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Top Things to Do in Orlando Outside of the Theme Parks

by Mommy Frog on December 7, 2023 Orlando   Video

Orlando is a popular vacation destination. Yes, it has fantastic theme parks such as Disney World, Universal Orlando and SeaWorld, but there’s so much more fun to be discovered outside of the resorts. Even if you are theme park junkies like our family, you might want to take a day or two to relax, kick back, maybe escape the sun and see some of the other sights. Maybe you want to hit the beach or meet some alligators (from a distance, of course) and other Florida natural wildlife. It’s a whole new kind of thrill! We find taking a break or enjoying nature rejuvenates us and makes our vacation even more memorable. Here’s what to do in Orlando besides the theme parks!

What to Do in Orlando Besides the Theme Parks

Carrying backpacks, pushing strollers for miles, riding roller coasters and being on your feet all day can take a toll on the body. When we visit Orlando, we love to plan some relaxation and low-key days in between hitting the parks we love so much. These breaks save our backs, and the kiddos enjoy the downtime and variety of things we do. Here are a few of our favorite things to do in Orlando outside the theme parks. (Psst ... if you're planning on hitting a few of these awesome options, check out the Orlando Pass Go Card!)

What to Do in Orlando Besides the Theme Parks - Discovery Cove Orlando Beach Chairs

Working Out Transportation

Keep in mind that some of these destinations may require additional transportation. Not only should you figure out the logistics of how to get there, but you should factor in added costs such as a car rental, parking fees at your resort, gas and possible toll fees. Visit our Orlando transportation guide to get a good look at your options and tips to save some cash on a car rental bundled with a hotel stay or a ticket purchase.

We are breaking up our list of things to do in Orlando outside of the theme parks by distance from the resort areas. That can help you determine whether you need a car or can rely on other forms of transportation to get there. Plus knowing how far you need to go can help you determine whether you need to add that toll package when you are at the rental car counter.

If you are leaving the main resort areas of Orlando, look up driving directions in advance to find out if you'll be encountering tolls. Some of the toll roads do not accept cash. If you do not get a package or pay online, you'll get the cost of your tolls plus a fine charged to your credit card through the rental car company when you get home. Yep, even we make rookie mistakes sometimes. But the good news is that you can learn from our mistakes and avoid headaches. You might also find alternate routes that avoid tolls. They may make for a slightly longer ride, but if you budget the driving time, you'll be good.

Things to Do in Orlando Near the Theme Parks and Resorts

16 ~Toadally~ Fun Things to Do in Orlando Outside the Theme Parks - Family in Aviary at Discovery Cove

Here are a few of our favorite things to do in Orlando outside of the theme parks, but generally less than 20 minutes away.

Discovery Cove

Discovery Cove - Dolphin Swim

This gem is like making a visit to a cruise ship’s private tropical island without seasickness. With white sandy beaches, tropical drinks and all-you-can-eat food included, plus the chance to swim, feed or interact with the animals and go snorkeling, it’s a slice of paradise. If you want to relax on a chaise or be swept away in the natural lazy river, that’s your prerogative too! Plus Discovery Cove limits capacity, so you can escape the crowds. Head over to our post on Discovery Cove to get all of the details. We opted for the Day Resort With Dolphin Swim package, and it was totally worth it! (Psst … you can save money and time when you purchase discount Discovery Cove tickets from Undercover Tourist.) You do not have to travel far to get to Discovery Cove. It’s right across from SeaWorld and about 25 minutes from Disney World or Universal. Parking is free!

Check out our video on our YouTube channel from our last visit. And be sure to view our other videos on swimming with the dolphins and the SeaVenture underwater walking tour. They are both awesome experiences our family will never forget.

