Orlando’s famed theme parks are no doubt a draw for many families. But there’s more that awaits visitors beyond the parks. If you haven’t heard, Orlando is a playground for adults, too.
The city’s world-famous tourism district, International Drive, or I-Drive, is easily accessible from Walt Disney World Resort, Universal Orlando Resort and SeaWorld Orlando. Home to all-in-one entertainment hubs, attractions and incredible retail meccas, the strip also hosts hotel, resort and dining options to meet any taste or budget.
Visitors can also find hidden gems in nearby Winter Park, about 20 minutes northeast of downtown Orlando. Head to Park Avenue, where you’ll find 20,000 square feet of shopping and dining options; take in art and culture at local museums; or kick back and relax on a scenic lake boat tour.
Orlando offers an array of activities for every type of visitor. Here are some reasons you should extend your stay for the full experience:
- On I-Drive—the heart of Orlando’s world-famous tourism district—you could buy, eat and play for days. Perk alert: The I-Ride Trolley runs daily, with stops conveniently located throughout the district and priced at $2 maximum per ride. Or, find free parking at ICON Park.
Here’s a taste of more things to do on the strip:
- Entertainment: Take a selfie with your favorite celebrity doppelganger at the world’s greatest wax museum, Madame Tussauds, or have your mind blown at the Museum of Illusions. And over at the Orlando Auto Museum at Dezerland Park, you can enter the Bat Cave (though not from the Batpole) for a tour of Batman’s motor fleet. The collection includes more than 2,000 rare and exotic cars, including ones belonging to the stars, and a special Bond Museum, an exhibit of James Bond movie cars, aircraft and memorabilia.
- Dining: If you’ve worked up an appetite from all the walking, shopping and sightseeing, you’ll have seemingly endless dining fare to suit any craving, including Italian, Latin, Japanese or American. Head to Pointe Orlando for a taste of Cuba at Cuba Libre Restaurant & Rum Bar or experience the ultimate carnivore’s delight at Rodizio Grill, the first Brazilian churrascaria in the United States. There, waiters dressed as traditional gauchos carve and serve perfectly grilled and seasoned cuts of meat tableside. Or check out the exceptional food, service, cocktails and elegant atmosphere at The Hampton Social. For something a little decadent, take a shot at a chocolate pinata at Uncle Julio’s. The one-of-a-kind smashable dessert is a hanging pinata of dark chocolate filled with homemade churros and fresh fruit.
- Nightlife: I-Drive’s thriving nightlife includes Latin fare and music at Mango’s Tropical Cafe, Howl at the Moon dueling piano bar and the world’s largest permanent ice bar, ICEBAR Orlando. Seventy tons of ice carved into a magical Arctic wonderland will make you forget the Florida heat. Or head to ICON Park to enjoy some live music at either Tin Roof or Blake Shelton’s Ole Red, where Shelton himself has been known to take the stage.
- Play: Bowling, golf, pinball, go-carting, a trampoline park, escape games, indoor skydiving and axe throwing are just a sample of things to do. Be sure to check out ICON Park, an open-air plaza offering shopping, dining and entertainment. For the best views of Orlando, check out the world’s tallest swing ride, the Orlando StarFlyer, which stands at 450 feet and reaches speeds of up to 60 mph. Or catch The Wheel at ICON Park, the largest observation wheel on the East Coast. Each trip around the 450-foot wheel takes about 20 minutes. Add a romantic champagne flight and you have an unforgettable experience. Night riders can also catch the show-stopping fireworks from nearby theme parks.
- Shopping: Shop till you drop at—not one, but—two outlet malls. Orlando International Premium Outlets is Florida’s largest outlet shopping center, with almost a quarter-million square feet packed with nearly 180 designer and name-brand retailers. If you love designer brands but not the prices, Orlando Vineland Premium Outlets houses more than 160 value-priced designer options, with savings of as much as 65% off retail. And if you still can’t get enough, Lake Buena Vista Factory Stores, The Mall at Millenia and The Florida Mall are nearby.
How would you like to explore Orlando like a local? Check out beautiful Winter Park, one of the city’s favorite neighborhoods. Its epicenter is Park Avenue, a tree-lined cobblestone street bustling with top-rated eateries, museums and unique specialty shops, as well as name-brand retailers. Nature lovers can unwind at any of Winter Park’s lakes—12 in all—or in its parks and gardens.
While there, you can find:
- Shopping: The 10-block cosmopolitan shopping district features sidewalk cafes and 100 one-of-a-kind specialty boutiques, as well as well-known luxury brands.
- Art and Culture: Four museums exhibit local history, contemporary art, sculpture and the world’s most comprehensive collection of creations by Louis Comfort Tiffany at the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art. Learn local African American history at the Hannibal Square Heritage Center. Visitors can also enjoy theatrical productions, cabarets and live concerts. Plus, there are two annual Winter Park art shows—one in March, the other in April.
- Get back to nature: Relax on a one-hour cruise of three of Winter Park’s lakes on the Scenic Boat Tour. Take in the swaying palms, towering cypress trees, lush ferns and a variety of subtropical flowers. You may spot cranes swooping to snag large fish or alligators lazing around as you spy opulent private homes and estates. Or rent a paddleboard or kayak and explore the lake system on your own.
Back on land, stroll through Leu Gardens, a 50-acre botanical oasis, or Mead Botanical Garden, which also offers yoga and tai chi weekly.
- Lodging and dining: Experience luxury accommodations while giving back to the community with a stay at the AAA Four Diamond Alfond Inn. Owned by Florida’s first four-year university, Rollins College, all profits from the boutique hotel endow a scholarship program at Rollins. Its restaurant, Hamilton Kitchen & Bar, offers breakfast, lunch and dinner featuring locally sourced ingredients daily. Other notable dining options include French, Spanish, Japanese and Italian cuisine. For your sweet tooth, you can satisfy sugar cravings at The Glass Knife, where Southern favorites like red velvet cake are served up alongside European-style pastries.