Things to Do in Orlando Besides Theme Parks

things to do in orlando besides theme parks

This blog is all about the grown-ups! Have you ever wondered what there is to do in Orlando besides going to the theme parks? What about things to do in Orlando for adults? Central Florida is the home to one of the most visited theme parks in the world: Walt Disney World. Over 50,000 people visit WDW parks each day, including thousands of starry-eyed kids eager to meet their favorite Disney characters and make the most of what feels like the best vacation of their lifetime.

If you’re one of the lucky ones that had the chance to make magical childhood memories at the land of Mouse when you were young, chances are you hold those memories dear. But, if you’re traveling with little ones of your own now, with a spouse or friends, you may be wondering how to make the most of your trip without staying strictly inside the Disney bubble. Luckily, Orlando has plenty to offer vacationers aside from the parks (and there are a lot of parks).

Things to Do in Orlando Besides Theme Parks: For Adults & Families

Orlando is much more than just theme parks. Things to do range from cultural events and festivals, fun in the water (saltwater and freshwater!), as well as incredible foodie adventures. Whether you’re looking for something fun to do in Orlando that is for adults or the whole family, we have you covered.

Explore Hidden Gem Towns in Orlando

You may not realize it if you stick to the main tourist areas of Orlando such as International Drive and Kissimmee, but Orlando is BIG! Locals love Orlando because there are so many things to do besides going to the parks. Especially with all of the hidden gem towns and lesser-known areas that tourists rarely get a chance to see. If you are renting a car on vacation, you must explore outside of the Disney World bubble to visit areas in Greater Orlando such as Downtown Winter Garden, Thornton Park, as well as Tavares.

Winter Garden was initially settled during the 1850s and grew in population by the 1880s with the arrival of the railroad system. In fact, visitors can see one of the historic railroad tracks and trains downtown. The brick-paved roads, small shops and local restaurants make it a quaint and adorable place to visit, with beautiful scenery as well. Pro tip: visiting on Saturday mornings is best for the hometown Farmers Market!

Thornton Park is a must-see when you’re visiting Orlando for things to do besides theme parks. While it’s not technically a “town,” this neighborhood in Downtown Orlando has delicious local restaurants and beautiful homes for sightseeing. Large oak trees and Spanish moss shade sidewalks and create a bohemian atmosphere that blends with the urban chic-ness of the neighborhood.

While Tavares is a little bit of a drive away from International Drive, it’s well worth it if you love days spent on the water. Rent a boat and spend an afternoon exploring the Dora Canal, where passersby can wade through neighborhoods right on the water, surrounded by towering cypress trees and wildlife. Park your boat downtown or at one of many restaurants right on the water.

Discover Orlando’s Foodie Side

domu orlando
Domu Orlando’s Famous Chicken Wings

If it’s your first time visiting Orlando, you may not know that there are almost as many incredible restaurants as there are theme parks. Several fine dining options help to put Orlando on the foodie map as well as unique eateries you won’t find anywhere else.

While restaurants like Olive Garden or the Cheesecake Factory are always consistent for tourists and laid-back dinners, you can’t miss the locals’ favorites while you’re in Orlando.

Some stand-out Orlando restaurants perfect for a date night include Santiago’s Bodega, which offers delicious small plates and a rotating seasonal menu. This romantic spot in Orlando also has fine wines and cocktails, and an unbeatable dessert menu.

Another local favorite includes The Ravenous Pig, a unique take on gastropubs located in Winter Park. Offering southern-style brunch on Saturdays/Sundays, a Beer Garden menu every evening, as well as gourmet comfort food, you don’t want to miss out on The Ravenous Pig. For something a little more diverse, be sure to check out authentic ramen at Domu. Vegans or vegetarians in your travel party will also love their plant-based plates. For bites as exciting as they are inexpensive try King Bao, 4 Rivers Smokehouse and Yellow Dog Eats. Although there are limited kids menus at these restaurants, it means more delicious plates with diverse flavors.

