wheel, a 400-foot tall observation wheel offering breathtaking views of Orlando's skyline and theme parks. But that's just the beginning. Challenge your stomach on the Orlando StarFlyer, the world's tallest swing ride, or test your nerves at Madame Tussauds wax museum. Foodies will love the diverse dining options, from classic American fare to international cuisines. For a unique experience, check out the Museum of Illusions, where nothing is quite as it seems.

  • Location: 8375 International Dr, Orlando, FL 32819
  • Hours: 11am-11pm Sunday-Thursday, 11am-1am Friday-Saturday
  • Admission: Varies by attraction, combo tickets available

Why Visit: It's a one-stop shop for entertainment, dining, and spectacular views of Orlando.

Insider Tip: Visit at sunset for the most magical views from The Wheel.

Make a Splash at Universal's Volcano Bay

Visitors enjoying water coaster ride with Krakatau volcano in background at Universal's Volcano Bay, Orlando
Braved the Krakatau Aqua Coaster at Volcano Bay today. The drop through the volcano is insane! This isn't your average water park, folks.

Volcano Bay isn't just a water park; it's a tropical paradise. Centered around the massive Krakatau volcano, this Polynesian-themed aquatic playground offers everything from relaxing river rides to heart-pounding water coasters. The Krakatau Aqua Coaster sends you plunging through the dark caverns of the volcano, while the Ko'okiri Body Plunge features a 70-degree fall through a drop door. For a more relaxed vibe, float along the Kopiko Wai Winding River or lounge on the shores of Waturi Beach. The park's TapuTapu wearable technology allows you to virtually wait in line while enjoying other attractions, maximizing your fun time.

  • Location: 6000 Universal Blvd, Orlando, FL 32819
  • Hours: Typically 10am-6pm, varies by season
  • Admission: From $80 per day

Why Visit: It's a state-of-the-art water park that combines thrilling rides with tropical relaxation.

Insider Tip: Arrive early to snag a prime spot on Waturi Beach with a view of the volcano.

Shop Till You Drop at The Mall at Millenia

Shoppers browsing luxury store windows at The Mall at Millenia, Orlando, showcasing high-end retail experience
Window shopping at The Mall at Millenia is an experience in itself. Even if you're not buying, the holiday decorations here are out of this world!

For a dose of retail therapy, head to The Mall at Millenia. This upscale shopping destination is home to over 150 stores, including high-end brands like Chanel, Gucci, and Louis Vuitton. Even if your budget doesn't stretch to designer labels, the mall's stunning architecture and art installations make it worth a visit. Refuel at one of the many dining options, ranging from casual eateries to fine dining restaurants. Don't miss the seasonal events and displays, which transform the mall into a magical wonderland during holidays.

  • Location: 4200 Conroy Rd, Orlando, FL 32839
  • Hours: 10am-9pm Monday-Saturday, 11am-7pm Sunday
  • Admission: Free (shopping prices vary)

Why Visit: It's a shopping paradise that doubles as an architectural marvel.

Insider Tip: Visit the concierge desk for special offers and a free Visitor Savings Pass.

Fish and Camp at Bill Frederick Park at Turkey Lake

Angler fishing from pier at Bill Frederick Park, Turkey Lake, Orlando, showcasing outdoor recreation
Found a peaceful fishing spot at Bill Frederick Park. Did you know Turkey Lake is considered one of the best bass fishing lakes in Florida?

Escape the tourist crowds and experience Orlando's natural side at Bill Frederick Park. This 183-acre park on the shores of Turkey Lake offers a variety of outdoor activities, from fishing and boating to hiking and disc golf. The park's campground provides a budget-friendly alternative to pricey hotels, with sites for both tents and RVs. Kids will love the playground and the small zoo featuring Florida wildlife. For a peaceful afternoon, rent a paddleboat and explore the lake's nooks and crannies. Don't miss the seasonal events, including outdoor movies and guided nature walks.

  • Location: 3401 S Hiawassee Rd, Orlando, FL 32835
  • Hours: 8am-6pm daily
  • Admission: $4 per vehicle, camping fees extra

Why Visit: It's a slice of natural Florida offering outdoor recreation right in the city.

Insider Tip: The fishing pier is a great spot for catching bass, especially early in the morning.

Savor Local Flavors at Winter Park Farmers' Market

Visitors browsing fresh produce stands at Winter Park Farmers' Market, showcasing local food scene
Saturday morning ritual: stocking up on fresh goodies at the Winter Park Farmers' Market. The local honey here is to die for!

