15 Best Things To Do In Orlando Besides Disney World

There are many reasons to visit the sunny city of Orlando, Florida, whether you're looking for a decent golf outing or hoping to visit any one of the numerous theme parks populating the area. In fact, most people who visit Orlando are there for the city's largest tourist attraction:  Walt Disney World.

Spanning a whopping 27 thousand acres, Walt Disney World is a city unto itself, boasting four separate amusement parks, two water parks, a shopping and entertainment complex, and 25 adjoining hotel resorts, each of which maintains its unique facade. In other words, once you enter Walt Disney World's property, there's almost no reason to leave during the duration of your stay, with Disney catering to every major want and need you could possibly have.

While there is nothing quite like a trip to Walt Disney World, there are plenty of other things to do in Orlando as well. After all, the City Beautiful offers dozens of unique destinations you won't find anywhere else, including zoos, animal safari parks, and nearby theme parks that are arguably every bit as entertaining as those found in the Disney bubble. In most cases, these attractions might even be a great deal cheaper than anything related to Disney, helping you save a bundle while having some quality time with the group you're traveling with.

From little-known amusement parks like Fun Spot America to museums detailing Orlando's odd regional history, here are some of the most fun things to do on your next vacation to Orlando.

Universal Orlando

The main competitor to Walt Disney World, Universal Studios' east coast location in Orlando can receive just as much foot traffic on a given day as Disney's parks. Slightly cheaper in terms of tickets, hotels, and food and beverages inside the parks, Universal Orlando also makes for a fantastic trip for the whole family. Focusing almost entirely on movies, TV shows, and other intellectual properties owned by Universal, a trip to either Universal Studios Florida or the neighboring Islands of Adventure is the ultimate destination for movie lovers everywhere.

Whether you want to swing from the skyscrapers of New York City with Spider-Man or outrun a Velociraptor at 70 miles per hour, there's something for everyone at Universal Orlando. Perhaps the biggest reason to visit the park, though, is to see the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Divided between Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure, the Wizarding World gives you the opportunity to live out all your greatest wizarding dreams. A meticulous recreation of iconic "Harry Potter" locations like Hogsmeade, Diagon Alley, and Hogwarts, you can spin spells around Knockturn Alley, take flight on a wild hippogriff, or sit back and enjoy a Butterbeer at the Three Broomsticks.

If you visit Universal Studios at the right time of year, you might also think about joining the park for the annual Halloween celebration, Halloween Horror Nights. From early September into October, Universal is redecorated with an average of 10 haunted houses, along with live shows and specialty dining options for every guest who ventures into the park after nightfall.


If there is one animal most people associate with the state of Florida, it's an alligator. Widespread throughout the Sunshine State, there's a chance you'll see an alligator in any body of water during your vacation to Florida, from small backyard ponds to larger lakes. If you want to observe these creatures from a reasonably safe distance, we recommend visiting Orlando's Gatorland, an amusement park and wildlife sanctuary dedicated almost entirely to the large, carnivorous reptiles.

Dubbed "The Alligator Capital of the World," Gatorland features hundreds of resident alligators, crocodiles, and other reptilian creatures (including several incredibly rare white leucistic gators). Spread over 110 acres, Gatorland also has a large aviary for avid bird watchers, several bobcats, an observation tower to get a better view of the gators and crocs below, and a zip line over alligator-infested swamps for more courageous visitors to the park. As a wildlife preserve, there's also a petting zoo and memorably frightening live animal shows, which sees animal wranglers feed and/or interact with gators in front of gathered audiences.

If you or your group are looking for an outside-the-box theme park with an emphasis on Florida's natural geography, Gatorland is the place for you. Along with basic exhibits found within the park, there's also an off-road adventure tour, a moonlit alligator-feeding night show, and the nearby Gator Gully Splash Park to escape from the brutal Orlando heat.

SeaWorld Orlando

Another major theme park property opposite Walt Disney World and Universal Studios, SeaWorld Orlando has been delighting visitors with their aquatic-themed spectacles since it first opened in 1973. A traditional amusement park and an aquarium rolled into one supremely entertaining destination, SeaWorld Orlando is famous for its high-volume roller coasters, as well as its numerous daily live shows.

