This is our Ultimate guide of things to do in Orlando.
We’ve been over 30 times and think that there’s nowhere like it. There’s one thing for certain, you’ll never be short of things to do in Orlando and it’s fantastic whether you’re here as a family, couple or on your own.
Even though we don’t go to Disney every time, it HAS to be first on the ‘places to visit’ list because it’s just an amazing place. If you have kids (or not!) this is a must, especially if it’s your first visit to Orlando.
There are 4 Disney theme parks and 2 Disney water parks …
Magic Kingdom Theme ParkThis is the park that everyone thinks of when they think of Disney and one of the top things to do in Orlando. It’s where the majestic fairytale Cinderella’s Castle and the amazing fireworks show “Happily Ever After” is a ‘must see’. The fantastic light show and musical production “Once upon a time” is a projection onto Cinderella’s Castle. This starts around 7pm and the fireworks later, both great shows. Check your daily park times to be sure.
The beautiful main street with its fantasy feel, parades and characters is like nothing anywhere else. Rides in the park are perhaps catered more towards little ones but there’s still Space Mountain, Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, all Roller Coasters. Who doesn’t love Pirates of the Caribbean and It’s a Small World? The park is enjoyable for everyone, a magical place for sure, and when the kids are happy, we’re all happy!
Make sure you plan ahead by downloading the ‘Disney My Experience’ app. From here you can manage your Fastpasses, dining and more. Personally, if you’ve youngsters, my advice would be to chill and ‘go with the flow’ or it could become a ‘route march then we all get cranky. Keep it happy as depending when you go, you’ll need your sense of humour as crowds can be excessive and temperatures high. Don’t let this put you off though, it’s well worth it, just plan as best you can.
Animal Kingdom Theme ParkThis is my personal favourite of the Disney Parks. Again, you can’t fault the entertainment and surroundings, with characters and choice of lots of restaurants as well as great rides . Kilimanjaro Safari is brilliant, suitable for all ages as you get up close to amazing wildlife in the ‘African Savanna’.
This park appeals to old and young alike with the added bonus of being animal themed. So many spectacular shows, parades and fireworks to see. In my opinion Festival of the Lion King is fantastic! but the whole park again is magical. Animals with the mix of Disney.
Kids will love the Rainforest Cafe to eat, with its fab colours and sounds. It has a varied menu including seafood, burgers and steak and the kids menu should appeal to all youngsters. Beers and cocktails are served too, it’s an all-round cool place to have a meal.
Hollywood Studios Theme ParkIf you love the movies then Hollywood Studios will be a hit for sure and of course it’s Disney themed. It has the new Star Wars Land due to open in Summer 2019, which looks ‘out of this world’.
There’s also Lightning McQueen’s Racing Academy coming in early 2019, who doesn’t love ‘Cars’. With the new Toy Story Land now open, Indiana Jones, Aliens and The Muppets to name just a few, there’s certainly lots to see and do at Hollywood Studios.
Plenty of attractions here for all ages. Best ride for us was ‘Rock ’n’ Roller Coaster (starring Aerosmith) with its loud music belting out from Aerosmith and fast pace from the start. One for a FastPass reservation if it sounds like your kinda thing. Ther’s various places to dine in this park and Salads, chicken and burgers are ‘a plenty’, with a range of budgets. You can’t help being mesmerised with the settings around the park, with lots of familiar scenes from the TV.
Epcot Theme ParkNow at risk of being ‘shot down in flames’, this is the least favourite park for us, out of the Disney quartet. Now we’ve only been once, so maybe we were having a bad day and perhaps should give it another chance.
I’ve read other people’s comments that think it’s amazing, even their favourite park, but for us we didn’t think there was as much here or perhaps as ‘value for money’.
The part we did like was World Showcase. I thought that the 11 countries were done really well with super replicas of buildings, cast members, food and drink for each one.
We resisted the chance of going in the Rose and Crown however as a pint was over $9. Can imagine that the International Food and Wine Festival here is amazing so perhaps we’ll go back when that’s on.
