Orlando is in an interesting position when it comes to holiday destinations. Most people know the city is synonymous with vacations, but when push comes to shove, few people go to Orlando for the sake of visiting.
Most tourists come to Orlando for Disney’s many theme parks (which is not a bad thing, as the parks are truly amazing!), however there are many other sites worth seeing and doing in and around Orlando.
It’s worth noting that both Orlando and South Florida in general are very tricky when it comes to transport, and getting around almost always requires you to have access to a car. The distance between attractions can be shockingly huge, and public transport is often not enough.
We highly recommend booking a rental car in Orlando, and once you have that all sorted, you can map out an itinerary with the following fun things to do!
Fun Things to do in Orlando That Aren’t The Theme Parks
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Kennedy Space Center
You could say that this first one is out of this world!
Kennedy Space Center is one of the most interesting attractions you visit in the Orlando area. Here you’ll find exhibitions about everything related to space exploration, from early rockets to current projects.
There’s a wide range of interactive experiences, including top-notch simulators which allow you to experience some of the things that real astronauts have to go through during training. And you can actually walk among giant rockets from NASA’s Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs.
That said, it’s actually meeting an astronaut that is usually the highlight of the day; each day visitors get the rare opportunity to meet and spend time with veteran NASA astronauts!
During the Astronaut Encounter here, commanders, pilots, mission and payload specialists who have lived and worked in space share their experiences during a live presentation and question & answer session.
The cool thing about Kennedy Space Center is that it’s actually a working space flight facility. It’s about an hours drive from Orlando and has ample parking.
Disney theme parks can easily fool you into thinking that Orlando is at the crossroads between magic and enchantment, but in reality, Orlando is not very far away from tropical swamps full of alligators and other fascinating swamp critters.
Naturally, there’s a place dedicated to celebrating this fact: Gatorland.
While a theme park of sorts, Gatorland is set in the middle of a real live swamp, so everything you see here is a lot more authentic than anything you may find in say, Animal Kingdom.
Here you can see many different animals up close such as parrots, snakes, tortoises, and of course the titular alligators which are everywhere to be seen. There are multiple activities including three different shows involving alligators and a zipline.
You can find the park at 14501 S Orange Blossom Trail. There are parking lots at the site but as with any theme park and they tend to fill up, so come early if you can, the park opens at 10:00 am.
Ripley’s Believe It Or Not!
Somewhere in Orlando, there’s a slanted red and white building that looks as if it was being swallowed by a sinkhole. If you see such building chances are high that you’ve found Ripley’s Believe it or Not!
This is one of the strangest, most fascinating places in all of Orlando. The museum of oddness was founded by Robert Ripley, a cartoonist/amateur-anthropologist who spent his life collecting all sorts of exotic things from all over the world.
After his death, his strange collection ended up becoming this so-called “Odditorium” a museum of the weirdest things you can ever find anywhere. Among many other things you’ll find a XIX century vampire killing kit, a full set of elephant armor, multiple shrunken heads, and a portrait of Jimmy Hendrix made entirely of guitar picks.
It’s a very odd place for sure, but equally as fascinating!
Image credit: Mohd Fazlin Mohd Effendy Ooi (CC BY 2.0) via Flickr
Revolution Off Road
To end our little non-Disney adventure in Orlando let’s go for an adrenaline-filled adventure at Revolution Off-Road (if you decide to go for this one you should definitely bring another set of clean clothes!)
Revolution Off-Road offers a wild assortment of crazy outdoor adventures. Some of those activities include driving all-terrain vehicles such as the so-called “Mucky duck”, an amphibian vehicle capable of crossing swamps and other muddy lands.
Prepare to get as dirty as you’ve ever been!
If driving through rough terrain isn’t your thing there are many other fun things to do like skeet shooting, archery and even fishing on a lake.
It’s nothing out of this world, but it does offer plain, simple, down-to-earth fun, perfect to provide a much-needed palate cleanser after going to Disney’s parks.
Revolution Off Road is about an hour from Orlando over in Clermont. Again, renting a car is a good option, and there are many rental car sites like Miles Car Rental with affordable prices.
So, next time you visit Orlando make sure to leave some space in your itinerary for visiting some of these gems, be it as a break from the theme park’s magic or as a full trip to explore the side of Orlando that many park goers miss.