Off-the-Beaten Path in Orlando

I’m not sure there is anywhere in the world quite like Orlando. The place that used to be quiet citrus groves is now the theme park capital of the world, attracting over 66 million visitors per year — more than anywhere else in the United States. From theme restaurants to amusements parks to quirky attractions, Orlando has it all — bigger, brighter, and some might say better. They even have the world’s largest “entertainment” McDonalds. Over 18,000 square feet of food, arcade and play structures — talk about super-sized!

Of course families come for the theme parks and water parks — of which there is no shortage. And these theme parks are constantly adding new rides and attractions to keep families coming back again and again and again — from the new Flight of Passage at Animal Kingdom; to SeaWorld’s Mako, Orlando’s tallest, fastest,and longest roller coaster; and Universal Islands of Adventure’s “Skull Island: Reign of Kong.”

But still, the more families come back to Orlando, the more they want to experience something outside of the waterparks as well. And let’s face it, a giant McDonalds just isn’t going to cut it for everyone. After visiting multiple times, I wanted to put together a guide to what to do in Orlando outside of the theme parks. So here you go, my guide to off the beaten path Orlando.

Off the Beaten Path Orlando

I-Drive 360 and the Orlando Eye

I suppose it is hard to call something off-the-beaten path when you can see if from so far away, but did you know that Orlando had the Orlando Eye, kin to the London Eye? I didn’t.

I-Drive 360 (named after International Drive) bills itself as an “entertainment destination.” With cornerstone attractions like Madame Tussauds and SeaLife Aquarium, along with restaurants and shops, it certainly has plenty to offer. Honestly those are a bit of a yawn for me as I’ve done both before in other locations, but the Orlando Eye is similar to the London Eye and is worth the stop.

Orlando Eye

Now I am no fan of rides, but I can tell you that this ride is so smooth and slow that you barely notice you are moving. A single rotation takes 20 minutes and if you want, you can get a glass of bubbly to bring along. A little champagne, some music in the car, beautiful views and you’ve got a party going on with an awesome view across Orlando. I highly recommend it at sunset. Afterwards, stop by dinner at Tapa Toro because the paella is deee-li-cious.

Orlando Eye

I-Drive 360 is located at 8375 International Drive, Orlando, Fl 32819.

Mango’s Tropical Cafe

It may be a bit easier to visit Cuba these days, but it is still a stretch for many American families, but now Orlando visitors can get a taste of Cuba and move to some Latin rhythms at Mango’s Tropical Cafe. Mango’s brought its South Beach flair to Orlando a couple of years ago and since then, people have been sipping mojitos and salsa dancing like they are in the islands. Book a dinner and show for the most family-friendly options.

Mango’s Tropical Cafe is located at 8126 International Drive, Orlando, FL 32819.

Harry P. Leu Gardens

Perhaps you are seeking something a bit more…shall we say…peaceful than what you’ll find on International Drive or in the theme parks? Or perhaps you want something that will make all the generations happy?

The Harry P. Leu Gardens offers up three miles of paved scenic walkways, a butterfly garden, bamboo gardens and even a museum, which is a restored 19th century home that has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places. You can enjoy azaleas, vines, tropical philodendrons, roses and camellias and stroll under the branches of camphor trees, elms and oaks. Plus, did I mention it was cheap? Now that’s not easy to find in Orlando.

Leu Gardens is located at 1920 North Forest Avenue, Orlando, FL.

Charles Hosmer Morse Museum

Although Orlando is a town that animation helped build, there is a museum scene worth exploring around Winter Park. In addition to the Rollins College museum’s extensive collection of contemporary art, the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum houses an extensive collection of the stained glass work of Louis Comfort Tiffany, and is worth the detour. The story of the museum’s acquisition of the largest Tiffany collection is worth reading about in the gallery spaces. Its location is in the middle of Winter Park’s thriving shopping and restaurant scene.

The Morse Museum is located at 445 North Park Avenue, Winter Park, FL 32789.

Milk District

After spending some time in theme parks and on International Drive, it is hard to believe that there are some cute or historic districts in Orlando, but they do exist.

There is the Church Street District in the heart of downtown Orlando, which offers a glimpse of the past but also has an array of trendy restaurants and nightclubs.