Every Saturday morning, the historic Winter Park Farmers' Market comes alive with the colors, smells, and tastes of local Florida produce. Housed in a restored 1940s freight depot, this market is as much about the experience as it is about the shopping. Browse stalls brimming with fresh fruits, vegetables, flowers, and artisanal foods. Sample locally made honeys, jams, and baked goods. The market's relaxed atmosphere makes it a perfect spot to mingle with locals and get a taste of authentic Florida life. After your shopping, take a stroll down nearby Park Avenue for some window shopping and people-watching. Don't miss the live music that often accompanies the market, adding to the festive vibe.

  • Location: 200 W New England Ave, Winter Park, FL 32789
  • Hours: Saturdays 7am-1pm
  • Admission: Free

Why Visit: It's a vibrant community gathering that showcases the best of local produce and crafts.

Insider Tip: Arrive early for the best selection, especially for popular items like fresh flowers and baked goods.

Catch an Orlando Magic Game at Amway Center

Orlando Magic basketball game in action at Amway Center, showcasing local sports scene
Caught an Orlando Magic game at the Amway Center. The energy here is electric! Even if you're not a huge basketball fan, it's an awesome night out.

Experience the electric atmosphere of an NBA game at the state-of-the-art Amway Center, home to the Orlando Magic. Even if you're not a huge basketball fan, the energy of the crowd and the spectacle of the game make for an unforgettable night out. The center itself is a marvel, with a massive LED screen on the exterior and a variety of dining options inside. For the best experience, try to snag tickets to a game against one of the Magic's rivals. If you can't make it to a game, consider taking a behind-the-scenes tour of the arena to see the locker rooms and press areas.

  • Location: 400 W Church St Suite 200, Orlando, FL 32801
  • Hours: Vary by game schedule
  • Admission: Tickets start around $20, vary by game

Why Visit: It's a chance to experience the thrill of live NBA action in a world-class arena.

Insider Tip: Check the Magic's schedule for promotional nights, which often include giveaways or special performances.

Marvel at Glass Art at the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art

Visitor admiring Tiffany glass exhibit at Charles Hosmer Morse Museum, Winter Park, showcasing American decorative arts
Mesmerized by the Tiffany glass collection at the Morse Museum. Did you know they have the chapel interior Tiffany designed for the 1893 World's Fair?

Housing the world's most comprehensive collection of works by Louis Comfort Tiffany, the Morse Museum is a hidden gem in Winter Park. The museum's crown jewel is the chapel interior Tiffany designed for the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Beyond Tiffany's works, you'll find an extensive collection of American art pottery and late 19th and early 20th-century American paintings. The museum's intimate size allows for a leisurely exploration of its treasures. Don't miss the Friday evenings from November through April, when the museum offers free admission and live music.

  • Location: 445 N Park Ave, Winter Park, FL 32789
  • Hours: 9:30am-4pm Tuesday-Saturday, 1pm-4pm Sunday
  • Admission: $6 for adults, $1 for students

Why Visit: It's home to the world's most comprehensive collection of Tiffany glass in a beautiful, intimate setting.

Insider Tip: Visit during the Christmas season to see Tiffany's holiday-themed windows on display.

Relive the Past at Old Town

Vintage cars parading down Main Street at Old Town, Kissimmee, showcasing retro Americana atmosphere
Stumbled upon the weekly classic car cruise at Old Town. It's like stepping into a 1950s movie set! Don't miss the Saturday night parade and fireworks.

Step back in time at Old Town, a recreated classic Florida town that combines shopping, dining, and family-friendly entertainment. Stroll down brick-lined streets, browse unique shops, and enjoy live music and street performers. The weekly classic car cruise is a highlight, with hundreds of vintage vehicles parading down Main Street. Thrill-seekers can get their fix on the amusement rides, while history buffs will enjoy the old-timey atmosphere. Don't miss the Great Magic Hall, where you can catch a mind-bending magic show. Old Town offers a nostalgic escape from the high-tech world of modern theme parks.

  • Location: 5770 W Irlo Bronson Memorial Hwy, Kissimmee, FL 34746
  • Hours: 10am-11pm daily
  • Admission: Free entry, pay per ride

Why Visit: It's a charming throwback to classic Americana with a variety of entertainment options.

Insider Tip: Visit on Saturday nights for the classic car cruise and fireworks show.

Discover Literary Treasures at the Orlando Public Library

Visitor using 3D printer at Orlando Public Library, showcasing modern technology resources
Who knew the public library could be so high-tech? Tried out the 3D printer at Orlando Public Library's Melrose Center. They even have a flight simulator!

