The best things to do in Orlando right now (2024)

The best things to do in Orlando right now (1)

Theme park thrills and gorgeous gardens fill the best things to do in Orlando, Florida's magnificent City Beautiful

Photograph: Visit Florida/Julie Fletcher

Edited by John Bills

Writer, Time Out Travel

Written by: Megan duBois

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Orlando is a city of thrills, and we aren’t just talking about the rollercoasters. Theme parks understandably take top billing in the City Beautiful, but there is more to this place than being hurled around the tracks at alarming speeds or rubbing elbows with Mickey and Minnie. The best things to do in Orlando will have foodies salivating, nature lovers in raptures, and culture vultures circling. In less flowery language, that means brilliant restaurants, gorgeous gardens, and fascinating museums.

Temperatures can hit sweltering highs here in summer, and it can be tempting to spend all day in the pool, and there is nothing wrong with that. There are some fabulous water parks here, after all. Orlando is packed with adventure and excitement, with relaxation around the corner if a deeper breath is required. These are the best things to do in Orlando, Florida.

RECOMMENDED:The best restaurants in OrlandoRECOMMENDED:The best Airbnbs in Orlando

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Best things to do in Orlando

1.Walt Disney World Resort
  • Attractions
  • Theme parks
Photograph: Matt Stroshane

Walt Disney World is probably the number one thing people who travel to Orlando want to see. The spacious resort has four theme parks, two water parks, a dining and shopping district, and over 20 on-site, Disney-owned hotels. There's always something new to see here, including the Cirque du Soliel show Drawn to Life at Disney Springs and Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind at EPCOT. The latter features the first reverse launch of any Disney coaster! Do you dare?

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2.Dr. Phillips Center For The Performing Arts
  • Music
  • Music venues
  • Downtown Orlando
Photograph: Courtesy Dr. Phillips Center For The Performing Arts/Steve Williams

The Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts is the spot in Orlando for live music, broadway shows likeHamiltonand tons of family-friendly entertainment. Kids will love movie nights with family-friendly flicks likeFerris Bueller’s Day Off,while movie and music buffs will want to look for movies in conjunction with the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra, who will play the score live while you watch the film. The Dr. Phillips Center is also the home of the Orlando Ballet, brilliantly performing in shows likeThe Jungle BookandThe Nutcracker.

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3.Universal Orlando Resort
  • Attractions
  • Theme parks
  • Turkey Lake
Photograph: Courtesy Universal Orlando Resort/Sheri Lowen

Universal Orlando Resort is known for its impressive Harry Potter and Jurassic Park-themed areas, and while both are great for families, adults looking to cool off and enjoy the summer days ahead will want to go to Universal's Volcano Bay. You can lounge near the wave pool with a towering volcano over the water's edge or grab a colorfully swirled Waturi Fusion ice cream cone. No matter what you do at Universal, a fun-filled day is all but guaranteed.

4.Lake Eola Park
  • Attractions
  • Parks and gardens
  • South Eola
Photograph: Visit Florida/Julie Fletcher

Take a relaxing stroll around Lake Eola and Lake Eola Park, located in the heart of downtown Orlando. The walk around the lake takes just under one mile, and along the way, you'll take in picturesque views of the downtown skyline. Want to be on the water? Rent swan paddle boats and get out there with the live swans. The Walt Disney Amphitheater is also inside the park, a gorgeous arena hosting live concerts, movies, and performances.

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5.Harry P. Leu Gardens
  • Attractions
  • Parks and gardens
  • Rose Isle
Photograph: Visit Orlando

For those looking for a bit of outdoor adventure without getting into the Florida swamps, check out the Harry P. Leu Gardens. The stunning, walkable garden boasts 50 acres of beautiful flora and fauna just a few minutes drive from downtown Orlando. Donated to the city in 1961, locals and visitors have made the most of this stunning space ever since. The garden also hosts movie nights for families and educational seminars on various topics throughout the year.

The best things to do in Orlando right now (15)
The best things to do in Orlando right now (16)

Head to the Amway Center downtown to see the Orlando Magic make some ... well ... magic. Games are typically a few hours. And if you're dragging along anyone who doesn't love basketball, there is plenty of family entertainment between plays and during commercial breaks for this to be a fun night for all. Just be sure to give yourself plenty of time to get there—the area around the Amway can get very congested on game nights, and you don’t want to be late for the tip-off.

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The best things to do in Orlando right now (17)
The best things to do in Orlando right now (18)

The Orlando Science Center has been amazing kids (and adults) of all ages for over six decades. The hands-on museum covers four floors and has dozens of interactive exhibits, labs, theaters, and workshops. Kids will love learning about everything from dinosaurs to sustainability (let's be honest, so will moms and dads). Those looking for even more hands-on experiences can book personalized adventures (held in small groups) or get in touch with their creative side at the Makerspace.

The best things to do in Orlando right now (19)
The best things to do in Orlando right now (20)

History and architecture combine for one relaxing experience on the Winter Park Scenic Boat Tour. The tour takes you through the lakes and byways of Winter Park to see some of the historical homes of the area, as well as the wildlife that calls Florida home. The boat tour is about an hour long, and you can bring your own food and drink, so grab a coffee and pastries from one of the many shops nearby, and don't forget to offer something to the captain!

