Orlando is famous for its theme parks, like Disney World and Universal Studios. The city has much more to offer in entertainment, but if you’re set on a trip to the Magical Kingdom, check out our guide for visiting Disney World. If you’re looking for things to do in Orlando besides theme parks, though, you’ve come to the right place.
Things to Do in Orlando Besides Theme Parks
From museums to festivals, Orlando has something for everyone in the family. And the best part is: no ride lines! Check out our list of things to do in Orlando besides a trip to the theme park.
Theaters in Orlando
One thing to do in Orlando besides a theme park visit? The local theater! Orlando has a great selection of theaters with stellar casts. If you’re planning to attend a show, purchase your tickets in advance, as some shows sell out fast.
Stop by these three local theaters the next time you’re in Orlando:
- Orlando Shakespeare Theater: Open year-round, the Orlando Shakespeare Theater has a show for everyone. Purchase tickets to watch classic Shakespeare plays or opt for a comedy, drama, musical or children’s show. Located in Loch Haven Park, the theater offers free parking. Parking fills up fast, but street parking is available nearby, as well as paid parking garages within walking distance. Arrive early for your best chance at a free parking spot. While you wait, you can admire nearby Lake Estelle from the comfort of a shaded bench.
- The Improv: What do Jerry Seinfeld, Robin Williams and Bette Midler all have in common? They’ve all performed at The Improv — just not the one in Florida. The Improv opens in the evenings and hosts a variety of comedians — some well-known, like Margaret Cho, and others who are at the start of their comedic careers. The comedy can be raunchy, so only people 21 and older are allowed inside.
- Cirque du Soleil: Cirque du Soleil is famous for its acrobatic feats, which is why you shouldn’t miss their La Nouba show. Colorful, with quirky characters, the show includes aerial ballet, breakdancing and a gymnastic trampoline act. The seven-and-a-half-minute trampoline act features 394 flips and 62 twists by the performing artists, in sync with music performed by a live band. La Nouba’s final performance is scheduled in December 2017, but a new Cirque du Soleil show may come to the venue afterwards.
Museums in Orlando
What can you do instead of theme parks or shows in Orlando? Check out the city’s museums! Orlando has a variety of science, historical and novelty museums to visit, like the following four spots:
- Orlando Fire Museum: This museum is home to the rich and extensive history of the Orlando Fire Department. Items span from 1885 to today and include horse-drawn fire trucks, firefighter uniforms and antique fire alarm boxes. It’s open Fridays and Saturdays, and retired firefighters provide tours. Admission is free, and if you’re planning to visit the Orlando Shakespeare Theater, it’s right next door to the Orlando Fire Museum.
- Madame Tussauds: Did you know Oprah, the Royal Family and Channing Tatum are waiting to meet you in Orlando? Madame Tussauds has a broad collection of wax television and movie stars, as well as historical and sport figures. You’re encouraged to photograph yourself having tea with the Queen or dancing in sync with Michael Jackson. Museum photographers are also on hand if you need help. Expect your photoshoot to last around an hour.
If your plans include the Cocoa-Cola Orlando Eye and/or Sea Life, Madame Tussauds offers reduced ticket prices if you buy an admission package for visiting a combination of the locations. You can also buy your individual museum admission for a few dollars off at Madame Tussauds website.
- Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition: Take a tour of the RMS Titanic’s ill-fated journey at the Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition in Orlando. Gathered from deep-sea recovery expeditions, the exhibition features more than 100 artifacts, like clothing, newspapers and ship fragments. Guided tours include replicated boarding cards from actual passengers on the Titanic. Throughout the tour, you’ll learn about your passenger’s class and their fate at the tour’s conclusion. Friday and Saturday evenings feature theater performances, as cast members recreate the lives of first-class passengers, such as Margaret “Molly” Brown and the ship’s captain, Captain Edward Smith.
- Orlando Science Center: Located in Lock Haven Park with the Orlando Fire Museum and Orlando Shakespeare Theater, the Orlando Science Center offers a fun experience for adults and kids. Explore four floors of exhibits, such as the NatureWorks exhibit for reptiles, at the center. Plan to spend around three hours at the museum.
The Orlando Science Center also features the Crosby Observatory. Attend evening star-watching events to use the custom-built telescope. Admission rates include discounts for seniors, students and children between the ages of three and 11. Remember to bring your student I.D. if you qualify.
Historical Sites and Landmarks in Orlando
Historical sites and landmarks may not top your list of things to do in Orlando, but Orlando and the nearby town of Winter Park have a few places worth visiting, including:
- Coca-Cola Orlando Eye: Before heading for Winter Park, stop by the Coca-Cola Orlando Eye. It’s a landmark for Orlando and the East Coast. At 400 feet, it’s the tallest observation wheel on the East Coast. Air conditioned and fully-enclosed, the observation wheel’s capsules remain stable, unlike traditional Ferris wheel carriages, and gives a birds-eye view of Cape Canaveral, downtown Orlando and your favorite theme parks.
The Coca-Cola Orlando Eye is open throughout the day and late at night. In the evening, the wheel is lit up, generally to mark holidays, world events or charities. The wheel was lit green, for example, for Earth Day.
- Casa Feliz: Casa Feliz, located in Winter Park, is a historic home built by an architect named James Gamble Rogers. Described as a Spanish farmhouse, Casa Feliz features a turret and bell tower, as well as a courtyard with a fountain. Available for weddings and on select weekdays for tours, the home also hosts musical groups each week.
Casa Feliz is a unique historic site because it sparked a movement in Winter Park to protect, preserve and restore homes in the area. The home, in fact, was set to be demolished until local groups raised funds and obtained state grants to save the building.
