When it comes to things to do in Orlando, it’s no surprise that the city’s famed line-up of theme parks takes up the bulk of the action – and rightly so. Both Disney and Universal dominate the tourist market here, with 9 different parks between them, not to mention all the branded shopping, dining and nightlife experiences that don’t require a day pass.

    Although visiting Orlando without at least saying a quick hello to Mickey and Co might feel like you’ve not had the full experience, the city – and surrounding central Florida area – does promise plenty of alternatives. Explore the quaint downtown quarter and the inner-city parks on foot, airboat your way around the vast alligator-infested swamps, or take a tour to the world-famous Kennedy Space Centre on the eastern shores.

    What are the best things to do in Orlando?

    While other theme parks around town tend to cater more towards certain age groups or tastes, Universal’s Islands of Adventure™ has got it all. There are live-action stunts to entertain the kids, while rollercoasters and themed rides tower overhead. Immersive simulators place you in the middle of your favourite movie – ideal for those who prefer their adrenaline fix to be a bit closer to the ground.

    Opened in 1999, Islands of Adventure™ is made up of 7 different areas, with the Wizarding World of Harry Potter™ pulling in the biggest crowd year-round. It sits alongside the likes of The Lost Continent, Toon Lagoon, Jurassic Park and Marvel Super Hero Island.

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    Location: 6000 Universal Blvd, Orlando, FL 32819, USA

    Phone: +1 407-224-4233

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    Magic Kingdom, Disney World’s first-ever theme park, remains one of its best. It welcomes a whopping 20 million visitors each year with its 6 different lands of fun and adventure. The iconic Cinderella Castle stands as the park’s centrepiece, which gets illuminated by the famous fireworks display every night. 

    Entrance into the Magic Kingdom theme park – which starts at around $100 – unravels a whole world of Disney-inspired shows, parades, rollercoasters, rides and simulators, most of which cater more towards the younger kids. The park is divided into Adventureland, Fantasyland, Frontierland, Tomorrowland, Main Street, and Liberty Square.

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    Location: 1180 Seven Seas Dr, Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830, USA

    Phone: +1 407-939-5277

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    Universal Studios Florida draws in the bumper crowds with its long line-up of Hollywood-inspired rides and attractions. Part of the wider Universal Orlando complex, the theme park focuses on delivering an immersive movie experience, with state-of-the-art technology used throughout the range of simulators. 

    This theme park lets you get up close with those naughty yellow minions from Despicable Me, fly across Springfield with The Simpsons, ward-off alien attacks in the Men in Black simulator, or get lost in a world of magic at Harry Potter’s Escape from Gringotts ride.

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    Location: 6000 Universal Blvd, Orlando, FL 32819, USA

    Phone: +1 407-363-8000

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    SeaWorld® has long been a firm fixture on Orlando’s list of big-name attractions, with plenty of shows, aquatic themed-rides and hands-on animal experiences to keep the family occupied for the day. Venture through the shark tunnel to uncover an underwater world, get up close to the dolphins and rays at Sea of Shallows, or watch orca whales showcasing their skills at the famous Shamu Stadium.

    Admission price varies between weekdays and weekends (starting around $80 a ticket). SeaWorld also has a range of multi-day options with various add-ons for entrance into the adjacent Aquatica® waterpark and Discovery Cove®.

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    Location: 7007 Sea World Dr, Orlando, FL 32821, USA

    Open: Hours vary by season

    Phone: +1 407-545-5550

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    The Kennedy Space Center is one of the region’s most popular attractions – away from all the theme park action, that is. It sits on the eastern coast of Florida, around 45 minutes from downtown Orlando.

    Thanks to Orlando’s relentless tourism boom, the Kennedy Space Center has become so much more than just a site for NASA to launch their astronauts off from the surface of the Earth. You can get up close with the original Apollo Saturn V rocket, stand nose-to-tail with the huge Atlantis Space Shuttle, take a trip out of the atmosphere in a simulator, or even arrange to have lunch with a veteran astronaut.

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    Location: Space Commerce Way, Merritt Island, FL 32953, USA

    Open: Daily from 9am to 7pm (hours may vary)

    Phone: +1 855-433-4210

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    One of the best waterparks in Orlando is Aquatica®, located next to the larger SeaWorld® complex. Alongside all the waterpark essentials like head-to-head slides, rapids, and high-speed flumes, it also delivers a few slightly more unique attractions.

    A must-try is Dolphin Plunge®, where your transparent flume passes through a pool full of dolphins (if you’re lucky, they’ll even try to race you as you zip over them). If you want an adrenaline rush, try the oblivion-style drop at Ihu’s Breakaway Falls®.

