12 BEST Places to Visit in Orlando (August 2019)

An immensely popular tourist destination in Florida’s Orange County, Orlando attracts huge numbers of visitors throughout the year. Famous for theme park fun, the city and its surrounds offers myriad experiences for an action-packed vacation in the sunshine.

You may think that Orlando is just about theme parks and mainly a family holiday destination. Furthermore, spending day after day at theme parks can quickly become expensive. These thoughts can lead couples and groups of friends to look elsewhere for their perfect vacation destination.

We’re here to show you that this simply isn’t true! While the cool attraction parks aren’t just for families, you’ll also find an abundance of other ways to fill your time. It’s a diverse destination with something to please everyone. Our list of the best places to visit in Orlando highlights the many awesome experiences that await visitors. We’ve also included budget-friendly options to help you to stretch your holiday fund farther.

After seeing the best places to visit in Orlando, we’re confident you’ll be adding it to your bucket list!

 

Best places to stay in Orlando

Refer to our guide on where to stay in Orlando to find the perfect home base for exploring this amazing destination.

 

Best Hostel in Orlando: Monumental Hotel Orlando

best hostel in orlando

Combine comfort, quality, affordability, and olde-worlde Florida charms when you stay at the Monumental Hotel Orlando. It’s located on International Drive, one of the best neighbourhoods in Florida for accessing famous attractions, shopping hotspots, sporting venues, and places to eat and drink. Rooms have an enchanting island feel. All are en suite with a fridge, kettle, TV, and free Wi-Fi. You don’t even need to leave the hotel to relax and unwind, thanks to the large and inviting swimming pool, complete with a waterfall and Jacuzzi, and the terrific restaurant that serves tasty fare. Parking is available and reception is staffed around the clock.

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Best Budget Hotel in Orlando: Red Lion Hotel Orlando Kissimmee Maingate

best budget hotel in orlando

If you’re thinking about where to stay in Orlando for exceptional facilities at an appealing price, Red Lion Hotel Orlando Kissimmee Maingate could be perfect. There are various room types that can sleep up to four guests, making it great for a family stay. All rooms come with a private bathroom, TV, free Wi-Fi, telephone, safe, a fridge, and a kettle. The two swimming pools, a kids’ play area, fitness centre, tennis courts, and games room offer a variety of ways to unwind. You can sink your teeth into tasty American cuisine at the onsite restaurant. Other convenient features include tour and ticketing services, daily housekeeping, free parking, laundry services, and a lift.

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Best Luxury Hotel in Orlando: Floridays Resort Orlando

best luxury hotel in orlando

One of the best places to stay in Orlando for luxury, fun, and comfort, the four-star Floridays Resort Orlando really does offer a treat. The two- and three-bedroom suites are perfect for families and groups of friends, accommodating six and eight guests. All have a private bathroom and balcony along with everything you need for a comfortable stay, including a washing machine, TV, telephone, safe, fridge, microwave, and seating area. The spa bathtub is perfect for relaxing after a busy day. You can access free Wi-Fi around the complex. Onsite you’ll find two swimming pools, a fitness centre, a children’s play area, a café, a restaurant (room service also available), a bar, and a tour desk. Shuttle services are available to the major theme parks and paid onsite parking is available.

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Need a place quick? Here’s the best neighbourhood in Orlando:

Check Top HostelCheck Top Hotel

Dr Phillips
Located outside of the city centre, Dr Phillips is where you can enjoy all the benefits of the suburbs while still being in close proximity to the city and its top attractions.
Places to Visit:
  • Catch an incredible performance at Dr Phillips Center for the Performing Arts.
  • Get your heart racing by spending a thrilling day at Universal’s Volcano Bay, a water-themed park with rides, games, adventure and more.
  • See a variety of sea creatures and exotic animals at SEA LIFE Orlando Aquarium.

 

And now, useful information covered, here are the best places to visit in Orlando!

 

These are the BEST Places to Visit in Orlando!

