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The 20 best things to do in Orlando right now

Ditch the maps and tourist shops and let us guide you to the best things to do in Orlando, the City Beautiful

Megan duBois
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Megan duBois
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Orlando, Florida, is often filled with enthusiastic theme park fans looking to get their fix of thrills on the latest coaster openings. While you can definitely spend a week at the theme parks, there's more to the City Beautiful than theme parks. In fact, the city is full of culinary indulgences for the foodies and offers tons of rivalries for sports fanatics, incredible art and science museums, wildlife encounters, and outdoor activities.

While you might be tempted to spend the day at the pool since summer average temperatures are in the 90s, there is still plenty to do to cool off, including some incredible water parks. When the temperatures drop in late fall and through winter, be sure to hit the golf course or try out a swan boat ride at Lake Eola. Just be sure to take some time for yourself to relax in the city that never seems to sleep and is constantly lit up by nightly fireworks. If you are looking to gather all of the best things to do in Orlando for the ultimate vacation or staycation, these are our top things to do right now.

Best things to do in Orlando

  • Attractions
  • Theme parks

Walt Disney World is probably the number one thing people who travel to Orlando want to see. The spacious resort has four theme parks, two water parks, a dining and shopping district, and over 20 on-site, Disney-owned hotels. There's always something new to see at the resort, including the Cirque du Soliel show 'Drawn to Life' at Disney Springs and Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind at EPCOT. The latter of the two features the first reverse launch of any Disney coaster! 

  • Music
  • Music venues
  • Downtown Orlando

The Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts is the spot in Orlando for live music, broadway shows like Hamilton, and tons of family-friendly entertainment. Kids will love movie nights with family-friendly flicks like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Movie and music buffs will want to look for movies in conjunction with the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra, who will play the score live while you watch the film. The Dr. Phillips Center is also the home of the Orlando Ballet, brilliantly performing in shows like The Jungle Book and The Nutcracker.

 

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  • Attractions
  • Theme parks
  • Turkey Lake

Universal Orlando Resort is known for its impressive Harry Potter and Jurassic Park-themed areas. While both are great for families, adults looking to cool off and enjoy the summer days ahead will want to go to Universal's Volcano Bay. Here you can lounge near the wave pool with a towering volcano just over the water's edge or grab a colorfully swirled Waturi Fusion ice cream cone. No matter what you do at Universal, it's going to be a fun-filled day. 

  • Attractions
  • Parks and gardens
  • South Eola

Take a relaxing stroll around Lake Eola and Lake Eola Park, located in the heart of downtown Orlando. The walk around the lake is just under one mile, and along the way, you'll take in picturesque views of the downtown skyline. Want to be on the water? Rent swan paddle boats and get out there with the live swans. The Walt Disney Amphitheater is also located inside the park, a gorgeous arena that typically hosts live concerts, movies, and performances.

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  • Attractions
  • Parks and gardens
  • Rose Isle

For those looking for a bit of outdoor adventure without getting into the Florida swamps, check out the Harry P. Leu Gardens. The stunning, walkable garden boasts 50 acres of beautiful flora and fauna just a few minutes drive from downtown Orlando. Donated to the city in 1961, locals and visitors have been making the most of this stunning space ever since. The garden also hosts movie nights for families and educational seminars on various topics throughout the year. All of the flowers and fountains also make for great Instagram photos. 

Head to the Amway Center downtown to see the Orlando Magic make some ... well ... magic. Games are typically a few hours. And if you're dragging along anyone who doesn't love basketball, there is plenty of family entertainment between plays and during commercial breaks for this to be a fun night for all. Just be sure to give yourself plenty of time to get there — the area around the Amway can get very congested on game nights, and you don’t want to be late for the tip-off.

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The Orlando Science Center has been amazing kids (and adults) of all ages for over six decades. The hands-on museum offers four floors and has dozens of interactive exhibits, labs, theaters, and workshops. Kids will love learning about everything from dinosaurs to sustainability (let's be honest, so will moms and dads). Those looking for even more hands-on experiences can book personalized adventures (held in small groups) or get in touch with their creative side at the Makerspace.

History and architecture combine into one relaxing experience on the Winter Park Scenic Boat Tour. The tour takes you through the lakes and byways of Winter Park to see some of the historic homes of the area, as well as the wildlife that calls Florida home. The boat tour is about an hour long, and you can bring your own food and drink on board. Pro tip: Grab a coffee and pastries from one of the many shops nearby, and don't forget to offer something to the captain! Our favorite place to stop for snacks is Buttermilk Bakery in Winter Park. 

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Every Saturday, local vendors and artisans set up shop at the Winter Park Farmer's Market, located at Central Park West Meadow. From 8:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m, people can browse the stalls and collect all sorts of yummy items. The market has an abundance of vendors ranging in style from beef jerky and lemonade to plumerias and fish dip. This is also a great spot to get locally grown produce or try a local food truck for lunch! 