Don’t let us put you off, there may be attractions here that sound great to you, so please make your own mind up.
Disney Springs (formerly Downtown Disney)This is an entertainment centre, outside of the Disney Parks with shopping, restaurants and lots going on! It’s built as a waterfront town with lovely buildings as well as a cinema and great live entertainment. All sorts of shopping and dining to suit everyone, on different budgets, with lots of Disney inspiration.
It’s pleasant to walk round in the evening, have a meal and a casual mooch. You can also have a trip there during the day as an alternative to an activity that costs money, as entry is free.
Disney Water Parks
There are 2 Disney Water Parks and entrance to these are not included in your Park Hopper tickets unless you upgrade to Plus.
Typhoon Lagoon Water ParkThis water park is themed as a tropical island paradise. There are slides, lazy rivers, rapids, wave pools, waterfalls and much more within this lovely park. It’s a great park for all ages, there are little tots areas and life jackets are free (deposit held).
The water is heated at Typhoon Lagoon, so it’s ideal to go any time of the year and a great alternative to a theme park. A refreshing alternative when temperatures are hot but remember that crowds get massive.
There are places to eat and lots of Disney themed fun, so don’t forget your towels and sunscreen! Our kids loved it.
Blizzard Beach Water ParkThemed as a melting ski resort, Blizzard Beach is ‘snow covered’ (with heated water). Again, rapids, plummets, lazy rivers and kid’s areas. Both fast and slow rides for everyone. Take a chairlift to the bar, plenty of snack places and various food options. Vegetarians and vegans options are available at Lottawatta Lodge too.
Free parking at both water parks when we went (refreshing change!) and lockers available for hire for valuables. Don’t take fancy sunglasses (as my Son found out when he trashed them) and waterproof cameras make for fantastic photos.
Universal Studios Theme ParkThis is our favourite park as a family. It’s a park created as a film and TV set with amazing backlot scenes and great action rides. I thought the Horror Make up show was really good and my favourite ride is the Simpsons, you can’t help but love Homer!
Again, the park is suitable for all ages with lots of places to eat, to suit all budgets. Express Passes are helpful depending when you go and on how many rides you want to go on but that’s standard for all the parks.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal StudiosThis themed land of Universal is brilliantly done and if you’re a Harry Potter fan, you won’t be disappointed. The buildings, Diagon Alley, Hogwarts Express, Platform 9 3/4 they’re all there just like in the film. If you’re fans, you won’t want to miss it, they,ve done a fantastic job to recreate it.
Islands of Adventure Theme ParkThis is a super cool park filled with Super Heroes and adventure. The boys loved this park especially when some of the heroes came out on quads. I thought that the Jurassic Park River Adventure was really well done and the park in general is full of colour and fun.
Again, same as the other parks, areas to eat for all budgets. If you love the big thrill rides, this is the park for you but there’s also Suess Landing with rides for the younger ones.
CityWalk at UniversalCityWalk is a fun (free!) and vibrant place to hang out with restaurants and lots going on. You walk through CityWalk to get to the parks and back on your way out. It’s open until 2am, so a great place to go for an evening meal and entertainment.
There’s no charge to walk around shops and restaurants however there maybe fees to go into a night club and to go and watch a movie. We loved the vibe in Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville and ate in there, with a cocktail or two also. We also watched a movie at the cinema.
Volcano Bay Water Park at UniversalA beautiful tropical island landscape with the amazing Krakatau Volcano and waterfalls. The beautiful Waturi Beach has warm waves and fantastic view. With rides, slides and 5 star fun, you’ll love this water park.
Premium seating and dining plans are available at a cost of course as well as Express Passes so have a read before you go. A great family day in a lovely setting.
Sea World Theme ParkAlways been a lovely park with great rides, show, shops and entertainment. Areas for the little ones so it’s a park that’s suitable for all ages. Lots of educational areas with the animals, great rides and entertaining shows such as Clyde and Seamore (Sea Lion and Otter) and Pets Ahoy are brilliant. Kraken, Manta and Mako are super coaster rides. The construction of the new Infinity Falls ride, due to open in the last quarter of 2018, looks like it’s going to be great.
