10 Must-Try Experiences in Orlando
Everyone should experience Orlando's theme parks at least once, but there are lots of ways to enjoy our destination — and you will want to explore it all! From Broadway shows and shopping on cobblestone streets, to dining with world-famous chefs and outdoor recreation, here are our picks for the 10 best things to do in Orlando.
1. Discover Secrets at Orlando's Theme Parks
Walt Disney World Resort, SeaWorld Orlando and Universal Orlando Resort are filled with hidden secrets and surprises, but you'll have to search to find them. You can make time for discovery by choosing short-wait attractions over those with longer lines, or by taking advantage of Disney's FastPass+, Universal's Express Pass and SeaWorld's Quick Queue Unlimited programs. The less you wait, the more you can explore!
2. Bike the West Orange Trail
This paved, 22-mile trail stretches from Winter Garden (about 25 minutes from Disney) to the banks of Lake Apopka (about 35 minutes northwest of downtown Orlando). West Orange Trail Bikes and Blades has hourly, daily and weekly bike rentals for all ages, plus trailers for toting little ones, as well as hotel delivery and group-tour packages.
3. Dine at a Celebrity Chef's Restaurant
Orlando is bursting with celebrity chefs. Disney Springs alone has Art Smith's Homecomin' Florida Kitchen, Rick Bayless' Frontera Cocina, Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto's Morimoto Asia and Tony Mantuano's Terralina Crafted Italian. Plus, Guy Fieri collaborates with Planet Hollywood Observatory.
Other options include Todd English's bluezoo at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort, Emeril's Orlando at Universal CityWalk and Roy Yamaguchi's Roy's Restaurant on Orlando's Restaurant Row (close to Universal and SeaWorld). Finally, Norman Van Aken has Norman's at The Ritz-Carlton, Grande Lakes, and 1921 by Norman Van Aken in Mount Dora, about 40 minutes from downtown Orlando.
4. Explore Orlando's Museums
In Orlando, we love our museums just as much as our theme parks, starting with the Grand Bohemian Gallery at The Grand Bohemian Hotel in downtown Orlando. Orlando Museum of Art and The Mennello Museum of Art are just 10 minutes away in Loch Haven Park. Winter Park, 20 minutes from downtown, has the Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Garden, The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art and Rollins College's Cornell Fine Arts Museum.
5. Hop on a Boat
There's no wrong approach to enjoying Orlando's gorgeous waterways. Grab a kayak or canoe at BK Adventure Eco-Tours or Central Florida Nature Adventures. For a faster time, book an airboat tour with Spirt of the Swamp or Boggy Creek Airboat Rides. And if a leisurely pace is more your thing, you will love the Winter Park Scenic Boat Tour.
6. See a Show at the Dr. Phillips Center
Located in downtown Orlando, the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts is the crown jewel of Orlando's arts scene. Consisting of three theaters ranging in size from 300 to 2,700 seats, plus an outdoor plaza, the venue hosts the Orlando Ballet, Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra and Broadway shows, as well as top-name comedians, musicians and public personages.
7. Shop on Park Avenue
Featuring brick streets, bubbling fountains and luscious greenery, Park Avenue is the heart of the city of Winter Park and home to some of the area's most refined shopping. In addition to national headliners like Lily Pulitzer and Alex and Ani, you'll discover Tuni and other local gems. Once you're done shopping, celebrate at one of the district's upscale dining options.
8. Attend a Sports Game
Downtown Orlando's Amway Center hosts the NBA's Orlando Magic and ECHL's Orlando Solar Bears, with MLS' Orlando City Soccer Club playing at downtown's Orlando City Stadium. Orlando is also the Home of American Tennis with the United States Tennis Association National Campus in Lake Nona, close to Orlando International Airport. Throw in the NFL Pro Bowl and college bowl games at Camping World Stadium for even more opportunities to watch live sports while you're here.
9. Experience Downtown Orlando
Make at least one trip downtown while you're here, particularly to Lake Eola Park, where you can paddle a swan-shaped boat, visit the weekly Farmers Market on Sundays or just relax. The park is also a gateway to the many dining and entertainment choices found throughout the downtown area and adjacent Thornton Park.
10. Trolley Down International Drive
Packed with attractions, restaurants, nightspots and resorts, Orlando's International Drive (I-Drive) district is practically a theme park in its own right. We've found that the best way to see it all is to hop aboard the I-Drive Trolley. Running daily from 8 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., it has stops all over the I-Drive area, and it's also highly affordable.
Written by Nate Shelton, consumer content writer at Visit Orlando. He's an experienced journalist and native Floridian who enjoys the entertainment, cultural and culinary aspects of Orlando and Orange County.
Cover image: Winter Park Scenic Boat Tour
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