Explore vintage Orlando-area attractions from the pre-theme park era — no time machine needed (Gatorland pictured, courtesy Frugal for Luxury).


Long before the arrival of Orlando’s celebrated theme parks, visitors flocked to Central Florida to experience its roadside attractions, rich culture, and abundant natural beauty. Many of the area’s most popular vintage attractions remain open to this day, offering a glimpse of life in Orlando before the theme parks. Come see what the fuss is all about and enjoy a healthy dose of Old Florida charm at these old-school Orlando-area attractions.

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Gatorland

Established in 1949 as the Florida Wildlife Institute, Gatorland is a 110-acre outdoor adventure park with plenty of Old Florida charm. Snap a photo at the iconic attraction entrance, installed in 1962, then head inside to see thousands of alligators and crocodiles at The Alligator Capital of the World®. Walk on the wild side with thrilling shows, zip line adventures, and swamp buggy tours, or explore serene attractions like the free-flight aviary, nature walk, petting zoo, and Gator Gully Splash Pad. Animal enthusiasts can also get up close and personal with Florida’s most famous reptilian residents on the Gatorland Trainer for a Day Tour.

Discover: Things to Do Gatorland

Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex

Explore over 60 years of U.S. space history at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, which opened its first official Visitor Information Center in 1967. It’s just one hour west of Orlando on Florida’s aptly named Space Coast. Experience some of the center’s original attractions, like a guided behind-the-scenes bus tour, then discover the history and future of American spaceflight through modern exhibits and attractions like Gateway: The Deep Space Launch Complex. Check our events calendar for upcoming shuttle launches at Kennedy Space Center for the chance to experience space history in the making.

Discover: Things to Do at Kennedy Space Center

Cypress Gardens

Relax along winding garden paths at Florida’s original theme park, Cypress Gardens, nestled inside LEGOLAND® Florida Resort. A Florida staple since 1936, the botanical gardens are home to plants and flowers from all over the world, along with a majestic banyan tree, 30 kinds of palms, and plenty of whimsical LEGO® touches — including LEGOLAND Florida’s newest attraction, Pirate River Quest. You can even catch a swashbuckling water ski stunt show, a modern tribute to the jaw-dropping ski shows that earned Cypress Gardens the title of “Water Ski Capital of the World.” This serene spot is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is well worth the day trip to Winter Haven, about an hour-and-half south of Orlando.

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Bok Tower Gardens

Just a few miles from LEGOLAND Florida Resort in Lake Wales, Bok Tower Gardens is a National Historic Landmark anchored by a 205-foot Art Deco Singing Tower. It was commissioned by American editor and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Edward William Bok, who wanted to create a sanctuary “solely and singly to express the gospel of beauty: to open our eyes and awaken our senses to the beautiful.” The 250-acre oasis opened in 1929 and remains a popular attraction to this day, with peaceful gardens, walking trails, and even a 3-acre children’s garden where little ones can relax, play, and create their own worlds.

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Winter Park Scenic Boat Tour

Just 10 minutes from downtown Orlando, the Winter Park Scenic Boat Tour is a hidden gem offering one-hour guided cruises through tranquil lakes and canals. The tours began in 1938 and are still very popular with locals and visitors alike. Spot magnificent homes, watercolor-worthy gardens, and abundant flora and fauna along the way, all while learning about the area’s rich history.

Discover: Things to Do in Winter Park

Florida Citrus Tower

Built in 1956 to showcase Central Florida’s booming citrus industry, the Florida Citrus Tower is one of the tallest observation towers in the state. You can see up to 35 miles away on a clear day, with panoramic views of beautiful lakes, farms, historic neighborhoods, and some of the area’s last remaining citrus groves. Just 30 minutes west of Orlando in the city of Clermont, the Florida Citrus Tower also has a charming coffee shop where you can fill up on orange creme lattes, local orange juice, and more citrus-infused specialty drinks.

Monument of States

Dedicated as a symbol of American unity in 1943, the Monument of States in Kissimmee was constructed using stone from the nation’s then-48 states. It stands 50 feet tall and features over 1,500 stones and objects, including stone from President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New York estate and later contributions from Alaska and Hawaii.

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