We know you’ve probably come to Orlando to meet Mickey and Minnie, but after a few days of nonstop theme park action, you might want a break from all the spinning, twirling, beeping and pinging you’ll find there. Fortunately, there are plenty of fantastic, non-touristy, things to see and do in Orlando if you know where to look. Check out these authentic, and inexpensive, hidden gems.
1. Unplug at Wekiwa Springs State Park
Just 20 minutes from downtown Orlando, this lush green park is the perfect spot to unplug and relax. Along with a sparkling natural spring, you’ll find great swimming and snorkeling, as well as canoeing and kayaking. Rent a boat to paddle down one of Florida’s last remaining wild rivers and set sail for relaxation.
2. Shop and dine in Winter Park
As one of the most scenic downtown areas in all of Central Florida, Winter Park’s main street, Park Avenue, offers options for food and wine aficionados, fashionistas, and kids of all ages. Browse stores ranging from Rocket Fizz (cult-favorite candies and sodas) to mall staples such as Pottery Barn (housed in the 1930s-era Colony Theater). Farm-to-table dining destination The Ravenous Pig is a short hop from Main Street, along with its two offshoots – Cask & Larder and Swine & Sons, a source for gourmet picnic fixings. Don’t miss Winter Park’s Scenic Boat Tour showcasing small, interconnected lakes and the historic mansions that face them. It’s a lovely way to spend an afternoon, and a bargain to boot.
3. Root for the (away from) home team at spring training
Orlando’s year-round sunshine makes it a destination for baseball teams prepping for their seasons, starting as early as February and continuing through early April. These off-season match-ups allow fans go get close up, secure inexpensive seats, and even meet a player or two after the game. Two teams to catch in the “Grapefruit Leagues” are the Detroit Tigers, who practice in Lakeland, and the Houston Astros, who have called Kissimmee their winter home since 1985.
4. Meet the mediums at Cassadaga
For more than 120 years, spiritualists, psychics, and mediums have called this secluded spot, now on the National Register of Historic Places, home. Take a guided tour of the leafy green “camp,” or make an appointment for a tarot card reading or séances. Make contact with long lost spirits, and you might find that to be a thrill bigger than any roller coaster. You’ll find Cassadaga north of Sanford, about a 45-minute drive from downtown Orlando.
5. See old Florida at Gatorland
Step back into history at Gatorland, presenting its live alligator shows in this spot since 1949. Your visit includes a chance to see alligators in their natural habitats on 110 acres, plus tamer attractions like the bird aviary. It’s sure to be a family hit, and the safest way to see the big teeth of one of the area’s oldest residents.
6. Catch a concert at Venue 578
When you’re ready to cut loose, catch a live music act at this multi-story, indoor-outdoor venue, formerly known as Firestone Live. Offerings range from the Indigo Girls to Snoop Dogg, and there’s a regular Sunday party with drink specials, circus acts, vendors and live music. (Note: 18 and up for entertainment; 21 to drink)
Book your adventure today and stay in an IHG® hotel in Orlando.