In terms of its dozens of rides, SeaWorld Orlando offers everything from high-speed roller coasters like Kraken and Ice Breaker to innovative water coasters like Journey to Atlantis. For younger visitors, there are also several suitable attractions with fun themes, such as the Sunny Day Carousel and the Cookie Drop!, both themed after the beloved children's TV series, "Sesame Street."

Of course, a primary reason to stop by SeaWorld Orlando is its featured animal exhibits. Particular standouts among the park include Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin, an area featuring penguins and alcids, the reptile- and manatee-populated Turtle Trek, and the Arctic Ocean-themed Wild Arctic area, bolstered by walruses, seals, and beluga whales. Other notable attractions inside the park include the 400-foot rotating observational Sky Tower, and SeaWorld's signature live aquatic shows. Taking a seat in any one of SeaWorld's large amphitheaters, you'll be entreated to shows that shine a spotlight on an endless cast of entertaining animal performers, including dolphins, sea lions, walruses and otters.


If you ever find yourself needing something to do in Orlando, it's highly recommended you take a trip to ICON Park. An entertainment complex spread over 20 acres, it's essentially Florida's answer to Minnesota's Mall of America or New Jersey's American Dream (albeit far smaller). On the grounds, you'll find dozens of different shops and dining options, including stores like Build-a-Bear Workshop and restaurants like Outback Steakhouse and Buffalo Wild Wings.

There are also a fair amount of other entertainment options when it comes to spending time in this bustling area. For scenic views around the area, you can board the 400-foot Ferris wheel, known as The Wheel at ICON Park. For addictively fun games, you can hurl an ax at a wooden target or try your hand at an escape room at the Max Action Arena. For first-hand animal encounters, stop by the Sea Life Orlando Aquarium, featuring exotic sea creatures like sharks, sea turtles, and stingrays. Or if you're interested in snapping some pics with dozens of celebrities, you can drop into Madame Tussauds' wax museum and meet life-like statues of Batman, Superman, Taylor Swift, and many, many more. In short, there's no means of entertainment quite as far-ranging as those offered at ICON Park — an excellent way for anyone to spend a day or night in Orlando.

Drive Shack

In many ways, Drive Shack and its chief counterpart Topgolf are nearly one and the same. Both companies offer golf-focused entertainment in a new and exciting way, appealing to hardcore golfing hobbyists and those completely new to the sport as well. Far from being a simple golf range alone, Drive Shack has several options when it comes to the games you can play at the venue, each more innovative than the last.

For example, Drive Shack has a modified version of Darts, which sees players try to hit their ball toward specific areas of the driving range. In Shack Jack, you play a modified version of the classic poker game, blackjack, aiming for cards projected on the course in the hopes of getting as close to 21 as possible. Finally, in Monster Hunt, you and your party work to combat monsters and save infant dragons, working against the clock in order to achieve a shared victory together. Of course, you're also free to partake in straightforward driving range activities, hitting the ball without having to work towards a specific goal or gaming objective.

If golfing isn't your thing, Drive Shack also has plenty of other recreational activities that might catch your interest. Almost every Drive Shack location comes equipped with literally hundreds of TV screens, each tuned into major sporting events or other great TV shows. For food and drink, Drive Shack also has a large selection of above-par bar food and beverages, from towering nacho platters to alcoholic and non-alcoholic libations.

Fun Spot America

Fun Spot America is seldom ranked as the greatest amusement park in Orlando. But if you're looking for a park that's comparatively less expensive and usually less crowded than Disney, Universal, or SeaWorld, Fun Spot America is your absolute best bet for delivering quality theme park thrills. Family-owned and operated, Fun Spot America has been delighting visitors for several decades. Originally opened as a 3-acre amusement park in 1979, it's since moved to a larger plot of land, laying the foundation for the 14-acre park currently operating today.