Book lovers shouldn't miss the Orlando Public Library, a brutalist architectural marvel in downtown Orlando. Beyond its extensive collection of books, the library hosts a variety of events, from author talks to art exhibitions. The Special Collections department houses fascinating historical documents and photographs related to Florida's history. For a unique experience, check out the Melrose Center on the second floor, which offers access to state-of-the-art technology including 3D printers, audio and video production suites, and even a flight simulator. Don't miss the free classes and workshops offered on topics ranging from coding to creative writing.

  • Location: 101 E Central Blvd, Orlando, FL 32801
  • Hours: 10am-7pm Monday-Thursday, 10am-6pm Friday-Saturday, 1pm-6pm Sunday
  • Admission: Free

Why Visit: It's a multifaceted cultural center offering much more than just books.

Insider Tip: Check out the Friends of the Library bookstore for great deals on used books.

Indulge in Culinary Delights at East End Market

Visitor holding large cookie from Gideon's Bakehouse at East End Market, Orlando, showcasing local food scene
Finally got my hands on a famous Gideon's Bakehouse cookie at East End Market. Trust me, they're worth the hype (and the wait)!

East End Market is a food lover's paradise, showcasing some of the best local flavors Orlando has to offer. This two-story culinary hub houses a variety of merchants, from artisanal cheese shops to craft coffee roasters. Sample freshly baked bread, locally sourced produce, and gourmet prepared foods. The market's garden demonstrates sustainable urban agriculture practices. For a unique dining experience, book a table at Domu, known for its creative ramen dishes. Don't miss Gideon's Bakehouse, home to what many consider the best cookies in Orlando. The market frequently hosts cooking classes and food-related events, perfect for expanding your culinary horizons.

  • Location: 3201 Corrine Dr, Orlando, FL 32803
  • Hours: 11am-9pm Monday-Saturday, 11am-6pm Sunday
  • Admission: Free (food prices vary)

Why Visit: It's a showcase of Orlando's vibrant local food scene in a charming, community-oriented setting.

Insider Tip: Try the Cookies and Cream cookie at Gideon's Bakehouse – it's worth the wait!

Enjoy a Show at the Orlando Shakespeare Theater

Outdoor Shakespeare performance at Lake Eola Park by Orlando Shakespeare Theater, showcasing local arts scene
Caught a Shakespeare in the Park performance by Orlando Shakes. There's something magical about watching the Bard's works under the stars!

For a dose of culture, head to the Orlando Shakespeare Theater in Partnership with UCF. Don't let the name fool you – while they do perform the Bard's works, their repertoire includes a wide range of classical and contemporary plays. The intimate Margeson Theater ensures there's not a bad seat in the house, allowing you to fully immerse yourself in the performance. The theater also offers innovative adaptations of classic tales for younger audiences. Before the show, take a stroll through the beautiful Loch Haven Park where the theater is located. Check their schedule for special

events like their popular "Shake and Stir" nights, which combine cocktails with classic literature.

  • Location: 812 E Rollins St, Orlando, FL 32803
  • Hours: Vary by performance schedule
  • Admission: Ticket prices vary by show

Why Visit: It's a chance to experience world-class theater in an intimate setting.

Insider Tip: Check for discounted tickets for preview performances or weekday shows.

Break Out at The Great Escape Room

Group of friends celebrating after completing challenge at The Great Escape Room, Orlando, showcasing interactive entertainment
We escaped with just 2 minutes to spare at The Great Escape Room! If you love puzzles and teamwork, this is a must-do in Orlando.

Put your problem-solving skills to the test at The Great Escape Room. This interactive adventure game locks you and your team in a themed room, where you must solve a series of puzzles and riddles to "escape" within 60 minutes. Themes range from Sherlock Holmes-inspired mysteries to Harry Potter-esque wizarding challenges. It's a great way to bond with friends or family, and you might be surprised at how addictive it can be. The rooms are designed to be challenging but not impossible, with staff on hand to provide hints if needed. For an extra challenge, try their Professor Moriarty's Gameroom, which combines escape room elements with board game strategies.

  • Location: 2712 E Colonial Dr, Orlando, FL 32803
  • Hours: 10:30am-9:30pm daily
  • Admission: Around $32 per person

Why Visit: It's an exhilarating mental workout that's fun for all ages.

Insider Tip: Book in advance, especially for weekend slots, as rooms can fill up quickly.