- Winter Park Farmer’s Market: Located by Winter Park’s historic train depot, which was first built in 1890, the Winter Park Farmer’s Market is open every Saturday. A favorite of locals, market vendors sell flowers, dog treats and other arts and crafts. If you’re visiting Florida in March, you can add the city’s Winter Park Sidewalk Art Festival on your list of things to do in Orlando.
Orlando hosts a variety of festivals throughout the year, including the recent Star Wars Celebration festival. If you’re a fan of music or movies, you’ll need to move Orlando festivals to the top of your list of things to do in Orlando.
- Florida Music Festival: Free admission is a major perk of the Florida Music Festival, which takes place throughout downtown Orlando. The three-day April festival features a lineup of more than unsigned 150 bands. Famous bands and artists, like Taylor Swift, Flyleaf and Buckcherry have performed at the Florida Music Festival before achieving fame. Major record labels, such as Atlantic, Interscope and Universal Republic Records are also in attendance to scout new talent and serve as panelists.
Bars and plazas across downtown Orlando are used to host performing artists. Fifteen indoor and outdoor locations showcase artist performances. Check the music festival’s schedule to see where acts are performing to plan your schedule and travel routes.
- Orlando Carnival: Orlando’s family-friendly carnival is a festival celebrating Caribbean culture. Pageantry, live music and crafts dominate downtown Orlando’s Church Street District during the Memorial Day weekend festivities. Comparable to Mardi Gras in enthusiasm, the 2017 Orlando Carnival promises a bigger celebration to mark its 30th year with a parade by Orlando’s Camping World Stadium.
- Florida Film Festival: April also marks the Florida Film Festival, where 170 films premiere in ten days. Admission packages are tiered into different packages that offer access to films, press screenings and parties. You can watch the premiering films at two theaters, which are located about fifteen minutes outside Orlando in the cities of Winter Park and Maitland. If you’re a fan of independent or international films, the Florida Film Festival is a great option for seeing those films first.
Places to Shop in Orlando
Whether you’re spending time at a theme park or at a museum, shopping is what you do when traveling. Malls and shops are available wherever you go in Orlando. Check out our picks for where to shop in Orlando:
- Church Street District: Orlando’s historic downtown Church Street includes a variety of small shops, such as fashion boutiques, craft stores or traditional souvenir shops. Walk around and appreciate the district’s history, which was named a Main Street in 2011 by Main Street America.
- M&M’s World: M&M’s World is a fun place to visit in Orlando. The shop includes more than 7,000 different M&M items and 25 different M&M colors to choose from. Play with Color Mood Analyzer and pose with statues of your favorite M&M characters in the 17,500-square foot store.
- Orlando Premium Outlets: Orlando Premium Outlets sell products you can find at home, but they tend to offer discounts even tourists can’t refuse. Differences in state sales taxes also motivate out-of-state shoppers to purchase everyday items, like clothing. More than 100 brand names are sold at Orlando Premium Outlets. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, the mall also has a free shuttle to take you to its other nearby outlet.
Things to Do in Orlando at Night
If you’d like to go out one more time before settling into your hotel bed with a slice of deep-dish pizza, there’s plenty of things to in Orlando at night.
Over-21 Bars and Clubs in Orlando
Downtown Orlando has plenty of bars and nightclubs to check out. For the over 21 crowd, here’s a few of our favorite places to visit after dark:
- The Attic Orlando: Open on weekdays and weekends, The Attic Orlando hosts local DJs to play EDM music throughout the night. The club follows a smart-casual dress code, so avoid wearing shorts or open shoes, which will have you denied entrance.
- Cowboys Orlando: Country dancing enthusiasts will love Cowboys Orlando. It’s been in the nightclub business for 45 years. The bar offers free line dancing lessons, as well as contests and alcohol specials. Cowboys Orlando also features an outdoor patio area with a bar and fire pit to relax from dancing.
- EVE Orlando: Described as a mix between old Hollywood glamour and Las Vegas nightlife, EVE Orlando features a dance room, lounge, terrace and balcony overlooking downtown Orlando. EVE Orlando follows a dress code for male attendees. Shorts and open shoes, like flip flops, aren’t allowed in the club. An entry fee is also charged at the door.
Under-21 Bars and Clubs in Orlando
A few bars and clubs in Orlando offer something to do at night if you’re underage. Review a club or bar’s rules beforehand, as certain clubs serve underage customers only on specific days or at certain times.
- Icebar Orlando: Over or under 21, you’ll want to visit the Icebar Orlando and its 22-degree Fahrenheit room to cool off. Icebar Orlando admits children eight and older between the hours of five and nine p.m. You’ll receive a jacket and gloves with your entry fee. If you visit their lounge area or bathrooms, you probably won’t need the winter gear, as those areas are heated.
- Independent Bar: Located in downtown Orlando, the Independent Bar only admits people under 21 on specific evenings. Find seating across three floors and dance to music from the 80s and 90s or the latest Top 40 hits.
- Mango’s Tropical Café: Mango’s Tropical Café is the celebrity of Orlando nightclubs. Featured on ABC, CBS and the Travel Channel, Mango’s Tropical Café has a live band, as well as salsa and conga dancing throughout the night. Make reservations in advance, as the café can become crowded in the evening. Also, if you’re planning to visit the Coca-Cola Orlando Eye at night, it’s only a ten-minute walk from the café.
Disney World and Universal Studios are great, but there’s plenty to do in Orlando besides theme parks. Visit museums, attend festivals, watch a play, shop or check out the local nightlife. Orlando has a lot of things to do, night or day.
It also has a great place to eat — with Giordano’s staff at our Lake Buena Vista location. And with all the things you can do in Orlando, you’re bound to be hungry after a day of sightseeing. Call for a pizza delivery from the comfort of your hotel room or stop in for a pizza. Either way, it’ll be fresh, hot and made just for you.