Approximately 60 million tourists flock to Central Florida every year thanks to the myriad of theme parks, thrill rides, attractions, and hotels in Orlando. Fan favorites like Universal Studios, SeaWorld, Walt Disney World, Magic Kingdom, and others are what mostly drives tourism around the Orlando area. While all of these family-friendly places are entertaining and worth all the hype, there are also other fascinating and affordable attractions in and out of downtown Orlando that most visitors are not aware of.
If you want tips on how to see things in Orlando that tourists often miss, we’ve compiled below a list of lesser-known yet equally fun places you can visit to fully experience what this vibrant and exciting city has to offer.
ICON Park Orlando
ICON Park Orlando is a definite must-see if you’re near downtown Orlando. The main highlight of the vast entertainment complex is the 400-ft tall observation wheel. The Wheel allows guests to enjoy expansive 360-degree views of the city. Think about trying a Sky BAr with bottomless drinks, or booking a private capsule at The Wheel for a last view over the city with your family before heading out of Orlando. The capsule also makes for a unique, romantic evening with your partner.
In addition to the fantastic Wheel, ICON Park Orlando also boasts fun attractions such as Madame Tussauds Orlando, Museum of Osteology, 7D Dark Ride Adventure, SEA LIFE Orlando, Arcade City, and more. You can also shop and take advantage of the best dining experiences in Downtown Orlando by choosing from its 40 different restaurants and premium outlets. 
Lake Eola is situated in the heart of downtown Orlando and is a great escape from all the craziness of the theme parks and city life. There’s no shortage of free and fun activities to experience and enjoy in Lake Eola throughout the year, so if you want to immerse yourself in Orlando’s culture, this is the best place to start.
Aside from watching live shows at the Walt Disney Amphitheatre, you can also feed swans, ride a paddleboat, listen to live music and enjoy a quiet picnic on Lake Eola. And a special treat, you can visit the farmer’s market every Sunday where you can enjoy a wide range of local food, beverages, crafts, and entertainment. 
Tibet-Butler Nature Preserve
The Tibet-Butler Nature Preserve is perfect for tourists who want to get out of the city and experience a little bit of nature. The 440-acre Fort Wilderness area is groomed with marshes, a dense forest with a cypress-lined lakeshore, and a system of family-friendly trails that connects the main points of the woods.
If you’re lucky, you may even encounter some of the preserve’s notable wildlife during your visit including native birds, gopher tortoises, and deer. It also boasts a butterfly garden that’s home to many colorful butterflies. The preserve is much like the Animal Kingdom; only it’s more interactive and real. 
Wekiwa Springs State Park
This 7000-acre park is named after the lake that it envelopes, the Wekiwa Springs. It is home to all kinds of animals, including Sherman’s fox squirrels, rabbits, possums, white-tail deer, foxes, black bears, and more. Guests in the past have had casual encounters with these animals during their visit, and it’s not impossible for you to get a glimpse of them during your trip as well. Wekiwa Springs takes relaxation to a whole new different level.
After hiking or cycling around the park, you can head to the fresh spring for a quick swim or visit Wekiwa or Wekiva Island right smack in the middle of the lake. For only $2 per person, you can visit Wekiva Island and enjoy food, drinks, and live music. You can also reach the small oasis by renting a paddleboard, canoe, or a kayak for only $40 for a half-day. 
If you’re into more daring attractions, Gatorland Orlando might be the perfect option for you, as well as the Boggy Creek Tours. The 110-acre theme park offers guests a unique experience that revolves around alligators and crocodiles.
It features a fun zip line ride that flies over gator-infested marshes and swamps, automatically outplaying any other rollercoaster ride around downtown Orlando. They also hold live shows and presentations that enable visitors to learn more about famous reptiles.
The full-day pass for Gatorland Orlando starts at $27 for adults and $19 for kids, making it one of the cheapest options to see things in Orlando that most tourists usually don’t. 
Kennedy Space Center
The Kennedy Space Center is the best place to learn something new during your vacation. There, guests have the opportunity to see a shuttle lift off from the ground, eat a fun space ice cream, and interact with a real NASA astronaut. They also have IMAX theatres that let guests learn more about human space flight, from pioneering technologies to modern space flight developments. It is also home to the original Apollo Saturn V rocket and the Atlantis Space Shuttle.
The Space Center is approximately 45 minutes away from downtown Orlando, so to make sure you enjoy your visit without rushing, plan your trip here before or after your Universal Studios excursion and other theme park activities. 