The Wheel ICON Park Orlando

See Orlando from a whole new perspective — from above! Step into the calm capsule and be slowly swept up in the 400-foot-tall observation wheel. You’ll get breathtaking views of Central Florida from the theme parks to the lush landscapes. Save a few dollars when you purchase ICON Orlando tickets from Undercover Tourist. The SeaLife Orlando Aquarium and Madame Tussauds wax museum are nearby if you want to visit some aquatic friends or get a selfie with some famous people. It's about 10 minutes away from Universal on International Drive. Parking is free.

Root for the Home Team

Sports buffs, you're in luck! Experience the thrill of Major League Soccer in sunny Orlando, with Orlando City SC. This dynamic soccer club, established in 2013, brings fierce competition to the sport and has been captivating fans since its first MLS game in 2015. Gather at Exploria Stadium, conveniently located near the renowned theme parks, and witness the magic unfold as Orlando City SC takes on opponents with its trademark colors of purple and gold.

Experience the Magic

Things to Do in Orlando Besides Theme Parks - Orlando Magic

Immerse yourself in a whirlwind of super-charged action during the basketball season, spanning from October to April, as the Orlando Magic, one of the biggest teams in the NBA, face off against formidable opponents. Witness exhilarating matchups with legendary teams such as the Los Angeles Lakers, Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, Milwaukee Bucks and more at the state-of-the-art Kia Center (formerly Amway Center.) This cutting-edge sports facility boasts interactive fan areas, the tallest scoreboard in the NBA and even a restaurant with a courtside view.

As you savor the electrifying atmosphere, you'll have a variety of dining options. From unique bars and restaurants, these spots offer mouth-watering delicacies ranging from fine dining to classic game day food and drinks and everything in between. Even if you're not a die-hard basketball fan, a visit to an Orlando Magic game is fun for the whole family. You can snag your tickets by purchasing with Undercover Tourist.

Get Some Retail Therapy

If shopping is how you unwind, hit the Orlando International Premium Outlets. Located on International Drive, it’s just a few minutes away from Universal. You can get some Disney souvenirs at Disney's Character Warehouse for less than you’d pay at the theme parks. Similarly, the Orlando Vineland Premium Outlets is another shopping destination not too far from Disney World and also has its own Disney's Character Warehouse. Even closer to the theme parks, you can enjoy shopping at Disney Springs and Universal CityWalk.

Create a Colorful Day at Crayola Experience

Need a little AC and time out of the sun? Adults and crafty kids can explore art and technology while getting in touch with their creative side in 70,000 feet of attractions at Crayola Experience. Head over to the Florida Mall to get involved in over 20 hands-on activities such as Melt & Mold (fun with melted wax) and Wrap It Up! where you can design your own personalized crayon. You can also star in your own coloring page in the coloring photo booth.

Vroom! Go Race Car Drving

Just a couple minutes from Universal, you can pretend you are Jeff Gordon at I-Drive NASCAR. Reach speeds of up to 45 mph on your high-performing electric go-kart. If you have older kids who need to escape the sun or rain, then zip on over to this indoor experience. With the I-Dive NASCAR: Race Play & Eat package, you'll get one race heat, one play card with 30 credits for arcade games or bowling and a choice of one entree and one nonalcoholic beverage. Racers must be at least 55 inches tall.

Make a Splash at a Water Park

You can relax, cool off or make waves at a water park. Disney World has two water parks on property: Blizzard Beach (temporarily closed!) and Typhoon Lagoon (now open!). About 10 minutes from Disney World in Kissimmee, you can make a splash and share the moment on social media at Island H2O Live! (now open, but check the calendar for operating hours!). This park is the first of its kind because it is themed around social media. When you sync your wristband with the H2O Live app, you can make all of your friends and family at home super jelly as you capture your photos and videos of you zipping down slides or cruising down the lazy river. If you are staying closer to Universal, then Volcano Bay is just a short distance from the Universal hotels. Also, SeaWorld's Aquatica blends up-close animal experiences with high-speed thrill waterslides.

Hit the Links

If you are traveling during the cooler months, when your own greens are looking pretty white with a dusting of snow, pack your clubs. Orlando has several golf courses, and Disney even has its own course on property (mini-golf too)!

