Go beyond the expected with these off-the-beaten-path theme park experiences in Orlando, the Theme Park Capital of the World (Cypress Gardens at LEGOLAND® Florida Resort pictured).
Updated Aug. 8, 2023
Here in Orlando, we’re no strangers to magical experiences. In the Theme Park Capital of the World, you can race with velociraptors, shrink down to LEGO® size, play along on Sesame Street, and be transformed into royalty with a wave of a wand. If you’re looking to go even deeper and discover more of what makes Orlando so unbelievably real, try these unexpected theme park experiences — including some surprises even super fans may not know — on your next visit.
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Please note: A valid theme park ticket is required for all experiences inside the theme parks. Park reservations are required at WALT DISNEY WORLD® Resort.
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LEGOLAND® Florida Resort
Step Back in Time to Visit Cypress Gardens
Before LEGOLAND® Florida Resort opened in 2011, visitors flocked to the area to visit Florida’s original theme park: a sprawling botanical garden and amusement park called Cypress Gardens. Opened in 1936, the gardens are still open to LEGOLAND® Florida Theme Park visitors to this day. Discover a majestic Banyan tree, stroll past 30 kinds of palms, see a modern LEGO® version of the iconic Cypress Gardens Southern Belles, and uncover more nostalgic surprises along the way. This area is also home to the park’s newest attraction, Pirate River Quest.
Discover: New Things to See in 2023
What’s more, two LEGOLAND® Florida Theme Park attractions — Coastersaurus and The Dragon — started life as Cypress Gardens’ Triple Hurricane and Okeechobee Rampage, respectively. The new Pirate River Quest also pays homage to the past, offering a modern take on tranquil boat tours of the lush Cypress Gardens canals.
Discover: Things to Do at LEGOLAND Florida Resort
Minifigure collectors, rejoice! Thanks to a fun Minifigure trading program at LEGOLAND Florida, you can pick up new LEGO Minifigures for your personal collection without spending a dime. Look for designated Trading Posts throughout the park, where you can trade, buy and collect as many Minifigures as your heart desires. Minifigures must be complete, with the correct body, legs, hat or hair in order to make a trade. The park’s Model Citizens (employees) also carry tradeable Minifigures on their name badges, so feel free to say hello if something catches your eye. It’s a great way to meet fellow enthusiasts and score a free souvenir of your bricktastic day out.
Guided Pontoon Boat Wildlife Tours
Take a guided wildlife tour of Winter Haven’s “Famous Chain of Lakes,” for the chance to spot gators, turtles, osprey, bald eagles and more. Along the way, you’ll learn about the history of the area, see modern LEGOLAND Florida Resort landmarks, and see remnants of the past, including the Esther Williams Florida Pool (pictured), which was created for a 1953 MGM Pictures film shot on-property. The 25-minute tours depart from the boardwalk behind the LEGOLAND® Hotel. Advance reservations are recommended. Pricing: $15 adults, children under 3 free.
Hit the Open Road
At LEGOLAND® Florida’s Ford Driving School and Ford Jr. Driving School attractions, red means “stop” and green means “go.” That’s all your kids need to know as they drive their own car through the city streets! The attractions don’t have any tracks, so drivers are in total control as they earn their own LEGOLAND driver’s license. As a result, kids ages 3 – 13 can really drive cars and take the lead during this fun experience.
Universal Orlando Resort
Send a Letter via Owl Post
You might not own a pet owl, but you can still send a letter via Owl Post at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™ — Hogsmeade Village™ at Universal Islands of Adventure. Shop an enchanting assortment of postcards, stamps and paper goods, then have your snail — er, owl mail stamped and delivered with the official Hogsmeade postmark.
Cast the Perfect Spell
Make your wizarding dreams come true as you swish and flick your way through The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™. Learn popular spells like Revelio, Incendio and Alohomora to create 25+ magical effects spread across Diagon Alley™ in Universal Studios Florida and Hogsmeade™ Village in Universal Islands of Adventure. You’ll find most locations listed in your included wand map, with a couple unmarked surprises to be discovered in Diagon Alley™.
HARRY POTTER characters, names and related indicia are © & ™ Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. Harry Potter Publishing Rights © JKR. (s19)
Escape Into the Action of Your Favorite Universal Movies
Set off on an immersive adventure through some of your favorite cinematic universes, no park ticket required, at Universal’s Great Movie Escape in Universal CityWalk. This state-of-the-art attraction invites you to join in on the action and explore two brand-new storylines inspired by Universal Pictures and Amblin Entertainment’s Jurassic World and Back to the Future films.
Discover: Universal’s Great Movie Escape
Hit It! Score Exclusive Coaster Tracks
Anyone who’s experienced Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit at Universal Studios Florida knows that it’s a rip-roaring, adrenaline-pumping roller coaster fueled by music that you select — but did you know that it also has a secret song list? Once you board, press down on the song-selection menu’s Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit logo for about 10 seconds, then take your finger off and a keypad will appear. Enter a random, 3-digit code starting with 1, 3, 5, 7 or 9 to unlock hidden tracks.