Orlando is not only known for its thrilling attractions and adventure rides. It also boasts award-winning wines. In Lakeridge Winery & Vineyards, you can go on a fun wine-tasting experience, enjoy annual festivals, and even participate in grape-stomping competitions – an activity that will most likely entertain your kids. The 127-acre estate is located in the countryside of Clermont just 25 miles west of downtown Orlando. It was opened to the public back in 1989 and since then has attracted as many as 160,000 visitors every year. Their amazing wine has garnered numerous awards so you can be sure that you’ll only be tasting the best.
Tours and tastings in Lakeridge Winery occur every day of the week. So if you and your partner want to get away from your kids or the busy city life, this is a cheap yet romantic idea for a date. 
If you’re not one to endure the Florida weather when walking along downtown Orlando or the noisy crowd at theme parks such as Universal Orlando, then taking a culture trip through Orlando’s best museums might be the perfect adventure you’re looking for. There are numerous museums scattered around the city, each focusing on a unique theme or topic.
One of the widely known museums is the Cornell Fine Arts Museum located inside the campus of Rollins College. The museum is home to around 500 paintings and a wide range of artifacts and archaeological finds. A 30-minute guided tour inside the museum is enough to appreciate all the art. However, make sure you skip it on Mondays as it is closed.
If you want to be immersed in the life and works of Salvador Dali, there is the Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg. If you’re into science and technology, you can visit the fun and informative Museum of Science and Industry which is perfect for all ages.
There is also a museum that boasts of art and history of the Titanic called the Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition. And if you’re a Louis Tiffany fan, the Winter Park Museum contains the most extensive collection of his works from pottery to jewelry.
Universal Orlando Resort and Theme Parks
When you visit Universal Studios in Orlando, you can get access to the Universal Islands of Adventure, Universal Volcano Bay, and numerous adventure rides. From movie-themed attractions such as the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Escape from Gringotts ride to wholesome features such as Cinderella’s Castle, you are sure to enjoy every second of your visit to the world-famous theme park.
Your visit to this magical place can also be more enjoyable if you spend your entire visit staying at Universal Orlando Resort. Aside from having the advantage of accessing the theme parks earlier than non-staying guests, you can also stay as late as you like inside Universal Orlando Resort and enjoy the unique designs of the different hotels located inside as well as the famous Universal CityWalk. The resort is open every day of the year with a specific opening time of 9:00 am and closing times ranging from 8:30 pm to 10:00 pm.
You can take a road trip and visit other attractions near Universal Orlando Resort such as the Pirate’s Dinner Adventure, Wet n’ Wild, or the Amway Center. If you’ve got a shopping itch or want to window shop, you can also head to the Mall at Millenia for a quick stroll. The resort is also accessible from the Orlando International Airport through the International Drive, making your whole experience easy and hassle-free. 
With a little planning, you’ll easily know how to see things in Orlando like a pro!
- 10 BEST THINGS TO DO IN ORLANDO BESIDES THEME PARKS. Jena Pugh. (2018, October 9). Retrieved from Best of Orlando: https://www.bestoforlando.com/articles/things-to-do-orlando-besides-theme-parks/
- Things to Do at Orlando’s Lake Eola Park. Theresa Johnston. (2018, December 25). Retrieved from Trip Savvy: https://www.tripsavvy.com/lake-eola-park-2545825
- 10 Free Things to Do in Orlando. Josh Laskin. (2018, May 3). Retrieved from Travel and Leisure: https://www.travelandleisure.com/attractions/free-things-to-do-in-orlando
- Top 30 Things To Do In Orlando Besides Theme Parks. Kirthana Ganeson. (2019, March 1). Retrieved from Trip 101: https://trip101.com/article/top-20-things-to-do-in-orlando-besides-theme-parks
- Where to Find Orlando’s Incredible Wildlife. Melissa Sherrard. (2018, February 27). Retrieved from Culture Trip: https://theculturetrip.com/north-america/usa/florida/articles/where-to-find-orlandos-incredible-wildlife/
- Things to Do in Orlando for Adults During Your Vacation (Ideas for Couples & Groups of Friends). Katie Sagal. (2018, March 20). Retrieved from Smart Destinations: https://www.smartdestinations.com/blog/orlando-for-adults/
- Lakeridge Winery and Vineyards. (2017, August 18). Retrieved from Floridiana Magazine: https://www.floridianamagazine.com/lakeridge-winery-and-vineyards/
- The 10 best museums in Orlando. Michelle Marin. (2018, October 4). Retrieved from TimeOut: https://www.timeout.com/orlando/things-to-do/best-museums-in-orlando
- How To Have Fun At Universal’s Islands of Adventure. Kalyra Makepeace. (2018, November 13). Retrieved from YTravel: https://www.ytravelblog.com/universal-islands-of-adventure/