Beyond the Theme Parks: 15 Things to do in Orlando Besides Theme Parks

Orlando wetlands park at sunrise

Orlando is known as the world’s theme park capital. Most people are familiar with Walt Disney World and the Universal parks, but there are actually more than a dozen theme parks in the Orlando area, making it quite the busy place if, if you’re someone that enjoys theme parks.

But that isn’t where the fun and adventure begins and ends for Orlando in central Florida.

Today, we’re going to share with you 15 activities to do in Orlando that are not theme parks. These options are a great way to take some time away from the busy life of going to theme parks and enjoying something different and fun with the family on your Florida family vacation.

This post is part of our Discover the USA series

Best Non-Theme Park Things to do in Central Florida

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1. Kennedy Space Centre

The Kennedy Space Center is operated by NASA and gives visitors the opportunity to learn about and experience Space. Here you can learn about NASA’s history, including astronauts that have been a part of history-making moments.

Additionally, you can do things like talking with real-life astronauts and seeing what a space mission is all about, and even plan one of your very own!

Kennedy Space Center

A fascinating and educational experience, we always spare a day in our Orlando itinerary for a trip out to Cape Canaveral, one of our favorite family things to do in Florida!

Location: Merritt Island, FL (1 hour east of Orlando by private car)

Cost: Adults (Ages 12+) $75 Children (Ages 3-11) $65 – Advance purchase your tickets here

2. SEA LIFE Orlando Aquarium

The Aquarium is always one of our favorite things to do, and whenever we visit a new city, if there is a local Aquarium, we always make it a point to visit.

At the SEA LIFE Orlando Aquarium at ICON Park, you will get to enjoy exhibits showcasing animals of the ocean, including the 360° Ocean Tunnel and the Feeding Frenzy.

This is a great spot to combine a visit to the Wheel for bird’s eye views over the city!

Location: Orlando, FL

Cost: $34.99 per person (or save with Combo tickets to other attractions at ICON Park) – Advance purchase your tickets here

3. Wonderworks Orlando

Wonderworks is a great place to enjoy fun attractions and experiments. Wonderworks really gives you the opportunity to discover and use your imagination. Some of the most popular attractions include the Bed of Nails, the Imagination Lab, and the Space Discovery Zone. 

Location: Orlando, FL

Cost: Adults (Ages 13-59) $35.99 Children (Ages 4-12) $26.99 Seniors (Ages 60+) $26.99 – Advance purchase your tickets here

4. The Crayola Experience

You just never know when it may rain in Orlando, and the Crayola Experience is a great way to spend the day inside, especially visiting Orlando with toddlers.

Here visitors get the opportunity to watch a colorful film, make a craft, and even see the world’s largest crayon! It’s one of the fun things to do in Orlando, away from the major theme parks.

Location: Orlando, FL

Cost: General Admission (Ages 3+) $27.99 – Advance purchase your tickets here

Crayola Experience in Orlando

5. Orlando Science Center

The Orlando Science Center – as the name might suggest – is all about science! Another perfect rainy day spot in Orlando away from the traditional theme parks, junior visitors to the center get the opportunity to learn about and experience all of the science around them.

You will find everything from learning how kinetic energy works in the Kinetic Zone to discovering the history of dinosaurs in the pre-historic times at DinoDigs.

In the Tiny Green Home exhibit, you will find all about how recycling and going green can make such a difference in our world.

Location: Orlando, FL

Cost: Adults $24 – Students and Seniors $22 – Children (age 2-11) $18 – Children (Under 2) Free

6. Madame Tussauds

Great fun for adults in Orlando too; if you are a fan of celebrities, you have to make a stop at Madame Tussauds. You will find intricate and detailed wax figurines of your favorite celebrities from all time periods. You will find musicians, actors, famous icons, and so much more!

This is another one good to pair with SEA LIFE and The Wheel at ICON Park.

Location: ICON Park, Orlando, FL

Cost: $34.99 per person, or multi-attraction passes

7. Orlando Museum of Art

If you are someone that really appreciates art, you have to check out the Orlando Museum of Art.

The Museum has a rotating art setup which makes for a new experience every time you go. You will find everything from paintings, sculptures, and more throughout the museum.

Don’t worry if you’re traveling with kids; they offer family tours and workshops, and even a stroller tour can be arranged!

Location: Orlando, FL

Cost: Adults $20 – Seniors (60+) $12 – Students $10 – Children (Ages 6-17) $8 Children (5 and under) Free

8. Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition

The Titanic is one of my all-time favorite movies so getting the opportunity to experience and learn all about the true events of the Titanic is something that I knew I had to do. Orlando is home to the Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition.

