Disney Springs, in the dark. You can see Disney Springs on the other side of the water. The buildings are brightly lit up.

Fun Things to Do in Orlando Beyond Theme Parks

Orlando is often synonymous with its world-famous theme parks, but this vibrant city has much more to offer. Beyond the excitement of Disney World lies plenty of experiences that don’t cost a small fortune. 

As a Floridian, I’ve been having fun in Orlando even before I can talk (yes, seriously)! It’s a city that continues to improve and expand year over year.  

This article is about the top things to do in Orlando away from the typical theme park scene. Come along with me as I share my favorite parts of O-Town, which I know you’ll love to!

Things to do in Orlando: Visit the Charming Town of Winter Park

Winter Park, located about 20 minutes North of downtown Orlando, feels like a world away from the usual Florida attractions. This historic, upscale area is home to some of Orlando’s wealthiest residents and boasts picturesque parks, brick streets, and rolling hills. 

The Park Avenue District is the heart of Winter Park, featuring over 140 boutiques, shops, and cafes, including the Rifle Paper Co. for distinctive gifts. The town often has special events and famer’s markets. Make a visit to Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art. It is widely known for having the largest collection of Louis Comfort Tiffany’s stained glass and decorative art. 

Rollins College is also located in Winter Park. This picturesque mediterranean architecture campus overlooks Lake Virginia, and is known for Fred Rogers, from Mr. Rogers Neighborhood, who graduated there. For a fun way to see the area, the Winter Park Scenic Boat Tour offers hourly cruises from 10 am to 4 pm, showcasing some of the region’s most stunning water views. 

Unlimited Shopping in Orlando

Beyond theme parks, Orlando is known for some of the best shopping in the world. You won’t have to travel far to find many options that appeal to anyone. You’ll have your pick from indoor to outdoor shopping to large-scale entertainment complexes. If you’re looking for the best traditional mall experience, you’ll want to visit the Florida Mall. It’s over 1.8 million square feet and is the largest mall in Central Florida. It has about every store you can imagine.

For high-end shopping, the Mall at Millenia is your best bet. For bargain shoppers, you’ll find some steals at the Orlando Vineland Premium Outlets or Lake Buena Vista Factory stores. There are some unique neighborhood shopping districts such as Winter Park, which I mentioned earlier, is my favorite. Audubon Park Garden District is another suggestion near the Naval Training Center in Orlando. It’s more retro from the 1950s and 60s, full of vintage stores, bakeries, craft beer, and shopping locations.  

Disney Springs, in the dark. You can see Disney Springs on the other side of the water. The buildings are brightly lit up.
Disney Springs

I would be remiss if I failed to mention Disney Springs. While it is part of Disney, it is one of the best free things to do in Orlando. With some of the finest outdoor shopping, restaurants, and live entertainment, you won’t have to leave the grounds to have a full day of fun activities. The House of Blues is also in Disney Springs, so headliners often play concerts too. My family particularly likes Wine Bar George for small plates and entrees. We split the family-style skirt steak, which serves enough for 2-4 people. Afterward, there’s a live music stage in front of the establishment. Grab a bench after your meal, and you’ll be in for a real treat.  


Rosen Shingle Creek View of ICON Park. A sun setting in the back. Clouds in the sky. A park with a ferris wheel in the back
Rosen Shingle Creek View of ICON Park

International Drive (I-Drive) is best known for ICON Park. The Wheel reminds me of the London Eye, providing a spectacular view of Orlando since it rises to 40 stories tall. I’m afraid of heights so you won’t find me up there, but it certainly is beautiful to see from the Orlando skyline. ICON Park spans approximately 20 acres in the middle of the city. 

The dining scene is equally varied, with choices ranging from fast bites to gourmet restaurants, all set in a lively atmosphere. You’ll also find eclectic bars like Blake Shelton’s Ole Red, boutiques, museums, and rides. It’s a good spot to take the family when looking for various things to do in Orlando without going far. And, you can’t beat free admission and free parking. 

The Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition 

The Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition in Orlando is one of the top museums in Orlando. It provides an immersive experience taking visitors on character lead tours, interacting with actors to bring the Titanic’s story to life. The exhibition is full of real artifacts from the ship. 

You can opt for a standard tour, or splurge on the gala dinner feast to recreate the 1912 dining experience. It’s a unique way to dine and get your family interested in learning about history too!