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    Location: 5800 Water Play Way, Orlando, FL 32821, USA

    Open: Hours vary by season

    Phone: +1 407-545-5550

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    For a theme park with a difference, Orlando’s highly-rated Gatorland provides a little extra ‘bite’ – it’s home to dozens of live alligators and crocodiles. The timetable of live shows and demonstrations here provides a great way to learn more about Orlando’s most famous reptiles, but what will really leave a lasting memory is the park’s much-talked-about zipline ride over the gator-infested swamps – easily beating any other rollercoaster in the city to the title of Orlando’s scariest attraction!

    Entrance fee is very reasonable, too, with this being one of the cheapest of Orlando’s many tourist attractions. You do pay a little extra for things like the zipline and gator-training sessions, though.

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    Location: 14501 S Orange Blossom Trail, Orlando, FL 32837, USA

    Open: Daily from 10am to 5pm

    Phone: +1 407-855-5496

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    Legoland Florida delivers heaps of things to see and do, including rollercoasters, huge Lego-built models (such as Florida, New York, Kennedy Space Center and Daytona Speedway), shows and performances. Most of the rides are geared towards kids (2-12-year-old), such as the popular Duplo fairground-style rides, the indoor-outdoor Dragon rollercoaster, wooden Coastersaurous, and safari trek.

    A range of flexible day passes is available for Legoland Florida There’s also a Legoland Water Park next door, which costs around $100 for a combined ‘park-hopper’ pass. Legoland’s largest park sits right next to Lake Eloise in the Lakeland region, around an hour’s drive from Downtown Orlando. There's a daily shuttle to the park from International Drive at 9am.

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    Location: 1 Legoland Way, Winter Haven, FL 33884, USA

    Open: Hours vary by season

    Phone: +1 888-690-5346

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    Discovery Cove® offers an intimate and unique animal experience for visitors to Orlando. Its top-rated activity is easily the Dolphin Lagoon®, where you can enjoy a 30-minute session with friendly dolphins in the water, Swim, hug and even kiss the dolphins (if that’s your thing).

    The Freshwater Oasis zone offers much of the same thing, just with different animals like otters and marmosets, while The Grand Reef is the place to check out some exotic fish with a snorkel set provided. Wind-Away River is a slow-flowing river passing through landscaped jungles, caves and waterfalls. Almost all the attractions here involve getting in the water, so don’t forget your swimwear. Packages are fully customisable and best booked well in advance via their website.

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    Location: 6000 Discovery Cove Way, Orlando, FL 32821, USA

    Open: Hours vary by season

    Phone: +1 407-513-4600

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    The Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens is a small museum located in Winter Park, just north of Orlando. The museum is in the historic home of Czech sculptor Albin Polasek. Although the property is small, it provides the ability to be close to the artwork and take great photographs. The guided tour includes a short video which explains the history of the property, giving you a better understanding of the sculptures and why Polasek created them. Each sculpture tells the story of Polasek and represents different times in his life, with most pieces focused on religion.

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    Location: 633 Osceola Ave, Winter Park, FL 32789, USA

    Open: Tuesday–Saturday from 10am to 4pm, Sunday from 1pm to 4pm (closed on Mondays)

    Phone: +1 407-647-6294

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    photo by Ebyabe (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified

    The Blue Man Group is a comedy, theatre, rock concert, and dance party combined! Enjoy an outrageous and sensory show from this worldwide group of talented performers in the heart of Universal Orlando Resort. Featuring an upbeat trio of multi-instrumentalists, the Blue Man Show in Orlando has several episodes of audience participation and appeals to pretty much all ages.

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    Location: Universal Orlando Resort, 6000 Universal Blvd, Orlando, FL 32819, USA

    Phone: +1 407-258-3626

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    Blue Spring State Park spans over 2,600 acres and includes the largest spring on the St. John’s River. The water is crystal clear and usually around 73°F (22.7°C) during the swimming season. The freshwater spring is a manatee refuge and, from November to mid-March, is home to hundreds of West Indian manatees. Blue Spring State Park also has animals including tropical birds, and turtles, squirrels, and even alligators.

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    Location: 2100 W French Ave, Orange City, FL 32763, USA

    Open: Daily from 8am to sunset

    Phone: +1 386-775-3663

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    Canaveral National Seashore is a sanctuary for many endangered species, including the sea turtles who come to the beach to lay their eggs in the sand. Like many seaside cities, the area is ideal for those who enjoy outdoor activities. You’ll find horseback riding, canoeing, kayaking, surfing, swimming, fishing, and boating. If you enjoy hiking, there’s a trail near the Visitor’s Center.

