Orlando is hailed as the theme park capital of the world, and for good reason. However, there is so much more to see there, even beyond the out-of-this-world theme parks that are the main attraction for the city.
The City Beautiful has been purposefully built for tourism, and whether you are young or old, you can find a treasure trove of fun and thrilling things to do.
Walt Disney World
Orlando is synonymous with Walt Disney World and it is the Number 1 reason why Orlando is a must-visit destination for some family fun. Just this single resort is almost the size of San Francisco and can take you at least one week to explore on overdrive.
The Walt Disney World Resort features four prominent theme parks including Epcot, Magic Kingdom Park, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park, and Disney’s Hollywood Studio. It also features two water parks, Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon and Disney’s Blizzard Beach.
The resort’s crown jewel is the Magic Kingdom Park, which offers the most iconic attractions, including interaction with Disney’s most beloved characters, like Mickey Mouse and Queen Elsa, and hosts special seasonal events like Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party.
At Epcot, you can explore global culture, the sea, space, and even Earth’s future. The park features the World Showcase where you can experience the culture and delicious cuisines of countries like the United Kingdom, Canada, China, Japan, Mexico, Germany, France, Norway, and Italy without crossing the ocean. You will also meet a lot of Disney characters in their home countries, like Mulan in China, Elsa and Anna in Norway, and Snow White in Germany.
At the Animal Kingdom Theme Park, the focus is on Mother Nature as you visit some of the world’s most beautiful rain forests, savanna and jungles, all without leaving Orlando. Here, you can explore Pandora, the world of Avatar and the Discovery Island, home to the Tree of Life. You can also take part in the Festival of the Lion King, the Expedition Everest, and Kali River Rapids.
For some lights, camera, and action, explore Disney’s Hollywood Studios, where you can fly the legendary Millennium Falcon and live your own Star Wars story or participate in the Lightning McQueen’s Racing Academy.
There are other infinite numbers of attractions in Walt Disney World, but these are the ones that you simply cannot miss.
Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Have you received your Hogwart’s letter yet? If not, you can still ditch your Muggle status and join the ranks of famous wizards and witches who have visited the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
Too big and otherworldly to be contained in a single theme park, the resort is split between Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade, connected by the Hogwarts Express. You can board this train from either King’s Cross Station at Universal Studios, Florida, or Hogsmeade Station at Universal’s Islands of Adventure and take a ride unlike any other through the British countryside.
The two parks have magical attraction like the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, which will have you flying high above the castle ground, as well as the Escape from Gringotts, complete with a mind-blowing thrill ride. You can buy your very own authentic wizard’s wand at Ollivander Wand Shop, and enjoy a cup of warm Butterbeer or Pumpkin Juice, accompanied by a yummilicious Chocolate Frog.
Of course, for most Potterheads, the crowning glory is the majestic Hogwarts castle, which becomes a dazzling spectacle of lights and music during The Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts at select evenings.
Through various points in your journey, you will encounter dark creatures like Trolls, and Death Eaters like Bellatrix LeStrange, and will even have a chance to evade Voldemort.
It is enough to make every Potterhead lose their head.
Delectable Dining Cuisine
If you are a foodie, you can be sure that Orlando’s 5,000 dining establishments can offer a whole host of delectable cuisine for every palate. In fact, you can eat your way around the world within a parameter of 114 square miles.
Where else in the world can you undertake such diverse dining experience like breakfast with Mickey Mouse or the Epcot International Food &Wine Festival in the fall?
Any food chain worth its name can be found on Orlando, from local fast-food chains to Michelin-star cuisines on Restaurant Row. The Three Broomsticks Inn, Cinderella’s Table, and T-Rex Café are just three of the innumerable and otherworldly restaurants on offer in Orlando that makes your mealtime so much more interesting.
Universal City Walk is not just a gateway to some of the most exclusive themed parks in the world but also offers you a mine of restaurants from All-American and something south of the border to island and Asian flavors, including Hard-Rock Café, Hot Dog Hall of Fame, Antojitos Authentic Mexican Food, Jimmy Buffett’s® Margaritaville, The Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen, VIVO Italian Kitchen, and Fusion Bistro Sushi & Sake Bar.
Some of the local favorites are Luma on Park — which has attracted A-list celebrities like Paul McCartney — and the Ravenous Pig, which offer monthly pig roasts along with shrimps, moule frites, and grits with a gourmet twist. And let’s not forget the unforgettable Key Lime Pie that Florida is famous for.
Kennedy Space Center
Whether you have kids who love Buzz Lightyear or you just love NASA, few attractions are as unique and educational as a visit to the Kennedy Space Center.
The Kennedy Space Center has been sending shuttles and humans to space since 1988. The space shuttle program may have shut down now but the station remains one of the major sites for rocket launches. Select parts of the ginormous campus are open for public and the space center offers daily touring opportunities to visitors.
If you are traveling by Gray Line, upon arrival to the space center, you will be greeted by a real life NASA astronaut or given an orientation tour to the Space Shuttle Atlantis. You can spend the rest of the day exploring at your leisure, view launch pads used by SpaceX and ULA, feel the liftoff with a rocket launch experience, test your simulated space flight skills, touch a piece of real moon rock, see artifacts from the Apollo, Mercury, and Gemini projects, check out the Rocket Garden filled with Titan rockets and historic engine replicas, and watch movies in the I-Max theater.
The Kennedy Space Center is sure to give an out-of-this-world experience.
Exotic White Sand Beaches
There is a reason why Orlando is called The City Beautiful. There are five very popular beaches within 75 minutes of Orlando and several others along its west coast on the Gulf of Mexico, including the Cocoa Beach, Daytona Beach, New Smyrna Beach, Canaveral National Seashore, Treasure Island, Clearwater Beach, Siesta Beach.
The gorgeous white sand beaches are so stunning and so full of fun that it is easy to forget Mickey and Harry while you are in the sun, surf, and sand. The beautiful tropical climate of Orlando makes every day feel like spring break.
The beaches are not just places where you can kick back and relax on the sand but they offer you a whole lot of cruising opportunities. Port Canaveral is your doorway to the Royal Caribbean Cruise Line, Carnival Cruise Line, Norwegian Cruise Line, and of course, the Disney Cruise Line.
The Canaveral National Seashore is also one of the top spots to spot bald eagles, dolphins, sea turtles, and manatees.
Daytona Beach, aptly known as the world’s most famous beach, is also at an hour’s drive from Orlando and holds the famous NASCAR race. You can even drive your own sports car right at the beach if you want. Moreover, there are free summer concerts, with fireworks and movies at the Bandshell while you can find plenty of other entertainment at the fishing pier and boardwalk.
This list is by no means exhaustive — in fact, it is just the tip of the iceberg of all the places to visit and things to do there. Still, it provides you a hint as to why Orlando needs to be your next vacation destination. If you are looking for diverse, culture-rich, nature-rich, educational and family friendly fun activities, there is no place you would rather be than Orlando.