Fun things to do in Orlando Florida that are not related to Disney World
Would Orlando still be a fun place to visit without Disney World and its parks and resorts?
With all the price hikes and Disney resorts and parks adding fees for every possible thing they can charge their guests for, many people are opting to skip Disney parks and resorts all together.
But the question is, Can Orlando still be a fun place to visit without adding Disney to the equation?
As a Floridian who visits Orlando quite often I will have to say that yes, Orlando can indeed be a super fun place to visit even if you don't include Disney in your plans.
In this article, I will share with you a variety of activities you can do while visiting Orlando and surrounding towns, and not one of them is owned nor operated by the Mickey Mouse company.
Some of them are free, some are budget friendly and most of them can be enjoyed as a family.
Now, if Disney is really your thing and its sole purpose of your trip to Orlando, then I totally get you but you might still want to read the article through so you can supplement your Disney experiences with some free or more budget friendly activities.
And if you are willing to travel a bit further out of Orlando, check out my blog articles on things to do in Central Florida for detailed information so you can plan your trip accordingly.
READ MORE : BOK TOWER GARDENS
20 non Disney things to do in Orlando Florida
1 - Choose a fun resort
Orlando is home to so many hotels and resorts and picking one that suits your family is a task on its own but if you would like to wind down from the parks and maybe enjoy a day or two at the resort I would highly recommend that you choose one that has amenities and activities for the entire family.
They both have pools, kid friendly activities/playgrounds and are perfect to spend a day away from the parks and traffic of Orlando.
My favorite thing about Margativille was the live music and restaurants by the pool. You can read more about our experience here in this blog article.
Now, as for Grand beach resort by Hilton, I was really impressed with all the amenities, including but not limited to the mini golfing and water activities such as kayaking and pedal boating. For more information and details, check out my youtube video of the resort.
2 - Chocolate museum
Chocolate lovers beware that if you are on a diet and cannot control your chocolate urges, this attraction may not be for you, otherwise dig in!
Now, our family has visited the Chocolate Museum & Cafe and while we enjoyed it, I have to say that considering this is a guided tour and there is quite a bit of history told by the guide during the visit, I would say that it is best done without children.
At the end of the tour, you will have the chance to see some pretty amazing sculptures created using cacao and will even be offered a few samples of a variety of chocolate, from super dark to white chocolate, there's a little something for every taste .
Now, if you want to skip on the history but still want to experience some chocolate adventure, Orlando is also home to the Chocolate Kingdom where there is a live cacao treehouse, river of chocolate and you can even customize your own chocolate bar. How fun!
3 - Restaurants
With culinary cuisines from all over the world, Orlando can easily be a destination for foodies that want to experience food from all corners of the world without having to leave the city.
Here are a few options to help you get started on your food journey in Orlando.
Mexican - Azteca D'oro - This authentic Mexican restaurant did not disappoint my Mexican husband. In fact, it was recommended by my husband's cousin who also happens to be Mexican and if you know Mexicans, you know they do not recommend anything that is not authentic.
Definitely try out the margarita sampler if you are over 21. It is a mix of shots of their most famous signature margaritas.
Another must have is the guacamole. You can have it made right if front of you, which in my opinion is totally worth the experience, or just a side of fresh guacamole bowl brought already made to the table.
Check out the video on Instagram to see what else we got/
American - Black Angus steakhouse - American quality cuisine at a decent price with a tavern feel. If you are looking for a place that has higher chances of satisfying everyone in your party, whether it be for the taste or financial reasons, the Black Angus Steakhouse is a great option. Good food at a good price.
Korean - Nine spices hot pot & korean BBQ - Not many places offer hot pot and Korean bbq but at Nine spices you can get a taste for the two different experiences in the Korean cuisine.
Japanese - Kobe Japanese Steakhouse - Offering a full hibachi service ( our kids call it " the show" lol ) along side a full sushi menu, here you can get the best of the Japanese cuisine.
Mediterranean - Makani - This Mediterranean cuisine restaurant is also a hookah lounge, highly focused on Egyptian culinary. Live music is also available on specific dates.
Italian - Mia's Italian Kitchen - Indulge in your favorite Italian meals, from fresh pasta to authentic Italian desserts. While there, don't forget to look up so you can see their ceiling art.
Pizzeria - Giordano's - Home to the Chicago Style Pizza but Giordano's is more than just a pizzeria, you can also order sandwiches, salad and even dessert.
Brazilian - Rodizio Grill - Yes, they are a chain restaurant but as a Brazilian native, I can tell you that the food is indeed authentic and I must advise that their picanha is definitely a must try.
Now, keep in mind that this is an all you can eat buffet ( with the exception for the dessert and drinks) so while it is a bit pricey, I'd say it is totally worth it.
4 - Shows
You may not associate Orlando with Broadway and theatrical shows but the city does have a few theaters where you can enjoy a show and even a dinner altogether.
