If you are a thrill-seeker who knows what is what in the world of amusement parks and rollercoasters, Orlando will already be pretty high on your bucket list, if you have not already been, that is! But what most people are not aware of is that there is a hell of a lot more to Florida’s fourth-largest city than you might think. Not only is there some world-class shopping to be done, but there is also a thriving art and culinary scene that is well worth checking out.
In this article, we take you through a rapid weekend guide of the best things to do in Orlando on a weekend break to help you plan your trip from the moment you touch down at Orlando International Airport until it is time to say goodbye.
On a side note, if you are arriving from Europe, make sure that you arrange an ESTA visa before you travel, as this is currently the only way to gain entry on arrival in the USA. If you would like more info on the visa waiver scheme, take a look at this brilliant ESTA guide. Now the formalities are out of the way, let’s move on with the show!
- Catch a Glimpse of Some Gators
If there was one animal that was synonymous with Florida, it would almost certainly be the alligator. The denizens of the famous Florida Everglades are accessible to anybody with the desire to see them via a number of airboat ride tour operators. You can book a tour in any one of the downtown tourist information centers.
The great thing about the tours on offer is that most of them give punters the chance to have a go at driving the airboats themselves. The best area to head for is Lake Tohopekaliga, the body of water that is commonly thought of as the gateway to the Everglades. There are said to be over 6,000 alligators in the lake alone!
- Visit the Kennedy Space Center
Not far from Orlando at Cape Canaveral is the USA’s most famous site for space rocket launches. The center is still operational as a space launch site, with the recent high-profile launch of the SpaceX rocket setting off from the base.
As well as its functional side, the center also doubles as an excellent tourist attraction. Among the amazing things that you can do are to take a stroll along the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame, walk in the Rocket Garden where some of the most famous rockets are standing, and visit the iconic Mission Control facility that features in so many hit Hollywood movies.
- Check Out SEA LIFE Orlando Aquarium
If you have time, we strongly recommend that you reserve a morning or afternoon to check out the fantastic diversity of marine life at SEA LIFE Orlando Aquarium. Here you will have the chance to explore the undersea world in a way that is usually reserved for experienced divers or marine biologists.
The aquarium features a fantastic selection of sharks, sea turtles, stingrays and much, much more. In addition, there is a 360-degree ocean tunnel which gives the chance to come face to face with the majestic fins, the brilliantine scales, the waving tentacles and the menacing teeth of the animals that call these waters their home.
- Take a Hot-Air Balloon Ride
Without doubt the best way to take in the sights of Orlando is from the sky. To do this, you can hitch a ride at one of a number of hot-air balloon tour operators. Most set off at the crack of dawn, early enough to catch the marvelous blood-orange sunrise over the city, its suburbs and the surrounding wetlands.
- Go Shopping at Disney Springs
As we mentioned in the intro, Orlando is a great place to go shopping. Although there are great shopping opportunities to be found all over the city, the undisputed king of shopping malls is found at Disney Springs. Here, you will find an eclectic blend of trendy boutiques and major fashion stores. You will also be spoiled for choice when it comes to places to eat and drink when you have had enough of the shops!
Most people go to Orlando to visit some of its world-renowned amusement parks. However, if rollercoasters and adrenaline are not your thing, you may consider adding some of the amazing activities listed above to your itinerary. You are sure to have a great time!