Fun Spot America boasts a slew of attractions and shows that are bound to appeal to every guest who wanders through the entrance gate. For thrill-seekers, you can drive go-karts in the multi-level race tracks, or board the park's SkyCoaster (a suspended attraction that's essentially a cross between hang-gliding and skydiving). For avid gamers, there's an arcade chock full of vintage, endlessly replayable gaming favorites. If you want to sit back and watch a show, Fun Spot America has also partnered with Gatorland to bring you Gator Spot — a zoo area exhibiting all kinds of stunning reptiles. 

Perhaps the best reason to visit Fun Spot America is the cost. With free parking and free admission, you have the option to either pay per day or pay per ride, allowing you to customize your visit if you're on a more budget-oriented vacation. Conveniently, if you venture outside Orlando, you can also find another Fun Spot America location in nearby Kissimmee, about a half-hour's drive away.

The Florida Mall

Located right next to the Orlando International Airport and some of Orlando's foremost vacation destinations (Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, etc.), The Florida Mall is the undeniably best place to shop anywhere in central Florida. Complete with over 250 stores, The Florida Mall has pretty much everything you can imagine in terms of retail stores, from mall staples like Bath & Body Works and American Eagle Outfitters to over a dozen dining options (including sushi, Italian, pizza, and burger restaurants).

As remarkable as the mall itself is, the mall's most unique feature is its Crayola Experience. A fun and comprehensive tour perfect for children and adults, the Crayola Experience walks you through the process of making a Crayola crayon. While there, you'll be able to melt down crayons into unique wax shapes, as well as wrap and name your own signature Crayola crayon. Younger visitors are also sure to delight in climbing the two-story playground, witnessing their hand-drawn paper creations take on a life of their own through Rockin' Paper, and laying eyes on the World's Largest Crayola crayon.

For a unique souvenir to remember your day inside the venue, be sure to visit Crayola's retail store in The Florida Mall after your tour has concluded. Inside, you're free to choose from a massive variety of Crayola products, mixing and matching the company's most popular colors to create your own distinct collection to take home with you.

Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition

A wonderful place for history buffs and cinephiles, Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition will likely catch the attention of a wide range of visitors. Housed within are genuine artifacts from the R.M.S. Titanic, recovered from the ship after its tragic 1912 sinking during its inaugural voyage from Southampton to New York City. For about $20, you'll learn key information surrounding the Titanic, such as the story of its construction, the chronological events of its sinking, and stories from those who witnessed the horrendous event.

Over the course of a two-hour guided tour, you'll see over 300 artifacts found onboard the actual Titanic as it made its fateful journey across the North Atlantic Ocean. These include numerous plates, pieces and silverware and cutlery, and a two-ton section of the Titanic's hull (known as the "Little Big Piece," it's the second largest piece of the Titanic collected from the ship's wreckage). Perhaps most impressively, the Exhibition also has several rooms that act as meticulously-recreated replicas of rooms from the Titanic. You'll even be able to walk along a simulated version of the Promenade Deck and lay your hand on an iceberg that matches the temperature of the water the night the Titanic sank.

Through this, you'll be able to get a better understanding of what it was like for those poor souls who awoke in the middle of the night to find the ship slowly sinking, as well as some sense of the physical conditions they faced in the freezing arctic waters.

Ripley's Believe It or Not!

A fan-favorite spot for vacationers across the U.S., Ripley's Believe It or Not! museums are a staple across the world. With 28 locations found everywhere from Amsterdam and Copenhagen to Myrtle Beach and Wisconsin Dells, Ripley's Believe It or Not!' museums have been shocking, delighting, and/or terrifying visitors for several decades.

Modeled after Robert Ripley's collection of oddities at the 1933 Chicago World's Fair, each of Ripley's museums comes fully stocked with a wide array of strange objects and equally interesting stories behind them. In many cases, Ripley's museum will take advantage of its unique geographic setting, weaving in historical elements of interest that may fascinate the museum's visitors. For example, inside the Orlando Ripley's Believe It or Not!, you'll be able to walk through the Weird Florida Gallery, passing fossilized alligators and a shrunken head supposedly owned by literary giant and Key West resident, Ernest Hemingway. In the Out of This World gallery, you'll see footage of the original Apollo 11 moon landing, a three-thousand-pound meteorite, and an authentic "Star Wars" lightsaber once handled by Luke Skywalker himself!