Kia Center (Previously the Amway Center)

Amway Center, singer of Maroon 5 is seen standing up a platform. Surrounded by people
Amway Center

Visiting the Kia Center in Orlando offers an unforgettable experience, whether you’re there for a basketball game or a concert. A few years ago, I had the pleasure of seeing Maroon 5 perform there. It was a sold out show with roughly 20,000 seats filled at capacity. This premier venue has also welcomed a slew of other famous musicians including Shakira, Lady Gaga, and Taylor Swift, alongside sports events like the NBA All-star game. You can usually find some great entertainment here throughout each month especially if you book in advance.

Orlando is a Top Destination for Golfers (and Mini Golfers!)

Orlando is a mecca for golfers, boasting an impressive list of courses ideal for a golf weekend getaway. With over 170 courses in the area, you’ll find one to fit your budget and skill level. 

If you’re not a golfer that’s okay too. Mini golf is very popular, and it’s a fun way to get your friends or family involved without the cost of a theme park ticket. Two of the top choices in Orlando are Pirates Cove Adventure Golf and Congo River Golf. They make it a bit more entertaining than your traditional putt-putt golf. Or if you’re staying near Disney, they also have two mini golf courses near their hotels.

Baldwin Park 

Baldwin Park Dog Park, large trees covered in Spanish moss. A grass field half sand, half grass underneath. Water in the back
Baldwin Park Dog Park

This Park, is often overshadowed by nearby Winter Park, is a hidden gem worth exploring. Located on Lake Baldwin, once a Naval Training Center, this modern community offers an upscale vibe with excellent walkability. For dining, The Osprey stands out as a fantastic spot for dinner or Sunday brunch. 

When visiting Baldwin Park, we love to get out in nature by heading to Lake Baldwin Dog Park. While it’s one of the best dog parks I’ve been to with their own private access to the lake, it’s also a great place for families to see the lake or enjoy the playground. The park has beautiful oak trees all over, so it’s nicely shaded if you visit in the summertime.  

Lake Baldwin Dog Park is located on the Lake Baldwin Trail, which is a 2.5-mile stretch around the entire lake. If you don’t make time for the dog park, I do recommend getting out to enjoy the scenery here. It’s a nice clean paved trail ideal for strolling or biking. While you won’t see the lake the entire time, you’ll get to see more traditional landscaping you would find in Florida. 

Mount Dora 

Mount Dora, a waterplane landed on the water, docked. A sun almost set in the back. The sky colored orange and yellow
Mt. Dora

Just a 40-minute drive outside the city of Orlando is the charming historic town of Mount Dora. Full of antique shops, boutiques, and stunning lake views, you’ll find this one of Florida’s most picturesque lake towns.  

Years ago, I came here often when I owned a photography business. It just oozes charm, ideal for a photo shoot. I particularly like Grantham Point Park (also known as Lighthouse Park). It’s the only freshwater lighthouse in the state of Florida. You’ll see some amazing sunsets off this lake. Plus, there’s a playground around the corner for the kids to enjoy. 

Visit the Town of Celebration

Visiting Celebration in Orlando offers a change of pace from the usual theme park hustle. Initially crafted by the Walt Disney Company, this town oozes charm with its architecture inspired by historical American cities like Savannah, Georgia. Its quaint streets and white picket fences, and there is a town square give it a historic feel. 

Celebration, a pool of water , behind it a grass field in a garden around villa's

Downtown Celebration has plenty of community activities with boutiques and restaurants. Market Street, in particular, is a shopper’s paradise, offering everything from a bakery for dogs to family clothing boutiques and a gallery with a year-round Christmas room. The dining options range from Thai to Mediterranean and classic American cuisines, all within a comfortable walking distance. One of my favorites is the Avocado Mexican Grill which has outdoor seating, live music, and delicious Mexican food. 

Celebration FL, a bar or restaurant seen from the outside. People are sitting on the terrace. The building has colorful walls. A man is playing the guitar.
Celebration FL

For golf enthusiasts, the Celebration Golf Club is another must-visit. Designed by the renowned Robert Trent Jones Senior and Junior, this lush, rolling golf course is suitable for beginners and seasoned players with five sets of tees. After a round of golf, the on-site Windmill Restaurant (yes, there is really a windmill) is a perfect spot for a drink or a bite to eat.

