16. Stroll around a local garden

Beautiful trees at Kraft Azlea Gardens in Winter Park, Florida

Despite the abundance of congestion, traffic, and man-made entertainment in the area, the Orlando metro area still manages to offer a variety of quaint parks to escape from it all. At Harry P. Leu Gardens, you will have the opportunity to stroll around beautifully landscaped gardens filled with tropical plants.

Lots of birds and other forms of wildlife at Mead Botanical Gardens in Winter Park, Florida

Winter Park is home to a number of attractive parks, including Kraft Azlea Gardens and Mead Botanical Gardens. Both of these pretty parks offer a glimpse into the natural plants and animals found in the area. At Kraft, you will be able to enjoy wonderful lake views, take advantage of ample birdwatching opportunities, and surround yourself with gorgeous Spanish moss trees. The quiet nature trails at Mead allow you to really decompress.

17. See a show

Consider adding a show to your never ending list of non-theme park Orlando attractions. From a pirate themed dinner adventure, to Cirque du Soleil, to the eclectic Blue Man Group spectacular, there is a show to fit every personality and budget. A few popular options include the Outta Control Magic Dinner Show at Wonderworks, Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament, Blue Man Group, Sleuths Mystery Dinner Theater, and more!

If that isn’t enough, here are a few more things to add to your list!

Icebar – Escape the heat with a trip to Orlando’s unique ice bar, featuring over 70 tons of ice.  You will be given a parka and gloves before heading into the chilly 22 degree ice room, which features cool ice sculptures and drink glasses made out of ice.

Dave & Buster’s – This large entertainment facility offers dozens of traditional arcade games, ticket redemption games, a sports bar, and a full service restaurant. You can have hours of fun here without spending nearly as much as you would at a day at the parks (sign up for the D&B email club to receive special coupons). The Orlando location tends to be crowded at all times, so be prepared to pay for valet parking or spend all night searching for a spot.

Disney Wilderness Preserve – Escape the crowds for a hiking, kayaking, or biking adventure at this 11,000 acre nature oasis in Kissimmee.

Spas – With all the luxury resorts in town, it comes at no surprise that Orlando has no shortage of fantastic spas. Whether you are looking for your standard treatments or a unique experience to spice up your vacation, Orlando spas have you covered. The Ritz-Carlton and Waldorf Astoria spa are 2 highly regarded luxury choices in town.

For a truly unique experience, look into a massage at The Salt Room. The Salt Room is a holistic choice offering relaxing traditional massage therapies along with therapeutic sessions in salt rooms, which have been reported to help many people with allergies, sinus infections, and asthma. After your massage, you will be treated to a 45 minute session in the salt room; as you relax in your zero gravity chair you will enjoy the respiratory benefits of the halotherapy.

A few worthwhile Day Trip Destinations (2 hours or less from Orlando)

In addition to the great attractions listed above, there are plenty of fun day trip destinations within an hour or 2 drive of Orlando. Below are a few fantastic side trip destination to visit on your trip to Orlando.

Tampa Bay area beaches

A beautiful sunset at Fred Howard Park beach in Tarpon Springs, Florida

Florida’s Gulf Coast beaches are often ranked amongst the best in the world. Visiting a beach is a great alternative to theme parks especially on extremely hot & humid days when walking around a crowded, unshady theme park is simply unbearable.

Pier 60 at Clearwater Beach in Florida

The Tampa metro region is home to dozens of beaches, most notably Clearwater, known for its soft, powdery white sand. If you are looking for more peace and quiet and less of a tourist vibe, be sure to check out Indian Rocks Beach or Fred Howard Park. Both of these quiet options offer pretty views in a more relaxing setting. You will not get the same smooth sand; however, you will enjoy less traffic noise, the absence of chains and stores polluting the area, and more opportunity to find seashells.

Approximate Driving Time: 2 hours

Glass bottom boat rides at Silver Springs State Park

Glass bottom boat rides at Silver Springs State Park in Ocala, Florida

Silver Springs State Park in Ocala is famous for its’ glass bottom boat rides, one of Florida’s oldest tourist attractions. Here you will have an opportunity to take an exciting narrated ride across the largest artesian springs formation in the world. The transparent bottom of the boat allows you to see all different types of fish and plant life. Be sure to keep an eye out for the occasional gator sighting on the banks.

Gator sighting at Silver Springs State Park in Ocala, Florida

The beautiful Spanish moss trees surrounding the lake make for an incredibly scenic ride. Bring with your camera – there are plenty of fantastic photo opportunities at this beautiful state park.

Approximate Driving Time: 1 hour and 15 min.

Silver Moon Drive Inn

Silver Moon Drive-In in Lakeland, Florida

In Lakeland, just an hour drive from Orlando, you will find one of the last remaining drive-in theaters in the area. This drive-in is one of the cleanest and most affordable around. Double features are only 5 bucks a person, and on occasional weekends you may even be able to see 3 features for one low price. Treat yourself to some old-fashioned fun; what a nice classic activity to enjoy year-round!

Approximate Driving Time: 45min-1hour

Circle B Bar Reserve

Pretty marsh views from a trail at Circle B Bar Reserve in Lakeland, Florida

Central Florida is one of the most natural and forested areas of the state. It’s home to many parks and reserves and hiking trails. Plenty of wildlife can be seen everywhere. Unfortunately, most tourists do not know this as they never venture outside of the crazy Orlando area. Just a quick half hour away is Circle B Bar Reserve, one of the best locations for seeing alligators in their natural habitat.

A gator sighting at Circle B Bar Reserve in Lakeland, Florida - Alligator Alley

On a single visit, you are more than likely to see at least a dozen gators (depending on weather and time of day). Bald eagles, tortoises, and many different bird species are also commonly seen. Several miles of scenic hiking trails will give you a glimpse of Florida’s natural plant and wildlife species. Be sure to reserve your spot on the guided tram ride; here a park volunteer will guide you through the park.

Have you visited any of the following attractions? What non-theme park attraction would you recommend in the Orlando area?