The best restaurants will certainly keep you busy with things to do (and eat!) in Orlando besides theme parks.

Get the Best Hiking in Florida

things to do in orlando besides theme parks
Wekiwa Springs State Park

Central Florida is home to a variety of subtropical habitats (chiefly, coastal habitats, forests, prairies, scrub, and wetlands) all which present great opportunities to spend some time in the great outdoors. There are also a variety of manicured private gardens worth making a trip to see.

Just north of downtown Orlando, you’ll find Harry P. Leu Gardens. The garden boasts a huge variety of azaleas, philodendrons, camelias as well as bromeliads you can check out year-round. It is also home to a small collection of outdoor sculptures and hosts special art exhibits several times per year. If you get around to it in the spring, the rose garden is in full bloom with a rainbow of colors.

About thirty minutes northwest of downtown lies the sprawling Wekiwa Springs State Park. Here, you can catch a glimpse of real Florida wildlife. Wekiwa has some of the best hiking in Florida, according to some locals. The park is home to over twenty miles of trails and has a convenient kayak and canoe rental center on-site. There are picnic and fishing locations scattered throughout as well. For hot summer days, take a dip in the spring to cool down. If you visit at the right time, you can also see the manatees that reside here seasonally.

Visit Orlando Attractions for Grown Ups

things to do in orlando besides theme parks
ICON Orlando

In between fantastic meals or day trips, you’ll surely want to do some sightseeing. Central Florida is home to enough sights and attractions to keep you busy during your whole vacation. In the center of the tourism corridor named I-Drive, you’ll find the world’s sixth-largest Ferris wheel, the ICON Orlando. Take a ride aboard the observation wheel then dine at one of the many fantastic restaurants in the area. I-Drive has some of the best Orlando attractions, specifically for grown-ups that aren’t on kid-duty.

If sports events are your thing instead, Orlando is home to several sports teams, the better known of which are the Orlando Magic and the Orlando Lions. Soccer fans can support the beloved Orlando City Lions by donning the very best violet-hued ensemble at an Orlando City soccer game. Checking out a game is a perfect thing to do in Orlando for adults.

Check Out Orlando’s Nightlife

things to do in orlando besides theme parks
Downtown Orlando lit up at night

There are so many things to do in Orlando besides theme parks and for adults only. Downtown boasts hundreds of places where you can stop and sip your favorite drink. The best, though, are those that brew, ferment or distill their spirits locally. For a libation with local flair, head to the Winter Park Distilling Company. Here, you can sample six spirits including a Florida vodka and craft bourbon during one of their tours. Bottles make perfect souvenirs!

A little further west, you’ll find a wonderful opportunity to sample local wine at the Lakeridge Winery. Situated on over 120 acres, the winery produces Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Petite Sirah and Cabernet Sauvignon among others. Visit in August for an extra special treat: a grape stomping festival with outdoor fun and games, a wine and cheese bar and excellent food vendors. Of course, downtown Orlando nightlife has a plethora of fun bars and live music to enjoy.

Best Shopping in Orlando

There’s nothing better than shopping on vacation, and Orlando has you covered with all scopes of shopping excursions. From flea markets, boutique shopping areas, luxury stores, and outlets, you’ll undoubtedly come home with an extra bag packed. If you’re looking for things to do in Orlando besides theme parks, shopping is a top choice on the list.

For luxury goods at great prices, the Orlando International Premium Outlets has your fix with designer brands like Coach, Gucci, Kate Spade, Lacoste, Michael Kors, and more. The outdoor mall is located right next to International Drive and all of the best resorts in Orlando, so getting here is a breeze. Besides the Orlando International Premium Outlets, The Mall at Millennia is a must-see. This luxury mall has both high-end designer brands like Christian Louboutin, Louis Vuitton, Tiffany & Co, as well as popular stores like Urban Outfitters or Lush Cosmetics. There’s something for everyone here, all with an upscale atmosphere.