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    Location: 7611 S. Atlantic Avenue, New Smyrna Beach, Florida 32169, USA

    Open: Summer: daily from 6am to 8pm. Winter: daily from 6am to 6pm

    Phone: 1-386-428-3384

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    photo by Peter & Michelle S (CC BY 2.0) modified

    The Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens offers an action-packed day out for the whole family. See some of the region's most interesting animals along with others from different continents. Smaller children can head to the Barnyard Buddies Children's Zoo. Those looking for a little more bite can head to the herpetarium, which displays the southeast's largest collection of venomous and non-venomous snakes.

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    Location: 3755 W Seminole Blvd, Sanford, FL 32771, USA

    Open: Daily from 9am to 5pm

    Phone: +1 407-323-4450

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    Chocolate Kingdom Orlando allows you the chance to take part in an interactive journey to discover how chocolate is created from the bean to the bar, and from the bar to your belly. Explore the centre's Cacao Tree Greenhouse, onto the Mystical River of Chocolate and finally on the Micro Batch Bean-to-the-Bar tour to find out more about the machinery involved in making chocolate. 

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    Location: 9901 Hawaiian Ct, Orlando, FL 32819, USA

    Open: Daily from 10.30am to 6pm

    Phone: +1 407-705-3475

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    Church Street is home to many of Orlando’s best restaurants, a bustling nightlife scene and the city’s iconic Railroad Depot (that sits alongside the SunRail commuter rail system). It’s the place to go for first-timers wanting to get to know downtown a little better. Built in 1889, the old Railroad Depot still stands as a reminder of the city’s long-lost past, well before Disney and Universal arrived in Orlando.

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    Location: Orlando, FL 32801, USA

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    photo by Xiquinho Silva (CC BY 2.0) modified

    Cornell Fine Arts Museum Orlando has over 5,000 exceptional exhibits on display, from antique art to contemporary art. Located in Rollin's College, it's right in the heart of Winter Park and overlooks the stunning Lake Virginia. The museum's collections include the only European Old Masters collection in the Orlando area, along with contemporary American pieces. 

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    Location: Rollins College, 1000 Holt Ave, Winter Park, FL 32789, USA

    Open: Tuesday–Friday from 10am to 4pm, Saturday–Sunday from 12pm to 5pm (closed on Mondays)

    Phone: +1 407-646-2526

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    photo by Ebyabe (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified

    Discover just how exciting colouring can be at the Crayola Experience in Florida Mall. Try out 26 hands-on activities and enjoy being creative and free in the mesmerising Crayola Store. The range of fun and family-friendly activities at the Crayola Experience go from a simple colouring page to animating yours and your child's creation on a large digital projector. 

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    Location: The Florida Mall, 8001 South Orange Blossom Trail, Orlando, FL 32809, USA

    Open: Daily from 10am to 6pm (weekends until 8pm)

    Phone: +1 407-757-1700

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    Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort is a campground between the Magic Kingdom and Epcot theme parks. Almost 2,000 different camping sites are available, ranging from individual tent sites to full RV parking spots. The camping sites are a combination of paved driveways and sandy paths. Each site offers running water, electricity, outdoor grills and picnic tables. Private showers and laundry facilities are located near all sites. Fort Wilderness Resort also has 409 air-conditioned cabins, each of which sleeps up to 6 people. These cabins also include full bathrooms, free Wi-Fi, and bunk beds.

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    Location: 4510 N Fort Wilderness Trail, Orlando, FL 32836, USA

    Phone: +1 407-824-2900

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    Disney Springs is an outdoor complex at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. It is one of several such areas that offers a mix of shopping, one-of-a-kind restaurants, and entertainment all in one place, but this one is undoubtedly the biggest in Orlando, with 110 shops. Most shops are speciality boutiques within a particular theme, such as Disney's Days of Christmas, The Candy Cauldron, and Pin Traders. 

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    Location: 1486 East Buena Vista Drive, Orlando, FL 32830, USA

    Open: Daily from 10am to midnight

    Phone: +1 407-939-6244

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    Downtown Kissimmee is a typical all-American historical town in Osceola County. Despite its past as a shipping town, the area now has plenty of boutique shops and restaurants, as well as a lively night scene. See as much of downtown Kissimmee by taking a self-guided walking tour, starting from the Kissimmee Street Office. Easily reachable by car or taxi, Kissimmee is within a 30-minute drive south of Orlando. 

