Things to do in Orlando besides Disney

categories: USA Travel

It’s highly likely that if it’s your first time in Orlando, you’ve got your sights set firmly on this sunny destination in the name of Disney. If that’s the case, you’re in great company, as the average number of visitors to Orlando lingers somewhere around 75 million—an impressive statistic for a city of 2.5 million year-round residents. It’s estimated that Disney World employs somewhere around 62,000 individuals from the U.S. and around the globe, making Orlando not only a thriving center of commerce but a city that has grown in diversity, strength, and opportunity over time.

My family at the Magic Kingdom
Many first time guests to Orlando, Florida are surprised to find that while Disney dominates much of the central landscape, it’s a sprawling destination dotted with lakes, suburbs, areas of alternative entertainment and close-knit communities that provide even more to see and explore. Yes, there are things to do in Orlando besides Disney.

While a visit to Disney World is probably already scheduled into the itinerary, having a comprehensive Orlando travel guide handy is a great way to expand your horizons and get to know the city beyond its popular and magical appeal. Whether you’re a traveler with a taste for fine dining or one who is heading to Orlando with the entire family in tow, don’t miss out on some of the city highlights that are sure to provide you with a new perspective on this well-loved destination. Consider this the ultimate guide for first-time visitors to Orlando and get ready to be inspired by the many options central Florida offers up for fun.

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Theme Parks Beyond Disney

Whether it’s a stop for the little ones or a trip with those who are still young at heart, Orlando is undeniably a Mecca of theme parks with Disney World reigning over them all. Officially titled the Theme Park Capital of the World, Orlando has a way with places made to play, discover and endlessly enjoy the thrills of childhood no matter your age. When you’ve spent ample time at Disney, you’ll want to be sure to make the most of a few other stops that are sure to please.

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Legoland

Legoland is an incredible theme park to visit when it’s your first time in Orlando and you’re looking for a place to spend the day that’s focused on fun rides and options for endless creative building. This massive theme park includes more than 50 attractions that are divided up into 14 themed sections, keeping a visit packed with entertainment and super engaging. Admire the towering structures built entirely with Legos as you move from space to space. If you happen to be visiting when Florida is simmering, Legoland also includes a waterpark perfect for cooling off. Legoland Florida is located at 1 Legoland Way and is best accessed by vehicle or designated bus.

Universal Orlando Resort

Universal Studios

Universal Studios is generally found on every Orlando travel guide with good reason. This exciting and innovative theme park brings the best of television and movies to life through rides, attractions and digital experiences that inspire the mind and imagination. From Harry Potter to Despicable Me and the many Nickelodeon favorites in between, Universal Studios is a great option for those fascinated by film looking for an immersive and high-energy day indulging in behind-the-scenes adventures. Universal Studios is located at 6000 Universal Boulevard.

See also our Guide to Universal Orlando Resort or listen to Visiting Universal Orlando Resort – Amateur Traveler Episode 637.

Restaurants to Savor

While Orlando is a city that promises theme park fun, it’s also a destination known for its mouthwatering dining experiences. From seafood to southern comfort plates and international cuisine accessible from across the globe, Orlando is a place where you don’t have to look far to find something delicious made to taste. While you might not have time to try them all in a single visit, when it’s your first time in Orlando, these two stops are worth a try.

Cafe Tu Tu Tango

Café Tu Tu Tango

Café Tu Tu Tango is situated at 8625 on vibrant and bustling International Drive and provides the greater dining public with a colorful and unique stop where they can settle in with friends and enjoy everything from pork belly sliders and tuna sashimi to jerk chicken skewers and cinnamon and caramel pizza. Recognized as a fun and eclectic food joint, Café Tu Tu Tango is nearly always packed with people looking to enjoy the art-covered walls, music, and plates made to share in good company. Soak up the Florida vibe and grab a Baja Taco while you’re at it when you choose to dine at this delicious stop that serves up brunch, all-day fare and late-night treats upon request.

Norman’s

Norman’s is the ultimate stop when you’re in Orlando for the first time and looking for a meal that comes with a side of sophistication and elegance. This is definitely a dress-your-best stop that’s known for its collection of new-world cuisine. Norman’s can be found within the Ritz-Carlton located at 7924 Via Dellagio Way and requires a reservation in advance. Once you arrive, feel free to take a seat at a beautifully set and candlelit table under modern chandeliers and a towering ceiling. The friendly servers at Norman’s are known for their helpful insight on menu favorites as well as the ideal wine pairing to bring out the best in the many flavors.

Nightlife for All Types

By day Orlando is an oasis of theme park fun and entertainment, but when the sun goes down over Florida, Orlando’s nightlife finds its stride. The evening entertainment scene in Orlando is notoriously fun, high-energy and welcoming with a little something for everyone available. Take time to enjoy these two stops when you’re looking for something a little different to occupy your evening hours or just can’t wait to dance the night away.

Ashley Edwards

ICEBAR

ICEBAR is a one-of-a-kind experience that mixes the best of Arctic chill with cool vibes. Those willing to get chilly to make the most of an incredible night will want to make a reservation at this bar located at 8967 International Drive. ICEBAR is exactly what the name implies and greets guests with a space for indulging in drinks that’s entirely crafted from ice! Grab a winter coat and get ready to try everything on the rocks once you enter this below-freezing room that’s as cool as it is welcoming. The lounge transforms into a dance space while you’re waiting for your turn at the bar and is a great place to warm up once you’ve done your tasting. This is a unique place to come with friends that’s sure to be something different from anything you’ve tried before.