#1 – The Magic Kingdom

Awesome place to visit in Orlando with kids!

The Magic Kingdom

  • Busiest theme park in the world
  • Come face to face with cool Disney characters
  • Various fun rides and shows
  • Awesome parades and firework show

 

Why it’s awesome: Part of the larger Walt Disney World Resort, the Magic Kingdom is one of the most famous places in Orlando. An Orlando must do for most families, it is the most-visited theme park on the planet. Open since 1971, the incredible park is themed around characters and scenes from Disney creations. It has six different themed areas, each with a fabulous selection of rides, shows, shopping outlets, and places to eat and drink. Disney characters stroll through the park and there are fantastic photo opportunities. The lively and jolly parade and spectacular firework show over Cinderella’s Castle are among the many highlights.

What to do there: Start your magical day by being greeted by Mickey and co as they open the park with a stroll along Main Street USA. See the interesting buildings in this section of the park, representative of different parts of the country, small-town America, and Walt Disney’s childhood. Shop for souvenirs, feast on tasty fare, and ride the Main Street Vehicles. Catch the Wat Disney World Railroad around the park to save your leg power and discover the many delights in the park’s other cool areas. Travel the world in Adventureland, enjoying attractions like The Magic Carpets of Aladdin, the Jungle Cruise, and Pirates of the Caribbean. Have fun in the medieval-like Fantasyland, with smaller areas dedicated to The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and others. Watch the delightful Mickey’s PhilharMagic show, experience It’s a Small World, and giggle on rides like the Mad Tea Party, Dumbo the Flying Elephant, the Seven Dwarf’s Mine Train, and Under the Sea—Journey of the Little Mermaid. In Tomorrowland, you’ll find iconic rides like Space Mountain and Astro Orbiter, along with others like Stitch’s Great Escape, Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, and the Tomorrowland Speedway. Stride into the American Old West in Frontierland, home to Splash Mountain and the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, and experience America’s colonial period at Liberty Square, home to the Haunted Mansion and the Muppets show.

 

#2 – Harry P. Leu Gardens

A beautiful outdoor place to visit in Orlando

Harry P. Leu Gardens

image source: Flickr

  • Diverse plants from all around the world
  • Scenic and peaceful
  • Pretty lake
  • Interesting historic museum

 

Why it’s awesome: The scenic Harry P. Leu Gardens were established in the 1930s, with a couple planting many exotic plants from across the world in their private grounds. Now open to the public, the pretty gardens contain tropical and sub-tropical species. Covering some 50 acres (20 hectares), there are lakes, beautifully landscaped area, statues, and shaded pathways. There’s a historic home (now a museum) at the centre of the gardens, lovingly restored to show what life was like in times gone by. It’s among the best outdoor attractions in Florida and is especially great for couples looking for a romantic air and peaceful vibe in nature.

What to do there: Explore the different enchanting sections of the stunning gardens, taking time to inhale the heady aromas in the Citrus Grove, learn about the medicinal, culinary, and other uses of certain plants in the Herb Garden, watch wildlife in the Native Wetland Garden, and absorb the serene air in the White Garden. Admire the vibrant colours in the Rose Garden and Annual Garden, see the Ornamental Grass Collection, observe colourful butterflies and lovely hummingbirds in the Butterfly Garden, and wander the trails to see bananas, azaleas, bamboo, conifers, tropical fruits, ferns, palms, vines, magnolias, and more. The 15-metre (50-foot) Floral Clock is eye-catching and the Doves of Peace statue is a great photo stop. Enjoy a leisurely stroll around Lake Rowena and soak up the views from the boardwalk and gazebo at the Wyckoff Overlook. Visit the museum and cemetery for a step back in time and go to the Garden House to purchase souvenirs, see art, and browse in the botanical library.

