Things to do in Orlando

Orlando’s top sights

Orlando welcomes more visitors than any other place in Florida. The reason - of course - is Walt Disney World, with a host of other attractions playing a supporting role.

  1. Head to Disneyland
  2. Splash the day away
  3. Immerse yourself in Harry Potter’s world
  4. Visit LEGOLAND
  5. Test your mettle
  6. Become royalty for a day
  7. Meet the local manatees
  8. Join the space race
  9. Zoom through nature
  10. Explore the local arts scene
  11. Shop ‘til you drop

From high-thrill coasters to peeking behind the scenes of the movies and coming face-to-face with an astronaut, there’s a dazzling array of things to do in Orlando. If you’ve kids in tow, you’ll have them squealing with delight from day one.

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Rough Guides

1. Head to Disneyland

Though each of Orlando’s theme parks strives to outdo the rest, Walt Disney World Resort is the one to beat. The biggest and cleverest theme park complex ever created, its four main theme parks are actually quite separate entities. Magic Kingdom is the Disney park of the popular imagination, where Mickey mingles with the crowds - for kids, this is one of the best things to do in Orlando, though it’s capable of captivating even the most jaded adult.

Best for: Star-struck kids

Insider’s tip: There are many ticket options of visiting WDW parks, including packages, customizable add-ons and electronic MagicBands.

2. Splash the day away

Defy Orlando’s soaring summer temps by swimming, sliding and rafting at the area’s waterparks. Pacfic isle-themed Volcano Bay Water Park is one of the best, with water slides, a winding river and waves galore.

Best for: Beating the heat

Insider’s tip: Don’t forget to pack your swimmers – and armbands for the little ones, too.

3. Immerse yourself in Harry Potter’s world

For wands that choose the wizard, to portraits that talk, Universal Orlando’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter will have you feeling like an empowered student at Hogwarts, butterbeer and all. Harry Potter’s world is split between Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure. Universal Studios is the theme park for anyone who loves the movies, where the facades look like authentic back-lots.

Best for: Anyone but muggles

Insider’s tip: Universal’s personalized VIP tours take you deep behind the scenes - and to the front line for attractions.

4. Visit LEGOLAND

We defy you to think about those iconic building blocks without a sense of nostalgia. The entire LEGOLAND Theme Park - including the adjacent water park and two related hotels - is designed to look as if it’s made from the namesake plastic bricks. In addition, there are 28,000 real LEGO models on show - using a staggering 58 million-plus bricks! If you are looking into Orlando holidays and can’t get enough of LEGO, be sure to spend at least a night at the LEGOLAND Hotel.

Best for: Multi-coloured nostalgia

Insider’s tip: Check out the LEGO models, LEGO luggage carts and LEGO castle in the lobby.

5. Test your mettle

Adrenaline junkies will want to try their nerves on a heart-pumping ride. You can travel at 73mph on the SeaWorld Mako hypercoaster ; battle beasts on Skull Island: Reign of Kong at Islands of Adventure; or spin in a whirlwind of excitement on the Cobra Curse roller coaster at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay.

Best for: Getting the heart pumping

Insider’s tip: Mako is billed as taller, longer and faster than any other coaster in Orlando, with a 200ft drop, nearly a mile of track and speeds of up to 73mph. In other words, thrills don’t get much bigger.

6. Become royalty for a day

Dine like bluebloods at Cinderella’s Royal Table in the Magic Kingdom, where Cinderella, Belle and Jasmine might visit your table for photos and autographs. Alternatively, a visit to Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique will transform little boys and girls into their favourite Disney princes and princesses.

Best for: Aspiring princes and princesses

Insider’s tip: Book well ahead to dine at Cinderella’s Royal Table - it's a posh venue in the castle, after all. True princess fans can upgrade to yet more indulgent packages including a glass-slipper engagement.

7. Meet the local manatees

One of the most unique things to do in Florida is to discover the state’s ugly-cute sea creatures during the winter at parks north and east of Orlando. Blue Spring State Park is one of the best places to see them - manatees swim upriver from November to March to shelter in its warm waters. A boardwalk with viewing platforms runs along the springs, and on a good day you can see dozens of these giant, gentle creatures submerged just below the surface.

Best for: Nature lovers

Insider’s tip: At Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, you can spot manatees year-round.

8. Join the space race

See a real shuttle, meet a one-time astronaut and experience a virtual Mars reality at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. Be sure to make the Space Shuttle Atlantic with the Shuttle Launch Experience a priority - it's super interactive with 60 hands-on exhibits.

Best for: Space cadets

Insider’s tip: If you want to view a rocket launch, this is available as an add-on package. Alternatively, you can view the launch from along US Highway 1 North, near Titusville, where you can see the launch pad across the Indian River.

9. Zoom through nature

For adrenaline thrills in a natural environment, plough through wildlife-rich wetlands on a roaring airboat or zipline over the Florida canopy. Piloted by master captains, airboats glide over the shallow surface of the Central Florida Everglades, reaching speeds of more than 50mph.

Best for: Natural thrills

Insider’s tip: Keep your eyes peeled for gaters, turtles, snakes, bald eagles and pelicans.

10. Explore the local arts scene

If you’re wondering what to do in Orlando outside the theme-park circuit, wonder at the glories of art in the Downtown Arts District galleries and at Loch Haven’s museums. For theatre, dance and music, opt for the sparkling new Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts.

Best for: Culture vultures

Insider’s tip: A visit to Downtown Orlando is a refreshing change from the theme parks and Disney characters.

11. Shop ‘til you drop

With massive outlet and retail malls, you’re bound to return home with designer duds and bargain buys. Add in creative character-focussed merch at every theme park and you’ll have usable, wearable memories of your Orlando holiday.

Best for: Shopaholics.

Insider’s tip: Head for the outlet centres for top-name brands at discounted prices.

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