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Orlando, Besides the Theme Parks!

Updated: Aug 9, 2023

Need a day in Orlando that does not include theme parks? As much as Orlando has some GREAT big-ticket items, and is more and more known for shopping, and eating, that's not the whole picture. If you’re a nature loving quality time kinda person who likes to walk around and see the stuff but not necessarily spend a fortune, these ideas are for you! If you drive about 30 - 45 minutes out of Orlando, are a variety of natural Springs, which are the true Florida gem experience. Click HERE for the link to these. *underlined links will connect you to that site/ page

Living on the East Coast of Florida, with best friends on the West Coast, Orlando is a great midway/ half point. Meeting for the day or a weekend has kept us making lots of GREAT memories over the years. Here’s a list of some of our favorite (budget) ways to hang out in Central Florida and enjoy some quality time.

 

First thing's First - What's FREE?

Orlando as a tourist attraction can get costly quickly. If you are intown to visit some of the most high ticket places, this will help you balance out your time!


2803 Lust Rd. Apopka Fl 32703 FREE Nature

7 am - 3 pm Friday, Saturday, Sunday

Driving 1-10 mph for 11 miles while combing the wetlands for wildlife of all kinds, spotting lots of the local species. You will LOVE this stop if you want a take it slow and easy kind of day. You do not need to get out of your vehicle at all, however there are a few places for pottys. pavilions and even trails for walking. The one-way drive has a few places along the dirt road to pull off, plan to spend 1 – 2 hours of carefully spying into the landscape for glimpses of creatures can be mysterious and exciting. All cars must be gone by 5 pm. This wildlife drive was formerly a muck farm but has been transformed into a haven for wildlife and a jewel for the recreating public. It is one of the top three birding areas for the entire state (includes Everglades National Park and Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge). Lake Apopka North Shore is considered one of the best birding destinations in Florida, with 372 different bird species. Other wildlife routinely seen include numerous American alligators, bobcats, otters, bears, raccoons, armadillos and coyotes.



The drive does not loop back to the beginning. It begins at Lust Road and ends on Jones Avenue in Orange County, Fla. Dogs are allowed but must be leashed at all times. Stopping is limited to designated pull-outs provided along the length of the drive. Bring your own water and snacks, there are no concessions on the property.



We saw numerous birds, (many anhinga’s, herons, and osprey) turtles, and tons of alligators in the water (more than I’ve ever seen). Lots of pictures to be taken. We all piled into one hatch back vehicle. Teenagers sat in the back with the hatch open. Windows down, cruising along and combing the brush for different animals. We hoped to see an otter and never saw one surface.

On this particular day we met, our first stop was Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive, where we all piled into one car for about 2 hours and after then had to drive back to the beginning of the park to get our car back! From there we ventured on to Lake Eola for lunch, ebikes and more Orlando fun!

 

In the heart of Downtown Orlando, with a sidewalk that circles the lake 0.9 miles, through the twisty trees and swans who call this home, is a cool spot to hang out. There are a plethora of restaurants and bars located near and around the lake, and the walk itself is quite scenic looping under shady branches and shadows of skyscrapers. To start: we entered our lunch choice into Google Maps and navigated there. Parking can be tricky, we did drive around a bit before parking in a garage, which ended up being $8.00 for about 3 hours. We are at an Irish pub which was okay. While walking to the park we saw a man with a flying squirrel on his shoulder. He stopped and talked to us letting us pet his little pocket pet and ask a ton of questions. The kids picked up the E-scooters sitting along the sidewalk and began to ride them all around the area. How fun. These electric scooters can move! And our teenage crew hopped on and rode all around for 30 minutes.


Walking around Lake Eola is a good way to enjoy nature and the city vibe or downtown Orlando. Swans nest everywhere here, and you can see 5 different species of swan in this park. The paved trail is nice, but the water sets a peaceful tone while art sculptures and fountain views. Great place to take some pictures, as well as meet some friendly four-legged friends! This park is extremely pet friendly, we barely walked a few feet before being met with our next furry friend. There are two restrooms around the park. If you are there on a Sunday morning you may catch their Farmer's Market. There is NO SWIMMING in Lake Eola due to the heavy pump system which could potentially drag a swimmer under. There are however, Swan boats which can be rented for a small free and enjoyed as a different way to see the view of Orlando. Another fun way to spend some time.


 

Not Free, But Not a theme Park either....

Our Favorites in this category are the Orlando Science Museum, Wonder Works and Ifly. These are also amazing options in the event of a rainy day, or you need some indoor out of the element air conditioning. For hands on one-of-a-kind adventures, consider these very cool activities which the while family will enjoy. Let's dig little deeper...

