Beyond the theme parks and world-famous attractions that put Orlando on the map, are lesser known and equally rewarding hidden gems and non-touristy things to do in Orlando. The truth is Orlando is so much more than the magic of Disney and the house of the mouse, Goofy and Donald Duck. Keep reading as we break down your options for the 10 best non-touristy things to do in Orlando.
1. Commune with Nature at Wekiwa Springs State Park. Nothing feels as rejuvenating as stepping outdoors in the wild to enjoy fresh air and appreciate the wonderful natural life away from the city. Ideally located a short distance from downtown Orlando is Wekiwa Springs State Park, which provides visitors with the perfect chance to see different types of wildlife in its natural habitat. There are several cool springs that feed the main Wekiva River and plenty of wildlife and plant life for anyone who enjoys communing with nature in a serene and natural environment. If you are traveling in a group or with your family, you will discover loads of exciting activities along the Wekiva River to keep you fully occupied such as kayaking, canoeing and basically meeting the friendly locals. If you’re looking for something different from what every tourist does in Orlando, spend some time exploring Wekiwa Springs State Park and you won’t regret it. It only costs $6 and is open daily from 8 AM to 5 PM (get there early to avoid the crowds!).
2. Ride an Airboat at Boggy Creek. Taking a thrilling airboat ride adventure is another exciting activity in Central Florida for those who enjoy outdoor activities. Fortunately, Boggy Creek is located close to the Walt Disney World Resort in nearby Kissimmee. It is an exciting attraction where you can glide across the Everglades headwaters at speeds of 40 miles per hour on speedy airboats that can carry up to six passengers. You don’t need to worry about the safety of these rides because the boats are regularly inspected by the U.S. Coast Guard itself. You’ll surely appreciate this amazing 45-minute airboat tour that takes you through well-preserved natural spaces unspoiled by humans where you’ll see different types of exotic wildlife. Night expeditions are also available and last a full hour. Bottom line: Boggy Creek is simply one of the least touristy attractions and most rewarding outdoor activities in Orlando.
3. The Plaza Live. If you are a music fan, then you simply must definitely attend a live concert at The Plaza Live. Housed in Orlando’s first two-screen movie theater, which opened in 1963, The Plaza Live currently hosts a wide variety of live concerts, as well as comedians and cultural events. The eclectic lineup of concerts includes the likes of Colin Hay of Men at Work, Rickie Lee Jones, Drive By Truckers, Blue Oyster Cult, Five for Fighting, Brandi Carlile and many other great entertainers. Be sure to check The Plaza Live’s official website for the latest schedule of events, so you can catch a great live concert during your Orlando visit.
4. Take an Interactive Factory Adventure Tour at the Chocolate Kingdom. This fascinating tour is one of the hidden gems of Orlando. Located just off world-famous International Drive, the Interactive Factory Adventure tour takes you through the entire process of making chocolate – from crushing the beans to creating creamy delicious treats. Your tour guide is, in fact, a prince complete with his dragon sidekick and he’ll take you through the cacao tree greenhouse, the Mystical River of Chocolate, the Chocolate Museum and the Bean-to-the-Bar Factory that uses old vintage machinery. What's more, you'll even get an opportunity to make your own customized chocolate bar. Don’t miss it!
5. Visit the Central Florida Zoo and Botanical Gardens. Hidden in the lush tropical foliage is one of the most exciting outdoor attractions in Orlando. We are talking about the Central Florida Zoo, which features over 23 acres of area and more than 500 animals. The zoo even boasts a reptile house, an insect zoo, and a place where children can feed and pet animals. There's also a splash playground and Seminole Aerial Adventures at the zoo. It is only 20 minutes away from downtown Orlando in Sanford.
6. Feed Giraffes at The Ranch. If you have never fed a giraffe, don't miss the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do it for the first time at Giraffe Ranch in Dade City, just an hour away from Walt Disney World Resort. In addition, The Ranch is a great place to finally come face-to-face with other animal species from all over the globe in a setting that transports you to Wild Africa complete with live oaks, lush pastures, native orchids, rolling wetlands and open grasslands. It is an almost wild safari tour on a reservation covering 47 acres next to the second-largest wilderness area in Florida known as the Green Swamp.
7. Experience the Gatorland Adventure. Florida's Gatorland is one of the coolest places you'll find in these parts of the Sunshine State. When you need a little break from the same theme park experience over and over again, head out to the swampy bayous and spend quality time watching the cold-blooded gators going about their business. Gatorland has always been a popular destination for Central Florida visitors since way back when it first opened its doors in 1949. Today, Gatorland features one of the most remarkable and rarest habitats of amazing creatures in the United States. When you enter Gatorland, take time to explore the Alligator Island, as well as the Jungle Crocs. You can even hang around until feeding time to see how the giant alligators can devour a whole chicken in a single breath during the immensely popular Gator Jumparoo. You might even catch a glimpse of two very rare giant white alligators. There are more activities at Gatorland such as riding the zipline, taking a dip in the Gator Gully Splash Park, strolling through the Swamp Walk in search of native wildlife or even watching giant tortoises lazing around. Gatorland is an exciting adventure for families, couples and single travelers.
8. Dining and Entertainment at Kings Orlando. Your trip to Orlando is not complete without stopping over at Kings for an unforgettable dining and entertainment experience. There are a lot of activities at this large family-friendly joint, including bowling, lounging in a luxurious environment and simply enjoying the local cuisine. Kings is located along world-famous International Drive just down the road from Pointe Orlando. The fun-filled eatery boasts of 22 bowling lanes, ping pong tables, billiards and bocce balls among others. They also have two premium bars where you can enjoy innovative cocktails from an experienced bartender. Their chef-designed menus feature all the well-known American classics and some international cuisine as well.
9. Sing Live at the CityWalk’s Rising Star. Rising Star at Universal CityWalk is not just a typical karaoke bar. What’s different here is that you can sing with a real band and backup singers. There’s also a great selection of songs that you can perform in front of the audience. The staff there is also very friendly, so guests can have a great time at this rocking bar and karaoke club.
10. Shop at the Orlando Farmer’s Market at Lake Eola. Orlando has a great reputation for year-round sunshine and fresh fruits and vegetables. In fact, the city has one of the freshest fruits and vegetable supplies in the United States. You will find all types of fruit and vegetables, as well as home-baked goods, meat and other locally produced products such as honey and wine at the bustling Orlando Farmer’s Market. The market is a great place to spend your entire morning shopping for fresh fruits, vegetables and other products from nearby farms. You'll even find great artwork that you can hang in your kitchen or over your dining table.
Now that we’ve covered Orlando’s hidden gems, go forth and enjoy.