Go Indoor Skydiving

No jumping, falling or risk is involved with skydiving in a vertical wind tunnel. Instead, float on a powerful rush of wind and simply stand up to put your feet back on the ground. You'll want a two-flight experience because once is never enough at iFLY Orlando!

Go Medieval

Are you looking for a fun dinner away from the parks? Transport yourself in history to the 11th century, an age of bravery and honor. From your ringside seats, you will dig into a four-course feast while watching a royal jousting tournament. Save big ($10 per person!) with a Medieval Times ticket from Undercover Tourist. This location is about 10 miles from Disney World and 14 miles from Universal.

Escape to an Escape Room

Test your family's abilities to find clues and solve challenging puzzles. You have 60 minutes to escape and the clock is ticking! Choose from one of six themes. This makes a fun break from the theme parks with your teens and tweens. The Escape Game Orlando is located on International Dr. and is open from 8 a.m. until 11:45 p.m.

Have Some Hands-On Science Fun

Are you looking for some "edu-tainment" on your vacation? Have you always wanted to experience a 5.3 magnitude earthquake or 74 mph winds? At WonderWorks Orlando, you can get the All-Access ticket to experience these and over 100 other hands-on exhibits and Wonder Zones. Play laser tag, follow a glow-in-the-dark ropes course or try your skills at astronaut training. Have a moving experience in the 4D XD Motion Theater, which combines 3D film with special effects and full motion seating. A few experiences have height and weight restrictions, so make sure your kiddos measure up before you go.

What to Do About 30 to 60 Minutes from Orlando

What to Do in Orlando Besides the Theme Parks - Alligator on Airboat Tour

Just outside of the resort areas, you can find some amazing nature experiences that you can't really find anywhere else but in Florida. Take the opportunity to experience Florida wildlife with these exciting options.

Gatorland

Gatorland is technically in Orlando, but it’s about 20 to 30 minutes away from the theme park areas. Where else can you get up close and personal with wildlife such as alligators, crocodiles, birds, deer, zebras and more? You can enjoy shows, a petting zoo, a swamp walk and more. Still up for thrills? Try the Screamin’ Gator Zip Line!

Experience Unforgettable Orlando Concerts

Orlando boasts several popular concert venues that offer fantastic entertainment options for visitors on vacation. Among the notable venues are the Kia Center, the House of Blues Orlando and the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. These venues regularly host concerts featuring a diverse range of artists, from international superstars to up-and-coming talents. Attending a concert during your Orlando vacation is easy and exciting. Keep an eye on the event schedules for these venues and book your tickets in advance with Undercover Tourist to secure your spot.

Photo: kindofadraag / Licensed by Creative Commons/ CC BY 2.0

Airboat Tour

If you’ve never been on an airboat, you’re in for an adventure. You’ll glide through the Florida Everglades, consisting of marshes, rivers and swamps, and get to see wildlife. You might catch a glimpse of eagles, turkeys, wild boar or even an alligator! At Wild Florida, you can also hop in the car after your airboat ride to go through the Safari Park drive-thru. At Gator Park, you and your family can watch, touch and feed native Florida animals and watch an alligator demonstration.

We took an airboat tour on a recent visit and saw so many alligators! The smaller the airboat, the more places you can access. Our hearts jumped out of our chests when we slid across the land! So exciting!

What to Do About an Hour (or Two) from Orlando

What to Do in Orlando Besides the Theme Parks - The Space Shuttle at Kennedy Space Center

Sometimes you have to travel a little farther to get to your destination. We promise that some of these activities are worth the drive or bus ride!

Hit the Beach

Florida has beautiful white sand beaches about one to two hours away. Cocoa Beach is about an hour away on the Atlantic side. Take a day to rest with your feet in the sand — or your toes hanging ten on a surfboard! It’s just five miles from Cape Canaveral. About 90 minutes from Orlando (still on the Atlantic side and further north than Cocoa Beach) is Daytona Beach with its lively boardwalk, arcades and fun.