Based on the title, I’m sure you can guess that here you will find genuine artifacts and even have the chance to take a guided tour with costumed actors.

Saturday and Sunday they run kid-specific tours, ideal for kids 8 years+.

Location: Orlando, FL

Cost: Adults $21.95 – Children (11 and under) $15.75 – Seniors (65+) $19.75 – Advance purchase your tickets here

9. Catch a Basketball Game at Amway Center

Catching a game with local NBA legends, the Orlando Magic, is one of the best things to do in Orlando for sports fans. Whether you’re cheering along the home team or catching your favorite team away, the atmosphere is electric!

The 20,000-seat Amway Center also plays host to concerts and events throughout the year, so it’s always worth checking their schedule for something fun and interesting to do in Downton Orlando.

Location: Orlando, FL

Cost: Average ticket price is $53 but can start from $6 – Check available tickets here

10. Spook Hill

If you are looking for a spooky experience, you have to visit Spook Hill! Visiting Spook Hill will give you the opportunity to read about the legend of Spook Hill, and you can even take the test.

Spook Hill is known as a “gravity hill,” and it truly defies gravity. Many have learned that if you park your car at the bottom of the hill, you will soon begin to start rolling uphill.

Location: Lake Wales, FL

Cost: Free

Next up a few more nature and garden experiences not to miss during a visit to central Florida

11. Scenic Boat Tours

If you want to see the sights in Orlando, a scenic boat tour is a great way to do that. Getting out on the water and enjoying the sun is a great way to experience the beauty of Orlando.

The Scenic Boat Tours company takes you out on the Winter Park chain of lakes and takes you off the beaten path to see the beauty of Orlando beyond all of the hustle and bustle of the city.

Location: Winter Park, FL

Cost:  Adults $16 – Children (Ages 2-11) $8

12. Blue Spring State Park

Did you know you can spot the largest population of manatees in Florida, just 40 minutes away from Downtown Orlando?

Orlando - Blue Spring State Park Manatees

Home to a wide range of flora and fauna, the mild, crystal-clear waters of Blue Spring State Park are ideal for snorkeling, swimming and kayaking. You can even take a guided river boat cruise for the perfect outdoor change from the theme parks, one of the best places to visit near Orlando for nature lovers.

Location: Orange City, FL

Cost: $6 per vehicle – Or try this guided kayaking tour including transfers

13. Orlando Wetlands Park

The Orlando Wetlands Park is a 1650-acre man-made wetland designed to provide advanced treatment for reclaimed water from the City of Orlando and other local cities.

Visitors can access the park seven days a week, between sunrise and sunset. Enjoy recreational activities, including hiking, biking, wildlife viewing, and horseback riding. There’s no swimming, boating, or fishing here, making it a lovely quiet spot away from the bustle and activity of Orlando city.

Location: Christmas, FL

Cost: Complete Free

14. Mead Botanical Garden

Those looking for a complete change of scenery and to enjoy the best of Orlando’s outdoor lifestyle will love a trip to the incredibly picturesque Mead Botanical Garden.

It’s hard to believe such a tranquil urban oasis exists. 47 acres of gardens and wetlands, a butterfly garden, a bike trail, and a swamp boardwalk to enjoy. You can easily spend a leisurely half day, less than 30 minutes away from Disney World.

Location: Winter Park, FL

Cost: Complete Free

15. A Day at the Beach

Orlando is located almost exactly in the middle of central Florida, meaning you’re not far at all from the coast if you’d like to make a day trip to one of Florida’s fabulous beaches.

The east coast can be reached in around one hour – try New Smyrna Beach for something peaceful or Daytona beach if you want lots of color and activity on the beachfront.

For the best of Florida’s Gulf coast, your closest beach is Clearwater Beach; it’s around a two-hour drive from Orlando to Clearwater, traffic-dependent. You can rent a car for the day or join an organized day tour that will include your transfers and a boat cruise.

Location: See this guide for the closest beaches to Disney you can reach on a day trip

Cost: FREE! (but do factor in fuel, rental car, and car parking at some beaches) – or try this day tour with transfers and Pirate Ship cruise from Orlando

US East Coast Beaches Clearwater Beach Florida
A day trip to the beach is a fabulous side trip from Orlando

Orlando is such a fun city and makes for a great vacation spot for couples, families, and more!

We hope that this guide has provided you with some ideas if you are looking for activities in Orlando that are not one of the theme parks in the area.

More Orlando & Florida Inspiration For Families

If you have visited any of the above, please share any info and advice you may have and if you have any other favorite activities in Orlando that we didn’t mention, feel free to share them with other readers and us!

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Orlando things to do beyond the theme parks
Fun Oralndo Activities beyond the theme parks - with Slue Springs State Park pictured

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