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    Location: Kissimmee, FL, USA

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    photo by Visitor7 (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified

    The Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts is an arts complex in Downtown Orlando, hosting numerous shows and events. The venue features a 2,700-seat theatre hall for the Broadway plays that are performed several times a month. There's also a 1,700-seat venue for smaller events such as ballet recitals, orchestral performances and award ceremonies. The Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts also offers free 45-minute tours centred around a brief history of the centre and the story of each distinctive space. 

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    Location: 445 S Magnolia Ave, Orlando, FL 32801, USA

    Open: Monday–Saturday from 10am to 4pm (closed on Sundays)

    Phone: +1 407-839-0119

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    photo by Elisfkc (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified

    Escapology is a theme-based escape game, where up to 6 people can have 1 hour to work together to find hidden objects, uncover clues, and solve any puzzles needed to escape. Each game room is open to between 2 to 6 people and there’s a variety of fun and challenging themes to choose from – from a Southeast Asian-based theme to solving the Cuban Missile Crisis.

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    Location: 11951 International Dr c3, Orlando, FL 32821, USA

    Open: Daily from 11am to 11pm

    Phone: +1 407-278-1515

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    Exotic Animal Experience gives you a chance to come face-to-face with rare and fascinating creatures in Orlando. This intimate interaction with African animals is both safe and non-intrusive, as the animals have been socialised since infancy and are accustomed to human interaction. The whole family can join in on the fun with a private 2-hour meet-and-greet with kangaroos, lemurs, and zebras.

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    Location: Orlando, FL 32833, USA

    Open: Thursday–Sunday: by appointment only (closed from Mondays to Wednesdays)

    Phone: +1 407-383-6766

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    Fantasmic! at Disney's Hollywood Studios is a nighttime extravaganza based on Mickey Mouse's imagination. Located in Sunset Boulevard, the musical spectacular is a high-tech water show at the Hollywood Hills Amphitheater and features Mickey Mouse and other famous Disney characters. The show’s filled with fireworks, lasers and water effects.

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    Location: Disney's Hollywood Studios, Perimeter Rd, Kissimmee, FL 34747, USA

    Phone: +1 407-939-5277

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    Disney’s Hollywood Studios is where movie magic comes alive, with the collection of family-friendly shows, rides, and attractions inspired by Disney’s classic movies. Scenes from the 1930s and 1940s classics draw in millions of visitors every year.

    Rides like The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror™ and the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster® provide some pulse-raising excitement alongside live-action rides and immersive simulators. Movie buffs shouldn’t forget to check out the excellent Animation Courtyard either, home to a few particularly interesting exhibits detailing the life and work of Walt Disney himself.

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    Location: 351 S Studio Dr, Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830, USA

    Open: Daily from 8am to 10pm (hours may vary)

    Phone: +1 407-939-5277

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    Finding Nemo – The Musical at Walt Disney World Resort's Animal Kingdom is a live-action stage show featuring Disney Pixar's best-loved characters from Finding Nemo – in puppet form. The musical performance includes some wonderful songs for the whole family to enjoy. Just like the movie, the musical version is both humorous and heartwarming. 

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    Location: Walt Disney World Resort, Orlando, FL 32830, USA

    Phone: +1 407-939-7211

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    Frozen Ever After is a family-friendly attraction at Disney's Epcot theme park. You take a slow-moving Norwegian vessel through a recreation of Frozen's Arendelle to meet the famous characters and locations of the film. Set to the tune of the famous Frozen soundtrack, Frozen Ever After is a fun water journey for the whole family. The ride starts on the docks of Arendelle, taken from Disney's epic movie Frozen, followed with a leisurely experience through lapping waters and into a snowy willow forest.

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    Location: Epcot, 1510 Avenue of the Stars, Orlando, FL 32836, USA

    Open: Daily from 9am to 9pm

    Phone: +1 407-939-2273

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    Fun Spot America is one of the few independent theme parks in Orlando. Located across International Drive from the sprawling Universal Resort, this particular Orlando amusement park stays clear of any branded rides promoting movies or Hollywood gimmicks, Instead, you'll find plenty of adrenaline-filled rollercoasters, go-karting tracks, and a whole bunch of attractions for younger kids to enjoy.

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    Location: 5700 Fun Spot Way, Orlando, FL 32819, USA

    Open: Daily from 10am to midnight

    Phone: +1 407-363-3867

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    The Harry P. Leu Gardens covers 50 acres of beautiful gardens, lakes, trails, and forest. Mr. and Mrs. Harry P. Leu, who travelled the world, started the Leu Gardens. On each trip, they would bring home exotic plants and over 240 varieties of camellias for their gardens. In 1961, the Leu family gifted the property to the city of Orlando to preserve its lush gardens. The Harry P. Leu Gardens is open to the public on guided tours. 