Discovery Cove at Sea WorldIf you’ve always wanted to swim with dolphins then this is your park to visit. Lots of ‘hands on’ animal encounters at this more select park, limited to around 1300 guests per day. Food included and experiences that you can’t do anywhere else. Prices not cheap, starting around $199 each, but this certainly is a fabulous and unique day. Guests must be 6yo and over.
Aquatica Water Park at Sea WorldAgain, a water park with great rides and slides but with the Sea World mammal theme. Slides that take you underwater where you can see dolphins make this water park different from the others. Choice of dining as you would expect as well as souvenir stores too. Suitable for all ages, there’s something for everyone from thrill rides to beach relaxing.
GatorlandA small park where you can go and see over 2000 alligators and other critters. Plenty to see and do, with shows and great information. Ideal for all the family, there’s a zip line ride and tour options with adequate food menus, including fried gator nuggets! A smaller place to visit that probably won’t take up your whole day.
Old Town Kissimmee and Fun SpotSet on the 192, Kissimmee this is a great one to visit in my opinion, especially if cars and bikes are of interest. Depending when you go, Friday and Saturday evenings have American Car Cruises (muscle and classics) and Bike Night Thursdays.
We always enjoy it here as a family, the boys love the motors and to me it’s good old fashioned American entertainment. Again, go karting, rides and shops etc, we love it. Great for a mooch round with a beer.
Never a great place to dine, but there are places to grab a ‘fast food’ type meal which is adequate (and cheaper) than restaurants locally. If you want a restaurant meal however, being situated on the 192, you will not be stuck for anywhere to eat within a few minutes.
Wild Florida and other Airboat RidesWe really enjoyed the airboats, especially when one of our boys got to ride up with the ‘Captain’, that made his day. It’s an exhilarating ride, in a different way than anything else really, in Orlando. You get back to nature, seeing all manner of wildlife as you head down the waterways at great speed.
A good way to spend a half day, doing something fun and different. Wild Florida also has a gator and wildlife park and around 45 mins drive from the parks, it’s worth a visit.
Gun RangesWe wanted to do something different on one occasion that we visited Orlando and the kids fancied the shooting range. The Orlando Gun Club, just North of International Drive was a great experience. Kids have to be 12 years old minimum and there has to be 2 people 21 years or older to accompany.
You get to shoot a real firearm, so this really is a responsible activity. Shoot as much or as little as you like, cost depending. Dress appropriately, take valid ID and you’ll have a brilliant time. Not your average tourist attraction of things to do in Orlando, but how often do you get to shoot a target?
Orlando Tree Trek Adventure Park – KissimmeeA great activity park offering various challenges, courses and a 425’ zipline. Not far from Disney, this park is suitable for all abilities but kids must be minimum age 7 year old (minimum of 9 year old to ride the zipline). It looks like great outdoor fun if you’re an action loving family.
Forever Florida Ziplines and Adventure – St CloudIf you fancy a wild American adventure then this may interest you. A beautiful nature conservancy at St Cloud, just outside Kissimmee that has horse riding (be a cowboy for the day), zip lines, trail buggy adventures, airboats and other outdoor activities. Camping is also available, fun for all the family.
Revolution (Clermont) – Quads, 4-wheel drive vehicles, archery, clay shooting, fishingA fantastic day out for those who love the outdoors. All of the above activities in the title are available here so prepare to get muddy! You need to be 16yo and over to drive the quads and make a reservation before you go. Good family fun, just outside the theme park areas at Clermont.
Lakeridge Winery & Vineyards, ClermontThis is Florida’s largest premium winery and overlooks more than 80 acres of vineyards. Complimentary tours are everyday of the week and they hold festivals too. Kids are welcome on the tour accompanied by adults however only non-alcoholic grape juice for them to drink obviously, for under 21’s.
