When you think of Orlando, you probably think of Disney World and theme parks. However, there’s so much more to see in this Florida city other than Mickey Mouse & co. Here’s why Orlando is worth a visit, even once you’ve outgrown your Disney days.
There are museums aplenty
Orlando will more than satisfy your cultural cravings with plenty of museums housing art, science, history and more. The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art should be top of the list – here you’ll find the world’s most comprehensive collection of work by Louis Comfort Tiffany, the famed stained art decorative artist. The Orange County Regional History Center is an interesting journey through Florida’s history, and the International Trolley and Train Museum is a must for any travel-lover. For something totally different, visit the iconic Ripley’s Believe It or Not Odditorium.
Watch a basketball game
Swap the Magic Kingdom for Orlando Magic, and head downtown to the Amway Center. Open all season long, watching Shaquille O’Neal’s team go head-to-head against some of the best in the NBA is a fun night out. Stock up on your beer and hot dogs, don your best white-and-blue and get ready to scream until you’re hoarse!
Visit some beautiful gardens
The Harry P. Leu Gardens are over 50 acres of incredible lush greenery, boasting more than 1,000 rose bushes and the largest collection of camellias in North America. The flora has been gathered and grown since 1936 and you can also take a tour of The Leu House, Harry P. Leu’s former home from the 1880s.
Shop until you drop
Instead of spending your hard-earned cash on Disney World tickets, spoil yourself with some world-class shopping. Orlando is home to three major malls – Artegon Marketplace, the Florida Mall and the Mall at Millenia, Orlando’s most luxury shopping centre. Orlando caters to all budgets – there are also three premium outlet centres where you’ll find discounts on big name brands like Burberry, Nike, Gap and Coach.
Meet Mother Nature
Instead of seeing mechanical animals and watching seals perform tricks, head out to the real-life wilderness. Florida and Orlando are famous for its array of wildlife, including alligators, bald eagles and dolphins. Head to nearby Shingle Creek where you can take a kayak eco-tour or try your hand at stand-up paddle-boarding.
Sample some beer
The Orlando Brewing Company has become a must-see attraction for beer drinkers – it has almost 20 ales, lagers and seasonal brew on tap, and what’s more, they’re all organic. There are free daily tours (except Sundays) and live music acts on the weekend.
Most of the nightlife action happens in downtown Orlando, around Central Boulevard, Orange Avenue and Park Avenue. Winter Park is a new entertainment and dining precinct where you’ll find great little bars, such as The Wine Room which boasts a library of 156 handpicked drops. For a romantic night out, take a scenic boat tour that winds through Winter Park’s chain of lakes and canals.
Orlando isn’t actually the home of Disney World
Contrary to popular belief, Disney World, Universal Studios and Sea World aren’t actually in Orlando, but rather Lake Buena Vista, a 30 minute drive from the city centre. If you are travelling with kids, then it’s close enough without being in your backyard – plus, it’s a magical place at any age!