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    Location: 1920 N Forest Ave, Orlando, FL 32803, USA

    Open: Daily from 9am to 5pm

    Phone: +1 407-246-2620

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    Forever Florida is a large wildlife conservation area that offers some of the best horseback riding trails in Orlando. This preserved region of land has 9 different ecosystems, all of which you can experience on a horseback safari. You're personally matched to each horse based on your level of experience. A guide also rides along with the party, providing insight and commentary on the history of Forever Florida.

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    Location: 4755 N Kenansville Rd, St Cloud, FL 34773, USA

    Open: Daily from 8.30am to 5pm

    Phone: +1 407-957-9794

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    iDrive 360 is a popular entertainment plaza on International Drive. This plaza is home to Madame Tussauds Orlando, SEA LIFE Orlando Aquarium, and The Wheel at ICON Park™. You can purchase a single-attraction ticket or a package to experience all 3. The Wheel at ICON Park™ is a famous 40-storey observation wheel, allowing you to see most of Orlando in air-conditioned capsules. Madame Tussauds Orlando displays celebrity wax figures with a special emphasis on locally known figures. SEA LIFE Orlando Aquarium houses 5,000 different sea creatures, including turtles and sharks.

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    Location: International Drive, Orlando, FL 32819, USA

    Phone: +1 407-248-9590

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    photo by Jeff Turner (CC BY 2.0) modified

    International Drive Orlando is the centre of the city’s entertainment scene. The long street connects all of Orlando's major attractions, including SeaWorld, Aquatica Waterpark, Chocolate Kingdom, The Wheel at ICON Park™, and Sea Life Orlando Aquarium. Adrenaline seekers can try an indoor skydiving wind tunnel at iFLY Orlando or take a helicopter tour of the city with International HeliTours. International Drive also has some great museums, including the weird and wonderful Ripley's Believe It or Not!, Madame Tussauds, and Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition.

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    Location: International Drive, Orlando, FL 32819, USA

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    photo by herdiephoto (CC BY 2.0) modified

    Kelly Park is a popular public park in Apopka, Florida. It’s best known for its free-flowing natural spring. Visitors flock to the park year-round to swim, tube and kayak in the cool, crystal-clear water. Tent and RV camping is offered at the park, alongside a full-service concession stand, picnic pavilions and a playground. Tube rentals are available as well, with lifeguard stations staffed during spring.

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    Location: 400 E Kelly Park Rd, Apopka, FL 32712, USA

    Open: Summer: daily from 8am to 8pm. Winter: daily from 8am to 6pm

    Phone: +1 407-254-1902

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    Lake Eola Park is a pleasant downtown spot for picnics, exercise, paddle-boating or just a quick escape from the nearby high-rises. The 23-acre site, located off East Washington Street, has an almost mile-long walkway around the lake edge. There's also an event amphitheatre, a children’s playground, a bright red Chinese pagoda, and a famous fountain.

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    Location: 512 E Washington St, Orlando, FL 32801, USA

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    Lake Toho (Lake Tohopekaliga is a 23,000-acre fishing lake in Kissimmee that's known for its professional bass fishing competitions and birdwatching opportunities. This popular lake is home to a staggering amount of freshwater bass, alligators, water snakes and turtles. Located on the north side of Lake Toho, Lakefront Park has a seating area, a playground, and even a miniature lighthouse. Segway tours are offered nearby, taking you along the outer edge of the lake.

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    Location: 69 Lakeview Drive, Kissimmee, FL 34741, USA

    Phone: +1 407-846-2124

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    Madame Tussauds Wax Museum Orlando has 6 sections dedicated to famous celebrities, sports stars, and historical figures for you to pose with and photograph. The wax sculptures are stunningly lifelike, so you can get up-close and personal with Albert Einstein, The President of the United States, Michael Jackson, and Angelina Jolie. In fact, there are true-life wax representations of pretty much all of the most popular and influential people in history, sports, music, television, and film.

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    Location: 8387 International Drive, Orlando, FL 32819, USA

    Open: Sunday–Thursday from 10am to 10pm, Friday–Saturday from 10am to 11pm

    Phone: +1 866-630-8315

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    The Mennello Museum of American Art has a permanent collection of paintings by self-taught artist Earl Cunningham. The gallery has special exhibitions and events throughout the year, including a Folk Art Festival. Free Family Day takes place every 2nd Sunday of the month, which offers free admission, a free miniature fine art project, and free docent touring. Just outside of the Mennello Museum of American Art is The Sculpture Garden, where you can find "The Mayor", a 350-year-old live oak tree draped with Spanish moss.