Here are a few places that you can enjoy a show:
5 - Tours
From food tours to scary tours, there's a tour for every taste in Orlando.
Over at Original Orlando you can find the tour that best suits you and your party and if you are a foodie looking to explore the flavors that Orlando has to offer then head on over to Aviator to find a variety of food tours.
6 - Gatorland
Considered the The Alligator Capital of the World, this adventure park is dedicated to alligators and crocodiles but also home to many other animals such as wild cats, flamingos, turtles and more.
You will even be able to go on a zip line ride where you can fly 1,200 feet high over looking 130 giant alligators right beneath you.
Gatorland also features buggy rides, shows and encounters with animals. It's a great option for the entire family.
7 - Helicopter tour
Can you imagine how cool it must be to see the entire city of Orlando from up top? All the rides, attractions and even celebrity homes from an aerial view!
Ranging from $40 to $200 (average) per person, a Helicopter tour is a great way to see the city from a complete different perspective.
8 - Other theme parks
In the beginning it was just Disney but now Orlando is home to so many different theme parks, so much so that you can easily visit the city without even stepping foot in any Disney attraction.
Below are some of our favorite parks to visit and others that are on the "must visit" list:
Sea World - Fun for the entire family. From roller coasters to animal shows, SeaWorld is one of our family's favorite and we visit each and every single year. Read more about our family's experience over at SeaWorld here and how to make the best out of your trip to the park.
Universal Studios - Themed to movies and television shows, Universal Studios is a great option for those who would love to feel like they are part of their favorite movie. Filled with heart pumping rides, live shows, and attractions.
Islands of Adventures - Considered an extension of Universal Studios, Islands of Adventures is its own theme park but in contrast of Universal Studios, this one is more for the thrill seekers. With massive rides and roller coasters, this theme park also maintains the movie and tv theme with a hyper focus on superheroes and villains.
Aquatica - More than just a water park, Aquatica allows guests to get close to the marine life. Our family loves drifting into the lazy river and watching the fishes, sharks and other marine life as we relax.
I highly recommend renting a cabana for the day, especially if you are traveling with babies/kids. For more tips on visiting Aquatica, check out my latest blog article on the park or head over to Youtube to watch the video.
Universal's Volcano Bay - For all the thrill seekers that want a water park that matches their adventurous spirit, Volcano Bay is a must visit. Owned and operated by Universal Studios, this water park is jammed with exciting activities including a huge Volcano right in the middle of it that is also a water slide. So cool!
Discovery Cove - Want to relax, unwind and take a chill break from all the other heart pumping theme parks? Then Discovery cove is the one you need!
Owned and operated by SeaWorld, Discovery cove is very much like a resort. Everything is included, from the food to the alcoholic beverages with the exception for certain attractions such as swimming with the dolphins or sharks.
However, the park has a huge pool where you will be able to swim with beautiful and distinctive fishes and even sting rays. The entire park feels like you are on a Caribbean island and it doesn't even feel like you are in the big O.
Wonder Works - An indoor amusement park consisting of about 35,000 square feet of fun for the entire family. Here you will find the black lit Laser tag arena , glow in the dark rope courses and even a 4D XD Motion Theater.
Icon Park - Sitting on 20 acres with over 50 attractions, the Icon Park also offers a Sealife Aquarium as well as bars and restaurants. Admission is free but you can purchase ticket packages for the rides.
Dezerland - If for some reason, you visit the city of Orlando when it's rainy season but you don't want to give up on the fun, Dezerland is an indoor recreation center with tons of activities including a bowling alley, glow in the dark mini golf, go karts, a Trampoline park and even a cinema. Bring the family and friends and forget about that bad weather.
READ MORE : Everything you need to know before visiting Aquatica.
9 - Walk international drive
International drive is one of Orlando's main road and also where a lot of the magic happens.
Just by walking throughout this main street you will find great restaurants, attractions, entertainment and tons of photo opportunities.
Did I mention shopping? If you are looking for gifts to take back to friends and family but don't want to spend an arm and a leg at the theme parks, International drive is filled with gift shops where you can score t-shirts, toys, and other gift items at a great price.
10 - Ripley's believe it or not
I remember visiting the Ripley's believe it or not as a teenager and how unbelievable the whole experience was.
Filled with unusual artifacts found all throughout the world by Robert Ripley, Ripley's believe it or not is more than just a museum, it's curiosity brought to life.
Here you will find the recently launched mirror maze as well as 10,000 sq feet of unbelievable but very real exhibits.
11 - Concerts
Being a big city, Orlando is a must stop for many artists on tour so you will find many amazing concerts happening and the big problem would be choosing which one to attend.
12 - City Walk
Located just outside of Islands of Adventures and Universal Studios, City Walk is a compound of shopping, restaurants and entertainment.
It is totally free to enter but depending on the time of your visit you may be required to pay for parking. We usually visit City Walk after 6 pm to grab dinner, dessert or just stroll around and never had to pay for parking.
