Rediscover Orlando: 20 Amazing Things to Do in & Around Orlando
Whether you have lived in Orlando all your life, or you’re a newcomer, here are 20 reasons to get out and enjoy what Central Florida has to offer.
Hear Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra at Steinmetz Hall
The newest musical space at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, Steinmetz Hall, may to be one of the world’s most acoustically advanced theaters—and the perfect venue to hear the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra perform. The Orlando Philharmonic just wrapped its 30th season playing classical music and pop tunes and you can be sure artistic director/conductor Eric Jacobsen has some great performances planned for 2023-2024.
Rendezvous at Loch Haven Cultural Park
Something with a creative spin is always happening at Loch Haven Cultural Park, proving that Orlando is never starved for artistic energy. In the 45-acre park surrounded by lakes are several cultural organizations. Want theater? Check out Orlando Shakespeare Theater and Orlando Repertory Theatre. More of a museum buff? Head to Orlando Science Center, Orlando Museum of Art, Orlando Fire Museum and Mennello Museum of American Art. Want to dance? Harriett’s Orlando Ballet Centre offers a variety of dance classes.
Attend the Florida Film Festival
One of Orlando’s coolest venues, Enzian—a single-screen cinema and café—is home base for the Florida Film Festival. For 32 years, this moviegoer celebration has turned the spotlight on award-winning films from independently made shorts to international documentaries. More than 160 films and world premieres from some 30-plus countries are shown during the 10-day festival. Hang out at Enzian’s Eden Bar with a cocktail and fellow film buffs to discuss the day’s showings.
Meander Winter Park Sidewalk Art Festival Quite the prestigious art gathering, the Winter Park Sidewalk Art Festival gets better each year since its debut in 1960. Considered one of the country’s top juried fine-art festivals, the March event draws talent in some 20 categories, from painting, sculpture and watercolor to digital art, graphics, mixed media and others. Tents chock-full of artwork fill Central Park and Park Avenue; a concert kicks off the event and an official poster marks each year’s festival.
Paddle Wekiva, a National Wild and Scenic River
Whether you prefer a kayak, canoe or paddleboard, the waterways in Central Florida are calling. Paddle the cool green waters in the shade of granddaddy oaks past sunbathing turtles, elusive gators and long-legged wading birds. The easiest way to explore the Wekiva River is to launch your watercraft or rental at Wekiwa Springs State Park, or at the neighboring Wekiva Island, a private river recreation complex. Katie’s Landing inside Lower Wekiva River Preserve State Park also has a launch site.
Observe Manatees at Blue Spring State Park
The sheer number of manatees that gather at Blue Spring State Park during the winter will blow your mind. In 2022 the number of sea cows recorded reached 724! A shady pathway, with viewing decks, travels alongside the spring run. Here, visitors can observe the gentle giants floating in 72-degree water. When the sea mammals come up to breathe, every one to three minutes, you can get a glimpse of their rotund gray bodies, flippers and flat tails.
Taste the Flavors of Vietnam, MILLS 50
Tucked in the Mills 50 District, surrounding the intersection of Mills Avenue and Colonial Drive, is a cluster of Vietnamese restaurants and grocery stores. Strolling the aisles of the no-frills Dong A Supermarket is an adventure for the culinary curious, as is popping into Y Nhu Bakery & Café. And the restaurants won’t disappoint. Start at the ever-popular Anh Hong Restaurant, known for its traditional pho (Vietnamese noodle soup), and work your way to the trendy Hawkers Asian Street Food, offering Vietnamese and other Asian cuisines.
Sample the Local Fare, East End Market
It’s easy to eat your way through East End Market, tucked in Audubon Park Garden District. The neighborhood food hub of culinary creativity is where local food artisans tempt you with their goodies. Browse two stories of retail space where you’ll find craft coffee roaster Lineage and Skyebird Juice Bar. Continue to Winter Park Biscuit Company, Dochi Japanese doughnuts, La Femme du Fromage, Hinckley’s Fancy Meats and others. But the sweetest spot is Gideon’s Bakehouse, where thick chocolate chip cookies and mile-high cakes are impossible to resist.
Spend Like a Tourist at Mall at Millenia
Orlando’s upscale designer-store shopping destination—for both locals and tourists—is without a doubt the Mall at Millenia. One end is anchored by Macy’s and more mainstream stores and the other end is home to Bloomingdale’s, Neiman Marcus and the A-list of designer boutiques. Look for big names like Versace, Dior and Saint Laurent. Shoe-obsessed women just may rejoice to find Jimmy Choo and Christian Louboutin. And when it comes to jewelry to die for, Bulgari, Tiffany & Co. and David Yurman compete for your dollars.
