Top 10 Non-Park Attractions of Orlando

Shortlists , Expert View Column
Top 10 Non-Park Attractions of Orlando
By ATD’s Florida experts Susan & Simon Veness
As much as we love Orlando’s great array of wonderful theme parks, we always recommend people don’t focus purely on Disney, Universal and SeaWorld for their holiday fix. Not only will you enjoy a nice change of pace, you’ll actually get to see something of the real Florida, and appreciate just how much the Sunshine State has to offer.

With that in mind, we have put together a Top 10, in no particular order, of the alternative attractions hereabouts, all of which are well worth trying whether it is your first visit to the area or your 21st.

iFLY Orlando

ifly Orlando

Set in the unmistakable blue tower on International Drive, this is a chance to experience ‘indoor sky-diving’ in a practical, fun and rather addictive way, learning the techniques of free-fall parachuting without the inconvenience of having to go up in a plane!

It is suitable for most children and is particularly attractive for teens and young adults, as you get suited up and learn the proper techniques for ‘flying’ on a column of air. There is a full instruction lesson then a series of one-minute sessions in their vertical wind tunnel. And the best thing? You can check it all out for free or just go in to watch.

Orlando Tree Trek

For those who like to challenge themselves in a physically demanding setting, this new ropes and aerial course in Kissimmee is a must-try for a truly rewarding and enjoyable couple of hours.

Brand new this year, it features a series of rope climbs, ziplines, obstacles and bridges all set among the treetops of a charming rural area just south of Highway 192. There are two kid-sized courses and four for those 12 and older, getting increasingly complex along the way. It all finishes with two giant ziplines for maximum fun and is sure to tick all the boxes for those who like to be more active on holiday.

Richard Petty Driving Experience

This is the fastest adventure on four wheels as the Daytona International Speedway (less than an hour from Orlando) offers this magnificent chance to feel the speed of NASCAR Racing, or what the Americans call stock cars.

You can try this as a passenger or driver and there are various different experiences from Rookie to Advanced, all of which provide the true thrill of going flat out on the 2.5-mile tri-oval circuit that is famous for the annual Daytona 500 race. It is a bit like flying at ground level and the speeds – at up to 150mph – are absolutely mind-blowing.

Fishing Adventures

OK, this is distinctly more sedate but is another key Floridian experience, as the state features a terrific variety of angling opportunities, from the lakes of Seminole and Osceola County, to the shallow waters of the Intracoastal Waterway and all the way up to deep-sea big-game fishing.

Bass fishing is among the best in the world here and the lake opportunities around Kissimmee are home to several dozen operators who all offer the chance to land ‘the big one.’ We especially enjoy the flats fishing for redfish, trout, black drum and snook along the Indian River, Mosquito Lagoon and Banana River from Port Canaveral down to Melbourne.

Try deep-sea fishing or Trophy Bass Fishing with ATD!

Island Boat Lines

Staying with the more relaxed vibe, we adore this nature boat cruise among the Thousand Islands of the Intracoastal Waterway at Cocoa Beach, which provides a great look at the wildlife and birdlife of the area in a two-hour, fully-narrated tour that appeals to children and grown-ups alike.

Setting out from their dock at the Sunset Waterfront Grill & Bar on Cocoa Beach Causeway, the pontoon boats cruise serenely through the myriad islands and mangrove areas of this unique waterway, spotting dolphins, manatees, eagles and ospreys along the way in great comfort. The Eco-tours leave daily at 10am and 2pm (2pm only on Sundays).

Forever Florida

Known for its excellent horse riding opportunities in the wilds of Florida, this family-run business in Saint Cloud is perfect for adventure-seekers. Horse riding is their stock in trade, with a 1.5 hour trek through pristine landscapes, and wildlife sightings are possible (look for deer, armadillo, hawks, eagles, and gators). Serious riders can try the 2 hour Rawhide Roundup, and non-riders will enjoy the gentle nature-and-wildlife Wild Coach Adventure aboard a big-wheel truck.  

Thrill seekers must not miss the Adventure Park’s Thrill Pack Adventure, featuring Peregrine Plunge, Florida’s longest zip-line; Rattlesnake Zipline Roller Coaster; and Panther Pounce free-fall challenge. Cypress Restaurant serves up country cookin’ at breakfast and lunch, and there is a gift shop with local crafts, books, and outdoorsy home accents.

Revolution Off Road

ATV

It’s all about power machines at this British-owned venture, where ATV tracks cris-cross 230 acres of sandy, muddy, swampy land in Clermont, and teens who are past the ‘Disney magic’ are completely in their element. Guided ATV experiences last 3 hours, and include training on the 4-wheelers, plus a break (bring water and a snack!). Mucky Duck amphibious off-road jeeps and 2-seater Can AM Commander X series Buggies are a huge hit with adrenalin addicts. Fishing and Archery are also available. Expect to get dirty (possibly very dirty, depending on weather), and expect to return for another go next time you’re in Orlando!  

Kayaking

Kayaking

One of the most enjoyable means of getting into the heart of Florida’s wilderness is on a kayak tour, and Orlando area has several, some guided, some on your own. The Paddling Center in Kissimmee is the newest player, conveniently located on Shingle Creek, just off of Highway 192. With a light current, paddlers are mildly challenged, but a peaceful glide through the cypress trees is ample reward for a little bit of effort, with the added bonus of working off that massive dessert you had the night before.

Further afield are Sweetwater Kayaks at Weeden Island Preserve in St. Petersburg and Adventures in Florida kayaking on the pretty Wekiva River in Geneva. Visiting during June-early October? Don’t miss A Day Away’s bioluminescent night-time kayaking experience at Merritt Island. Spectacular!

Boggy Creek Airboats

If you’re visiting Florida, it’s almost compulsory that you add an airboat ride to your itinerary. They’re fast, they’re thrilling, and there’s nothing like seeing gators up-close from the safety of your boat. Family-run Boggy Creek Airboats operate out of two locations: Southport Park just off Poinciana Road in Kissimmee and East Lake just off Big Bass Road in Kissimmee. Each offer a different experience, and East Lake is ideal for going-home day, as it is just 10 minutes from Orlando International Airport.

Daytime tours of 30, 45, and 60 minutes are available, and the Sunset Tour and Nighttime Tours are not to be missed, especially if you’ve already done a daytime tour.

Segway Tours

Once upon a time visitors to Walt Disney World saw Cast Members zipping around on 2-wheeled contraptions and dreamed of a day they could join in the fun. Now, Segway tours are everywhere. ZE Tours on Highway 192 in Kissimmee is ideally situated for tours around the pretty Disney-inspired town of Celebration, with a guide knowledgeable in the history and fun-facts of the area. You may even see gators, but the real attraction is the ride itself.

Segway of Central Florida in Mount Dora, All About Fun in St. Pete/Clearwater, and Space Coast Segway Tours near Kennedy Space Center in Port Canaveral all offer tours, and we’d be hard pressed to choose a favorite. They’re all worth doing and, if you’re like us, you’ll be hopelessly addicted after your first ride. And don’t worry if, when your tour ends, your legs suddenly feel very heavy and you resent having to walk again. It happens to us all.

Have questions about non-park attractions? Join us on ATD’s discussion forums! 

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Shortlists , Expert View Column