Beyond Theme Parks: Other Fun Things to Do in Orlando

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Believe it or not, there’s more to Orlando than magical mice, islands filled with adventure and kissing whales. There’s a lot to see and do down the road less traveled.

Venture off the beaten path during your vacation to experience the many wonderful attractions that may not be on your Orlando radar but are well worth a visit, including these lesser-hyped favorites.

Discovery Cove

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Some very special friends are waiting for you at Discovery Cove, Orlando’s reservation-only adventure park. Swim with a bottlenose dolphin or introduce your family to a school of stingrays; snorkel through exotic fish or spread your wings with hundreds of birds in a free-flight aviary.

Signature experiences include the Freshwater Oasis with otter and primate encounters;  SeaVenture’s underwater walking tour while wearing a dive helmet; and The Grand Reef with aquatic adventures like playing peek-a-boo with smooth rays and sharp-toothed reef sharks. No matter the experience you choose, you and your family will make memories that last a lifetime while exploring the lagoons, pools and tropical atmosphere of this Orlando attraction.

Orlando Science Center

For 60 years, the Orlando Science Center has inspired the curious to get hands-on with science by taking part in learning experiences that are both exciting and educational. Visit one or all six of the permanent exhibit halls for interactive experiments and more.

At NatureWorks, reptiles from around the world slither, climb and hang all around you. For a trip back to the prehistoric age, head into DinoDigs where you can join an excavation to uncover fossil remains. The Engineer It! exhibit encourages builders of all ages to design and construct everything from boats to bridges using LEGO™ bricks and Superstructs™ and, of course, imagination. The Orlando Science Center is also home to workshops, live events and traveling exhibits.

Long & Scott Farms

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If you had 6.5 acres of corn, what would you do with it? Well, Long and Scott Farms decided to turn it into a yearly themed corn-maze. It’s a fun-filled adventure for those who feel like getting lost for the day. Check it out between October and November. While you’re there, be sure to visit the market for season produce like corn, cucumbers, yellow squash, red potatoes, onions and many other selections.

Families on vacation with younger kids will want to visit the playground, featuring giant tractor tires, jumping pillows, slides and a challenging labyrinth to journey through. Of course there are hay rides too. Climb aboard the Sweet Corn Express and get pulled around the farm.

Gatorland

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Where can you find the Alligator Capital of the World? At Gatorland, in Orlando, Florida. Despite the ferocious name, this is actually a nice, safe place to get acquainted with this fearsome reptile. Take a seat at the World Famous Gator Wrestlin’ Arena for a thrilling show with wranglers who catch six- to eight-foot alligators by hand. These fearless performers climb on the backs of these scaly creatures, roll them over and put them to sleep. Another thrilling spectacle is watching an alligator jump four to five feet out of the water to grab a piece of food dangling in front of them.

Speaking of food, be sure to bite into some of the popular Fried Gator Nuggets at Pearl’s Smokehouse. You’ll be surrounded by several hundred man-eating reptiles, so bring your appetite—and a side of courage.

WonderWorks

Orlando is the perfect place to let your imagination run wild—and WonderWorks can stretch it to the limits. This upside-down neoclassical museum features more than 100 mind-boggling exhibits, entertainment and dinner shows for the entire family.

Travel through six WonderZones including Natural Disasters where you can safely touch a Tesla Coil emitting 100,000 volts of electricity or step into the Hurricane Shack and experience wind forces up to 74 miles per hour. Take a Physical Challenge by laying on a bed of 3,500 nails then test your reflexes in Light & Sound zone. You’ll also be able to go on a 4D XD Simulator Ride with plenty of special effects to enhance your experience.

Boggy Creek Airboat Rides

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Mention the Everglades and most people think airboats and alligators. That’s especially true at Boggy Creek Airboat Rides in Kissimmee. Here, you can zoom across the marshlands of Lake Toho in search of every creature you can think of that inhabits the Sunshine State.

One-hour scenic nature tours are the most popular. These excursions into Florida’s wetlands are commanded by a certified U.S. Coastguard captain. Learn about the history of this undisturbed area while traveling under a canopy of cypress trees during a safe and educational tour. For something a bit more daring, book a night expedition for up-close-and-personal encounters with nocturnal hunters that lurk in the darkness.

Kennedy Space Center

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Kennedy Space Center isn’t a light year away—it’s only 45 minutes from Orlando, and possibly the closest you’ll come to outer space. Step out of your car and climb aboard a spaceship (it’s a replica), then grab a bite to eat while you shoot the breeze with a real astronaut. Spend the rest of your day launching into fun activities that will have you feeling like a space explorer.

Blast off for an amazing adventure in the Atlantis Theater. The Space Shuttle Atlantis Exhibit™ tells the story of the brave people who have taken part in NASA’s extraordinary space shuttle program. The centerpiece of this exhibit is Space Shuttle Atlantis, featuring amazing views of open payload doors and its “Canadarm” (its robotic arm, so-called because it was made in Canada) extending out, just as it did when it unlocked from the International Space Station. You can even blast off for a one-of-a-kind simulation on the Shuttle Launch Experience.® Other things to do include a walk through the Rock Garden where the pioneering ships of space exploration now reside.

Harry P. Leu Gardens

Explore 50-acres of botanical gardens designed to inspire and teach visitors about the importance of plants. If you’re looking to make your green thumb greener, be sure to take part in educational classes covering topics like horticulture and landscaping, as well as courses in the fine arts.

Master gardeners will also be on hand at Harry P. Leu Gardens to help you with any problems affecting your grass along with soil sample testing to help you have the best lawn in the neighborhood. Self-guided and guided tours are both available during your visit.

I-Drive 360

Spend the day at I-Drive 360, an entertainment complex featuring restaurants, attractions, clubs, shops and the spectacular Orlando Eye—a 400-foot observation wheel. Come face-to-face with realistic wax figures at Madame Tussauds, play the day away at Arcade City of journey back in time inside the Skeletons Museum, featuring more than 450 real bones posed to evoke curiosity.

Fuel up with classic and modern Spanish dishes at Tapa Toro. Here, you can sit at a table or head outside for a seat around the paella pit. Here. it’s all about sharing good food and good times. For a quick bites and treats, Cafe de Paris is a great place to stop for hot and iced coffee, pastries, salads, smoothies and lemonade.

One Week in Orlando

Seven days is enough time to do everything on this list, or pick and choose your favorites. Bluegreen has a great deal on a stay at The Fountains resort, which will make a great home away from home as you explore Orlando. Take a look!

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