Wines are available for purchase here also but there isn’t anywhere to eat. You can purchase deli items from their shop or take a picnic that you can eat on the tables provided.
Brewery Tour OrlandoWe went on a tour at the super cute micro brewery, Orlando Brewing in Orlando. This was something different for us and really interesting. The tour was free and afterwards we sampled their organic craft beers in the little ‘saloon type’ bar area. All ages welcome but obviously over 21’s to sample the beers.
You can take your own food in to eat also as none available there. There’s live music on Friday and Saturday nights, free of charge also. No need to book. Not often mentioned on lists of things to do in Orlando so a great find for us.
Bass FishingChuck’s Guide Service looks great if you want to go bass fishing. He offers transportation for those who can’t drive to him, in the Orlando area. He provides fishing tackle too and he’s based on West Lake Toho, out of Big Toho Marina, Kissimmee. Look him up, he looks like the ‘go to’ guy for fishing.
ShoppingThere’s no shortage of shopping opportunities to get your famous designer names. Lots of shopping choices in the area, here are a few of the main ones :-
The Florida Mall – 8001 S Orange Blossom Trail, Orlando
The Mall at Millenia – 4200 Conroy Road, Orlando
Orlando Premium Outlets – 4951 International Dr, Orlando
Pointe Orlando – 9101 International Dr, Orlando
Orlando Vineland Premium Outlets – 8200 Vineland Ave, Orlando
Crayola ExperienceIt’s situated in the Florida mall and is a family fun day getting creative, with different attractions for you and the kids to explore. They’ve a massive store too selling Crayola products. Take a look at their attractions on their website, looks great fun for the younger ones.
Orlando Science CentreA science museum that’s up in Orlando, with exhibits that want you to explore your curiosity. The staff encourage you to interact and get ‘hands on’. From natural science to simulation technology, there’s something for everyone.
Golf CoursesYou are spoilt for choice for World Class courses here in Florida. These include Falcon’s Fire, Celebration, Reunion and Champion’s Gate. Some challenging greens, all beautifully maintained for year round playing conditions and in the Kissimmee area. Great for hubby and the boys whilst the girls go shopping, unless you’re a lady golfer of course.
Crazy/Minature GolfWe’ve had some great nights at the different crazy golf places around. Ideal if you want a nice chilled evening’s entertainment, before or after your meal. Pirates Cove and Congo River are the more popular ones but see what appeals to you. Different themed courses where all the family can have fun together and without spending a fortune.
Silver Spurs and other RodeosWe love the Silver Spurs rodeo, obviously because we have cattle and horses ourselves this appeals. It’s great entertainment for all the family, watching these ‘athletes’ ride bulls and broncos, as well as the skill in calf roping, barrel racing and the kids competitions including ‘mutton bustin’ (look it up).
The Silver Spurs is an annual event in February held in Kissimmee although there are often other events held at the Silver Spurs Arena. There are also other rodeos up near Daytona and down at River Ranch, both just over an hours drive from Kissimmee. One of the more unusual things to do in Orlando.
Other Sports in OrlandoOther Sports – Soccer, Baseball, Basketball, American Football, Ice Hockey
Soccer Team – Orlando City SC – Games at Orlando City Stadium, Orlando
Basketball Team – NBA – Orlando Magic – Games at Awmay Centre, Orlando and Miami Heat, Miami
Baseball Team – MLB – Tampa Bay Rays at Tampa and Miami Marlins, Miami
Ice Hockey – NHL – Tampa Bay Lightening at Tampa and Florida Panthers at Sunrise, just west of Ft. Lauderdale and north of Miami
American Football – NFL – Florida Gators at Gainsville – Tampa Bay Bucanneers at Tampa – Miami Dolphins – Jacksonville Jaguars
CinemasIf you want to go and see a movie one evening, then CityWalk at Universal Studios has a cinema as does Disney at Disney Springs. Both CityWalk and Disney Springs are free to enter but obviously you have to pay for a ticket to go into the cinema and watch the movie.
