The first thing that springs to mind when you think of vacationing in Orlando is usually theme parks, but if you limit your scope to only Disney and Universal, you miss the wealth of other offerings available in The City Beautiful and its beautiful surroundings.

    No one is saying not to check out 1 (or more) of the amazing theme parks and amusements on offer in Orlando, but if you are a repeat visitor, or you just want a change of pace, then this list of alternate attractions is for you. Some of these might seem obvious to people who know Orlando well, but hopefully, we will offer new ideas to even seasoned veterans of Orlando.

    Considered the tourist center of Orlando, the mile-long International Drive offers a wide variety of activities. You will find Madame Tussauds, Sea Life Aquarium, America’s Great Escape Game and the ICON Orlando – formerly the Orlando Eye. ICON Orlando is an air-conditioned, 40-story tall Ferris wheel in the center of I-Drive. It provides the best view of the city. Many themed restaurants, bars and stores also line the street. International Drive has often been deemed the ‘Vegas Strip’ of Orlando because of its lively nightlife and colorful appearance.

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    Location: International Dr, Florida, USA


    photo by herdiephoto (CC BY 2.0) modified


    See a show

    Both Cirque du Soleil and Blue Man Group have shows in Orlando, Florida. Cirque du Soleil’s famous La Nouba is located at Disney Springs, just 10 minutes from Magic Kingdom. This famed theatrical production features acrobats, gymnasts and vocal performers. Blue Man Group, on the other hand, is at Universal Orlando’s Citywalk. This show combines the 3 famous blue-faced characters with vibrant instruments, music, video and lighting.

    Some of the best shopping in Orlando can be found at The Florida Mall and The Mall at Millenia. The Florida Mall is a large shopping complex with over 270 shops, 2 separate food courts, and various department stores. The Mall at Millenia is considered an upscale shopping mall, featuring many clothes, jewelry and electronic stores. It’s located right off Interstate-4, around 10 minutes from International Drive.

    For those who love bargain shopping, the International Premium Outlets and the Vineland Premium Outlet are great choices. Both offer popular clothing stores such as Nike, Levi and Ralph Lauren at heavily discounted rates. The outlet malls are located at opposite ends of International Drive.

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    photo by Miosotis Jade (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified

    The Harry P. Leu Gardens offers over 50 acres of landscaped flower gardens and lakes. Various learning activities and programs take place throughout the day, located mainly in the Leu House Museum. The Garden House Welcome Center is also the permanent home to a variety of artworks and rotating exhibits. Tours of the museum are available with a guide every half hour, while tours of the gardens are self-guided.

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

    Open: Daily from 9 am to 5 pm

    Phone: +1 407-246-2620


    photo by Jim Moore (CC BY 2.0) modified

    Get up-close and personal with hundreds of crocodiles and alligators at Gatorland, a local wildlife reserve in Orlando. The reservation is known for their extremely rare all-white alligators, crocodile petting zoo and free-flight aviary. Ziplining is also available at Gatorland. The Screamin’ Gator Zipper Line launches from over 60 ft in the air and flies across various animal enclosures and public walkways.

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

    Open: Daily from 10 am to 5 pm

    Phone: +1 407-855-5496


    Explore the Arts District

    Located on scenic Thornton Park, Orlando's Arts District features various museums and galleries as well as unique boutiques and restaurants. It’s also home to the famous Museum of Art and Lake Eola. The farmer’s market takes place on Sundays at Lake Eola. It hosts local merchants selling everything from organic green juices to homemade soy candles. Swan-shaped pedalboats can be rented at Lake Eola for a fun, 30-minute outing.

    Location: 39 S Magnolia Ave, Orlando, FL 32801, USA


    photo by Michael Rivera (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified

    Spend the day wakeboarding, water skiing or kneeboarding at this professional watersports complex. Orlando Watersports Complex offers both beginner-level and pro-level courses, as well as private lessons with licensed instructors. They use a state-of-the-art cable system, allowing you to learn the movements needed for each sport before trying it on the course. The complex offers a ‘Get Up Guarantee’, ensuring that anyone who isn’t able to stand up on the wakeboard the first day gets a second day at the park for free.

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    Location: 8615 Florida Rock Rd, Orlando, FL 32824, USA

    Open: Daily from 11 am to 6 pm

    Phone: +1 407-251-3100


    Discovery Cove® allows you to interact with dolphins and tropical fish in an incredibly personal setting. This wildlife reserve is comprised of various lagoons and winding rivers, homing tropical birds, otters and bottlenose dolphins. Photo opportunities are available for every animal encounter and the package is all-inclusive. Unlimited food and drinks are available by the white-sand beaches all day long. Discovery Cove only allows in a certain amount of people per day, so book in advance!

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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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    • Adventure

    Joining an airboat tour is one of the best ways to see what the Florida Everglades has to offer. Most tours last about 1 hour and cover a vast amount of distance, showcasing various Florida animal species along the way. Many airboat tour companies also stop to feed alligators and watch elusive bird species. Among the many companies available are Boggy Creek Airboat Rides and Captain Jack’s Airboat Tours, both located approximately 10 minutes from Walt Disney World.

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    Location: Everglades, Florida, USA


    The Orlando Science Center is a one-of-a-kind learning facility that features interactive exhibits, exciting science experiments, and the world’s largest Digistar planetarium. The private museum displays interesting exhibits such as Nature Works, which lets you get up-close and personal with various reptiles. Dino Digs is where you step back into the prehistoric age. Located atop the center is the Crosby Observatory, housing Florida’s largest publicly accessible telescope.

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    Location: 777 E Princeton St, Orlando, FL 32803, USA

    Open: Thursday–Tuesday from 10 am to 5 pm (closed on Mondays)

    Phone: +1 407-514-2000


    photo by Ebyabe (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified

    Ari Gunadi | Compulsive Traveler

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