In addition to these, you'll also see plenty of the attractions tied to the Ripley's Believe It or Not! name. These include the museum's signature mirror maze, the mind-bending Vortex Tunnel, and a number of awe-inspiring sights presented in Ripley's Sideshow Curioddities.

Set out on a safari

You don't have to go to Disney's Animal Kingdom to enjoy a scenic animal safari. As outstanding as Animal Kingdom's Kilimanjaro Safaris is, a far more cost-effective and still equally fun option for seeing exotic animals might be booking a safari through an alternative vendor. In many cases, some of these vendors — such as Wild Florida Airboats — offer guests the option of taking an airboat through untamed, alligator-populated swamps, or driving through a parcel of land filled with dozens of rare and fascinating animals.

In the case of Wild Florida Airboats, visitors will be able to wind their way through 170 acres of land, passing over 150 animal residents. In the African savanna section of the drive, you'll see everything from zebras and antelope to giraffes and oryx, many of which will calmly wander up to your car. In another area, you'll encounter animal species native to North America, including lumbering bison. While the tour ensures you an up-close look at these animals from the comfort of your vehicle, you're also able to hand-feed giraffes via Wild Florida's giraffe feeding platform.

Included with your safari experience is free admission to Wild Florida's Gator Park. Inside, you'll be greeted by over 200 animal exhibits, ranging from Crusher — a 13-foot-long alligator — to Guy, the playful two-toed sloth. Gator Park also has round-the-clock live shows featuring most of its animal residents that are both educational and supremely entertaining in their own right.

Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens

Zoos and wildlife preserves are a fantastic way to spend a day in any major city, Orlando's zoo being a prime example of this fact. At the Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens, you'll encounter over 500 animals, evenly spread throughout the zoo's 20 acres of land. Built within an atmospheric tropical grove, visitors will pass exhibits featuring animals as massive as African giraffes to the minuscule residents of the grounds' smaller Insect Zoo.

As with any large zoo, the Central Florida Zoo houses a diverse array of exotic animals. Throughout the zoo, you'll come across over a dozen kinds of mammals, including leopards, cheetahs, lemurs, and a rare one-horned rhino. In the Herpetarium, you'll marvel at adorable (and incredibly deadly) South American poison dart frogs and Amazon milk frogs, alongside more sizable reptiles like the American crocodile and the Aldabra tortoise. Staunch ornithologists may also delight at the chance to see a far-ranging variety of birds, from the vibrant blue and gold macaw to the majestic bald eagle.

Nature lovers are also guaranteed to fall in love with the zoo's Botanical Gardens. Divided into several areas, visitors can ogle at the zoo's collection of bromeliads and ferns, spend some time in the Health and Wellness Garden, or trek through the ultra-scenic Butterfly Garden. Additional attractions you'll find at the zoo range from a challenging zip line course, a splash area for children, a petting zoo, and more personal encounters with the zoo's giraffes and rhinoceroses. 

Real Florida Adventures

Seeing animals from a distance is fun and all, but what if you could actually interact with the creatures in question? Such is the case with Real Florida Adventures, a tour company that has several tours worthy of your time, each of which emphasizes Orlando's foremost attractions and sights.

As with most tour companies, Real World Adventures has several strong options for potential tours to take. You might think about booking a tour to Kennedy Space Center, taking you to NASA's space complex where you'll be able to interact with exhibits, films, and displays centered around space exploration (you might even chat with an astronaut!). For sports fans, you can arrange tickets and transport to either an Orlando Magic or Jacksonville Jaguars game. If you're in the mood for a sunny day at the beach, you might secure a trip to Clearwater Beach, accompanied by a delicious complimentary lunch at a nearby restaurant. Or, if you're an animal lover, you can book a snorkeling tour and swim with manatees at Crystal River.

No matter your choice, Real Florida Adventures caters to almost every tourist's interests, making each tour unique and memorable. Most tours are composed of several different parties, but if you'd prefer a private tour for you and your group, Real Florida Adventures is happy to accommodate. If you're not interested in any of the company's tours, Real Florida Adventures also offers discounted tickets for most other entries on this list, including Gatorland, Universal Orlando, and the Central Florida Zoo.

