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Exploring Orlando Outside of Walt Disney World

They don’t call Orlando the theme park capital of the world for nothing!  While most visitors tend to make a beeline for the parks, there’s quite a lot to see and do in Orlando without setting foot in a theme park – and some of it might surprise you!  Here are 8 experiences you’ll want to check out in Orlando.  While this list only scratches the surface, we hope it will inspire you to explore everything this remarkable area has to offer!


1. Gatorland

With a name like “Gatorland”, the adventure is baked right in!  Reptile fans and adventurous spirits will love the 110 acres of fun here, which allow you to experience a bit of the Everglades right in Orlando.  You can meet and wrestle an alligator, if you’re brave enough!  If not, check the wide range of alligators and crocodiles, from babies to massive 14-foot-long creatures, from a safer distance.  There’s a zip line where you can soar right over the gators, a free-flight aviary, animal shows galore, and a petting zoo.  Make sure you check out all the specially ticketed events, such as the Trainer for a Day experience, to ramp up your gator fun!

2. Sea Life Aquarium

Say goodbye to aquariums of the past!  At Sea Life Aquarium, the goal is to bring you as close as possible to the amazing under-the-sea lives of all of your favorite aquatic animals.  There’s a touch pool for hands-on interaction with sea creatures, and the animals you can’t touch, you’ll be able to see through panoramic plexiglass windows and tunnels.  Turtles, rays, sharks, clownfish and many, many more can be found here, and with special children’s activities, your little ones won’t even realize they’re learning. 

3. Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition

Surprised to find a Titanic attraction in the middle of Florida?  So were we!  Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition is an interactive museum that fully immerses you in the Titanic story, letting you experience for yourself what it would have been like to sail on the ill-fated, luxury steamship.  This is much more than just another dusty museum exhibit.  You’ll wander through faithfully recreated (and, impressively, full-scale) rooms from the ship, including a first class stateroom, the grand staircase and the promenade deck, where you’ll even feel the cold of the North Atlantic ocean air as you do some star-gazing.  Explore actual artifacts recovered from the ship, and touch a piece of Titanic’s actual hull.  You can also interact with actors playing actual ship crew and passengers; there’s even a dinner event where you can eat with actors playing first class passengers!


4. Winter Park Scenic Boat Tours

Less than 10 minutes from downtown Orlando, you’ll find guided pontoon cruises through the Chain of Lakes in Winter Park.  We can’t imagine a more relaxing – and beautiful – way to spend your time away from the parks!  You’ll see Florida’s resident flora and fauna on your cruise, including alligators, cranes, and picturesque palm trees, plus stunningly extravagant mansions and estates along the shoreline.  This is the perfect outing for repeat visitors to Orlando looking for a hidden gem to explore, and it’s also a great introduction to the beauty of Orlando for first-time visitors.

5. Chocolate Kingdom: Interactive Factory Adventure Tour

Full disclaimer – we’re in for anything involving chocolate!  If this describes you too, you’ll want to spend some time at the Chocolate Kingdom: Interactive Factory Adventure Tour.  You’ll learn all about this beloved treat, and how it goes from chocolate bean into the sweet version we know and love.  You’ll be guided by a prince and sidekick dragon through a Mystical River of Chocolate, a Cacao Tree Greenhouse, Chocolate Museum, and a Bean-to-the-Bar Factory.  You can even customize your own chocolate bar!  Chocoholics, take note: they also do birthday parties and other events, such as chocolate and wine pairings.

6. Indoor Skydiving

Curious about what it feels like to skydive, but can’t quite muster up the courage to jump out of a plane?  You’re not alone.  And there’s an experience with your name on it: indoor skydiving, at iFlY.  You’ll be suited up, given some pointers, and then you’ll step out into the vertical wind tunnel to float in mid-air!  Speaking from personal experience, it’s an exhilarating adventure you’ll be glad you had – and you won’t even have to deal with that debilitating fear of heights!  A personal flight instructor is with you every step of the way, and even young kids can fly.

7. The Wheel at ICON Park

The next time you’re in Orlando, why not pay a visit to the tallest observation wheel on the east coast?  The Wheel, in the centre of ICON Park, is an impressive 400 feet high, but that’s nothing compared to its weight (a whopping 3 million pounds).  This iconic behemoth towers over International Drive, giving visitors views of Orlando that are just out of this world.  You’ll see Orlando’s skyline, the beautifully lush natural surroundings, nearby theme parks, and even the Kennedy Space Center, if you’re lucky enough to visit on a clear day!  The climate-controlled capsules you’ll ride in are wifi-enabled (so go ahead and post those gorgeous Wheel selfies!).

8. Giraffe Ranch

About an hour outside of Orlando, you’ll find a game farm and wildlife preserve where giraffes and lots of other animals from around the world roam – and you’ll get to interact with them in a variety of different ways.  You can take a safari tour and learn about endangered species and what’s being done to help protect them.  You’ll have the chance to walk a llama, feed a giraffe, and pet a camel.  And of course, you’ll get up close and personal with plenty of other animals on site, like pygmy hippos, rhinos, Irish Dexter cattle, and lemurs.

About Stacy Milford

Stacy has lived in 4 countries on 3 continents, and travels whenever humanly possible. Passionate about music theatre, dessert, and adventure in the great wide somewhere, she visits Walt Disney World every year, usually during Halloween! Stacy currently divides her time between writing and teaching English as a second language to children in China, and is pretty sure growing up is over-rated.