Take a Longer Road Trip

While Orlando is full of exciting theme park rides and fun touristy attractions, there’s a lot to see in the Sunshine State. Arguably, Florida is best known for having some of the best beaches in the US. Orlando being centrally located it’s easy to get to gulf coast beaches or visit the east coast.  

St Pete Beach, a woman seen from the back, is walking towards the beach. She has a sun hat on, black shorts and a shirt with long sleeves. Long grass on both sides of the sand path she's walking on. Behind the beach is the sea. A blue sky above.
St Pete Beach

As a Tampa Bay resident, Clearwater Beach and St Pete Beach are two of my favorite beaches. Depending on where you visit in Tampa Bay, it’s roughly 1.5 hours from Orlando. The drive is well worth your time. You’ll find pristine, clear water and a laid-back atmosphere, ideal for vacationers. It’s no surprise that both have been ranked as the best beach in the US over the years. Additionally, the famous Clearwater Aquarium, St Pete Pier, and several world-renowned museums like The Dali are also here.

Another suggestion would be to take an east coast road trip to see Kennedy Space Center. At NASA’s launch headquarters you can witness a rocket launch and see how the astronaut’s train. You are also near the ever so popular, Cocoa Beach ideal for surfing since it gets better waves than most of the Gulf Coast beaches. Keep in mind, it tends to be crowded, so you may want to earmark Sebastian Inlet State Park if you prefer a quieter place to be in nature. 

If you have more time on your trip, St. Augustine is a bit further north but well worth a visit. Take a stroll back in time to the oldest city in the United States built in the 16th century. I honeymooned in St. Augustine years ago, so it’s ideal for a romantic or educational visit. With horse drawn carriages, spanish architecture, and for those history buffs you’ll want to visit Castillo de San Marcos National Monument. It’s the coolest fort I’ve ever been to, and you’ll get great views of downtown St. Augustine from the top.

High-Speed Train

One of the newer things to do in Orlando is to take a high speed train ride. The Go Brite Train is ideal if you want to explore beyond Orlando and don’t have a car. You can quickly get to West Palm Beach in roughly two hours. The train has multiple slots daily, so you can grab lunch in South Florida and be back by dinner! You could also take a longer trip and see Miami or the Florida Everglades. 

Final Thoughts on Things to do in Orlando

Orlando is full of new and exciting places to visit that don’t require far to go. While Winter Park or a road trip remains at the top of my list, you certainly will find plenty to do that meets your interest level. Now that you have a list of new things to do beyond theme parks, I hope I challenge you to keep exploring O-Town. You never know what you might find.

Erin Blakely – Author Bio

Erin Wells Blakely, she's standing on a path. Next to the path is manicured garden. There are high blue colored walls on both sides. A tree on the left. In the sky strings of umbrella's are hanging in rows.
Erin Wells Blakely

Erin Blakely is a Floridian and golfer, bringing over 35 years of practical knowledge to the sport. As the founder and editor of Senior Golf Source and Erin’s Travel Tips. Erin’s expertise is recognized through her published work with established platforms like Healthline, Yahoo, US News & World Report, and Yahoo, where she contributes valuable insights on health, travel, or golf.

Like it? Pin it!

Pinterest Pin


  • Hels

    Interesting. So many things for me to see when I do eventually get there. Winter Park sounds great – love a bit of an historic area. I would definitely add in a beach trip too! Thanks for sharing.

  • San

    Fun Things to Do in Orlando Beyond Theme Parks is a delightful revelation for anyone looking to experience the city’s vibrant charm beyond its iconic attractions. This guide is a treasure trove of diverse activities, offering a perfect blend of entertainment, culture, and relaxation. From hidden gems to local hotspots, it unveils a side of Orlando that goes beyond the usual tourist paths. Whether exploring neighborhoods, indulging in culinary delights, or enjoying outdoor adventures, this guide transforms your Orlando visit into a multifaceted and unforgettable experience.

  • Jody

    Great article! I am definately going to use your suggestions here. I just recently read about Mt.Dora! I also had not heard of Winter Park. Going to have to check both of those place out! Thank you for the great read!

  • Jennifer Record

    Great recs! People always just assume you go to the parks..but there are great beaches and sports and music venues… Celebration offers plenty of fun!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.