' data-src768='Palm trees and a wooden boardwalk at one of the Gulf Coast's beautiful beaches at sunset' data-src0='Palm trees and a wooden boardwalk at one of the Gulf Coast's beautiful beaches at sunset'> Palm trees and a wooden boardwalk at one of the Gulf Coast's beautiful beaches at sunset

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9 Things to do in Orlando besides Theme Parks


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Entertainment capital Orlando is famous for fabulous attractions at your fingertips. From the magic of Walt Disney World Resort and its resident mouse, to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter™ at Universal Studios™ – there’s no shortage of spellbinding spectacles and exciting experiences. It’d be easy to fill your holiday itinerary with just theme parks, but then you’d miss out on everything else the Sunshine State has on offer – and trust us, there’s a lot! Here’s 9 things to do in Orlando besides the world famous theme parks…

Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex

Come face to face with the marvel of space travel at this 140,000 acre complex! Home to real life rockets, mind-blowing NASA technology and a huge hangar full of memorabilia from missions past and present. In-depth bus tours bring you up close and personal with official launch sites, as well as the gargantuan Vehicle Assembly Building. The mammoth structure is one of the largest buildings in the world by area, and the high bay doors take around 45 minutes to completely open. No such thing as a quick getaway here! Well, at least until the rocket makes it to the launch pad. If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to travel to space, try your hand at an astronaut training simulator and learn to pilot your very own shuttle.

Everglades National Park

A group of brightly coloured flamingos in the Everglades

Trade in rockets for the iconic watery wilderness of the Everglades National Park and discover the UNESCO World Heritage Site for yourself. Hop on an airboat tour and traverse the wetlands on the lookout for wildlife. Alligators, American crocodiles, turtles, snakes and even manatees can be found in the Sunshine State’s swamps. If you prefer to keep your feet on dry land, amble the Anhinga Trail through a sawgrass marsh and see how many different species you can spot! There’s a huge amount of activities available to visitors throughout the park, from observation towers to cycling routes and kayaking. Who knows? Maybe you’ll even catch a glimpse of the elusive Florida panther!

Central Florida Zoo

Animal lovers can continue their wildlife wonderment at the Central Florida Zoo and Botanical Gardens. Over 400 animals and 200 different species – including some of the rarest and most endangered on the planet – call the zoo their home. Guests are invited to keeper chats, feeding experiences and other encounters throughout the park. Whether it’s slithering snakes, graceful giraffes or mischievous monkeys, find your favourite residents amidst the feathers, scales and fur! The beautiful botanical gardens showcase some breathtaking flora teeming with butterflies and hummingbirds. Perfect for a leisurely stroll and look at nature’s best bits.

Play Pirate’s Cove Mini Golf

A young family playing mini golf together

Ahoy to guaranteed family-fun at the swashbuckling mini golf of Pirate’s Cove. Perfect for all ages, there are three different adventure courses to choose from. Jam-packed with innovative hole designs, lush landscaping, cascading waterfalls and dreaded pirate dungeons – you’ll have to putt your skills to the test! As your crew tackle Blackbeard’s challenge, who will claim the treasure of a winning hole-in-one?

Catch a movie at the Silver Moon Drive-In

An American institution and rite of passage, feel like one of the locals with a night at the movies! You’ll find this nostalgic theatre throwback in Lakeland, just under an hour away from the bright lights of Orlando. Showing the latest releases across two screens, seven nights a week, there’s sure to be something you’re dying to see over the course of your stay! Rock up, pick your favourite spot and don’t worry about packing a picnic. The Silver Moon’s snack bar is second to none. Overflowing with delicious goodies, the hardest decision you’ll have to make is between the juicy hot dog or the homemade pizza. Of course there’s plenty of sweet treats too, from pretzels and popcorn to candies and chocolates. Cinema snacking will never be the same after this!

Shop ‘til you Drop

A unique looking shopping mall in Florida at night

Retail therapy is always a good idea. Especially when you’re surrounded by discount outlets and luxury shopping centres galore! Brimming with deals on all your favourite designer gear, make sure you save some space in your suitcase for all the extra goodies. Magnificent malls pepper the highway and city centre, and offer delicious dining experiences for when your arms are tired of carrying all your bagged bargains.

Day trip to Clearwater or Daytona Beach

West coast vs East coast – this one’s your call. Are you after the tranquillity and powder-white sands of the gorgeous Gulf, or the wild waves and wide open fun of Daytona Beach? Warm waters and show-stopping sunsets are part and parcel of the charming Clearwater coastline. Head out to sea on a dolphin watching tour and witness the playful porpoise splashing about. Stroll the palm-lined promenade for your perfect spot on the sand, roll out your towel and settle in for a serene sunbathing session.

Daytona is for the more adventurous beach lover. 23 miles of hard-packed sand means you can drive your car onto the beach – so toing and froing buckets and bags is a thing of the past! Besides the golden shoreline, there’s plenty of exciting entertainment in this energetic town. The International Speedway hosts major NASCAR events, Daytona Lagoon boasts adrenaline pumping waterslides, plus there’s laser tag, go karting, outdoor thrill rides and summer concerts to boot. Of course, there’s nothing to stop you from venturing to both beaches during your Orlando holiday!

Get Outdoors

Kayaking in Florida's freshwater

We’ve already touched on some epic outdoor experiences in the Everglades and Clearwater beach, but there’s plenty more where those came from. Practice your stand up paddle boarding skills in the waterways of central Florida, or explore the breathtaking rivers and lakes from the comfort of a glass bottom kayak. Horseback riding can be both romantic and adventurous, and there’s plenty of experiences to be had a stone’s throw away from the Orlando area. Rope courses for both adults and kids let you traipse through treetops and zoom along zip lines. For a bit of everything, head to Wekiva Island and relax at Central Florida’s best swimming hole.

Tee off on one of 170 Golf Courses

Walk the fairways of world-famous golf courses and enjoy a day on the green. Part of Florida’s culture long before the magical mouse moved in, some of the courses date back to the 1920s. Many of Orlando’s five star resorts offer premier facilities with stunning views and golfing academies. So bag yourself a hole-in-one and be sure to swing a club or two during your holiday.

If we’ve well and truly sparked your wanderlust, take a look at our villas in Orlando and find your holiday home from home.

Emma Mackey

Emma Mackey is a Content Executive at James Villa Holidays.

To say I have an obsession with travel would be an understatement. Adventuring with my...

See all articles by Emma Mackey

See all articles by Emma Mackey


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