We're sure the first things that come to mind when you hear “Orlando” is Walt Disney World, Seaworld Orlando, Universal Studios, or the Magic Kingdom Park. These are all great places to visit while in Orlando, Florida. If you want to see something outside of the amusement parks, explore the true Orlando, not just the theme-park version of the city.
Tourists fly into Orlando Airport from all over the world, and they all know the well-known attractions, but a worldwide local knows the best experiences. This is an insider’s guide to some of Orlando’s local hideaways.
First Things First: Water Activities in Orlando
Right away after you check into one of the Orlando hotels, you’ll likely want to get out on the water. Rent a paddleboat or a paddle board and explore Lake Eola. Lake Eola Park, located in downtown Orlando, provides traveling groups of all sizes with a great escape from the hectic theme park crowds. Enjoy the amazing plant life and beautiful birds for a pleasant nature experience. The lake gives the viewer an amazing angle of the Orlando skyline! A leisurely ride in a paddleboat is a fun way to take in the beautiful views around you.
See the City from a New Point of View
Next, take a ride on a four hundred-foot Ferris Wheel in the heart of Orlando. This Ferris wheel is known as the Orlando Eye and is owned and operated by the same company that owns the London Eye. It’s a must-do experience that shouldn’t be missed while you are visiting the city. Visiting at night is especially memorable.
Worldwide Local Tip: If you are into finding a great music scene when you are traveling, then you have to visit the House of Blues Orlando. Here you can capture a unique taste of the local culture through music. Home to countless award-winning concerts over the years, this venue frequently hosts some of the top blues performers in the country. Events always give locals and visitors alike the perfect chance to hear world-class music.
Unique Orlando: ICEBAR
For travelers who are 21 and over, visit the largest ice bar in the world. Yes, you read that right--an ice bar… in Florida. This bar is divided into two areas: The ICEBAR and Fire Lounge. Once you enter, you’ll be greeted by an Ice Princess who will provide you with coats and gloves. Then you will be welcomed inside to the Winter Wonderland, where the fabulous frozen sculptures make the perfect setting for Instagram moments. When you’re ready to heat things up, skip over to the Fire Lounge for a night of dancing. This unique experience is one of the most entertaining things to do in Orlando.
Worldwide Local Tip: Play a round at the best mini golf course in Florida. Pirate’s Cove has two 18-hole courses, the Captain’s Course and Blackbeard’s Challenge. This is a great way to spend the day, and to avoid the path of tourists, with enough shade to provide a respite from the hot Orlando weather.
Orlando’s Great Outdoors
The city of Orlando is incredible on its own, but there is also a major natural preserve that surrounds the city on nearly every side. Visit the 440-acre Tibet-Butler Nature Preserve. You can walk the trail system as it loops through some of the area’s habitats, including the Bayhead swamp. Being away from the city gives you the opportunity to hear the cry of an osprey or the hoot of a barred owl. Pack a lunch, because the nature center also has a butterfly garden, where you and your family can enjoy a nice picnic.
Where and What to Eat
If you are looking for the best places to eat in Florida, we have you covered. Try some Japanese cuisine at Domu or Kadence, Italian food at Primo or Enzo on the Lake, classic French dishes at Café de France, or Vietnamese at Banh Mi Nha Trang. For some “south of the border” favorites, try Tako Cheena, Black Rooster Taqueria, Havana Bistro & Café, or Zaza New Cuban Diner.
A Magical Orlando Experience
If you want to channel your inner “nerd,” you should definitely check out the Wizarding World of Harry Potter to be delighted by the British-styled foods at the dining hall, the Three Broomsticks. This is one special example of the unique Orlando magic.
Enjoy Your Stay!
Orlando is an exciting world of thrills both on and off the roller coasters. When visiting, be sure to also keep your eyes peeled for the cultural hotspots that pop up all over the city. Roaming as a worldwide local will grant you unmatched access to the hidden gems this city has to offer.