12 Things to See and Do in Orlando

Orlando is an ideal vacationing spot for people of all ages. With a population of over 2,500,000, it is the third-largest metro area in Florida after Miami and Tampa. The city is nicknamed “The City Beautiful” and is one of the most visited cities in the world. A large variety of interesting, fun attractions make the time spent in the area most memorable. Let’s look at 12 of the best, to help you as you plan your trip.

12. Blue Spring State Park

Blue Spring State Park is a manatee refuge. In the winter months, you can walk along the 1/3 mile boardwalk and see the manatees travel upwards into the spring that leads to the St. John’s River. A variety of water sports attract visitors to include scuba diving and exploring the caves in the spring and swimming, or just relaxing, in the 73-degree constant warm temperature of the springs all-year-round. Canoes, kayaks, and paddleboards can be rented. Across from the state park, there are campsites and rental cabins.

11. Chocolate Kingdom

Calling all chocolate lovers! You can’t miss Chocolate Kingdom. The 45-minute interactive tour illustrates how chocolate is created. First, you’ll learn about cacao beans at the Cacao Tree Greenhouse and then move through the other areas: The Chocolate Museum, Mystery of Chocolate, Mystical River of Chocolate, and the Bean-to-Bar Factory. To top it off, you’ll make your own customized chocolate bar and have the option to buy it as a souvenir. Yum!

10. Disney’s Hollywood Studios

The studios are listed in the top 10 tourist attractions that the city has to offer. You’ll be able to stroll through mock-up places like Hollywood Boulevard, Echo Park, Toy Story Land, and Sunset Boulevard. Other popular features worth checking out are the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror ride, The Adventures Continue (a motion simulator in a 3-D Star Wars universe), and the Animator space filled with Disney’s most beloved animators along with the MuppetVision 3-D show. A large variety of restaurants and souvenir shops add to the experience.

9. Gatorland – “The Alligator Capital of the World”

Where else can visitors feed baby alligators, hop onto a 30 mph zip-line crossing over a Nile crocodiles’ enclosure, and (safely) greet Floridian snakes? With 110 acres, there’s something for everyone to enjoy! The Gatorland Express train will ensure that you get to the action: to see the thousands of alligator and crocodiles, aviary, petting zoo, and the assorted reptile shows. Want more adventure? The recent Stompin’ Gator-Road Adventure takes you on a monster truck-style vehicle on a backwoods adventure through the wetlands and a huge pond of live alligators!

8. Harry P. Leu Gardens

The industrialist Mr. Leu founded the lush botanical Harry P. Leu Gardens on 50-acres, not far from downtown. Traveling throughout the world during the 1930s, he brought back rare and unique seeds and plants to Orlando. Today, the gardens boast over 230 cultivars and 2,000 semi-tropical and tropical plants that bloom throughout the year. If you are a garden lover or green thumb wannabe, this place is for you!

7. Kennedy Space Center

Since 1968, the Kennedy Space Center has been the main launch center for NASA. The visitor complex filled with exhibits like the Space Shuttle Atlantis features a shuttle floating in midair and the Shuttle Launch Experience (a space simulator) that allows you a chance to feel like an astronaut during take-off. Complete with IMAX movies, a surreal rock garden surrounded by giant rocket flowers, and a talk with a real-live astronaut, outer space will look a tiny bit closer.

6. Madame Tussauds

Near the center of the city, Madame Tussauds displays wax figures representing famous personalities as well as pop culture scenes from Orlando. It’s a great place for photos among the TV, movie, and film star figures along as well as sports, music, and national/local leaders throughout history.

5. Orlando Museum of Art

The Orlando Museum of Art is one of the region’s main cultural institutions with its wide permanent art collection from the Ancient Americas and African art to more contemporary pieces. You’ll see a mixture of textiles, pottery, sculpture, and paintings to modern graphics and mixed media pieces. Guided tours, talks, and lectures are offered.

4. Orlando Science Center

The hands-on Orlando Science Center is brimming with a wide variety of exhibits and interesting activities about science exploration and discovery spread across four floors. The museum houses themed exhibit halls to explore the solar system, modern technology, the human body, and other topics. The eight-story CineDome is the world’s largest movie theater where you can view a sci-fi or nature flick…and, of course, munch on popcorn.

3. Sea Life Orlando Aquarium

As the only international aquarium chain-style exhibit in all of Florida, Sea Life Orlando Aquarium provides a look into marine life. You can watch turtles and sharks swim through the sparkling water and spot sea urchins, anemones, and horseshoe crabs as you walk through the 360-degree glass underwater tunnel. The “touch pools” provide a personal interactive experience with clownfish, jellyfish, seahorses, octopuses, stingrays, and sea turtles. Dive shows where staff dive into the tanks perform various demonstrations with the wildlife.

2. Florida Mall

The Florida Mall is a huge shopping complex, one of the largest shopping centers in the U.S. There are over 250 outlets for dining and retail to include popular chain stores like Victoria’s Secret, Macy’s, Zara, and H&M and exclusive shops like M&M’s World, Carol’s Bakery, and The Disney Store. What are you hungry for? The dining establishments cater to all types of cuisine from fast food to international specialties.

1. Walt Disney World Resort

Orlando is best known for its Walt Disney World Resort, a combination of two water parks (Disney’s Blizzard Beach and Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon), four theme parks (Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and Disney’s Hollywood Studios), and over 25 resort hotels. (Disney’s Hollywood Studios is #3 in this article). There’s endless shopping, dining, entertainment, recreation, and sports activities making this destination the most visited vacation resort in the world with more than 58 million annual visitors.

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