Conventional wisdom holds that there’s one thing to do in Orlando, with a few places to do it. And while it’s true that the city’s theme parks—namely Walt Disney World and Universal Studios—are all but must-visits if you’re even close to the area, the idea that they’re the end-all be-all just plain isn’t true.
Orlando actually features plenty of nightlife, nature, and activities for families with and without kids. The downtown area is hopping—a little-known fact—and its wetland geography provide plenty of opportunities to connect with Southern wildlife. Just outside the rushing rollercoasters, thrilling rides, and (let’s be honest) occasional chaos of the Theme Park Capital of the World, there’s also that other kind of park—you know, one with peace, quiet, and flowers? —and it’s a great way to recharge.
From racecars and airboats to pirate ships, 18th-century galleons, and gators, if you’re looking for things to do outside of the norm in this Central Florida hub, this list is for you.
Kennedy Space Center”/>
Space out and reconnect with that part of you that still wants to be an astronaut. Interactive exhibits, big-screen films, and the world’s largest collection of astronaut memorabilia expand horizons for adults and children alike.
Hot air balloon ride”/>
Get up early one morning and float over the Central Florida landscape, looking down on coastal wetlands and distant theme parks as the sun rises.
3. Pirate’s Dinner Adventure
Swashbuckling pirates swirl as fireworks boom and cannons blast—and your family is right in the middle. Enjoy 3 courses aboard a replica Spanish galleon and participate in this 18th-century adventure.
From a three-story tower, you can see more than 200 alligators in action. When you come down, see baby gators up close, catch a man-versus-beast wrestling show, or marvel at the exotic snakes and birds that make this sanctuary home.
5. Harry P. Leu Garden
From drought-tolerant acacias to moss-draped oak trees, this 50-acre botanical oasis is the perfect pause, a chance to unwind between adventures.
Richard Petty Driving Experience”/>
Climb through the window of a 600-horsepower stock car and hit speeds up to 130 miles on a NASCAR-style oval track.
Speed through the Everglades like a true Southerner, keeping an eye out for gators, turtles, and local birds, and learning about the area from your captain.