WonderWorks Orlando 9067 International Drive Orlando, FL 32819

(407) 351-8800

Hours: Open 365 days a year 9:00 am to Midnight The Works Eatery: Sunday – Thursday: 11:30 am to 8 pm Friday & Saturday: 11:30 am to 10 pm

Parking: is available at the Pointe Orlando parking garage. Parking fees are $5.00 for the first two hours, $7.00 for three hours, $10.00 for four hours, with a maximum fee of $10.00. *Last ticket sold 60 minutes before closing

Children under 3 are free, and the list of prices and ticket types vary greatly, check it out here:



The upside-down hands on fun house is considered a science museum, a ropes course, laser tag activity center. It's a place that can entertain you for hours and every time we've gone we've had a different experience. Hurricanes, Earthquakes and a bed of nails, this place will have you wondering away the hours. Always a good time. Centrally located in Pointe Orlando where there is a ton of stuff to do right there. Food, movies, and a variety of places to eat, this is a great way to spend a day.


777 E. Princeton St. Orlando, Florida 32803

(407) 514-2000

Hours: 10 - 5 Most days, Check schedule, link above

Tickets are timed and if you arrive without a reservation, you will be setting up the next timed reservation.

Member Free

Adult $24.

Youth (2–11) - $18

Senior (55+) $22

Student (with ID) $22

Under 2 Free


And educational hands-on experience where the adults will have just as much fun as the little ones!

Rooms and floors and exhibits filled with exploration, discovery and wonder. Parking is quick and easy as the entrance is through the 2nd floor parking lot, cross the bridge and enter into the museum. Everything from blocks to dinosaurs and orchards, this center will help you to lose track of time and just play! Located by a few other museums in the area.


8969 International Drive Orlando, FL 32819

(407)3374359

Hours: Mon - Thurs -11:00 AM - 8:00 PM

Fri - 10:00 AM - 6:30 PM

Sat -10:00 AM - 7:00 PM

Sun -11:00 AM - 7:00 PM

Ages: 3 to 103. If you have reasonable health and fitness you can fly.

There are a few exceptions: Flyers must be over 3 years of age or older, weigh under 260-300 lbs., If you have had any serious injuries, it may not be advisable to fly, and pregnant women are not permitted to fly.


Now this is an experience. You arrive, meet your trainer and have a short training video going over the basics and then get dressed. The flying park is relatively short (60 seconds each flight), but the buildup and fun are hard to beat. Made for the adventurer, who would love to go inside of a wind tunnel and test their ability to balance/ fly this is exhilarating. Considering a "real" sky diving experience lasts about the same length, this is not unreasonable. Inside of the chamber it is loud, and the wind blowing makes it tricky! Instructors go inside with you and help you with your positioning which allows you to float or fly. All the instructors are well trained, upbeat and have fun tricks. We've been a few times usually for a birthday or special occasion and this is always a big hit. We usually take the two-flight package with the picture and video add ons. On the website above you can check out the options. If you are just tagging along with a flyer to take pictures, there is no charge 😃


1111 Dyer Blvd. Kissimmee FL 34741

(407) 846-8469

Sunday: 1:30-4:30PM

Monday: Closed or Available for Private Session

Tuesday 8:00AM - 8:00PM Available for Private Session. 8:00PM - 11:00PM (16yo & older)

Wednesday: 8:00AM - 8:30PM

Thursday: Closed or Available for Private Session

Friday: 7:00PM -10:00PM

Saturday: 9:45-10:45AM, 11:00 AM - 1:00PM, 1:30-4:30PM, & 7:00 -11:00PM, 11PM-2AM (16yo & older)

Prices range between $7.00 - $10.00 per person for skating, there is a spectator fee and family specials. Rentals are $3. Definitely click the link above to get all of the prices for different days and matinee times.


This skating rink has a wooden floor and holds the old-style, as it's family owned and operated at this same spot for 41 years! Fun for the whole family with small walkers for those learning and people of all levels coming to skate to their favorite songs, as played by the DJ. Bring your own skates, or rent them here, sizes range from juvenile size 9 to adult size 14. Huge skating rink with a separate area for those learning, concession stand, retro arcade games, and wonderful friendly staff. Prices are reasonable and the atmosphere is very fun.