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The best things to do in Orlando right now (21)
The best things to do in Orlando right now (22)

Every Saturday, local vendors and artisans set up shop at the Winter Park Farmer's Market, located at Central Park West Meadow. From 8am until 1pm locals and visitors browse the stalls and collect all sorts of yummy items. The market has an abundance of vendors ranging in style and offers from beef jerky and lemonade to plumerias and fish dip. This is also a great spot to get locally-grown produce or try a local food truck for lunch!

10.Discovery Cove
  • Attractions
  • Zoo and aquariums
  • Westwood
Photograph: Courtesy Discovery Cove

If you only visit one water park in Orlando, we implore you to make it to this one. Discovery Cove is an all-inclusive water park where you can get up close with dolphins, sharks, rays, and tropical fish while basking in the warm Florida sun. Only a limited number of guests are let in each day – which means you can get more done — and add-on experiences like a morning flamingo walk or playtime with otters make the day extra special. We also love this park because the breakfast and lunch buffets are filled with delicious items that will keep you fueled for all that splashing.

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11.Food festivals
  • Attractions
  • Wildlife centers
  • Meadow Woods Cove
Photograph: Harrison Cooney

There's always something fun to eat in Orlando. In the fall, the city hostsMagical Dining Month, where you can get a three-course meal at participating restaurants and support a local charity. In the spring, look out forMardi Gras at Universal Orlando Resortand, come October, theSwan and Dolphin Food and Wine Classicat Walt Disney World. At all times, you'll find food truck rallies throughout the city and sometimes even a festival based on specific foods like donuts or Spanish tapas.

The best things to do in Orlando right now (27)
The best things to do in Orlando right now (28)

The adorable Peppa Pig Theme Park is geared towards preschool-aged kids and packed with vibrant colors and attractions that don't have a height requirement. The park is a great half-day park if you're already visiting LEGOLAND Florida or willing to drive from Orlando to nearby Winter Haven. Or if you are a massive Peppa Pig fan, obviously. The only thing to watch out for here is the long lines at the single restaurant at the park. If you don't want to wait for food, you may want to consider bringing your own with you.

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  • Shopping
  • Markets and fairs
The best things to do in Orlando right now (29)
The best things to do in Orlando right now (30)

Don your finest purple and gold and cheer on The Lions at Exploria Stadium in downtown Orlando from April through November. If you don’t have anything to wear, check out the Orlando City Team Shop on West Church Street. Ticket prices here start as low as $17, making it a fun weekend activity that won't break the bank.

Escape rooms are still wildly popular, and The Escape Game Orlando is a fabulous example of the hour-long thinking experience. Who knew the fear of being stuck somewhere could be so exciting? There are plenty of games to choose from here, including one based on a sunken undersea lab that needs help. The games range in difficulty and the number of people they can contain, so check out all your options before booking.

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The best things to do in Orlando right now (31)
The best things to do in Orlando right now (32)

Did you know Orlando is where you can find the headwaters of the Everglades? That’s right, and in the marshy swamp area, you can take an airboat ride through the tall grasses and deep waters to see some of natural Florida that hasn’t been inhabited by animated animal characters (yet). The Boggy Creek Airboat Adventures take you through the headwaters on an adventure that lasts 30 minutes or one hour. Throughout the tour, you’ll see animals like turtles, alligators, fish, and various birds that make up the delicate ecosystem of the headwaters.

The best things to do in Orlando right now (33)
The best things to do in Orlando right now (34)

Families looking for kid-friendly fun shouldn't miss this colorful experience. See how crayons are made, experience hands-on activities, and do a few craft projects before creating your very own Crayola crayon color. Each activity is designed with little and big kids in mind—meaning everyone in the family will have an equally good time unless one of you is seriously into crayons. That person will be in heaven, colorful heaven. The experience has extended hours in the summer, which is great news for families who want pool time in the afternoon but do something fun outside of their home or hotel after dinner.

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The best things to do in Orlando right now (35)
The best things to do in Orlando right now (36)

This LEGO-centric theme park is known for kid-friendly rides featuring LEGO characters and a LEGO Pirate Island Hotel that is a swashbuckling good time for the entire family. LEGOLAND Florida Resort continues to bring new entertainment to the park. LEGO never stands still, after all. Is that the saying? Who knows, but this place is barrels of fun. Don't leave the park without trying the iconic apple fries, which are fried apple sticks tossed lightly with cinnamon. Missing out on them is borderline criminal.

18.SeaWorld Orlando
  • Museums
  • Science and technology
Photograph: SeaWorld Orlando

This exciting theme park is filled with water creature-themed coasters, animal exhibits and encounters, and an adorable Sesame Street-themed area for kids. The thrilling Ice Breaker rollercoaster features four launches, including a reverse launch into a beyond-vertical drop that will take your breath away. Throughout the day, you can also see shows and live entertainment featuring animals and learn about the natural behaviors of sea life.

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Part brewery, part food hall, and part entertainment space, Plant Street Market is a great place to hang out on weekends. The cornerstone space inside is Crooked Can Brewery, known for its delicious beers and exciting outdoor block parties every summer. Around the market, you'll find everything from a local butcher to a shop specializing in sushi rolls. No matter what you're looking for, it can likely be found at Plant Street Market.

The best things to do in Orlando right now (39)
The best things to do in Orlando right now (40)

Walt Disney World has three 18-hole golf courses and one nine-hole walking course for anyone looking to hit the fairways rather than hang out with Goofy, Donald Duck, and the rest. Disney’s golf courses are open to the public, meaning you don't have to be a guest at Disney or have a theme park ticket to tee off. Disney and Golf might not be obvious bedfellows, but anything can happen here.

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