Balloon and Helicopter RidesThere are quite a few balloon ride companies that fly in the Kissimmee area. They set off early morning every day, weather permitting for around 3 hours. All flights with licensed pilots, friends have done it and said it was awesome. Don’t forget your camera!
There are a few helicopter flight places around the 192 Kissimmee area too. We’ve never done this but it seems that they offer views of the parks and the areas around. From what I’ve read, do your homework and be clear on the price cost before you go as it isn’t cheap and prices vary.
International Drive Area
This is one of the most popular holiday areas of Orlando, especially for families staying in hotels, not really villas to rent around the area as it’s not an area that’s zoned for short term rental. The area is extremely busy during Summer months and there are quite a few attractions worth visiting in this area.
ICON Orlando 360Home of the Orlando Eye, this is a fairly new complex opened where there’s shopping, restaurant and entertainment. See amazing views of Orlando on the Orlando Eye, an observational wheel at 400ft high and lots more. A great place to have a walk around for the evening and have a meal.
Orlando Star FlyerThis looks great, haven’t been on it yet but at 450 feet tall it’s got to be exhilarating! Situated near the top of International Drive, this ride is the tallest swing ride in the world! There’s a double seat for you and your friend or family member to go on together and you’re fastened in with a seat belt and leg harness. I bet it’s one hell of a view as you’re moving round and up and down at speeds of 45mph!
You can spectate with an adult beverage from the Star Bar and watch the others, if it’s not for you. Exciting non the less, you can still take in the fun atmosphere and it’s something that the young and older ones in your party can do as well.
Ripley’s Believe it or NotThis attraction has really stood the test of time. The museum looks like it’s sinking and there’s even more weirdness inside. It’s full of odd and whacky exhibits that will leave you amazed and amused. It’s freakish but fascinating and will entertain the family for hours.
WonderworksYou’ve seen it, that amazing structure of an ‘upside down house’ on International Drive. Inside there’s outrageous imagination and science ‘hands on’ exhibits to educate and entertain. It’s great for a good half day of entertainment, especially when you’re having a ‘between’ day from the parks.
Fun SpotAn entertainment centre for all the family with rides and arcades. Located just near International Drive, it’s open to around midnight and an ideal place to spend the evening with the family. Go Karting and a ‘fun fair feel’, it’s ideal for little ones too. There’s also one at Kissimmee (see above with Old Town), which we think is better.
iFly Sky DivingVirtual sky diving for the feel that you’re floating on air. You get suited up including helmet and goggles and have an instructor to teach you the proper technique. You can then enjoy the feeling of sky diving in the wind tunnel. A great place for birthday parties, team building and entertainment for a few hours.
Go Karting – NASCAR IDriveSituated near the top of International Drive, this is a great indoor kart racing track. There’s also an arcade and entertainment and the ‘Grandstand’ restaurant selling American classic food and beers. Our boys love this place and show their competitive side, so parents watch out!
World of Chocolate Museum and CafeNot far from Sea World is Chocolate Museum and cafe. There are tours available and other options, which may be of interest to you to make a change from theme parks.
More things to do in Orlando 2019 – A little outside of the area
To be honest, if you have a car, all of these places below are easily accessible. We talk about Orlando as being the area where all of the theme parks are but realistically, Orlando is only the nearest City, and it’s around 20 miles away from everything.
Busch Gardens Theme ParkA great theme park but located at Tampa, around an hours drive from the Orlando Theme Parks. You wouldn’t believe that you are in the middle of busy Tampa when you enter this park.
Serengeti safaris and themed areas, lots of animals and great rides give you the African feel. If you get the chance, eat at the Serengeti Overlook Restaurant (formerly Crown Colony) and grab a window seat. Lovely food with a view of the plains and animals.
We loved the Serengeti Express, a train ride across the ‘Serengeti’ and if you’re lucky, you may see any new arrivals that may have been born, such as giraffe or rhinoceros. Fab coasters such as Sheikra, Montu and Kumba are thrill rides, but lots for all the family too. The new ride Tigris is scheduled for 2019.