The Attic Orlando

The Attic Orlando is situated at 68 E. Pine Street in the heart of downtown and calls to those with a passion for EDM. This musical and dance hot spot has long been known as one of the most upbeat destinations for those that love to party and faithfully provides shows and superior VIP service each and every weekend. Dress glitzy and bring your dancing feet as The Attic is a non-stop energy house that keeps the music going from evening until the early morning hours.

Fun for the Entire Family

No matter where your travel plans take you, it’s not always easy to plan a trip for a family comprised of a variety of ages, interests and attention spans. Fortunately, Orlando is a city that caters to engaging opportunities that span passions and generations. While there’s much more to be explored, adding these few family-friendly stops to the itinerary is a sure way to please even the pickiest of traveler. When you’re looking to make your Florida getaway even more convenient, there are a vast number of vacation rentals in Orlando that can help keep you close to these prime destinations, reducing travel time and keeping the entire crew in a good mood from the moment you arrive.

The Chocolate Museum & Café

The Chocolate Museum & Café can be found at 11701 International Drive and promises to be one of the most savory stops in Orlando. While the tasting options are always a highlight, the entire family will love the engaging and comprehensive museum tour which takes guests through the chocolate-making process with some hands-on moments and offers insight into how chocolate has defined an entire culinary industry. Tours are hosted Monday through Sunday for added convenience with the last tour departing at 6:00 pm. Purchase a ticket in advance to avoid any line time that doesn’t jive with little ones and plan on picking up some delicious souvenirs before you go.

Keira Knightley & Orlando Bloom Waxworks

Madame Tussauds

Madame Tussauds is frequently associated with a trip to New York, Las Vegas or London but traveling families are often thrilled to learn that Orlando has one of its very own! This wacky wax museum is located on International Drive at Icon Park, meaning you can enjoy both the chocolate museum and wax museum stop on the same day without having to get in the car. Gather up the entire family and come inside for a chance to take silly or serious photos with your favorite wax icons including Taylor Swift, the Justice League, Einstein and many more. Stay as long as you like and let the kids run free at this fun for all stop that’s whimsical and super easy to manage no matter what age group you’re traveling with.

Premium Shopping Stops

Whether you’re in the mood to pick up a souvenir or two, or just want to burn some serious shopping energy, Orlando has plenty of places to do both. When it comes to destinations for spending dollars and browsing consumer goods, you’ll be pleased when you find time to enjoy both of these locales.

Orlando International Premium Outlets

Orlando International Premium Outlets sprawls along the north end of International Drive and provides visitors with an open-air outlet experience that can be customized to fit any budget. The Orlando International Premium Outlets is home to stores that range from H&M and Kate Spade to Armani and the Disney Character Warehouse. Options range delightfully from budget-friendly stops and kid-friendly shops to upscale and big-name brands that come with a heftier price tag. For this reason, it’s not surprising the Orlando International Premium Outlets is a popular shopping destination any day of the week. When you’re planning a visit, make sure to make a note that the outlets are open every day of the week between 10:00 am and 11:00 pm. If all the shopping makes you hungry, the outlets have a variety of dining stops available as well. Head on over to the main level food court and savor the flavors available at Auntie Anne’s Pretzels, Asian Chao, Five Guys, Panera, Sbarro, and Planet Smoothie just to name a few!

The Mall at Millenia, Orlando FL

The Mall at Millenia

The Mall at Millenia is the indoor premier shopping option when you’re looking to enjoy time browsing apparel, home goods and much more when it’s your first time in Orlando. Located at 4200 Conroy Road, The Mall at Millenia is a one-stop-shop for everything you’re looking for and more that’s equally popular amongst locals and visitors to the city. This mall has a vast listing of retailers that range in price point and caters to upscale fashion as well as affordable finds. When you aren’t searching the racks and shelves for just the right item to purchase, it’s fun to note that The Mall at Millenia is also the place that hosts the annual Forbes Film Series. The Mall at Millenia is open daily from 10:00 am until 9:00 pm, making it an easy stop to fit in any time of the day.

Learn more about Orlando by listening to Travel to Orlando, Florida – Amateur Traveler Episode 431.

Orlando is Waiting for You

No matter what your travel experiences include, making time to add Orlando to the list of places you’ve been is definitely worth your time. Between Disney, the great climate, lush landscape and endless options for fun, Orlando is a city that will likely have you returning after a first visit for follow up experiences made to discover more. So, take time to indulge in the history of chocolate, spend an afternoon at Universal Studios or shop a day away. This Orlando travel guide is your free pass to make the most of a fun and unforgettable Florida getaway

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by Caitlyn Knuth

Caitlyn Knuth is a travel writer whose own adventures have inspired her to write about everything from the most delicious cafés in Paris, France to the breathtaking salmon runs in Juneau, Alaska. Working in association with Vacome Luxury Rentals, she enjoys writing and sharing about Orlando in the hope others will pack up and head out on Florida adventures of their very own.

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