There’s no separating Orlando from that famous Mouse, or from the other stalwart theme parks that have helped make it one of the top tourist destinations in the U.S. While fantastic roller coasters, water rides and life-sized storybook characters may be the key draw for most visitors, Orlando is home to many other wow attractions. Just a few include the Kennedy Space Center, fine white-sand beaches, and various opportunities to swim with dolphins and manatees. Plus, shopping, fine dining and nightlife options are as abundant as the oranges, making Orlando and its surrounding environs the perfect sunny getaway.
Let's face it, Walt Disney has the corner on Orlando theme-park fun with no less than four memory-making theme parks, including Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney MGM Studios and Disney’s Animal Kingdom. So no Orlando trip—with or without kids—would be complete without visiting at least one of the parks.
For those who plan on hitting all the Disney parks, there's no beating the 4-Day Magic Your Way Ticket (also available in a 7-Day version). The pass includes admission to all the parks, with various options to include Disney water parks and no expiration options, etc.
Speaking of water parks, taking the plunge (in more ways then one) is a favorite way for visitors to have fun and stay cool. Why not learn how to surf with a two-and-a-half-hour Florida Surf Lesson in Cocoa Beach? The lesson can be one on one or with a small group of family and friends. Beginners encouraged.
Also worth a splash: Wet 'n Wild, Orlando, undoubtedly one of the best water parks in the country, featuring world-class signature thrill rides for daredevils of every age. Another one-of-a-kind experience is the Florida Adventure Tour, where you get to swim and snorkel with the glorious manatees on the Crystal River with certified dive masters. Also included is an airboat ride on the Homosassa River and a visit to Homosassa State Wildlife Park, a haven and rehabilitation center for injured animals.
If you're not too pooped by the day's activities, take in one of many entertaining dinner shows. A few top choices include Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament, Dolly Parton's Dixie Stampede and a Disney VIP Character Dinner.
While it is quite possible to never leave the fantasyland environs of Orlando’s many theme parks for the whole of your trip, taking a few jaunts outside their gates may be a welcome change of pace.
It's not a theme park but the Kennedy Space Center is truly an out-of-this world attraction for visitors of all ages. Just a few highlights include getting a close-up view of the space shuttle launch pads from an observation gantry, walking beneath a Saturn V rocket, and the Astronaut Hall of Fame. For an even more unique experience, you can dine with an astronaut. (Really.)
For those seeking high-speed thrills of a different sort, visiting the home of the world-famous Daytona 500 is sure to get your heart racing. Tour includes a whirl around the circuit pit road and victory lane, and a visit to the usually restricted VIP suites. Plus, speed-demon wannabes can participate in a race against others in Acceleration Alley.
Even though Mickey brings vast amounts of joy to Orlando visitors, many a non-Mouse theme parks and other attractions elicit thousands of smiles, giggles and lifelong memories.
Spending time at Universal Orlando's two theme parks, Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, will dazzle with its fun thrill rides and it's movie magic. (The Universal Orlando 2-Park Unlimited Ticket is definitely a smart way to go.)
The 350-acre nature theme park Silver Springs and its famous Glass Bottom Boats, as well as a slew of other attractions and rides, are also guaranteed to elicit many an ooh and ahh.
And for a truly unique and intellectually stimulating and fun park experience, Wonder Works is a must. More than 100 interactive and imaginative exhibits are featured--and make science fun and fascinating.
Hungry? Enjoy a few laughs and magic with your meal at Wonder Works' Outta Control Dinner Show. Unlimited yummy pizza, popcorn, and drinks are served as the wholly entertaining 90-minute show of high-energy improv and magic will have you entranced.
The above suggestions are just a small slice of the things to do and see in Orlando. If you need more inspiration, browse our complete list of Orlando tours and attractions.
Consider extending your stay in the Sunshine State and check out the colorful Art Deco District and Little Havana neighborhoods in Miami, or partake in a smorgasbord of water activities in the gorgeous environs of Key West.