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    Location: 900 E Princeton St, Orlando, FL 32803, USA

    Open: Tuesday–Saturday from 10.30am to 4.30pm, Sunday from 12pm to 4.30pm (closed on Mondays)

    Phone: +1 407-246-4278

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    photo by Ebyabe (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified

    Mount Dora is surrounded by beautiful lakes and offers charming attractions all year round. With a population of around 12,000 people, the small city has a unique charm that’s punctuated by its active arts community. Known as the “The New England of the South” and “The Festival City”, Mount Dora sees outdoor festivals and art events taking place throughout the year, including the Mount Dora Arts Festival. 

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    Location: Mt Dora, FL 32757, USA

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    photo by Darlene (CC BY 2.0) modified

    Ocala National Forest is Florida's largest nationally protected forest. It offers exciting activities, beautiful sights, and many camping and outdoor accommodation options. Located in central Florida, the area covers 383,000 acres of stunning natural landscape ready to be explored, including over 600 lakes, rivers and springs. 

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    Location: FL-40, Silver Springs, FL 34488, USA

    Phone: +1 352-625-2520

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    The Wheel at ICON Park™ is one of Orlando's most famous landmarks. The giant observation wheel elevates passengers 400 feet into the sky for some awesome panoramic views over downtown Orlando and Central Florida beyond. There are 30 air-conditioned capsules in total, which means you don’t have to queue for too long. 

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    Location: ICON Orlando 360, 8401 International Dr #100, Orlando, FL 32819, USA

    Open: Sunday–Thursday from 10am to 10pm, Friday–Saturday from 10am to midnight

    Phone: +1 407-601-7907

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    The Orlando Museum of Art is a visual arts gallery near Downtown Orlando, Founded in 1924, this museum is one of the oldest and most renowned in the Central Florida area, featuring a wide range of nationally recognised exhibits. Every 1st Thursday of the month, you can discover new local artists, enjoy live music and check out the museum's featured exhibition from 6pm to 9pm.

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    Location: 2416 N Mills Ave, Orlando, FL 32803, USA

    Open: Tuesday–Friday from 10am to 4pm, Saturday–Sunday from 12pm to 4pm (closed on Mondays)

    Phone: +1 407-896-4231

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    photo by User:MrX (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified

    SAK Comedy Lab is one of Downtown Orlando’s most prominent live improv comedy clubs. The 250-seat venue is packed almost every night of the week as the team of talented actors never put on the same show twice. Stars such as Wayne Brady and Jonathan Mangum got their start at SAK Comedy Lab, as well as many award-winning writers for shows such as SNL and The Office. Prices vary per show, ranging from $5 to $20.

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    Location: 29 S Orange Ave, Orlando, FL 32801, USA

    Open: Tuesday–Saturday from 6pm to 11pm (closed on Sundays and Mondays)

    Phone: +1 407-648-0001

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    SEA LIFE Orlando has interactive touch pools, bubble aquariums, floor-to-ceiling aquarium displays, a cold-water rock pool, and 360-degree and 180-degree ocean tunnels housing more than 5,000 sea animals. Meet sharks, colourful fish, seahorses, turtles, and jellyfish in 30 different displays as you explore the 3 oceans of the world. During your visit, you may see a dive show where divers interact with the creatures inside the tanks. 

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    Location: 8449 International Dr, Orlando, FL 32819, USA

    Open: Daily from 10pm to 10pm

    Phone: +1 866-228-6444

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    Skeletons: Animals Unveiled Orlando is America’s largest skeleton museum. This family-owned museum has over 40 exhibits of nearly 500 real skeletons from around the world. At Orlando’s Skeletons: Museum of Osteology, all animals on display died of natural causes. Some of the skeletons in the museum took up to 500 hours to collect, clean, and display.

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    Location: ICON Orlando 360, 8441 International Dr Suite 250, Orlando, FL 32819, USA

    Open: Daily from 10am to 10pm

    Phone: +1 407-203-6999

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    The Everglades is a region of subtropical wetlands in the southern portion of Florida, beginning at Lake Okeechobee near Walt Disney World. The area becomes more prominent about 3 to 4 hours south of Downtown Orlando. The Everglades' environment is ever-changing and mostly untouched. Swamps and mangroves are inhabited by various types of snakes and alligators, and birds of different species make this sub-tropical wilderness their home.