 

#3 – Kennedy Space Centre

A very cool place in Orlando to go for a day

Kennedy Space Centre

image source: Flickr

  • Learn more about space exploration
  • Meet astronauts
  • See fascinating equipment and space vehicles
  • Interactive adventures

 

Why it’s awesome: One of the most famous places in Orlando, the Kennedy Space Center is one of the world’s leading places for space explorations. The NASA facility has seen many significant events, including a number of Apollo missions, the launch of the Skylab space station, and Space Shuttle flights. The huge facility offers public tours where visitors can gain fascinating insights into space programs, challenges, advancements, and future goals. Many people are unaware that the area is also a significant wildlife sanctuary, home to creatures like bald eagles, snakes, manatees, alligators, and Florida panthers.

What to do there: There are various tours and attractions to choose between, letting you experience the awe-inspiring space centre in a way that suits you. Pay homage to renowned space explorers at the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame, take a bus tour of the facility and visit the Apollo / Saturn V Center, experience a shuttle launch at Space Shuttle Atlantis, be amazed by a 3D space film at the IMAX cinema, learn more about NASA’s work, see the Space Mirror Memorial, and take a tour of the Rocket Garden. Other cool programs include dining with an astronaut, chatting with space explorers, peering through space telescopes, and taking part in activities like the Journey to Mars, Cosmic Quest, and Science on a Sphere. Let kids have fun at the space-themed Children’s Playdome, pickup souvenirs, and enjoy a meal in one of the brilliant eateries.

 

#4 – Skeletons: Museum of Osteology

Quite the quirky place in Orlando!

Skeletons: Museum of Osteology

image source: Flickr

  • Unusual and unique museum
  • See many skeletons
  • Learn how bones are cleaned to be displayed
  • Quirky gift shop

 

Why it’s awesome: Visiting Skeletons: Museum of Osteology is one of the most unusual things to do in Orlando. One of just two museums dedicated to skeletons around the USA (the other located in Oklahoma), the quirky Orlando museum opened in 2015. Founded by Jay Villamette, an expert on skulls, it houses more than 500 authentic skeletons of animal. Some remains are of rare creatures. Visitors can also learn more about the long, detailed, and painstaking process that has to go into cleaning, identifying, and displaying bones.

What to do there: Watch in fascination as dermestid beetles perform their work. A vital part of the bone-cleaning process, the small beetles munch their way through skin and tissue to completely strip bones bare. Discover how bones are then bleached before arranged to form a complete skeleton. Of course, the highlight is seeing the huge collection of skeletons on display in the unusual museum. See a full skeleton of a large elephant, a tiny skeleton of a bat, and everything in between … from gorillas and monkeys to rhinos, birds, and dogs. The Komodo dragon remains are among the more unusual specimens. You can purchase offbeat souvenirs in the gift shop and have a meal before you leave.

 

#5 – Holy Land Experience

One of the most religious places to see in Orlando

Holy Land Experience

image source: Orlando Weekly

  • Bible-themed attraction
  • Step back in time
  • Amazing performances
  • Striking reproductions of the Holy Land

 

Why it’s awesome: Open since 2001 and founded by a Russian-born Jew who became a Christian minister, the Holy Land Experience is both one of the most religious and one of the most unusual things to do in Orlando. The large biblical-themed attraction park seeks to transport visitors back to the Holy Land and learn more about the life and times of Jesus Christ. Features have been designed to replicate those from the past and there are daily shows to bring scenes further to life. The interactive attraction helps to bring the Bible to life like nowhere else.

What to do there: Take a giant leap back through history and experience the energy of Jerusalem circa 66 AD. The realistic replica shows the streets that Jesus once roamed, where he performed various miraculous feats, and where he ministered to the faithful. Listen as a knowledgeable speaker brings past events to life. See a huge assortment of religious artefacts in the Sciptorium, marvel at the stunning Great Temple, and enjoy the wonder of the Wilderness Tabernacle. Watch live shows that include an interactive Roman soldier training camp, the sad story of Mary Magdalena, a visit to Lazarus’s home, and the tale of David—The King of Jerusalem. Take younger guests to the Smile of a Child Adventure Land for fun and activities.

