According to VisitOrlando (the official source for Orlando news & information), there were nearly 60 million visitors in 2013 to the Orlando Region. My unofficial guess is that 99.9% are aware that Disney World and Universal Orlando are top attractions for tourists, and from experience, few partake in tourist gems outside of the major theme parks.
Here are the top 10 things to do in the Orlando area that are NOT theme parks:
1. Natural Springs – The Floridan aquifer is expansive, mysterious, and great for explorers. Springs bubble up and present a beautiful, clear natural pool which us land dwellers can enjoy for swimming, diving, nature watching and much more. Here are two Central Florida Springs: Wekiwa Springs and Blue Spring State Park
2. Richard Petty Driving Experience – OK, technically this is on Walt Disney World® property, but I wouldn’t categorize the Speedway as a theme park. Ride along in a 600HP NASCAR race car, or drive your own at speeds up to 120 MPH on a 1 mile tri-oval. Thrilling!
3. Sky Dive – If 120 MPH on a track is not fast enough for you, take your thrills to new heights. Sky Dive Space Center (near the space shuttle launch pad), boasts ‘the world’s highest jumps with the world’s best views’! Everyone should try this at least once. What bucket list is complete without it?
4. iFly Indoor Skydiving – So you don’t want to jump out of a perfectly good airplane? Try indoor skydiving that creates true free fall conditions in a safe, yet adrenaline-filled environment.
5. Airboat Ride – Discover territory that remains unaltered by man in the wilderness that is the Central Florida Everglades. The exciting air boat ride is filled with wildlife (do you like alligators?) and natural beauty that will make you forget that this place has seen nearly 60 million visitors!
6. Winter Park Scenic Boat Tour – At a far more leisurely pace, glide along a guided 18-passenger pontoon boat through tranquil channels of three chains of lakes along opulent and historic homes in upscale Winter Park, Florida. With admission for only $12.00, you can’t go wrong.
7. Spa at Bella Collina – Quite possibly the most beautiful building you’ll ever step inside! The Spa at Bella Collina offers a retreat from the stresses of the world, which is perfect after 18 holes of Nick Faldo’s course design at the foot of the Bella Collina clubhouse!
8. Leu Gardens – Explore an amazing 50-acre botanical oasis, just minutes from Downtown Orlando. Bring an extra memory card for your camera because you’ll feel like a world-class photographer, with thousands of species at your disposal.
9. St. Augustine Day Trip – The nation’s oldest city is also one of the most charming. In under a two hour drive from Orlando, you’ll be delighted by cobblestone streets, wetlands and beaches, and the must-see Castillo de San Marcos.
10. Ron Jon Surf School – Learn the exhilarating sport of surfing with the help of world-class instructors. Located one hour east of Orlando, this famous store and surf school known for its YouTube videos, are a sure way to up your cool factor!
Of course, there are more amazing things to do in Orlando, and here are some “first-cousin” to theme park attractions that must be experienced:
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