Orlando, a city of central Florida, is house to more than a dozen theme parks. When it happens to things to do in Orlando, it’s no wonder that the city’s famed lineup of theme parks takes up the most of the action – and rightly so. Both Disney and Universal dominate the visitor market here, with nine various parks between them, not to discuss all the branded shopping, dining and nightlife experiences that don’t need a day-pass. Although visiting Orlando without at least telling a quick ‘hello’ to Mickey and Co might feel like you’ve not had the complete experience, the city – and surrounding central Florida region – does promise lots of alternatives. Search the quaint downtown quarter and the many inner-city parks on foot, airboat your way around the vast alligator-infested marshes, or take a tour of the world-famed Kennedy Space Centre on the eastward shores. Check out our four best things to do in Orlando below.
Top four things to do in Orlando Florida
As an option to the slightly more commercialized SeaWorld, head to the nearby Discovery Cove for a more friendly and altogether more individual experience. The first activity here is easily their ‘Dolphin Lagoon,’ which lays on 30-minute little-group sessions with the dolphins in the water, enabling you to swim, hug and even touch the dolphins (if that’s your thing). The ‘Freshwater Oasis’ zone gives much of the same thing, just with various animals like marmosets and otters, while ‘The Grand Reef’ is the area to check out some foreign fish with a snorkel set given. ‘Wind-Away River’ is a slow running river that passes through landscaped jungles, waterfalls and caves. Most all the attractions here involve getting in the water – so don’t neglect your swimming costumes!
SeaWorld has mostly been a firm fixture on Orlando’s lineup of big-name attractions, with lots of aquatic themed-rides, shows, and hands-on animal experiences to keep the family involved for the day. Venture through the shark tunnel to open an underwater world, get up close to the dolphins and rays at ‘Sea of Shallows’ or discover the orca whales showcase their skills at the popular Shamu Stadium. Admission cost varies between weekdays and weekends (beginning around $80 a ticket), and SeaWorld also has a variety of multi-day opportunities with various add-ons for entrance into the Discovery Cove and Aquatica waterpark. Orlando’s great SeaWorld is one of the most-visited marine-life theme parks in the US, best known for its variety of aquatic-themed rides and rollercoasters, displays and exhibits. Star attractions here include the Shark Encounter tunnel – enabling you to stroll through an underwater world as well as Stingray Lagoon and Dolphin Cove, both of which give ‘hands-on’ experience with the animals.
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Orlando has a good few water parks to choose from, and one of the best is Aquatica, found next to the more massive SeaWorld complex. Aquatica also gives a few slightly more different attractions. One such example is the ‘Dolphin Plunge,’ where your transparent flume passes in a pool full of dolphins. Aquatica is one of Orlando’s latest and most popular waterparks (and there’s quite a few of them to pick from), found at SeaWorld south of Downtown Orlando. Among a day’s worth of entertainment slides and water attractions, the ridiculous ‘Dolphin Plunge’ gains the most attention here, a ride that provides you slide through a transparent tube with dolphins swimming about in the surrounding pool.
For a theme park with a diversity, Orlando’s highly-rated Gatorland gives a little extra ‘bite’ – home to dozens of live crocodiles and alligators. The schedule of live shows and demonstrations here give a great way of learning more about Orlando’s most famous reptiles, but what will leave a permanent memory is the park’s much-talked-about zip line ride over the gator-infested marshes – easily beating any other roller coaster in the city to the name of Orlando’s Scariest Attraction! Entrance is very economical too, with this being one of the cheapest of Orlando’s several traveler attractions – although you do spend a little extra for things like the zip line and gator practice sessions. Gatorland in Orlando blends nature, wildlife, and good old-fashioned theme park entertainment; the result is one of the most highly-rated attractions in the city. Outside of Disney and Universal, that is. Lying on a swampy 110-acre site just south of Orlando City, this theme park-cum-wildlife preserve has been titled the ‘Alligator Capital of the World’, and promises lots of family-friendly (and safe) fun, including an observation tower, crocodile and alligator shows, a swamp walk, zip-line, gator training sessions and daily shows.