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#6 – Maitland Art Center

A great place to visit in Orlando if you are alone/traveling solo

Maitland Art Center

image source: Wikipedia

  • Fabulous building
  • Beautiful grounds
  • Eye-catching artwork
  • Artists’ colony

 

Why it’s awesome: Established in 1937, the Maitalnd Art Center is one of the best places to visit in Orlando for anyone interested in striking art from the 20th century. The building itself is an architectural and artistic gem, now featured on the National Register of Historic Places and one of just a few examples of fantasy buildings remaining in the southern part of the USA. Constructed in a Mayan Revival style, the grounds are reminiscent of a stunning Mexican Mayan temple complex, complete with hand-crafted carvings that display symbols from Mayan and Aztec civilisations. The centre attracts many artists looking for a peaceful place to unleash their creativeness, and the museum houses a number of interesting contemporary works.

What to do there: Explore the gorgeous grounds and lap up the striking details. Visit the restful chapel (added to the complex for the designer’s mother), see artists at work, and relax in the shaded courtyard. Join inspiring workshops, listen to art-focused lectures, take art classes, and learn more about modern art movements. You can also see the collection of works in the gallery, including pieces by the centre’s founder.

 

#7 – Presidents Hall of Fame

An unknown (but awesome!) place to see in Orlando!

Presidents Hall of Fame

image source: Flickr

  • Offbeat attraction in Orlando
  • Waxworks of US presidents
  • Detailed models of famous buildings
  • Historic items

 

Why it’s awesome: Among the lesser-known and lesser-visited attractions in Orlando, the Presidents Hall of Fame started life as a small roadside attraction. In operation since the 1960s, it’s definitely one of the city’s more niche attractions. It began as an exhibition of wax models of all of the presidents of the USA and has since expanded to include waxworks of the first ladies, replicas of famous landmarks from around the nation, and animatronics. Exhibits are detailed and much work has gone into their design. It’s a fantastic place to get great photos and have a break from theme park fun.

What to do there: See life-like figures of all US presidents and first ladies, take lots of pictures, and get many cool selfies. It’s not every day that you get the chance to come face to face with historical figures! Step into a replica of Abraham Lincoln’s bedroom and see various political artefacts from throughout the years. Marvel at the large hand-made replica of the White House—it took thousands of hours to plan, design, and build, and has amazing features like working television sets, accurate furnishings, and opulent chandeliers.

 

Quick Note – Staying safe in Orlando

Although Orlando is typically a safe vacation destination, that doesn’t mean it’s without its risks. Some of the safest parts of the city include downtown, midtown, and the area around Vanderbilt University. Avoid staying near Dickerson Pike or places to the west of Interstate 4. Avoid walking around non-touristy areas at night time. Petty theft and pickpocketing can occur at crowded places so keep your wits about you. Be sure to always lock your hotel room and make use of safety deposit books. Always lock vehicles too, even if just for a second, and don’t leave anything of value inside your car.

If exploring Orlando by vehicle, ensure you have the relevant insurance and license. Always wear seatbelts and drive at an appropriate speed.

Stay hydrated, wear plenty of sun cream, and take measures to avoid sunburn and heatstroke. Make sure you reapply sun cream regularly, especially after swimming. Cover up and use mosquito repellent in the evenings. Heed hurricane advisories—the hurricane season is from June to November.

Be cautious of local wildlife—alligators and snakes, in particular, can be very dangerous. Be especially careful near water bodies and never leave children unattended. Never swim in non-designated swimming areas and don’t take a dip at night. You may also spot bears in the wild.

Be aware of common tricks and scams in Orlando. These can include people offering to help with your bags (before running away with them), fake surveys (designed to get personal information from you and potentially steal from your hotel), and touts selling fake tickets to attractions.

Don’t forget to sort your travel insurance! We’ve put together a roundup of the best travel insurance for backpackers, or if you’re low on time, get a quote from World Nomads now, our favourite travel insurance provider.