Finally, get to shopping like the locals in the Downtown Historic Winter Park. Park Avenue is lined up with boutique shops and some consumer favorites, all along the brick-paved streets. You’ll never know what you’ll find here, plus the local restaurants and bars will keep you entertained in between shops.

Go to the Parks Anyway (For Food and Fun)

universal hulk roller coaster
Universal Orlando and Islands of Adventure

Yearly vacations are a time to let loose and have fun. So, break your own rule and head to the parks anyway! Believe it or not, every major theme park in Orlando caters to grown-ups. After all, there is a huge local population that enjoys these parks as much as little ones.

Late summer brings the Epcot Food and Wine Festival to Walt Disney World. Running from late August to mid-November, this festival brings the best local and celebrity chefs together for a spectacular chance to sample incredible cuisine. Highlights include events with select celebrity chefs like Cake Boss Buddy Valastro and Top-Chef All Stars Winner, Richard Blais.

The parks are also home to whole entertainment and dining options that don’t require a ticket to get in. At Walt Disney World, you’ll find Disney Springs, a massive shopping and dining area with over 60 restaurants ranging from fine dining like Morimoto Asia to fast service windows like the Daily Poutine. Disney Springs is hot to a variety of live shows including the Raglan Dance show at the Raglan Road Irish Pub.

Universal’s answer to Disney Springs is Universal CityWalk featuring everything sushi at Fusion and Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville. CityWalk is also home to the Blue Man Group show and Rising Star, a fun take on the typical Karaoke Bar where you can enjoy well-crafted cocktails while taking turns singing your favorite hits.

Stay at the Best Orlando Resorts for Adults

Disney Vacation Club certainly isn’t the only timeshare resort in Orlando. If you’re on a kid-free trip or are just looking for some more sophisticated accommodations, there are hundreds of options. If you’re not a timeshare owner, you can even rent space at one of these amazing options for more room to relax and outstanding amenities you can’t find at a normal hotel. Make one of these your home base while exploring things to do in Orlando for adults.

Wyndham Bonnet Creek

Wyndham Bonnet Creek Resort has plenty of relaxing amenities for adults-only vacations, or if you’re looking for things to do around the resort instead of going to the theme parks. A lazy river and multiple pools are perfect for lounging around in the sun, especially with a drink in hand from the poolside bar. What’s more, guests can rent a private cabana for extra shade and poolside service. Accommodations can sleep up to 14 people, which means the entire family or extended family can tag along!

Las Palmeras by Hilton Grand Vacations

Las Palmeras, a Hilton Grand Vacations Club resort has an ideal location near things to do in Orlando, especially besides theme parks. On I-Drive, Orlando’s nightlife is perfectly nearby, making it one of the best Orlando resorts for adults. It is also close to the convention corridor, so chances are you won’t run into as many kids here. The high rise tower has modern suites, on-site dining, pool bars and a heated outdoor pool.

The Fountains Orlando

Everything you would expect from a world-class resort is at The Fountains Orlando. This Bluegreen Vacations resort has a range of accommodations for families and couples on their weekend getaways. A unique feat that guests don’t have to wait in line for, unlike at popular theme parks, is the Bluegreen Wakoola Springs! A massive zero-entry pool, water slides, water fountains and hot tubs are perfect to relax.

Liki Tiki Village

Diamond Resorts might be a new favorite among adults and families that value experiences on vacation. Head to Liki Tiki Village in the heart of Orlando’s tourism district. Including a lagoon with water slides, water volcano and plenty of nearby attractions besides theme parks like golf, hiking, or athletic activities.

Get More Orlando Vacation Inspo (Theme Parks and All)

Read our blog for more of Orlando’s top resorts to stay at on vacation, how to buy a timeshare in Orlando, or day trips from Orlando you can take right now. The City Beautiful has it all for families, adults, tourists, and locals.

Join The Discussion

Compare listings