Discover Orlando: Things to Do in Orlando

See Orlando like a local and explore the unique neighborhoods, parks, and nearby beaches. See expert tips on places to eat and easiest ways to get around.

When you think of Orlando, Florida, Walt Disney World and other theme parks are certain to pop into mind. More than 60 million people visit the “the City Beautiful” each year, as the theme parks are a major draw. However, there’s much more to the area that makes Orlando a terrific family vacation destination.

Orlando Must-See Attractions

 

Dr. P. Phillips Community Park

Dr. P. Phillips Community Park is near Orlando’s theme parks, yet completely removed from the crowds. On the 43 acres of parkland, you and your kids can play baseball, soccer or basketball. If you’re not into sports, try the playground or the splash pad with pop-up fountains that will cool you off on a hot Florida day. Or go for a walk on the hiking trails. Download the trail guide before you go. Entry is free and the park is a great outing for the whole family.

The Morse Museum and Winter Park

Tucked into the Winter Park neighborhood just east of downtown Orlando is the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art, which houses the world’s most comprehensive collection of works by designer and artist Louis Comfort Tiffany. You may recognize Tiffany’s surname from his lamps or from his father’s famous jewelry store with its signature little blue boxes. Art enthusiasts will find jewelry, pottery, paintings, art glass, leaded-glass lamps and even the Tiffany’s chapel interior from the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. From November through April, admission is free from 4 to 8 p.m. on Fridays, and free parking is available year-round behind the museum. Check the museum’s website for a calendar of talks, demonstrations, family events and festivals.

Afterward, stroll along Park Avenue’s oak tree-lined streets, with its more than 140 shops, restaurants and museums, and you’ll soon realize why this Orlando-area neighborhood has attracted visitors for more than 130 years. If you’re in the area on a Saturday morning, be sure to stop by the Winter Park Farmer’s Market for some local flavor.

Harry P. Leu Gardens

Seemingly worlds away, but actually just outside downtown Orlando nestled near the Audubon Park Garden District you’ll find the Harry P. Leu Gardens. Spend an afternoon walking among the 50 acres of temperate and tropical trees and flowers, from azaleas and philodendrons to roses and camellias. If the sun gets a bit too warm, head to the 19th century Leu House Museum for a guided tour. Check the garden’s website for upcoming special events the kids will love.

 

See It Like a Local

 

Downtown Orlando

Start at the center, with a stroll around Lake Eola. Keep an eye out for the swans — both real ones and the swan-shaped paddleboats that families can rent by the half-hour. Alongside Lake Eola is the Thornton Park neighborhood, where you’ll find fun, chic boutiques like Lauren Nicole and Zou Zou and plenty of dining choices such as WildSide BBQ and Grille. Drive a mile or two to Ivanhoe Village to explore its antique shops, theaters and restaurants.

If you’re craving a sandwich on the go, head to Beefy King just outside downtown Orlando. The third-generation, family-owned restaurant has been serving up its signature roast beef sandwiches since 1968.

Downtown Orlando


Take Advantage of Toll Roads

In Orlando, traffic ebbs and flows. You are likely to hit traffic during rush hour or when the theme parks are closing for the night. Consider taking toll roads during high-traffic times. The money spent may pay off in saved time when you find yourself at your next destination instead of sitting in traffic. For an even faster route, purchase a Toll Pass Device from Alamo and cruise through toll facilities.
 

Plan a Day Trip from Orlando

 

Beaches & Blue Spring State Park

Orlando is centrally located, making driving to beaches on Florida’s coasts as easy as 1, 2, 3, I-4. Follow Interstate Highway 4 eastbound from Orlando to reach the breaking waves at Daytona Beach in just one hour, or follow the Beachline Expressway (State Road 528) eastbound to Cocoa Beach in the same amount of time. If traveling westbound, take I-4 through Tampa and onto State Road 60 directly to the calm Gulf of Mexico waters of Clearwater Beach.

If you opt to head east toward Daytona Beach, stop at Blue Spring State Park in Orange City, a 45-minute drive from Orlando. The crystal clear water is 73 degrees Fahrenheit year-round, and in the winter (roughly mid-November through March), endangered West Indian manatees make their home here. Though swimming and diving with the manatees is prohibited, it’s fun to sneak peeks from the boardwalks. When the manatees aren’t wintering in the springs, the water is open for swimming, diving, snorkeling, kayaking, canoeing, fishing and boat tours.

Blue Spring State Park

About the Author

Susan B. Barnes, aka travlin’ girl, is a travel writer who enjoys exploring the world as much as her own Florida backyard and sharing discoveries with her readers. Follow her travels online on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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