Explore Little Vietnam

Diner enjoying bowl of pho at restaurant in Little Vietnam district, Orlando, showcasing local ethnic cuisine
Discovered the best pho I've ever had in Orlando's Little Vietnam district. Who knew Orlando had such amazing international cuisine?

For a taste of international flavor, head to Orlando's Little Vietnam neighborhood. This vibrant area along East Colonial Drive is a testament to the city's diverse cultural makeup. Start your visit with a steaming bowl of pho at one of the many authentic Vietnamese restaurants. Then, browse the exotic fruits and vegetables at Tien Hung Market, or pick up some unique souvenirs at the gift shops. For a truly immersive experience, visit during the Lunar New Year celebrations when the district comes alive with dragon dances and festive decorations. Don't miss the chance to try banh mi, the delicious Vietnamese sandwich that's a perfect blend of French and Asian culinary traditions.

  • Location: East Colonial Drive (between Mills Avenue and Bumby Avenue)
  • Hours: Vary by business
  • Admission: Free (dining and shopping prices vary)

Why Visit: It's a cultural enclave offering authentic Asian experiences and flavors.

Insider Tip: Visit Bambu Desserts & Drinks for unique Vietnamese-inspired sweet treats.

Structuring Your Orlando Adventure: A 7-Day Itinerary

Ready to explore the best of Orlando? Here's a week-long itinerary to help you make the most of your visit. Remember, this is just a suggestion – feel free to mix and match based on your interests and energy levels!

Days 1-2: Theme Park Extravaganza

  • Dedicate two full days to exploring Walt Disney World or Universal Orlando Resort
  • Start early to beat the crowds and make use of FastPass+ or Express Pass options
  • Take a midday break to avoid the hottest part of the day
  • End your evenings with spectacular nighttime shows like Disney's fireworks or Universal's light projections

Insider Tip: Pack comfortable shoes and stay hydrated – theme park days involve a lot of walking!

Day 3: Natural Orlando

  • Morning: Kayak through Shingle Creek Regional Park
  • Afternoon: Cool off with a swim at Wekiwa Springs State Park
  • Evening: Take a sunset stroll around Lake Eola Park

Dining Suggestion: Grab dinner at one of the restaurants around Lake Eola, like Relax Grill for lakeside views.

Day 4: Cultural Exploration

  • Morning: Visit the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art
  • Afternoon: Explore the Orlando Museum of Art and Orlando Science Center at Loch Haven Park
  • Evening: Catch a show at the Orlando Shakespeare Theater

Insider Tip: Check for combination tickets to save on museum admissions.

Day 5: Local Flavors and Shopping

  • Morning: Browse the Winter Park Farmers' Market (if it's Saturday)
  • Afternoon: Shop and dine at East End Market
  • Evening: Enjoy upscale shopping and dining at The Mall at Millenia

Dining Suggestion: Try the innovative dishes at Domu in East End Market.

Day 6: Outdoor Adventures

  • Morning: Get wild at Gatorland
  • Afternoon: Cool off at Universal's Volcano Bay
  • Evening: Take in the views from ICON Park's The Wheel

Insider Tip: Bring a change of clothes for transitioning from water parks to evening activities.

Day 7: Choose Your Own Adventure

For your final day, choose from these options based on your interests:

  • Space Enthusiast: Take a day trip to Kennedy Space Center
  • Nature Lover: Explore Harry P. Leu Gardens and take a Winter Park Scenic Boat Tour
  • History Buff: Visit Casa Feliz Historic Home Museum and stroll through Old Town
  • Sports Fan: Catch an Orlando Magic game at Amway Center

Dining Suggestion: End your trip with a memorable meal in one of the top restaurants in Orlando.

Remember, Orlando has something for everyone. Don't be afraid to deviate from this itinerary and explore based on your own interests. Whether you're seeking thrills, relaxation, or cultural experiences, the City Beautiful is ready to cast its spell on you. Enjoy your Orlando adventure!

West Parker
West Parker
Article updated:
July 18, 2024 8:49 AM

West Parker, a Cornell University School of Hotel Administration graduate, has spent two decades as the secret weapon of the jet-set elite, crafting bespoke adventures that redefine luxury travel. Now a resident writer for Town & Tourist, this 45-year-old "Architect of Extraordinary Journeys" combines razor-sharp insights with unparalleled industry connections to deliver experiences that even the most discerning globetrotters can't help but rave about. West's expertise spans from exclusive real estate to fine dining, making him the go-to strategist for those who demand nothing but the extraordinary in their travels.

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