Here you will find big name restaurants such as the Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville, NBC Sports Grill and Brew and the super famous Hard Rock cafe.
However, it isn't just about the food, you can also catch a movie over at Cinemark or even play a round of golf at the Hollywood drive in mini golf.
13 - Resort Water Parks
Many resorts in Orlando offer their own water park that is also available to the public for an extra charge.
Check out the H20 by Margaritaville for a complete water park fun that is also much more affordable than the theme waterparks.
Another resort waterpark to keep in mind is the Coco Key water resort.
14 - Fun Spot
Fun spot offers free admission and parking as well outdoor attractions for the entire family.
You can choose from a single day pass or to pay per ride. Food is also available at the premises and are offered by Johnny Rockets, Sbarro, Auntie Annie's and others.
15 - Medieval fair
Want to take a step back into the 11th century and experience what it was like to live in the days where Knights were a real thing?
The Medieval fair can take you there and is fun for the entire family!
You have the chance to visit the Medieval castle, watch the Knight show and even grab a bite to eat and if it's your birthday, be sure to let them know so you can be knighted by the Queen. What a treat, huh?
16 - Music Festivals
Forget about theme parks and get into the world of musical festivals because in Orlando, you are sure to find one that resonates with your music style and preference.
And if you are coming from a town where Music Festivals are not really a thing, you will definitely want to take advantage of your trip to Orlando to experience some of the best music festivals in the world.
17 - Shopping
Orlando is a great place to go shopping, not only you can find many major retailers in the area, you will also have access to some of the best gift stores in the country.
Main Gate Flea Market - up to 50 food trucks and live music every Friday and Saturday night. Free admission and parking.
Larzland Amazing Emporium - Hollywood memorabilia tin signs, movie posters and more unique gifts.
The Mall at Millenia - Indoor shopping featuring big brand names such as American Eagle, Hollister, Lululemon, Victoria's Secret, Ray-ban and much more.
Orlando International Premium Outlet - Great brands at a great and affordable price. Include stores such as H&M, Coach, Mulberry and so many others.
18 - Lake Eola
If you are looking for budget friendly activities then Lake Eola Park is definitely one to include to the list.
It's the perfect place for a picnic, walk with the dogs and/family, great spot for photography and you can even rent a swan shaped paddle boat and enjoy the water fountain located in the middle of the lake up close.
Also, check out the activities going on at the park for more details on events and things to do.
19 - Gator drive at Lake Apopka
Central Florida is so much more than just theme parks and shopping. Just minutes away from Orlando you can find awesome activities to do that brings you closer to nature and exposes you to Florida's diverse fauna.
Lake Apopka is the fourth largest lake in Florida, the north side alone covers two different counties and four cities. The lake is also home to a wide variety of birds and other wild animals.
If you want to connect with nature and escape the craziness of the city and adrenaline of theme parks, definitely plan a trip to Lake Apopka where you can walk or even drive through the park and encounter alligators of every sizes.
20 - Play golf
Florida is home to the best golf courses in the world and of course, Orlando, has some great options for amateurs and more advanced golfers as well.
Hawaiian rumble mini golf - 2 18-holes courses
Condo River Golf - Feed live alligators while you golf.
Pirate's cove Adventure Gold - Pirate theme mini golf.
Arnold Palmer's Bay Hill Club & Lodge - 18 hole complete golf course available to the public for a fee.
Shingle Creek Golf Club - Available to the public at a more reasonable price compared to Arnold Parlmer's Bay and also includes 18 holes.
21 - Airboat Ride
Airboat rides are definitely a Florida thing so if you come down and don't get to experience it, did you really enjoy Florida to its fullest?
I will let you answer that but if you decide to ride the airboat make sure the wig/hat is on tight because the wind here is unforgiven, especially on an airboat!
I am speaking from experience here as I almost lost my hat during an airboat ride in the Everglades.
Here are two companies offering airboat rides in the Orlando area:
Boggy Creek Airboat Adventures - airboat tours, butterfly garden, alligator oasis, Native American village, gem mining and geode station and boggy bottom bbq restaurant.
Wild Florida - Airboat tours, alligator park, drive through safari, animal encounter and shows.
22 - Museums
Last but not least on the list are museums. I love how Orlando is home to educational as well as creative and fun museums.
Some museums are actually a mix of fun and knowledge and these are perfect to bring on the kids.
Titanic: The artifact exhibition Orlando - Over 300 authentic artifacts and historical memorabilia from the most famous ship in the world to this day; The Titanic.
Museum of illusions Orlando - Explore the world of perception as well as deception. Let the mind play tricks on you and discover how your eyes can see things that aren't really there.
Madame Tussauds Orlando - One of the greatest wax museums in the country, here you will find your favorite celebrities in wax and get the chance to take some pretty awesome pictures.
Orlando Science Center - The Orlando Science center brings learning and fun together in an effort to really spark the curiosity in the minds of the young but also present an environment where everyone can come together to acquire knowledge.