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Things to do in Orlando

Things to do in Orlando

Home to the eponymous theme park, Orlando’s reputation for world-class family entertainment is second to none. But there’s many more things to do in Orlando that aren’t quite so child-orientedd’; the central Floridian city is bursting with hidden treasures so it’s worth stepping outside the obvious bubbles to discover the rich culture, history and quality cuisine The Orange County capital has hidden away.

It’d be churlish to expect visitors to Orlando not to take in the thrills of its legendary theme parks, but either before or after you’ve had your fill of the thrills of Walt Disney World, Epcot®, Universal Studios, Adventure Island and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, among others, step outside to enjoy some of the many real-world pleasures this ‘Sun Belt’ city has to offer.

Alternative things to do in Orlando

Just outside the hustle and bustle of downtown Orlando, about half an hour’s drive north along the I-4 is the glorious and peaceful Winter Park – an 8-square-mile ‘village’ oasis shaped by the wealthy industrialists of the late 1800s who used to take their winters there.

Park up and meander around the rich architecture, beautiful gardens, lakes and parklands, stop in at one of the many artisan cafés and eateries dotted around the village.  Once replete, head along Park Avenue to the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art to take in the startling collection of Tiffany glass. Surprisingly, the museum is home to the largest collection of Tiffany glass in the world; iconic lamps, leaded-glass windows, jewellery, art glass and pottery by Louis Comfort Tiffany.

Some of the most exquisite shops in the state line this Avenue, so once inspired by Tiffany, browse your way back to your car, buckle up and re-join S Orlando Ave to reach the gates of the luscious botanical world of the Harry P. Leu Gardens . 

When you think about things to do in Orlando, horticultural gardens are unlikely to feature on the ‘to do’ list, but this one should be! Set on the former lake-front estate of a reputed citrus entrepreneur, this astonishing 50-acre garden is home to one of the largest Camellia collections from eastern North American and the Mary Jane Rose Garden (named after Leu’s wife) bursts with thousands of aromatic bushes – the largest rose garden south of Atlanta. Try to time your ‘blooming’ visit to November through to March. Be sure to visit the 19th-century Leu House Museum, once the Leu family home, it’s an atmospheric preservation of the life of a well-to-do, turn-of-the-20th-century Florida family.

Orlando City

Take a swing

If golf’s your game, you can spend half a day or considerably more testing your skill on some world-class greens. Orlando is home to the Golf Channel, Tiger Woods, and some 170 top notch courses;  some have been designed by the likes of Jack Nicklaus, Tom Fazio, and Pete Dye. Top courses include Bay Hill Club & Lodge, Waldorf Astoria Club and the Grand Cypress Resort.

Magic sport

Find even more magic in Orlando and book tickets for an authentic all-American sporting experience with Orlando's NBA team the Orlando Magic.  The Basketball season runs from October to June, so if you’re in the neighbourhood then, seeing the team in action at Magic’s home court in the 20,000-seat Amway Centre, is the real thing!

Getting a gut feel of Orlando!

Of all the things to do in Orlando, the easiest to enjoy is its much acclaimed ‘Floribbean’ cuisine – pretty much most places will serve the famous, highly sustainable, Stone Crab Claws (Oct-May), the much talked-about Florida Rock Shrimp (June-Nov) and the tangy flavours of Florida Key Lime Pie (all year round!).

A few eateries of choice:

Low lighting, eclectic furniture and writing sprawled on the walls form the distinct backdrop to chef Dustin Haney’s menu of small, shared plates. In the vein of ‘tapas’, this is Filipino-inspired adobo , which typically pairs flavours like rich soy-glazed pork belly with bright cilantro and fresh lime for balance. There’s also Mediterranean sea bass, seared to crispy perfection and finished with a creamy beer-spiked butter sauce. Even the fries surprise. Cut into extra-thick slabs, they’re double-fried and perfectly paired with saffron and garlic-infused mayonnaise.

The Orlando Brewing Company

Quirky! Bring your own food, or order from local menus – either way, this is hum-dinger of a night! Organic beer taproom, live music and more atmosphere than Space Mountain!

Rusty Spoon

James Beard-nominated chef-owner Kathleen Blake was an early pioneer of the local farm-to-table movement. Blake’s much talked about “Shiittinonion Soup,” is a great example of her unique style – made with five types of onions, double-roasted chicken broth and slivers of Gruyère cheese, it’s one of her signature dishes.  Other distinctly ‘Blake’ choices include her nod to the “Dirty South” with local seafood (pink shrimp, clams and snapper), greens and grits in a fragrant peanut-shrimp stock.

Hanson’s Shoe Repair

Getting in is just part of the act! On the day you’d like to visit, leave a message on the answering machine, and later you’ll receive a text with a password, which changes daily. It’ll get you through the doors and into an utterly unique cocktail experience. It’s a welcome departure from downtown Orlando’s otherwise rowdy bar scene. There are some strange but congenial house rules, such as no mobile phones being allowed, and it’s house policy to not serve shots or drinks like Long Island Iced Teas to get you inebriated too quickly, but the place is known for its helpful and friendly bar staff. Who will whip up something original and spirited just for you!

Orlando Attractions:

Orlando Attractions

Of all the things to do in Orlando, nothing beats the thrill of its theme parks. Covering thousands of acres, the choice can be overwhelming, so here’s our pick of the bunch:

Aquatica Orlando combines the very best of an aquarium, zoo, water park and amusement park to create one easy-to-explore experience. With 38 slides, 84,000 acres of white sand beach and private cabanas for rent, you can easily spend the entire day – or even a month! -  enjoying the Florida sun with your family. The Dolphin Plunge is a must! Ride this clear tube water slide which takes you through the Commerson's dolphin habitat.

What started as a showcase for the latest in innovation has transformed into one of Orlando's largest theme parks. Epcot® is packed into over 300 acres; here you'll find an aquarium, 1.3-mile promenade around the World Showcase Lagoon, 11 pavilions celebrating nations of the world and numerous attractions, such as the iconic Spaceship Earth.

Universal Studios Islands of Adventure brings a raft of favourite movie experiences to life. Wander through the world of Hogwarts at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, take a thrilling raft ride past dinosaurs on the Jurassic Park River Adventure, meet well loved children's book characters at Seuss Landing, get wet in Toon Lagoon or fly through the air on the Marvel Super Hero Island attractions.

Universal Studios Florida is one of the original parks of the Universal Studios Resort, bringing movie and pop culture to life across over 100 acres.  You can relive classics old like E.T. and The Terminator or catch up with the characters of newer releases, like Despicable Me and the latest Shrek adventure.

With guest access restricted to 1,300 per day, Discovery Cove® feels more like an exclusive resort than a theme park. Without crowds to worry about, you'll get to be close up and personal with marine encounters such as dolphins, stingrays, tropical fish, sea otters and exotic birds. It's all-inclusive too, so there’s no need to plan for food, towels or snorkelling equipment.

Go to the movies with Disney at Hollywood Studios , a theme park that takes you inside the world of show business with live stunt shows, animation galleries, a behind the scenes tour and plenty of live shows, rides and attractions. Shame on thrill seekers who miss the chance to take the plunge down the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror!

Orlando sightseeing

With the exception of Walt Disney World, most of Orlando’s major attractions are located along International Drive . The city is also a major hub for US and international conferences and conventions with facility like the Orange County Convention Centre, which is the second-largest convention facility in the United States.   As one of the world's most visited tourist destinations, Orlando's famous attractions form the backbone of its tourism industry, but as we’ve highlighted, there’s so many more things to do in Orlando! You’ll need to come back to this future, again and again!


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