Things to do in Orlando

Famed for one of the US's most popular attractions, Walt Disney World, Orlando boasts many other noteworthy attractions besides the iconic Magic Kingdom. Travellers should head a little further into this Floridian city to discover Universal Studios, its two theme parks, entertainment complex, and film sets. Those visiting during the summer should check out wet 'n Wild, while Sea World has earned itself a reputation as one of the best marine parks in the world for more than 25 years.

Florida's second most popular attraction is the Kennedy Space Centre at the nearby Cape Canaveral. Visitors can walk through a giant model of the new International Space Station, view authentic rockets, and marvel at all the original artefacts from the moon landing.

The Orlando Museum of Art is a must for fans of fine arts, while adrenalin junkies should make a pilgrimage to the NASCAR Daytona Speedway. For something a little stranger, visitors should look no further than Ripley's Believe It or Not, where exhibits of weird and wonderful things, amassed over a period of 40 years by explorer Robert Ripley, can be viewed.

Travellers planning on extensive sightseeing should consider buying a Go Orlando Card, which grants free entrance to various attractions as well as providing a full-colour guide book with in three, five or seven day sightseeing options. Go Cards are available at the Official Visitor Centre or Festival Bay Mall.

Walt Disney World photo

Walt Disney World

Orlando's most familiar landmark is undoubtedly the turreted Cinderella Castle that stands in the centre of the original Disney Florida theme park, the Magic Kingdom. Walt Disney W…

Walt Disney World

Orlando's most familiar landmark is undoubtedly the turreted Cinderella Castle that stands in the centre of the original Disney Florida theme park, the Magic Kingdom. Walt Disney World opened in 1971 and has been making dreams come true ever since. Today it is just one of four Disney parks that cover more than 28,000 acres of Orange and Osceola counties in central Florida, with accompanying resorts, shopping complexes, hotels, and waterparks. Apart from the Magic Kingdom, Disney World now includes the Epcot centre, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom. It also contains two water parks; Disney's Blizzard Beach and Disney's Typhoon Lagoon. The Magic Kingdom is where the most famous Disney attractions are located. Little girls can visit the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique to receive princess makeovers, while boys can become ferocious swashbucklers at the Pirates League. Rides at the Magic Kingdom include classic favourites such as Space Mountain, the Haunted Mansion, and It's a Small World. Disney's Hollywood Studios gives visitors a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the workings of the glitz and glamour of the movie industry, while Animal Kingdom wildlife park is home to more than 1,700 animals from 250 species.

Website www.disneyworld.com

SeaWorld Orlando photo

SeaWorld Orlando

Spread out between the Disney parks at Lake Buena Vista and downtown Orlando area is the renowned SeaWorld attraction. The park is designed to give an interactive look at the sea, …

SeaWorld Orlando

Spread out between the Disney parks at Lake Buena Vista and downtown Orlando area is the renowned SeaWorld attraction. The park is designed to give an interactive look at the sea, featuring themed animal habitats from tidal pools to iceberg lakes. Visitors can hug a dolphin, kiss a killer whale, and watch the famous aquatic SeaWorld stars go through their paces in various entertaining shows. SeaWorld is not only well-known for its exciting animal encounters and epic rides. Visitors should be sure to enjoy Mako, the tallest, fastest, and longest roller coaster in Orlando. It reaches speeds of up to 73 miles per hour (117km per hour) on an impressively long steel track, leaving riders feeling both breathless and weightless. Neighbouring Discovery Cove offers visitors a chance to swim with dolphins, view wildlife, sunbathe on gorgeous beaches, and snorkel among the coral.

Website seaworldparks.com/en/seaworld-orlando

Universal Studios Florida photo

Universal Studios Florida

The delights that the Universal Orlando entertainment complex has to offer are so numerous that it takes at least two days to fully appreciate. There are two theme parks: the Islan…

Universal Studios Florida

The delights that the Universal Orlando entertainment complex has to offer are so numerous that it takes at least two days to fully appreciate. There are two theme parks: the Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios. Universal Studios is a movie-themed park with thrilling, innovative rides, production studios, and film sets, where visitors can go behind the scenes and see the tricks used to create movie magic. Islands of Adventure offers thrilling rides, shows, and villages on five different islands all based on hit film classics.