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    Location: Everglades City, FL 34139, USA

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    The Mad Cow Theatre is an exciting 2-level theatre in Downtown Orlando. It's a fantastic space to watch live shows and performances from The Mad Cow Theatre Company and other independent Orlando-based theatre groups. The theatre hosts several family-friendly performances and has previously featured shows of great American literary value, such as Tennessee William's The Glass Menagerie and Harold Pinter's Betrayal.

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    Location: Church Street Marketplace, 54 W Church St, Orlando, FL 32801, USA

    Phone: +1 407-297-8788

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    The Tibet-Butler Nature Preserve is a scenic nature centre on the west side of Orlando, offering miles of hiking trails. Home to the Vera Carter Environmental Center, visitors can tour a variety of exhibits and displays before heading out on a trek. The well-maintained trails loop through many of Florida’s major habitats, including a pine forest, a swamp and a lakeshore lined by Cypress trees. Elusive fauna and wildlife also make this preserve their home, such as the barred owl and river hawk.

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    Location: 8777 Winter Garden Vineland Rd, Orlando, FL 32836, USA

    Open: Daily from 8am to 6pm

    Phone: +1 407-254-1940

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    photo by Ash Dunassyn (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified

    Universal Orlando® Resort's CityWalk is a great place to eat, drink, shop, and have fun. CityWalk has something for everyone, with every type of cuisine you can think of and plenty of entertainment for the family. It’s located just before the entrance of Universal Orlando Resort. Access to the whole area is completely free, so it doesn't matter if you’re visiting Orlando Universal Resort or not. Kids will be happy about the number of exciting themed restaurants to enjoy their evening meal at, including Bigfire, an innovative campfire cooking restaurant, and the world’s largest Hard Rock Café. 

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    Location: Universal Orlando Resort, 6000 Universal Blvd, Orlando, FL 32819, USA

    Open: Daily from 8am to 2.30am

    Phone: +1 407-363-8000

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    On the Victory Casino Cruise at Cape Canaveral, you can gamble and have all kinds of fun on the water. Imagine Las Vegas on an ocean-going cruise ship, and you’ll have a close idea of what it’s like aboard this casino cruise. The ship sails every day in the afternoons and evenings, with each cruise lasting about 5 hours. The ship is packed with games across 4 decks, with room enough to take up to 1,200 passengers out to sea. 

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    Location: Terminal B 2, 180 Christopher Columbus Dr, Cape Canaveral, FL 32920, USA

    Open: Monday–Saturday from 11am to 4pm and from 7pm to late, Sunday from noon to 6pm and from 7pm to 12.30am

    Phone: +1 855-468-4286

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    The upscale village of Winter Park is full of historical and top cultural attractions just north of downtown Orlando. From a 9-hole golf course and sophisticated shopping boutiques to fancy restaurants and Florida's first college, there are so many things to do in Winter Park Orlando. You can visit this quaint area during the day for a spot of lunch and shopping, but most come in the evening when the main street is lit up. Its pleasant vibe sees many couples out for a stroll after dinner and drinks.

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    Location: Winter Park, Orlando, FL 37292, USA

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    Step inside WonderWorks Orlando, an amusement park that brings entertainment and education together under 1 roof with more than 100 interactive exhibits to challenge the mind in a fun and hands-on way. The mind-boggling journey features 6 wonder zones, each with many interactive and educational exhibits to be explored. Highlights include the space zone, which has a life-sized replica of an EVA suit (which astronauts wear when they are outside their spacecraft), a 4D motion ride, and a laser tag game.

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    Location: Pointe Orlando, 9067 International Dr, Orlando, FL 32819, USA

    Open: Daily from 9am to midnight

    Phone: +1 407-351-8800

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    photo by Leonard J. DeFrancisci (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified

    Standalone theme parks, theme parks within theme parks, theme parks next to other theme parks, water parks, nature parks… getting your head around Orlando’s extensive range of theme parks can be a bit confusing. 

    The 2 main theme parks in Orlando are Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando. Walt Disney World has 4 separate theme parks (Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom) and 2 water parks. Universal Orlando comprises Universal Studios Florida and Universal’s Islands of Adventure. For both, you can either purchase individual park tickets or ‘park-hopper’ passes. Basic day passes cost around $100. Other parks in Orlando include SeaWorld and Gatorland, which generally work out to be a bit cheaper.