Shop the Avenue, Park Avenue
For those who love to shop and shop and shop, there’s nothing better than strolling a street tightly packed with stores, each one more charming than the other. Downtown Winter Park, with its brick-paved streets and flower basket-hanging lampposts has that enchanting allure. Indie stores, fashion-forward boutiques, chocolate shops, coffee stops and outdoor cafes all add to the street’s eclectic appeal. Spend an afternoon discovering what’s new on Park Avenue.
Go Treasure Hunting in Mount Dora
One man’s junk is often another man’s treasure, as they say. If you love the hunt of sifting through merchandise to find that special item, from antiques to collectibles to anything vintage, then you should spend a day at Renninger’s Florida Twin Markets in Mount Dora. Set on 117 acres just off U.S. Highway 441, the weekend emporium is home to an antiques center, flea market, consignment center and farmers market.
Pedal a Swan Boat on Lake Eola
The beautiful iconic swans that populate Lake Eola in Downtown Orlando are said to be the inspiration for the swan-shaped paddleboats that glide across the urban lake. Among the must-do things for all Orlandoans is climbing into a big white bird and pedaling around the lake’s fountain on a relaxing Sunday afternoon.
Play in the Theme Parks
Love them or hate them, theme parks are a way of life in Orlando. And it’s the new attractions within that keep us coming back. Here’s the rundown on the latest and greatest not to be missed in 2023: Universal Orlando Resort’s Illumination’s Villain-Con Minion Blast at Universal Studios Florida, SeaWorld Orlando’s Pipeline: The Surf Coaster, Walt Disney World’s TRON Lightcycle/Run coaster in Tomorrowland at the Magic Kingdom and LEGOLAND Florida’s Pirate River Quest.
Escape to a Small Town
As Orlando grows into a metropolis, it’s comforting to know that small town USA is still alive and well less than an hour’s drive away. Head to historic downtown DeLand and stroll its quaint main street, Woodland Boulevard, admiring the domed Volusia County Courthouse and 19th-century buildings housing vintage stores, home furnishing boutiques, book stores, chocolate shops and more.
See the Stars at the Amway Center
Maybe a “star” for you is Paolo Banchero of the Orlando Magic scoring points in the last two minutes of a game at the Amway Center. For someone else it might be big-name country stars like Luke Bryan, Thomas Rhett or Brooks & Dunn firing up the stage. And for kids, it’s no doubt Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus or Disney on Ice turning the arena into a magical venue. The Amway Center is a modern, comfortable and spacious venue that hosts some of the biggest touring acts in the nation.
Take advantage of UCF
You don’t have to be a student at the University of Central Florida (UCF) to reap the benefits of having one of the country’s largest universities in your hometown. Theatre UCF produces a full season of contemporary and classic plays and musicals presented on campus at Main Stage and Black Box theaters. Sports enthusiasts can catch a ballgame or two on campus—the UCF Knights football team at FBC Mortgage Stadium (aka Bounce House) or the men’s and women’s basketball teams at Addition Financial Arena.
Roar with the Lions
Since Orlando’s soccer stadium debuted in 2017, enthusiastic crowds dripping in purple have filled the seats of Exploria Stadium to watch rousing Major League Soccer games—and, of course, cheer on the home team: Orlando City SC. Lions fans come early to get the party started at Mane Street Plaza outside Gate B, where food trucks, DJs, games and fun add to the soccer experience. The stadium is also home to the Orlando Pride women’s professional soccer team, supported by hometown superfans.
Dust off Your Cowboy Boots
Let your inner cowboy or cowgirl come out at the Silver Spurs Rodeo in Kissimmee. Before Orlando rose up, the area was prime cattle country and home to hard-working ranchers, who in 1944 held a rodeo to help sell war bonds. Soon enough came the Silver Spurs Rodeo Arena, which held its first event in 1950. Fast forward to today’s indoor, climate-controlled arena with 8,300 seats and 12 luxury skyboxes and you can see that rodeoing is a lifestyle in Osceola County. The state’s official rodeo takes place twice a year, in February and June, and is the largest rodeo east of the Mississippi. Team roping, bull riding and steer wrestling are all traditional competitions, but there’s also a parade and the crowning of Miss Silver Spurs.
Watch the Christmas Tree Lighting With the Mayor
A hometown event, Orlando’s annual tree lighting celebration in downtown’s Lake Eola Park is a festive way to kick off your holiday season with friendly Orlandoans. When Mayor Buddy Dyer flicks the switch, the illuminated show of lights musically sync with the lake’s fountain, drawing oohs and aahs from the crowd. At the park’s amphitheater, song and dance set the mood, plus you can shop at a holiday market, meet Santa and Mrs. Claus, and grab a bite to eat from food trucks.
Cheer at the Citrus Bowl on New Year’s Day
Not every city is lucky enough to host a collegiate bowl game. But Orlando has made it a New Year’s Day tradition since 1947 to welcome top teams from the Big Ten and Southeastern conferences. Pep rallies and fan fests add to the excitement before game day, when fans pack Camping World Stadium for some tough football action and wild cheering.