17 Things to Do in Orlando Besides Going to a Theme Park

by Extreme John on May 2, 2012

Here you are, finally in Orlando, Florida. There’s a good chance that you’re here on a family vacation or maybe even a business trip. Regardless of why you’re here, you’re not here to go to a theme park. Nope, this isn’t about Universal Studios or Island’s of Adventure in Orlando. There’s a different mission, a mission to find something to do in Orlando besides go to theme parks.

I have two kids of my own and travel with a niece that’s like my own daughter, @TanTush and Michele. When it comes to traveling or vacationing with a family of six, there’s a good chance I have a few tips and tricks that will help make someone else’s large family vacation a little less stressful. Remember, less stressful. Not stress free. ;)

Anyway, I’ve been traveling to the Orlando area for most of my life. As a kid I was fortunate enough to be dragged through the Disney theme parks something like 13 times. As a parent, I’ve traveled to the Orlando area on family vacations for over 10 years. When it comes to Orlando there’s a lot more to do than just visit the theme parks.

Don’t get me wrong, the theme parks in Orlando are like no other, but there’s really great places to eat in Orlando and even better places to sight see.

17 Things to Do in Orlando Besides Going to a Theme Park

Lighthouse Key Orlando

Bar Hop

Let’s be real. It’s Orlando, there’s a billion and one places to grab a drink. If it’s not your hotel lobby, make it the local Outback or maybe a bar in City Walk.

Check Out the Outlets

There’s excellent shopping in Orlando. If you don’t feel like paying the high tourist prices of the local theme park shops and stores, take a trip to the Orlando Premium Outlets. Get crazy with Coach, Burberry, Adidas, Puma and more.

Duck Walk at The P-Body

The P-Body Hotel offers a unique experience. Since 1986 the Peabody Ducks have been doing March of The Peabody Ducks. If you’re traveling with kids, this is a great time killer before the airport.

Friendly’s

If you follow me on Twitter @extremejohn you know that even though I’m on some crazy fitness kick that I still lovessss me some Friendly’s Ice Cream. Take a quick drive down International Drive and hit up Friendly’s for a killer ice cream sundae. If sundaes aren’t your thing, grab lunch. The food is great!

Friendly's Ice Cream

Gaylord Palms

The Gaylord Palms is one of the most scenic places to visit around the Orlando area. With the areas largest atrium, and a killer outdoor pool area Gaylord Palms is one of my families favorite places to travel. Especially around the Christmas holidays when we can see ICE at the Gaylord Palms.

Gaylord Palms Orlando Florida

International Drive

When it comes to famous drives Florida has plenty of them. From A1A beach front ave. in Daytona, Florida to International Drive in Orlando. I-Drive is full of tourist attractions and t-shirt shops. There’s plenty of places to eat, drink and snack. The list goes on and on, if you’re looking for something to do with your family in Orlando, just take a cruise down International Drive. There’s something for everyone.

Lunch at a Famous McDonald’s

If you watch the Travel Channel there’s a good chance that you’ve seen the famous McDonald’s in Orlando Florida that’s shaped like a giant box of french fries. It’s one of the Top 25 McDonald’s on the planet. Stop in, grab a Big Mac and a few Happy Meals and enjoy the awesome videos games and let the kids have a blast on the tube maze. All, while boxed up in a tasty box of fries.

Massage

Find a local masseuse. Visit them or have them visit you and rub the stress away.

Miniature Golf

There’s no better way to kick-off the party than with a little miniature golf family competition. There’s plenty of places to play miniature golf in Orlando, take a cruise down I-Drive or check out Pirate’s Cove The Original Adventure Golf spot.

O-Town

Everything from eateries to your favorite carnival, and giant Midway games all in one place. Enjoy a drink or two while the kids try to win Xbox 360′s, iPod’s and other crazy gadgets from the giant pickers on the boardwalk. There’s a little something for everyone in O-Town Orlando.

Ripley’s Believe it or Not…

I wrote about Ripley’s Believe it or Not… after a recent trip to Orlando had the family burnt out on theme parks. We decided to hit up Ripley’s Believe it or Not before heading back to Tampa. Needless to say, the entire family was pleasantly surprised and had an excellent time. There’s plenty of crazy stuff to see at Ripley’s!