1920 North Forest Avenue

Orlando, FL

(407) 246-2620

Hours: 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. (no entry after 4 pm, open daily)

Member Free

Adult $15

Child 4-17 $10

Active Military/Veteran - ID required$10

3 years and younger Free


Harry P. Leu Garden's is one of our top 3 Botanical Gardens in Central Florida! Definitely worth walking through the beautiful rose garden and exploring the unique grounds. While some gardens such as Bok Tower and McKee have extensive children's play areas, this one is really more designed to connect you with an abundance of nature and present the artistic side of growing gardens. A little world of manicured peace in the middle of Orlando! They have well marked trails that highlight some of the native plants and even more exotic plants and species. I used to be against paying for entry to botanical gardens. I have been to some beautiful places without an entrance charge. I will say, some places are more than can be explained in a paragraph or photo. I like this location because there is a collection of art, plants, and creativity that does offer an "experience". Definitely great for walking, exploring, and a more mellow day, but if you are looking for extensive play ground areas, read this: Central Florida's 3 Best Botanical Gardens to Explore (savvysinglemamatravels.com)


 

Themed Entertainment

City Walk/ Disney Springs are connected to Universal and Disney theme parks. However, neither outdoor mall area requires a ticket to enter, and while they feature eating, drinking, and shopping opportunities oozing from every step, it can be free to walk around, people watch and take in the atmosphere. Offering unique entertainment opportunities, we often pair a memorable place to eat at one of these local hotspots with another event for the day. For example, iFly and then head to Disney Springs for the Rain Forest Cafe. Blue Man Group which is located right in Universal's City Walk goes great with a Margaritaville dinner. We have just done some weekends get aways in Orlando and enjoyed the City Walk music and dancing at night.


Top Things to do at City Walk:

*Parking is free after 6pm

Favorite places to eat include: Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., and the Toothsome Chocolate Emporium.

Pictures make the best souvenirs and there are some awesome photo ops here. Of course, the Universal Globe keeps people lined up for photos and it's a cool place to walk around and try some of the stuff. I wish there was a butterbeer shop along the walk, but they do save that for the paying guests inside the theme park. You can also play drive in mini golf and there is a movie theature. During Mardi Gras this place is packed with action! There are many events hosted here that bring the crowd and additional entertainment. People love the Voodoo Donut shop and some of the cool exhibits set up around the walk. If you want to do some karaoke at the Rising Star or have some live reggae music evening fun at Bob Marley's this is a must see.


Top Things to do at Disney Springs:

*Free Parking

Favorite places to eat include: The Edison, House of Blues (all you can eat), Jock Lindsey's Hangar Bar (Indiana Jones style) and of course the Rain Forest Cafe. The last one is probably my least favorite food in a great place, you are definitely paying for the atmosphere and NOT the fine cuisine. But my kids literally love the experience, and it is so easy to get caught up. Really cool things here include a balloon ride, which we've never done but have seen the excitement of those who do participate, and our favorite: The Lego Store. Why are Lego's so exciting? I can't exactly put a finger on it but be prepared to go in and build. check stuff out, and be impressed with the engineering! There are some awesome exhibits and the Holidays host some unique events.


Celebration, Kissimmee Fl:

A picture-perfect little town created by Disney. This is probably not considered a really adventurous spot, but when hosting events it definitely is! On the daily, it's a pretty walkable tree lined village with shops, a lake and scenic views. Named one of the prettiest towns in America, the Victorian feel creates a cool vibe. There are horse and buggy rides and trails for walking. Sunday's they host a fun farmer's Market. Monthly they host an art & wine stroll. In October, their Oktober Fest attracts a lively crowd and their Thanksgiving to Christmas Winter Snow event is the coolest thing we'd made a yearly ritual of visiting. They set up an ice-skating rink, have nightly caroler's and snow off the rooftops every hour on the hour. The best thing about it is the Floridian warm weather to accompany their snow fall is the best of both worlds!


 

A Little Nature while you're here?

The Closest Beach to Orlando (Ocean) is Cocoa Beach

Drive East on 528 and you will run right into Cape Canaveral, A1A. There are some people who will tell you the gulf side is better, leading you over to Tampa/ Clearwater. Traffic can cause this ride to be very backed up. The gulf is known for being calmer, and more exciting, but also can experience red tide. Now there are times the East Coast gets hit with some seaweed, but it's never as severe as the West Coast get's hit when it's at it's worst. In any case, either beach is good (like pizza) we have our favorites but agree that as a rule, pizza is a good idea. I find the East Coast to still be a more natural beach environment feeling like the beachy vibe fun spot I envision when I think beach. This can be extremely economical and all you really need is to get there. The waves will take care of the rest. However, boogie boards or a surf lesson make this a memorable day forever.


Natural Springs...