The Magic Kingdom

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#8 – Orlando International Premium Outlets

A great place in Orlando if you love to shop!

Orlando International Premium Outlets

image source: Flickr

  • Cut-price shopping
  • Numerous shops and brands
  • Plenty of places to eat and drink
  • Popular place

 

Why it’s awesome: Looking to indulge in some serious retail therapy while visiting Orlando? Check out Orlando International Premium Outlets. Located at the end of the buzzing International drive, the popular shopping centre is designed like a typical strip mall, providing lots of space and attractive details. There are some 180 stores selling goods from many well-known designers and brands. Even better? As an outlet centre, the prices are often significantly lower than what you would expect to pay elsewhere.

What to do there: Prepare to give your credit cards a healthy workout and get ready to shop till you drop. Browse in a large selection of stores, with goods including all the latest fashions, footwear, sporting accessories, jewellery, toiletries and perfumes, home items, electronics, luggage, sunglasses, and much more. Shops include H&M, GAP, Calvin Klein, Samsonite, Justice, Coach, Puma, Vitamin World, Invicta, Reebok, Quicksilver, Bose, Diesel, Timberland, and Victoria’s Secret. And, that’s just a small selection! Stop for a break in one of the cafes and restaurants and refuel, ready to hit the shops with gusto once again.

 

#9 – Epcot

Cool place to see in Orlando with friends!

Epcot

  • Theme park aimed at adults
  • Futuristic, informative, and educational
  • Inspires the imagination
  • Interactive activities

 

Why it’s awesome: Another theme park at Orlando’s Walt Disney World Resort, Epcot is geared more towards adults. It celebrates human achievements, with a focus on world culture, nature, and technological advancements. Futuristic and exciting, the park opened in 1982. Spaceship Earth, the large geodesic dome, is among the major landmarks in Orlando. There’s an assortment of rides, shows, demonstrations, and other activities, and the array of restaurants means that’s no need to go hungry.

What to do there: Step into Spaceship Earth and discover various methods of communicating through the ages, from early cave paintings up to the smartphones and internet of today. Also within the area of Future World, learn more about the oceans at SeaBase, travel through the skies at Mission: Space, discover various ecosystems at Living with the Land, experience life as a secret agent, have a go in a hang gliding flight simulator, and have fun with a variety of interactive activities. Continue to World Showcase where you can delve into diverse world cultures, sample cuisine from across the globe, and learn more about different landscapes and traditions. Highlights include the Scandinavian-themed Frozen Ever After ride, the House of the Whispering Willows, O Canada!, the American Adventure, and Reflections of China. See African American art in the American Heritage Gallery, Moroccan gems in the Gallery of Arts and History, and traditional Mexican crafts in the Mexico Folk Art Gallery. Snap pictures with various Disney characters, including Mulan, Mary Poppins, Anna and Elsa, Jasmine, Snow White, and Minnie Mouse. Watch amazing acrobats, hear Japanese drumming, see a juggler in full swing, rock out to covers of popular British tunes, feel the pulsating energy created by a mariachi band, and much more.

 

#10 – Lake Eola Park

One of the most incredible free places to go to in Orlando

Lake Eola Park

image source: Flickr

  • Lovely lake and park
  • No admission fee
  • Leisure and relaxation
  • Weekly farmers’ market

 

Why it’s awesome: Conveniently located in downtown, Lake Eola Park is among the natural and peaceful hotspots in Orlando. Popular with locals and tourists alike, there’s no charge to enter the pretty lake park. The lake is actually a sinkhole, and a track runs around the perimeter. Various events are hosted in the park, including a weekly farmers’ market. There are several leisure and relaxation activities for visitors to enjoy and the park provides great views of the downtown skyline.

What to do there: Stoll or jog along the lakeside trail as you soak up the vistas. Alternatively, take to the waters in a charming swan boat. See the lovely fountain—be sure to return in the evening time too when the fountain is beautifully illuminated through a range of colours. Relax on the grass or on a bench and enjoy the shade of an overhanging tree. There’s plenty of space for little ones to run and play and let off steam.