Then there is Thornton Park, Orlando’s most charming neighborhood with plenty of eateries. But what caught my eye was the up-and-coming Milk District, named for its location near a dairy. This thriving area is known for its funky shops and weekly food truck gathering. They had me at food trucks.

Orlando Science Center

Trying to convince your kids’ teachers that you took them out of school for educational purposes for that trip to Orlando? Then you better stop by the Orlando Science Center, which is a hands-on science museum with educational exhibits, programs, planetarium shows, and 3D theaters. With hundreds of exhibits across four floors, there will be plenty of opportunity for the kids to  explore, experiment and discover.

The Orlando Science Center is located at 777 E. Princeton Street, Orlando, Florida 32803.

Safari Wilderness Park

Lemur at Safari Wilderness Ranch

In nearby Lakeland, Florida, about 45 minutes from downtown Orlando, you may imagine that you are on the plains of Africa. The Safari Wilderness Ranch has hundreds of animals, primarily hoof stock, including scimitar-horned oryx, Defassa waterbuck, eland, Red Lechwe, zebras, fainting goats, ostriches, llamas, camels and more.

To see the animals, you can take a covered open-air safari, or view them from horseback or camelback. You can feed the animals and there are also special animal encounters you can sign up for, including lemur feeding!

Safari Wilderness Ranch is located at 10850 Moore Rd. Lakeland, FL 33809.

Kelly Park Rock Springs

Orland tubing at Kelly Rock Spring

Image courtesy of Crazy Family Adventure

You won’t want to miss tubing near Orlando on a crystal clear river! Kelly Park Rock Springs is gorgeous and the current takes you floating right down the river and ends at a beautiful little beach area.

This nature area is breathtaking and it is hard to believe that this is only 30 minutes outside of Orlando.

Kelly Park Rock Springs is located at 400 E Kelly Park RD, Apopka, FL 32712.

Wekiwa Springs State Park

Canoeing and kayaking through Wekiwa Springs State Park is a charming way to discover the Wekiva River while experiencing the beautiful, untouched wonders of Florida. Just 20 minutes north of Orlando, Wekiwa Springs State Park Nature Adventures allows you to craft your own adventure of activities including canoeing, kayaking, bicycling to simply sitting back and swimming.

Wekiwa Springs State Park Nature Adventures is located at 1800 Wekiwa Circle, Apopka, FL 32712.

Rattlesnake Roller Coaster Zipline

Okay, this is one is a little further off-the-beaten path in St. Cloud, but I think it would be worth an hour’s drive to do this roller coaster zipline. Plus, Forever Florida offers regular ziplining, horseback riding, nature tours, and the panther pounce free fall plunge.

Forever Florida is located at 4755 N. Kenansville Road, St. Cloud, Florida 34773.

Kennedy Space Center

KSC Rocket garden

Kennedy Space Center on the Space Coast is also a bit of a hike (about an hour from Orlando), but still easy to do as a day trip. We have had a fantastic time at Kennedy Space Center and highly recommend it for families — even if you aren’t super into space there is still so much to do. Plus, if you get lucky maybe you can go on a launch day!

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Orlando off the beaten path  - when you tire of theme parks, there is still so much to do in Orlando and the surrounding area. This list of off the beaten path suggestions will keep you busy! #orlando #florida

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Orlando off the beaten path  - when you tire of theme parks, there is still so much to do in Orlando and the surrounding area. This list of off the beaten path suggestions will keep you busy! #orlando #florida

9 Comments on “Off-the-Beaten Path in Orlando

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  1. we visit orlando often and are always looking for new things to do . loved the eye, we’ve even been to the epic mc donalds. Next time I want to do the space center!

      We LOVED the space center!! Hard to fit it into one day there is so much fun stuff to see and do.

        Central Florida Zoo in Sanford is a great place also, use to live in Lake Mary and it was great to know i had a nice zoo close by to go to whenever i wanted without having to go really far away!

    Great ideas! I was just wondering… which location was your headline image taken from?

      It was from the top of the Orlando Eye.

        Thanks! Although, coming from Pinterest as I did, I was actually curious about the location of this image: https://s18053.pcdn.co/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Off-the-beaten-path-in-Orlando.jpg

          AH, that was from a place that I had to remove from the article because it went out of business. It was a very unique indoor shopping mall with small booths/vendors.

            I gotcha. Well, props on keeping your articles up-to-date! Many thanks! =)

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