...Have become quite the hit here! Making entry sometimes packed. There are 700 Springs in Florida, and Orlando has a few with in a 20 - 40-minute drive. The closest Springs to Orlando are definitely Wekiwa Springs State Park, and the Rock Springs Run duo ok Kelly Park Rock Springs and King's Landing. Wekiwa is 20 minutes north of Orlando located in Apopka. Here the original tourist attraction of emerald springs, lush tropical hammocks and plenty of trails for exploring is just waiting! This Spring is known for it's large shallow swimming area. Most of it is around 4 feet deep. Visitors enjoy swimming, floating, snorkeling, hiking and picnics. Most Florida Springs stay cool, between 68 - 72 degrees. This can be GREAT on a hot summer day, or sweet on a cooler day where it actually feels warm.



The next option about 30 minutes from Orlando is Kelly Springs shares the same river run. Possibly one of my favorite springs for it's shallow water (1 to 4 feet deep) and rocky curvy lazy river, this is a gem. Great swimming spot and awesome lazy river, It's also at capacity every day shortly after opening and difficult to get into. My recommendation is to book a kayak or paddle board excursion out of King's Landing which is the next-door neighbor property and still enjoy the River Run. You may not enter just to "swim" and must have a reservation, but it's a sure way to NOT wait in line for hours at the crack of dawn and still get access to this wonderful experience of the Springs. Once we got in with our paddle boards, we parked our boards and splashed around in the Spring, swimming and enjoying the peaceful nature surrounding us. These amazing places are worth a full day visit and here is more details on making this a fabulous day: Visiting Kelly Park Rock Springs and King's Landing (savvysinglemamatravels.com)



If you're up to the drive, Silver Springs is a REALLY cool visit for the day. Famous for it's glass bottom boats and wild monkeys in the trees, this is a place like no other. This Spring does not allow swimming however, so if that is your thing stick to another choice. Silver Springs is huge! There are beautiful paved trails and you will most likely see manatees, a variety of birds including anhinga, and alligators (try to spot some monkeys). More details here: Bucket List Day: Devil's Den & Cedar Lakes Garden & Silver Springs State Park (savvysinglemamatravels.com)


We have come to enjoy spending a day or camping at our Florida Springs. All of our favorite Springs including details about spending a day at Alexander or Blue Spring can be found here:

 

Looking for a reasonable place to stay? This 4-bedroom condo in Davenport sleeps up to 10, is located 30 minutes south of Disney



Dinner Shows ?

When I asked the crew what their favorite things are about Orlando besides the theme parks, they all said the Dinner Shows. Medieval Times, Capone's Dinner Show, and Pirates Dinner Adventure are all a good time! Each has it's own flair and caters to those who make themselves available. All thrive on audience participation, and each is set up as a bit of a competition with those in the other sections. Prepare to cheer while you eat and enjoy the show. I strongly recommend catching one.

My recommendation for planning daily itineraries are split up the days into different sections and start with some nature, then add a little hands-on adventure, and end with good food with a view.

Look at the area in which you will be for the daily highlight and see if you can plan other things close to that. Orlando is super spread out. Apopka is North, Kissimmee is South and there are a lot of neighborhoods in-between. Factor in traffic and driving can take an hour to get somewhere that doesn't seem too far.


No matter where your travels take you, enjoy the journey!

Don't forget you're making memories that will replay in your mind many times.

Breathe and be present.

Remember to let go of all the things you can't control.

Enjoy your surroundings, and the people present with you.

And most importantly, make the moments count.

Thank you for visiting my site, please leave your thoughts and feedback.


A note from the editor:

The information in this article was accurate when published but may change without notice. Confirm details when planning your trip.

Thank you for stopping by today! Please share your thoughts and experiences, we are all on this journey to live and love together. I welcome your favorite travel tips & tricks :-)


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I specialize in helping families spend more time enjoying their quality time together and less time having to figure it all out. My four children have been my test subjects of how to plan a great family adventure for many years and now that my youngest is 18, many of my travels are work related, or grandma related! As time has changed, I've evolved but I still LOVE TO TRAVEL, explore, wander, visit, discover, learn and love. I gravitate towards nature and there I find my happy place. I use the term single not to emphasize my status but to signify that if I can manage some family fun on a limited teacher's salary with four children, anyone can do it. I am just very intentional in how I spend my time and earnings. I typically seek out budget friendly ways to enjoy my time, but will occasionally splurge for the right reasons :-)


Happy Travels!!

Mz. Savvy


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Explore the natural beauty of Colt State Park, a 464-acre coastal oasis in Bristol, Rhode Island. With scenic trails and waterfront views, the park is a haven for hiking, picnics, and cycling. Perfect for family gatherings, it boasts spacious open areas and opportunities for fishing and birdwatching along the shores of Narragansett Bay. Delve into the allure of Colt State Park for a rejuvenating outdoor escape.

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Jun 17, 2023
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

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