Ripleys Orlando

Spa Treatment

What good is a vacation if the ladies don’t get to enjoy a little spa time. OK, spa time can be enjoyed by guys too I guess. Regardless, there’s 100′s of spa’s throughout the Orlando area. There’s a good chance that the hotel you’re staying in with your family probably has a spa. If they don’t, ask and there’s an even better chance that they are working with one of the spa’s in the Orlando area.

Swim at the Resort

Taking a dip in the resort pool is refreshing. It’s also a great way to beat the Florida heath and escape some of the sun abuse that you would get from walking around a theme park all day. Most of the hotels in Orlando have pools for guests to enjoy. In many cases these pool setups include poolside bars for the adults and lavish pools for the kids to splash around in.

Take Pictures

Bust out your iPhone, Android, video camera or high-end digital camera and start clicking away. If you find a way to run out o things to take pictures of in Orlando, please shoot me an email. I don’t expect a flooded email box anytime soon.

Use the Fitness Center

If your hotel offers a fitness center, take a an hour or so and get your body right! Most of the fitness center’s that are on hotel or resort properties are free for guests to use.

Walk Downtown Disney

Downtown Disney offers something for everyone. The kids can easily get lost in the Lego store, and just as easily you might find yourself lost at lunch in the T-Rax Cafe. The bar and special effects at the T-Rex Cafe are incredible, a must for anyone that wants to enjoy lunch or dinner with extra entertainment.

If the T-Rex Cafe and Lego store aren’t really your bag of tea, there’s plenty of other great places to dine, shop or just sight see and take pictures. People watching in Downtown Disney is pretty entertaining as well.

Visit Area Resorts

Now that you’ve stayed in Orlando and checked out the theme parks or finalized that business deal, why not plant the seed for your next family vacation or business trip. Take an hour or so to visit a few of the hotels and resorts in the area. Many of them like Gaylord Palms, Peabody and Lighthouse Key have restaurants, pools, fitness centers, bars and video game rooms that visitors can have access to.

Taking a look around is a great way to setup your next Orlando vacation.

*** Bonus ***

Go to Dinner

One of my all-time favorite places to eat happens to sit in sunny Orlando. Texas De Brazil is an excellent Brazilian style, all-you-can-eat steakhouse. Get stuffed with the massive all-you-can-eat salad bar, or dive in for the full package and enjoy the finest cuts of Brazilian steak, chicken and pork delivered to your table by gauchos.

Parting Shots

This list of things to do in Orlando, Florida can easily include another 100 things and become the 100 things to do in Orlando list. Those “100 things to do” lists are always so popular. It was one of the first things that Tradewinds Beach Resorts screamed at us when we reserved our family suite. Instead, I think the best advice that I can offer if you’re visiting Orlando, is to GET OUT and get around. There’s so much to do, and so much to see.

By getting out and about you and your family will find the things that interest you most while you’re on your family vacation in Orlando, Florida.

Your Turn

Do you have travel tips for people traveling to Orlando, Florida for the first time that might want to find something to do in Orlando besides going to a theme park.

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Jeremy

Hi John, Orlando is an extremely beautiful place to do backpacking. Ripley’s is the perfect spot to see some of the world’s most bizarre things.
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Samantha Morris

Interesting post! It’s nice to know there are many other things you can do in Orlando whether you’re with family or friends. Thanks so much for sharing!
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Extreme John
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Completely my pleasure Samantha. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment. I hope you’ll have a chance to visit Orlando and put some of these non-theme park related things to do to the test.

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hampton

very nice article, i have never been to orlando but some things on this list i have been told by others is a must also

so have bookmarked this for future reference :)

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Extreme John
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Hopefully my list of things to do in Orlando besides go to a theme park will come in handy for you some day.

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Steve
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We stayed at the Nickelodean Resort which is a couple of days in itself with the pools, theaters, events, meals, etc. Downtown Disney is pretty fun. The kids like digging for dinosaurs outside the t-Rex restaurant. And we also say the Magic Kingdom which is great. Thanks for the picks and the new ideals.
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Extreme John
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My pleasure Steve, thanks for taking the time to read and comment. The Nickelodeon Hotel really blew me away when I stayed there. The room was perfect and as you mentioned, the pools alone can keep you tied up for a couple of days.

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Terry

Will try these next time I’m in town
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