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    Hitting a waterpark is one of the most popular ways of escaping the heat during Orlando’s long, hot summers. May to October sees average daily temperatures of above 75°F (24°C). Aquatica (next to SeaWorld) impresses visitors with its Dolphin Plunge and oblivion-style drop slides, while Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach offer several less traditional waterpark experiences such as snorkelling with sharks and surfing down melted snow-capped mountains.

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    55

    Go golfing

    Golfing is a very popular activity in Orlando, with Disney offering 4 golf courses of their own. Aside from the Mickey Mouse-shaped bunkers and branded flags, these are the real deal. You’ll find both 9- and 18-hole courses at MagnoliaLake Buena Vista, Palm, and Oak Trail. Away from Disney, other popular Orlando golf courses include Bay Hill Club & LoungeGrand Cypress Resort, and the highly-rated Waldorf Astoria course, among dozens of others. A single round generally starts from around $50 mark per person, with golfing equipment available for hire.

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    A hugely popular after-dark activity in Orlando is to watch live theatre or music, with the city and surrounding metropolis promising dozens of state-of-the-art event venues and concert halls. On the music front, pretty much anybody who’s anyone comes to Orlando at some point in their career, from pop acts like Bieber and Gaga to international dance DJs selling out 10,000+ capacity venues. 

    For rock music, keep an eye out for the ever-changing line-up at Hard Rock Live Orlando and House of Blues (both at Universal), while Downtown’s Amway Center hosts big names every month across a broad spectrum of genres. Venture into the Downtown core to find a good selection of smaller, less touristy theatres and shows, such as the long-running SAK Comedy Lab on Orange Avenue. For kids, Fantasmic! At Disney’s Hollywood Studios is an absolute must, as is the evening firework display over the iconic Cinderella Castle.

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    Escape to a spa

    With so many luxury hotels – plus the combined stress of running around theme parks with the kids all day long – it’s no wonder Orlando is home to a long list of spas for that much-needed rest. Many of the best places to ease away the aches, pains and tired limbs from sightseeing can be found within the city’s top hotels, such as at the Ritz Carlton, Hilton, Four Seasons, Waldorf, and Orlando World Center Marriot. For dedicated, standalone spa complexes, our recommendations include The Spa LLC on Edgewater Drive, Woodhouse Day Spa on Via Dellagio Way, and Spa Orlando on North Summerlin Avenue.

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    One glance at a map of central/south Florida and it’s clear to see the region boasts a diverse terrain, including the vast, swampy and often reptile-infested Everglades. There’s no better way to experience what the locals claim to be ‘real Florida’ than by taking to the water on an exhilarating airboat ride. 

    The Florida Everglades begin around the Orlando area at the Kissimmee River, with the extended watershed encompassing much of the southern tip of the state. For those staying in and around the Orlando region, top spots for airboat rides and Everglade safari tours are at Boggy Creek, Shingle Creek, Lake Kissimmee and Lake Toho. 30 minutes of zipping across the water generally cost from around $25.

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    Race in a NASCAR

    Ever wondered what it would be like to ride in a 600-horsepower NASCAR, going over 150 mph around a track? At Disney’s Richard Petty Driving Experience, you can do exactly that, strapping yourself into the front seat with an experienced driver for a ride-along, or taking to the wheel yourself (from 8 to 50 laps). The package includes all safety gear, insurance and an orientation. Riders must be at least 14 years old and drivers at least 18, carrying a full driving license. 

    For some slightly more family-friendly driving fun, head to the popular I-Drive NASCAR – an indoor go-kart track just off International Drive. Races cost around $25 a go.

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    Taking to the skies over Orlando is a memorable way of seeing the city from a different perspective. Companies like Orlando Balloon Rides operate out of the suburbs, with customisable flights taking you over the best of what Orlando has to offer in terms of natural scenery, as well as drifting past some of the big theme parks. Flights normally depart in the early morning or evening when weather conditions are most suitable, with rates normally starting at around $150 per person.

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    photo by Rusty Clark ~ 100K Photos (CC BY 2.0) modified

    Outta Control Magic Comedy Dinner Show is a non-stop comedic experience in WonderWorks Orlando. The audience doesn’t just passively watch the show – they become a part of it. Tony Brent is the only person in the cast, but he keeps everyone engaged throughout the evening. Experience high-energy magic, impersonations, and improvisational comedy, as well as mind-reading and vanishing acts. The show is family-friendly, which makes this dinner show a great option for those visiting with children.

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    Location: WonderWorks Orlando, 9067 International Dr, Orlando, FL 32819, USA

    Phone: +1 407-351-8800

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    Ari Gunadi | Compulsive Traveller

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