Airboat rides

Airboat rides are as much a traditional source of entertainment in Florida as Walt Disney World or Universal Studios. A hallmark of the Southern swamplands of the U.S., airboat rides take visitors on a high-speed journey into the marshes of Florida. Along the way, you'll slow down to observe the various inhabitants of Orlando's swamps — think snakes, exotic birds, and lots and lots of alligators.

As you can probably guess, there are tons of tour groups that offer standout airboat rides throughout the Sunshine State, but one of the best and most convenient has to be Spirit of the Swamp Airboat Rides. A brief 30-minute drive south of Orlando, Spirit of the Swamp takes you on a guided journey into the heart of Florida's wetlands. On the tour, you're guaranteed to see numerous natural wonders — from gorgeous scenery to exciting wildlife — all the while your knowledgeable guide informs you about the diverse flora and fauna of Florida's swamps.

Perhaps the most notable feature that sets Spirit of the Swamp Airboat Rides apart from its competitors is the fact that their boats are comparatively smaller, meaning that you receive a more intimate, private experience with every tour. The smaller boats also ensure that every member of your group has a decent seat, allowing for better views throughout the duration of your tour. As Spirit of the Swamp tends to receive a lot of traffic, you'll need to make a reservation with the company in advance, as tours can be in short supply on a given day.

Scenic boat ride

In contrast to the fast-paced thrills of an airboat ride, you're also free to sit back and relax with a more leisurely boat ride through Orlando instead. If you're interested in this kind of lax experience, we recommend Winter Park's Scenic Boat Tour. On a tour like this, you'll coast along Orlando's waterways, passing some of the city's most wondrous mansions and most diverse flora and fauna.

Located just 10 minutes from downtown Orlando, Winter Park's Scenic Boat Tour will take you on an hour-long voyage through three different lakes and two man-made canals. As part of your journey, you'll stop by innumerable picturesque sights, such as the local Rollins College, the breathtaking Kraft Azalea Gardens, and the lovely Isle of Sicily in Winter Park. It's here you can expect to see multiple luxury mansions that cost upwards of several million dollars.

As part of your tour, you might be able to catch a glimpse of Orlando's diverse wildlife, from large cranes dotting the riverbanks to even larger alligators lazing in the sun. The tour company's dock is also within a short walking distance of Orlando's opulent shopping area of Park Avenue, giving you plenty of opportunity to shop, eat, take in a show at the Winter Park Playhouse, or stroll through the Morse Museum of American Art either before or after your scenic boat ride.

Try to solve an escape room

Technically, you can participate in an escape room anywhere, regardless of if you're in Florida or a larger town in your home state. Looking at it plainly, though, Orlando has a strong selection of memorably great escape rooms, each of which boasts numerous meticulously-designed rooms. Take, for example, the highly-popular The Escape Game on International Drive.

Voted Orlando's best escape room attraction by TripAdvisor, The Escape Game has a total of seven individually-themed escape rooms to choose from, including the NASA-driven Mission: Mars and the espionage-centric Special Ops: Mysterious Market. You and your party will have 60 minutes to solve all kinds of puzzles, collect clues, and escape the room before the clock runs out. If you get stuck, you're also free to consult your Game Guide for an unlimited number of hints.

Alternatively, you can visit Escapology, another fantastic venue for first-rate escape rooms. More deeply ingrained in the world of pop culture, the rooms at Escapology offer rooms centered around popular TV shows, movies, and books. In Murder on the Orient Express, visitors are challenged to solve a murder mystery whodunit of Agatha Christie proportions. In Star Trek: Quantum Filament, you're to reestablish communications with senior crew members of Star Fleet aboard the U.S.S. Discovery. And in Scooby-Doo and the Spooky Castle Adventure, you attempt to flee from a haunted castle straight out of a "Scooby-Doo" episode. No matter your choice, you'll have to rely on your wiles, wits, and collective teamwork to escape.