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#11 – Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary, Queen of the Universe

A great place to see in Orlando if you love architecture

Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary, Queen of the Universe

image source: Flickr

  • Active place of worship
  • Religious air
  • Peaceful garden
  • Attractive architecture

 

Why it’s awesome: The serene and spiritual Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary, Queen of the Universe was built in the late 1970s to provide a place of Catholic worship for tourists visiting Orlando. While still an active place of worship, it has also become a mainstay on many people’s Orlando itinerary. As well as the main pale-coloured church building the site also has two smaller outside chapels, the Shrine Museum, the tranquil Rosary Garden, and an on-site souvenir shop.

What to do there: Enjoy the peace and quiet within the sacred building and admire the architecture and religious art. You can attend Mass to keep up with your religious practices if you like. Sit for a while in contemplation and prayer in the lovely Rosary Garden and see the religious art and artefacts from around the world displayed in the Shrine Museum. Visit the Outdoor Chapel and the shrine to see large statues of Mary and the baby Jesus.

 

#12 – Orlando Science Center

A fascinating educational place to visit in Orlando

Orlando Science Center

image source: Flickr

  • Learn more about science and technology
  • Two large cinemas
  • Interactive experiences
  • Good for people of all ages

 

Why it’s awesome: One of the best places to visit in Orlando to learn more about science, technology, and the world, Orlando Science Center is great for curious minds of all ages. It has a range of permanent exhibitions in addition to numerous temporary displays. Interactive features help visitors to really dig deeper into scientific workings and understand more. The centre hosts various events throughout the year, including the Science of Wine and Otronicon. There are two large cinemas within the centre too.

What to do there: Visit the Our Planet exhibition to discover more about life on Earth, including the biosphere, atmosphere, and hydrosphere. You can see what it would feel like to be in an earthquake or a hurricane, experience conditions inside a cloud, and learn more about weather forecasting. Travel back in time at Dino Digs, complete with replica fossils and bones, appreciate links between science and art at Fusion, and get hands-on to create your own items in the Kinetic Zone. In Nature Works, learn more about native creatures that call Florida home as well as those from other places around the world.

Don’t forget to pack a good book!

Frommer’s EasyGuide to DisneyWorld, Universal and Orlando 2019: This is our top recommendation for an awesome and inspiring read on this magical city.

 

Get insured for your trip to Orlando!

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Have fun at the best places to visit in Orlando

When it comes to days at joy-inducing theme parks, other hotspots in Orlando include Islands of Adventure and LegoLand. Get up close with diverse creatures at Animal Kingdom, SeaLife Aquarium, Safari Wilderness Ranch, Back to Nature Wildlife Refuge and Education Center, SeaWorld, and Gatorland. Prepare to be blown away by the curiosities contained within Ripley’s Believe It or Not!.

Enter the world of movies at Hollywood Studios and Universal Orlando, come face to face with all your favourite celebrities at Madame Tussauds, admire art at the Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens, ride the Orlando Eye, and learn more about the ill-fated ship at Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition.

There are plentiful museums around Orlando, great for rainy days or times when the heat outside is too much to take. They include Orlando Fire Museum, the Holocaust Memorial Resource and Education Center of Florida, Casa Feliz Historic Home Museum, Orlando Auto Museum, and the National Guitar Museum.

Beat the heat and cool down at Typhoon Lagoon and Discovery Cove, and have a thrilling adventure at Forever Florida, Orlando Tree Trek Adventure, and Boggy Creek Adventures. The upside-down WonderWorks is tons of fun for kids. Shop, dine, relax, and enjoy the diverse entertainment at Universal CityWalk and Disney Springs, and spend time in the great outdoors at Wekiwa Springs State Park.

We’re sure these best places to visit in Orlando will inspire you to visit … so, what are you waiting for?!

 

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