Things to Do in Orlando (That Have Nothing to Do With Amusement Parks)

With its beautiful parks, interesting museums and great local shops and restaurants, Orlando has much to offer.

Orlando is justly famous for its amusement parks and family attractions. Yet there is much to do and see in Orlando that doesn’t involve roller coasters, water parks, wizards, magic wands or leaping Bottlenose dolphins. Orlando is graced with a wide variety of things to see and do.

  • Take in a nature preserve. Catch a glimpse of the native flora and fauna at Tibet-Butler Preserve, a 440-acre nature preserve with well-groomed trails and views of Lake Tibet-Butler. Escape the crowds and the hot afternoon sun with a relaxing walk through this shady and peaceful preserve. With a beautiful nature center and six trails varying in length from 1/2 mile to several miles, the preserve is the perfect place to absorb the regional habitats — including longleaf pine forest, bayhead swamp and cypress-lined lakeshore — and the native gopher tortoises, bobcats and birds.
  • Revel in the world’s largest collection of Tiffany glass. The Charles Homer Morse Museum of American Art — located in nearby Winter Park — is a small gem. The museum houses the most comprehensive collection of works by Louis Comfort Tiffany: jewelry, pottery, paintings, art glass, leaded-glass lamps and windows. Of particular interest are his chapel interior from the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago and priceless objects from his Long Island country estate, Laurelton Hall. The museum also includes a nice collection of American art pottery, as well as late 19th- and early 20th-century American painting, graphics and decorative art.
  • Cruise in a boat in charming Winter Park. One of the top attractions in Winter Park is the Scenic Boat Tour, a daily one-hour narrated tour through the Winter Park Chain of Lakes. Take this leisurely ride through the canals of the town — which is regarded as one of the most scenic small towns in America — and enjoy views of the spectacular waterfront mansions, diverse wildlife and lush greenery.
  • Stroll through a local garden. Orlando’s quaint parks and gardens offer a respite from the exciting urban atmosphere that characterizes most of the city. A walk through Harry P. Leu Gardens — a 50-acre botanical oasis just minutes from downtown Orlando — offers you a gorgeous landscape of tropical plants. Winter Park is also home to restorative gardens and parks, such as Kraft Azalea Gardens and Mead Botanical Gardens.
  • Absorb the history and culture of scenic downtown Sanford. Because much of Orlando was developed recently, a common complaint is that the city lacks a sense of history. But the same cannot be said of quaint Main Street in nearby Sanford, the “Historic Waterfront Gateway City.” Main Street boasts dozens of charming shops and worthwhile restaurants, as well as a beautiful view of Lake Monroe.
  • Eat like a ravenous pig. Actually, that should say “Eat at the Ravenous Pig and the other great Orlando restaurants.” Whether your taste is for comfort or the exotic, Orlando has plenty of great restaurant offerings, including Taste of Chengdu, Stasio’s Italian Deli & Market, Kai Asian Street Fare, vegan fare at Dandelion Communitea Café, Southern comfort food at The Coop and hundreds of other restaurants.

Clearly there’s much more to Orlando than theme parks and water slides. Take the time to discover the wonders the town has to offer, and you’ll understand why for over a century locals have referred to Orlando as “The City Beautiful.”