Meet Rescued Manatees and Sea Turtles
Discover a new perspective on SeaWorld® Orlando marine life rescue efforts at the SeaWorld Rescue Center. The 30-minute SeaWorld Rescue Tour includes an opportunity to see recovering manatees and sea turtles, peek into the Coral Reef Research Facility, and learn more about animal rescue and rehabilitation.
Discover: Things to Do at SeaWorld® Orlando
You can also learn more about your favorite aquatic animals, from dolphins to beluga whales, on various up-close animal tours. You’ll hear from animal experts, learn how SeaWorld cares for these majestic creatures, and even get a chance to snap a photo with your new friend.
Play Along at Sesame Street Land™
At Sesame Street Land™, not only can you meet, hug and high five your favorite characters — you can explore the neighborhood in their shoes! Interactive elements and games bring you right into the world of Sesame Street and provide boundless entertainment for residents of all ages. Ring Bert and Ernie’s doorbell, whip up a delicious meal with Cookie Monster and Gonger, buzz Abby Cadabby’s apartment, and more. But whatever you do, don’t knock on Oscar’s trash can.
Discover: Things to Do at Sesame Street Land
Celebrate Elmo’s Birthday
Jump up. Get down. Come dance with Elmo during Elmo’s Birthday Celebration, held at the end of January every year. Recent celebrations included a special Birthday Storytime, a scavenger hunt, breakfast with Elmo, festive dance parties and more colorful surprises.
SeaWorld® Orlando Sleepovers
Drift off next to your favorite aquatic animal on a SeaWorld Orlando sleepover. Designed for grade school students in a school, scout or youth group, this one-of-a-kind animal encounter includes after-hours habitat tours, hands-on educational activities, a dedicated Animal Care Specialist and pizza in the evening. Sleep next to dolphins, penguins, beluga whales, rays, sharks and more with your choice of six sleepover venues. Best of all, the experience includes a continental breakfast followed by a full day of exploration at SeaWorld Orlando the day after your sleepover.
Mingle With Flamingos
At Discovery Cove®, not only can you swim with dolphins, hand-feed exotic birds, and snorkel with thousands of tropical fish, you can also walk among flamingos. During this highly intimate and exclusive animal encounter, you can meet, mingle with and feed Caribbean flamingos one-on-one. Learn more about these majestic animals from an expert aviculturist, then wade out into the reef for a flamboyant good time.
Discover: Things to Do at Discovery Cove
Take an Underwater SeaVenture
If you’re looking for something a little more adventurous, don your dive helmet for an underwater SeaVenture through The Grand Reef. During this 45-minute walking tour, you’ll explore the reef floor and come face-to-face with sharks, experience one-on-one animal encounters, and even get to touch unique sea life along the way.
Walt Disney World® Resort
Get Your Haircut on Main Street
Hidden in plain sight along Main Street U.S.A. in Magic Kingdom® Park, Harmony Barber Shop doles out sweet styles sprinkled with Disney magic. Beloved by parents for the My First Haircut package — which includes baby’s first chop, an official certificate and pint-sized Mickey Mouse ears — the storied salon offers standard cuts for Disney fans of all ages. Be sure to book early, as this popular location tends to fill up quickly even for those in the know.
Discover: Things to Do at WALT DISNEY WORLD Resort
Embark on a Wild Animal Encounter
Get up close and personal with white rhinos, elephants, crocodiles and more on a variety of guided experiences at Disney’s Animal Kingdom® Theme Park. Options include 60-minute elephant or rhinoceros encounters, an exhilarating three-hour Wild Africa Trek, and a semi-private safari adventure followed by African-style tapas. Check-in for all animal tours is located at the Curiosity Animal Tours kiosk, located across from the Kilimanjaro Safaris attraction entrance.
If an undersea adventure is more to your liking, head to The Seas with Nemo & Friends Pavilion at EPCOT®. After a tour of the backstage areas, you can hop in the water with bottlenose dolphins or (if you’re SCUBA-certified) swim with sea turtles, reef fish, stingrays and sharks in the pavilion’s 5.7-million-gallon aquarium.
Discover the Keys to the Kingdom Tour
Walt Disney World super fans, history buffs and theme park enthusiasts won’t be able to resist the Keys to the Kingdom tour, which takes you behind the scenes and deep into the fascinating history of Magic Kingdom. The five-hour guided tour includes a complimentary lunch, juicy commentary on the park’s rich history and attraction secrets, and behind-the-scenes access to the famed tunnels running under the park and more storied locations.
Tri-Circle D Ranch
Saddle up for trail, pony, wagon and carriage rides at Tri-Circle-D Ranch, part of Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground. The stables are home to more than 90 of the Happiest Horses on Earth, including Appaloosas, Arabians, Belgians, Clydesdales and more. If you’re lucky, you might even spot Cinderella’s Ponies and the majestic horses of Main Street, U.S.A. during your visit.
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