Website www.universalorlando.com

Believe It or Not Orlando photo

Believe It or Not Orlando

Housed in an odd-looking building that is tipped to one side and apparently sinking into the ground, Ripley's Believe It or Not Orlando contains a remarkable collection of weird an…

Believe It or Not Orlando

Housed in an odd-looking building that is tipped to one side and apparently sinking into the ground, Ripley's Believe It or Not Orlando contains a remarkable collection of weird and wonderful exhibits, amassed over a period of 40 years by explorer Robert Ripley. Examples of the exhibits are shrunken heads and a scale model of a Rolls Royce made entirely of matchsticks. Visitors can measure themselves up against the world's tallest man and learn about all sorts of odd and surprising records. Ripley's 'Believe it or Not' collection is world-renowned and has been documented in television series and best-selling books.

Website www.ripleys.com/orlando/

Orlando Museum of Art photo

Orlando Museum of Art

Orlando's Museum of Art is a world of creative themed exhibitions, showcasing its permanent collections of American Art, Art of the Ancient Americas, and African Art. Group tours a…

Orlando Museum of Art

Orlando's Museum of Art is a world of creative themed exhibitions, showcasing its permanent collections of American Art, Art of the Ancient Americas, and African Art. Group tours are made memorable with commentary about art appreciation and the lives of the various artists represented. The museum's collection is extremely varied, covering a number of time periods, artistic schools, and movements. Visitors should note that the museum is closed on Mondays.

Website www.omart.org

Fantasy of Flight photo

Fantasy of Flight

Midway between Tampa and Orlando, about 20 minutes drive west of Walt Disney World, the Fantasy of Flight resort is billed as the world's greatest aircraft collection. The attracti…

Fantasy of Flight

Midway between Tampa and Orlando, about 20 minutes drive west of Walt Disney World, the Fantasy of Flight resort is billed as the world's greatest aircraft collection. The attraction began as a vision of aviation enthusiast and historian, Kermit Weeks, as a tribute to the pioneers of flight, and today it features many rare and vintage aircraft, which actually take to the skies. Visitors are treated to an 'Aircraft of the Day' flypast, as well as the chance to fly themselves in a simulator. The site also offers tours of the aircraft collection in hangars, a sight and sound presentation detailing the history of aviation, a tour of the 'back lot' where vintage aircraft are restored, and an Exploration Centre.

Website www.fantasyofflight.com

SeaWorld Aquatica photo

SeaWorld Aquatica

Look no further than SeaWorld's Aquatica for exhilarating water slides, wave pools, and once in a lifetime encounters with sea animals. There are a multitude of thrill rides to enj…

SeaWorld Aquatica

Look no further than SeaWorld's Aquatica for exhilarating water slides, wave pools, and once in a lifetime encounters with sea animals. There are a multitude of thrill rides to enjoy in this water park as well as other varied attractions, ensuring the whole family stays entertained. Visitors can experience an educational ride through an undersea world to see the sea life below, or they can revel in an adventure-fuelled race against the rapids. With so many rides and slides to choose from, this water world will leave any visitor delighted, and soaked!

The signature ride, Reef Plunge, features slides that shoot riders through a pool of Dolphins. For the real adrenalin junkies the most fast-paced ride of all is Ihu's Breakway Falls, a watery free-fall drop slide. Whether visitors are after relaxation or adrenalin, SeaWorld's Aquatica is great fun for the whole family. The park is open daily all year-round, but opening and closing times do change according to season.

Website www.aquaticabyseaworld.com/en/orlando

Admission

$60 single-day ticket, free admission for children under 3

Kennedy Space Center photo

Kennedy Space Center

The John F. Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, 46 miles (74km) southeast of Orlando on Florida's east coast, is one place in the state where fact is just as entertaining as fi…

Kennedy Space Center

The John F. Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, 46 miles (74km) southeast of Orlando on Florida's east coast, is one place in the state where fact is just as entertaining as fiction. Visitors to the centre follow the story of NASA's exploration of space through interactive exhibits, movies, and tours. Guests can tour a full-size replica of the space shuttle 'Explorer', walk through a giant model of the International Space Station module, and view films about Mars and the Pathfinder exploration. They can also explore historic authentic rockets, such as the craft piloted by pioneer astronaut John Glenn, and marvel at the Apollo-Saturn Centre, which houses all the artefacts from the historic moon landing. The Space Center requires several hours to fully appreciate. On the same site is the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, established on the land NASA did not require for its space operations. The 220-square-mile (570 sq km) refuge contains more endangered species than any other wildlife refuge in the US, including the southern bald eagle and Atlantic loggerhead turtle. Visitors should not skip the US Astronaut Hall of Fame as they leave the area.