  • Attractions
  • Zoo and aquariums
  • Westwood

If you only visit one water park in Orlando, we implore you to make it to this one. Discovery Cove is an all-inclusive water park where you can get up close with dolphins, sharks, rays, and tropical fish while basking in the warm Florida sun. Only a limited number of guests are let in each day – which means you can get more done! — and add-on experiences like a morning flamingo walk or playtime with otters make the day extra special. We also love this park because the breakfast and lunch buffets are filled with delicious items that will keep you fueled and full all day long.

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  • Attractions
  • Wildlife centers
  • Meadow Woods Cove

There's always something fun to eat in Orlando. In the fall, the city hosts Magical Dining month, where you can get a three-course meal at participating restaurants and support a local charity. In the spring, look out for Mardi Gras at Universal Orlando Resort and, come October, the Swan and Dolphin Food and Wine Classic at Walt Disney World. All year long, you'll find food truck rallies throughout the city and sometimes even a festival based on specific foods like donuts or Spanish tapas.

The adorable Peppa Pig Theme Park is geared towards preschool-aged kids with vibrant colors and many attractions that don't have a height requirement. The park is a great half-day park if you're already visiting LEGOLAND Florida or if you're willing to drive from Orlando to nearby Winter Haven. The only thing to watch out for here is the long lines at the single restaurant at the park. If you don't want to wait for food, you may want to consider bringing your own with you. 

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  • Shopping
  • Markets and fairs

Cheer on the lions at Exploria Stadium in downtown Orlando from April through November. Make sure to don purple and gold (assuming you don't want to be booed by rowdy fans). If you don’t have anything to wear, check out the Orlando City Team Shop on West Church Street. Tickets here start as low as $21, making it a fun weekend activity that won't break the bank. 

Escape rooms are still wildly popular, and The Escape Game Orlando is one of our favorite spots for the hour-long experience. There are plenty of games to choose from here, including a new one based on a sunken undersea lab that needs help. Each game ranges in difficulty and the number of people it can contain, so be sure to look at all of your options before booking. 

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Did you know Orlando is where you can find the headwaters of the Everglades? That’s right, and in the marshy, swamp area, you can take an airboat ride through the tall grasses and deep waters to see some of natural Florida that hasn’t been inhabited by animated animal characters (yet). The Boggy Creek Airboat Adventures take you through the headwaters on an adventure that lasts either 30 minutes or one hour. Throughout the tour, you’ll see animals like turtles, alligators, fish, and various birds that make up the delicate ecosystem of the headwaters. Each boat captain knows a plethora about the natural environment, so be sure to ask all of your burning questions. 

Families with kids shouldn't miss this colorful experience. See how crayons are made, experience hands-on activities, and do a few craft projects before setting out to make your very own Crayola crayon color. Each of the activities is designed with little and big kids in mind — which means everyone in the family will have an equally good time. The experience has extended hours in the summer, which is great news for families who want to have pool time in the afternoon but do something fun outside of their home or hotel after dinner. 

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LEGOLAND Florida Resort is about 45 minutes from Walt Disney World and about an hour from Universal Orlando Resort. The LEGO-centric theme park is known for kid-friendly rides featuring LEGO characters and a LEGO Pirate Island Hotel that is a swashbuckling good time for the entire family. This year LEGOLAND Florida Resort is celebrating its tenth anniversary and continues to bring new entertainment to the park. The most recent addition is a new water stunt show, Brickbeard’s Water Stunt Show, which takes place on the lake on the backside of the park. And be sure not to leave the park without trying the iconic apple fries, which are fried apple sticks tossed lightly with cinnamon. 

  • Museums
  • Science and technology

This exciting theme park is filled with water creature-themed coasters, animal exhibits and encounters, and an adorable Sesame Street-themed area for kids. Ice Breaker is the newest attraction to open at the park. The thrilling new ride features four launches, including a reverse launch into a beyond vertical drop that is sure to take your breath away. Throughout the day, you can also see shows and live entertainment featuring animals and learn about the natural behaviors of sea life. 

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Part brewery, part food hall, and part entertainment space, Plant Street Market is a great place to hang out on weekends. The cornerstone space inside is Crooked Can Brewery, known for its delicious beers and exciting outdoor block parties every summer. Around the market, you'll find everything from a local butcher to a shop specializing in sushi rolls. No matter what you're looking for, it can likely be found at Plant Street Market. 

Walt Disney World is home to three 18-hole golf courses and one nine-hole walking course. While you might not see Mickey Mouse himself on the course teeing up, you may see a few hidden Mickeys as bunkers or on some practice balls. If you plan on spending more time in the theme parks, you can book a sunrise or sunset nine-hole round at a discount. Disney’s golf courses are open to the public, and you do not have to be staying at Disney or have a theme park ticket to enjoy a round of golf here. Be sure to watch out for the island green on the seventh hole at Disney's Lake Buena Vista Golf Course, it's one of the more challenging holes at Disney. 

If traveling with kids, Walt Disney World also boasts two mini-golf courses, one themed to the iconic movie Fantasia and another themed to Santa's adventures in Florida. 

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