If you want to head west to the Gulf of Mexico, two hours from Orlando you can get to Clearwater Beach. Known for kid-friendly, calm waters, it’s a popular place to snorkel, go jet skiing or try parasailing.

Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral

Kennedy Space Center is about 60 miles to the east of Orlando in Cape Canaveral on the Atlantic Ocean. You could easily spend six to eight hours here, so you are not likely to fit both a beach day and a space visit on the same day. Gain access to historic launch sites, celebrate early space pioneers, visit the Space Shuttle Atlantis, learn about the Hubble Space Telescope, remember the astronauts who lost their lives on the Challenger and find out about the journey to Mars. If your kids are anything like ours, they’ll enjoy shopping for souvenirs that are out of this world! The Kennedy Space Center is one of many attractions on the Go Orlando and Go Miami Multi-Attraction Pass, or you can purchase one- or two-day tickets directly through Undercover Tourist (you can even book a chat with an astronaut!).

Swing for a Ballgame

Don't miss the chance to experience the excitement of Major League Baseball by attending a Tampa Bay Rays game. About a 90-minute drive from Orlando, you can witness a live baseball game at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, where the Rays play home games. Cheering alongside passionate fans, you'll be treated to top-notch baseball action as the Rays compete against rivals. The modern stadium offers a fun atmosphere, and with the team's enthusiastic following, you're sure to have an unforgettable time.

Siege the Day with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

What to Do in Orlando Besides the Theme Parks - Buccaneers fan at Raymond James Stadium

While enjoying your vacation in Orlando, why not take the opportunity to witness the electrifying atmosphere of a Tampa Bay Buccaneers game? Just an hour and a half away from Orlando, you can head to Raymond James Stadium in Tampa to watch the Buccaneers in action. Feel the adrenaline rush as you join the sea of fans cheering for the two-time winning Super Bowl champions. Grab your Buccaneers gear and get ready for an incredible time as you root for the team in the heart of football country!

Bring the Thunder at a Tampa Bay Lightning Hockey Game

Do you thrive on adrenaline-pumping experiences that keep you on the edge of your seat? You'll want to harness that energy by witnessing top-level professional hockey by attending a Tampa Bay Lightning matchup. Ninety minutes from the theme parks, Amalie Arena in Tampa sets the stage for the fast-paced action, where the Lightning amazes fans with their skill and passion for the game. Whether you're a seasoned hockey enthusiast or a first-time spectator, a Tampa Bay Lightning game guarantees a thrilling experience that will undoubtedly become a highlight of your Orlando vacation.

Swim with Manatees

Have you ever met a sea cow? Here’s your chance to snorkel and swim with these gentle giants. Rumor has it they like to have their bellies tickled! It’s about a two-hour drive to Crystal River, but your bus ride is included in this all-inclusive Swim with the Manatees Experience. After your swim and lunch, you'll get to explore the Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park. Attend a manatee feeding session and visit bears, panthers, alligators and even a hippo!

Hopefully, our list of favorite things to do in Orlando besides the theme parks has given you a few ideas about how to enhance your own vacation during your days off from theme parks. We may be theme park frogs, but we do offer some hoppin' deals and savings on other experiences so you can save money and skip the lines at other locations around Orlando. If you are looking to experience some theme parks and other things to do in Orlando, the 5-day Go Orlando All-Inclusive Pass might be a good deal for you.

Related: 2023 NFL Season — Everything You Need to Know for This Season

Related: Our Favorite Florida Beach Hotels for a Relaxing Getaway

Hoppy planning!

Keep hopping, Mommy Frog!
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Undercover Tourist is the leading supplier of online discount tickets to Orlando, Florida-area attractions, including Walt Disney World® Resort, Universal Orlando Resort™, SeaWorld® Orlando, LEGOLAND® Florida Resort and more.

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