Orlando’s Top 10 Non-Theme Park Attractions

Orlando , Expert View Column
By AttractionTickets.com’s Florida Experts, Susan and Simon Veness
There’s definitely more to Orlando than just its theme parks, as good as they are. Here are 10 other attractions that are well worth a visit.

One of the best things about living in Central Florida is that we get to explore the full range of what this part of the Sunshine State has to offer, from all the man-made excitement to the myriad of natural places in and around Orlando.


In fact, our job is a bit like Captain Kirk’s. Our year-round mission: to explore strange new places; to seek out new attractions and new experiences; to boldly go where no tourist has gone before!


OK, that might be a slight exaggeration, but you get the drift. There is a lot more to Orlando than just Disney, Universal and SeaWorld, and we love to discover the offbeat gems and smaller attractions that live in the shadow of the theme parks.


We have certainly highlighted a lot of them in the past, places like the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive, Altamonte Springs and Winter Garden. But we have never come up with a definitive list of the alternative attractions that really appeal to us and which are well worth highlighting for our visitors.


So, with no further ado, here is our Top 10 of those smaller-scale but still thoroughly enjoyable experiences that will help to round out YOUR visit to Orlando.


A man and a women feeding a giraffe at Central Florida Zoo


10. Central Florida Zoo: Tucked away just to the north of Orlando in Seminole County, close to the charming city of Sanford, the origins of the Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens date back to 1923 but it has become a genuine local star in recent years. Its 106-acre site features more than 350 animals from 100 species, and its wonderful family-friendly style is now bolstered by periodic festivals and extra entertainment, like the Hippity Hop Easter Adventure (for the children) and Brews Around the Zoo (for the grown-ups!)


Glamping huts at Westgate River Ranch


9. Westgate River Ranch: When you want to get a flavour of Florida’s long-standing history as cattle and cowboy territory, head to this action-packed venue in the open countryside to the south of Kissimmee. Here, along with opportunities to take airboat and horse rides, sample the cowboy adventure park, try archery or skeet shooting, is the Saturday Night Rodeo and country charm of the River Ranch Saloon, offering genuine cowboy heritage and hospitality, along with luxury camping.


Guests experiencing Orlando Tree Trek


8. Orlando Tree Trek: Outdoor adventure courses don’t get much more challenging – and downright fun – than the Tree Trek, a thrilling tree-top obstacle course and zipline extravaganza set in a wooded area of Kissimmee just off Highway 192. It has courses for all abilities, featuring 97 aerial challenges and a massive 425-foot zipline, and offering adventures for all the family, with features like its Tarzan Swing, suspended bridges and hanging nets.


guest in kayak's paddling through river


7. The Paddling Center at Shingle Creek: If you want to get into the heart of the REAL Florida, there’s no better way in this area than the Paddling Center, right off Highway 192 in Kissimmee. Rent a kayak, paddleboard or canoe, and you will be off on an adventure through the native, pristine cypress forest that used to cover much of the state. It’s peaceful, absorbing and fun, and it is amazing to discover such an untouched gem so close to the main attractions.


6. Pioneer Village: This permanent collection of authentic 19th century buildings and experiences provides a fascinating window onto Central Florida’s yesteryear, and how the original pioneers lived and worked. From the general store and post office to the Seminole settlement and cow camp, the Village provides a first-hand account of Kissimmee history and culture.


Showcase of Citrus


5. Showcase of Citrus: For more insight – and enjoyment – of the area’s history and heritage, this fun roadside venue on Highway 27 in Clermont is something of a locals’ secret, a real outdoor adventure in what used to be the major agricultural activity. This family-owned 2,500-acre estate now offers fresh fruit picking, monster truck tours, farm animals, gem mining and an old time country store and bar that provides classic old-time rural charm.


Morse Museum from corner of Canton and Park


4. Morse Museum of American Art: Orlando boasts its fair share of fab museums and artworks, but our favourite is this superb gem in the heart of Winter Park. It features 19th and early 20th century paintings, graphics and decorative art, but is best known for the world’s foremost collection of work by jeweller-artist Louis Comfort Tiffany, notably his Chapel from the 1893 World Expo in Chicago. It is also just a short stroll from all the great cafes and restaurants along Park Avenue!


Wild Florida gators


3. Wild Florida: When you need to get out into the open countryside, experience the thrill of an airboat ride, and go on safari, this is the place for you. Just 22 miles south of Kissimmee on unspoiled Cypress Lake, Wild Florida has stacks of local charm and excitement with its signature airboats, as well as its own Gator Park (with more than just alligators!). The Drive-Thru Safari Park is a unique element featuring 150 native and exotic animals in a genuine safari setting.




2. Revolution Adventures: Combine native, wild Florida with ATV tours, amphibious Mucky Ducks, off-road buggies and jet-skis with archery, clay shooting and fishing, and you have Revolution Adventures, a fabulous exercise in outdoor excitement. Their four-wheeled quad bikes (ATVs) are their stock in trade, but there is an adventure for everyone in this action-packed venue out in rural Lake County.


Wekiva Island


1. Wekiva Island: Technically, Wekiva Island is simply somewhere to rent kayaks and canoes along the pristine Wekiva River, but it is WAY more than that. This is an all-day hang-out in a beautiful riverside setting, with an art gallery, its own bar and general store, a resident food truck and private cabanas for the ultimate in lounging luxury. It also has a beach volleyball court, firepit and boardwalk. And then you can rent canoes, kayaks and paddleboards to go and explore the river and its gorgeous surroundings. There are also special events and live music Friday and Saturday. It is hugely popular with locals but we think it might just catch on with our visitors, too. You’ll find it in suburban Longwood, just north-west of the city of Orlando, and it’s well worth the trip.


And there are more offbeat attractions, of course. You just need to get out and explore!

Do you have a favourite non-theme park attraction in Orlando? Tell us about it on the friendly AttractionTickets.com Community Facebook page, on Twitter or Instagram.

Orlando , Expert View Column