Kennedy Space Centre, Cape CanaveralThe Visitor’s Centre to one of the coolest places on earth! As it is a working Spaceflight facility, visiting may change so check before you go. If you are lucky, there may be a launch whilst you’re on holiday.
We took a picnic to cocoa beach and watched a launch from there, on one occasion. Lots of hands on interaction here and interesting information. If you’re remotely interested in space travel then go and visit.
There’s nowhere quite like it so download the app and plan your visit. You’ll never experience anything like it when looking for things to do in Orlando.
Legoland Theme ParkLegoland is at Winter Haven, approximately 45 mins South of Kissimmee and is on the former site that was Cypress Gardens. The park is ideal for kids aged 12 and under and they’ve kept the botanical gardens and water park.
There’s also a hotel if you fancy a few days there as well as the usual shopping and restaurant facilities. Rides, water park and fantastic lego structures and lands to see. You can also meet characters from the Lego movie, so lots to do.
Daytona International SpeedwayThis place blows your mind as you drive up to it, you can’t quite believe the magnitude of how massive it is! It’s a must if you’re a motor enthusiast with tours available. Even ride in a NASCAR.
The Daytona 500 race is in February too, I can bet the atmosphere then is electric. There’s other events in the year as well, including the bike show in October, that’s worth a visit. If racing’s your thing, then this is a must on your list of things to do in Orlando. Daytona beach is lovely too.
St John’s RiverDrive an hour North and you can enjoy the beautiful St John’s River. Visit the Blue Spring State Park, with it’s amazing clear waters and home to the West Indian Manatees for the Winter. They love the 72 degree water and if you’re lucky, you’ll see them (November to January). They were there when we went in February actually.
A lovely park with just a small fee to park, a great place to relax from the Theme Park madness. Arrive early, it gets really busy. There’s also Silver Springs Park too, see below.
Silver Springs State ParkWhilst you’re in the area visiting the St John’s River (see above), have a trip to Silver Springs. It’s a really cute, old fashioned park where you can take a glass bottomed boat ride and see the amazing crystal clear springs.
Quite a few films (or part of) have been made here including 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and Tarzan. Keep a look out along the river side too as you can see all sorts of wildlife. Turtles asleep or snakes basking in stone work.
There’s also a small museum and an adequate cafe. We’ve been several times, there’s a small entrance fee but worth for a half day enjoying gorgeous surroundings.
Clearwater is the favourite of the beaches within a reasonable driving distance. We get set off early in the morning from the house and it takes us around an hour and a half. The kids love it and it’s clean, making it a fun day and good to have a break from the parks. One day we were there, we could literally see a storm travelling up the beach towards us. The sky turned a little grey, a push of wind came past and you could see the rain following it. I’ve never seen anything like that before so we stopped in the sea and waited for it to pass. In a couple of minutes it was through and we could see it so clearly travelling up the beach! Really weird but a great sight.
Cocoa Beach and Daytona Beach are about the same distance away in the opposite direction. Cocoa Beach is great if you’re heading to the Space Centre or to watch a rocket launch. We took a BBQ with us to the beach, watched them launch (a great sight to see) and played on the beach. A relaxing place with a more natural landscape and nature walks.
Daytona Beach is more lively and colourful. There’s often a themed weekend on such as trucks or jeeps and the place is buzzing. They drive on the beach too and there’s lots of cute little beach bars where you can sit and watch. We found the Oasis Tiki Bar that did good food, drink and had a live band. Other patrons kept us entertained too, like the older lady who must have been in her 70’s, wore a tiara and Tutu, drank shots and danced (unaware that she was entertaining) to the live music. Great fun!
You’re keen! you’ve made it to the end of my epic post so you must be serious about your Orlando vacation. Now, are you ready for our recommendations on our favorite Steak Houses and other things to do in Orlando? CLICK to read …