Website www.kennedyspacecenter.com

Discovery Cove Orlando photo

Discovery Cove Orlando

Discovery Cove is an exquisite tropical island paradise. In recent years, Discovery Cove has supplanted its sister park, SeaWorld, as the premier marine theme park in the state of …

Discovery Cove Orlando

Discovery Cove is an exquisite tropical island paradise. In recent years, Discovery Cove has supplanted its sister park, SeaWorld, as the premier marine theme park in the state of Florida, but the competition remains steep and many travellers choose to visit both. What makes the experience of visiting Discovery Cove so unique is the level of interaction that it offers: guests can swim with bottlenose dolphins, snorkel alongside a coral reef teeming with exotic fish, unwind on pristine sandy beaches, and hand-feed tropical birds in a free-flight aviary. It is even possible to wade in the welcoming Freshwater Oasis, coming face-to-face with playful otters and curious marmosets in the lush landscaping. The combination of relaxation and adventure is glorious.

Website www.discoverycove.com

Wizarding World of Harry Potter photo

Wizarding World of Harry Potter

The magical theme park is located at Islands of Adventure and allows visitors to enter their favourite scenes from the films, including the Hogwarts Express, Hogsmead village, Zonk…

Wizarding World of Harry Potter

The magical theme park is located at Islands of Adventure and allows visitors to enter their favourite scenes from the films, including the Hogwarts Express, Hogsmead village, Zonko's Joke Shop, and Diagon Alley. It also has thrilling rides such as the Flight of the Hippogriff and Dragon Challenge. Children can visit Ollivander's to find their perfect wand, or sample chocolate frogs and Bertie Bott's Every-Flavour Beans at Honeyduke's sweet shop. The attraction is wildly popular and fun for the whole family, but visitors should bear in mind that queues can be exceptionally long at peak times. Harry Potter fanatics give the park rave reviews, but even those who are unfamiliar with the wizarding world will be enchanted by the park.

Website www.universalorlando.com

Gatorland photo

Gatorland

Florida is famous for its alligator population, and Gatorland in Orlando is a good place to experience these interesting animals. The park is home to thousands of alligators and cr…

Gatorland

Florida is famous for its alligator population, and Gatorland in Orlando is a good place to experience these interesting animals. The park is home to thousands of alligators and crocodiles, with a breeding marsh with boardwalk and observation tower, reptile shows, an aviary, petting zoo, swamp walk, and educational programs. A huge thrill is provided by the Gator Zip Line, which allows brave visitors to the park to zoom about high above the enclosures. Gatorland has several restaurants and even offers a gluten-free menu. Visitors can enjoy the whole park at a leisurely pace in about four hours, but a family can easily spend longer time enjoying the various attractions.

Website www.gatorland.com

The Holy Land Experience photo

The Holy Land Experience

Vastly different from most theme parks in Orlando, the Holy Land Experience is a religious attraction designed to recreate pivotal scenes from the Bible. These include settings suc…

The Holy Land Experience

Vastly different from most theme parks in Orlando, the Holy Land Experience is a religious attraction designed to recreate pivotal scenes from the Bible. These include settings such as the Great Temple, the Last Supper Communion, and a Jerusalem Street Market. Staff members re-enact stories from the life of Jesus, and large-scale productions are staged in the Church of all Nations auditorium. The park is designed to be spiritually motivating and a visit can be moving for the religiously minded. The Holy Land Experience is far more about the story of Jesus than it is a genuine recreation of Jerusalem, but the replica temples and ancient streets help to bring the story to life and set the scene.

Website www.holylandexperience.com