Home » 6 AMAZING Things You Can Do Outside the Disney Bubble in Orlando

6 AMAZING Things You Can Do Outside the Disney Bubble in Orlando

Orlando Eye at Night with Motion Blur

No ticket? No problem.

Orlando isn’t just a city of theme parks. Yes, the area is best known for Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, Sea World, and its myriad water parks, but there’s far more to The City Beautiful than just thrill rides and sprawling resorts. Whether you want to fill a no-theme-parks day on an upcoming vacation or you’re just looking for something new to enjoy your next visit, you won’t want to miss these six Orlando experiences that don’t require a pricey theme park admission. Have you experienced all of them?

1. The Coca-Cola Orlando Eye

Orlando Eye at Night with Motion Blur

Image: HerdiePhoto, Flickr (license)

Orlando is a city with universal appeal both to thrill seekers and gentle spirits. Generally, the attractions preferred by these two demographics are mutually exclusive. The Coca-Cola Orlando Eye defies stereotype by perfectly appealing to both.

Similar to its London counterpart, The Orlando Eye is a massive 400-foot-tall ferris wheel. This prospect alone would cause most to lump the Eye in with thrill rides, but what makes it truly unique is its perfectly smooth movement. While some guests have reported slight swaying, the eye’s compartments are designed to stay well balanced, so even visitors with apprehensions about heights can find delight in the Eye’s unmatchable 360 degree sweeping views of Orlando. Each car comes equipped with iPads for users to explore all Orlando has to offer, and champagne packages are available for couples with love in mind. To top it off, The Orlando Eye is surrounded by a rich range of shops and restaurants to enjoy before and after your journey.

2. Medieval Times

Knight on black horse surrounded by fog at Medieval Times

Image: Boris Kasimov, Flickr (license)

Clashing swords. Majestic steeds. Flowing ale and fresh meat on the bone. If you have never experienced the revelry that is Medieval Times, you have seriously been missing out.

Medieval Times is probably one of Orlando’s most beloved dinner theater experiences, a magnificent recreation of a historic tournament where knights compete in challenges of horsemanship, swordfighting, and jousting while audiences partake in a sumptuous feast. Don’t expect any silverware here (unless you ask for it—BAH). The entire meal is designed to be noshed with your fingers, and the food is fit for a king (for those with special diets, the vegetarian spread is especially good!). Each family is assigned to a particular knight, and raucous cheering and booing for your favored hero or villain is encouraged. In between tests of combat, guests get enjoy exhibitions of horse training, falconry, the fantastical, and ladies young and old can holler for the opportunity to be chosen for a knight’s favor. You may even become the evening’s Queen of Love and Beauty!

Already experienced Medieval Times? As of 2017, veterans of the court can enjoy an all new show where for the first time, the castle is under the rule of a queen!

3. Orlando’s Escape Games

Library in Heist Escape Room

Image: The Escape Game

Escape games might be the most addicting attraction in all of Orlando. We’ve written about the city’s outstanding escape room experiences before, and we are positively hooked. For those unfamiliar, an escape room is like a living video game. Similar to old point-and-click adventure games, participants are given one hour to escape a locked room using props and complex puzzles hidden throughout the space. For those skeptical, don’t worry—there’s always a way to get out in an emergency. All of Orlando’s escape rooms surround rich themes and stories. In one, you might be searching for an old prospector’s lost gold. In another, you’re the last hope to solve an unsolvable murder. For those with a taste for the macabre, you might find yourself escaping a serial killer’s dungeon or a zombie horde. The possibilities are endless, and Orlando has an escape game for everyone. Your success or failure depends entirely on your wits and ability to work with teammates, whether friends or strangers.

Our favorite location so far is The Escape Game Orlando where guests can take a mission to Mars, foil a terrorist plot, or perform a miraculous prison escape. At Lockbusters, participants can hunt for pirate gold, escape a crashed chopper, or survive a haunted house. Escapology offers an impressive variety of adventures including a submarine escape, an Orient Express style train murder, and a South American cartel escape. Sherlock Holmes fans will love The Great Escape Room Orlando while action movie fans will revel in the mummy’s tomb and White House crisis adventures at America’s Escape Game. Other games to try include Mindquest, The Escape Effect, The Escape Company, and Breakout. If you’ve never tried this insanely fun activity, don’t miss out!

4. Shopping, Shopping, Shopping

The Mall at Millenia

Image: Inazakira, Flickr (license)

It’s not particularly shocking that Orlando is a shopaholic’s paradise. Theme park visitors will likely be familiar with Disney Springs and Universal’s CityWalk, but many Orlando visitors are unaware of the wide range of shopping experiences available throughout the city.

For traditional shopping amped up to gargantuan proportions, look no further than the Mall at Millenia. With over 150 stores in the mall proper and plenty more within walking distance, visitors who appreciate luxury and high-end fashion will find shopping for days. Families looking for something more down to earth will love Florida Mall, home to Carlo’s Bakery, the Crayola Experience, and a whopping 270 stores!

Looking to score a deal on your next trip? Orlando is home to something around a half dozen outlet malls with stores of every variety and tons of dining opportunities (including some awesome food trucks!). Disney fans can also visit the city’s character outlet stores to get unique deals on theme park merchandise.

5. Ripley’s Believe It or Not and Wonderworks

Girl on Ropes Course at Wonderworks

Image: Wonderworks Orlando

Fascinatingly, Orlando is home to not just one but two lopsided museums. The first, Ripley’s Believe It or Not, is likely a familiar name to frequent vacationers thanks to their long history and nationwide presence. Orlando’s “Odditorium” is a whopping 10,000 square feet with over 600 bizarre exhibits. Guests can get lost for hours exploring mind-bending optical illusions, stunning wax figures, and much more celebrating the bizarre and unusual.

Less familiar than Ripley’s but just as interesting is Orlando’s upside-down marvel, Wonderworks. Part science museum, part fun center, Wonderworks has taken many of the concepts once exemplified by Disney’s Epcot and breathed fresh life into them to dazzle kids of the digital era. The “Wonderzones” take the subjects of natural phenomenon, physics, light and sound, space discovery, art, and the imagination and display them in stunning form with over 100 hands-on exhibits that will leave both kids and adults gaping. Your kid doesn’t have to be a bookworm to enjoy Wonderworks. The museum also includes an impressive indoor ropes course, a laser tag arena, and a 4D motion theater.

6. Kennedy Space Center

Apollo and Saturn V Center at Kennedy Space Center

Image: Kennedy Space Center

While it isn’t technically an Orlando attraction, we would be remiss if we didn’t mention the motherlode of all experiences for space exploration fans—Cape Canaveral’s Kennedy Space Center. Located one hour away from Walt Disney World, Kennedy Space Center is just close enough to Orlando for visitors with a rental car or access to a shuttle to make a point not to miss. You could easily spend an entire day (or more) exploring the center’s sprawling exhibits and attractions. Visitors can tour the center’s rocket garden, historical exhibits, enjoy a must-see IMAX film, participate in a guided behind-the-gates bus tour of the campus, and even blast off in The Shuttle Launch Experience. Guests regularly report that their visit far exceeded their expectations, and die hard space fans will find dozens of extra tours and experiences to enjoy during their visit. You can even dine with a real astronaut!

What is your favorite non-theme park experience in Orlando?