Orlando is one of the most popular destinations for Georgians. The “Theme Park Capital of the World” annually hosts more than 60 million visitors; many of those coming south on I-75 from the Peach State.
It’s hard to talk about Orlando without mentioning Disney, Universal and SeaWorld, but whether you are in town for a convention, family vacation or just looking for little R&R, you don’t have visit the theme parks to have a good time or experience the magic of Central Florida.
1. Wild Florida
The Everglades start here! Wild Florida Airboats and Gator Park is more than just an airboat tour. They have ranch buggy tours, a Gator and Wildlife Park, the Chomp House Grill, and more ferocious fun in the Middle of Nowhere! No more than a 45 minute drive from Orlando’s major theme parks. Experience the Florida that hasn’t changed much from when early pioneers arrived in covered wagons in the 1800s. Book an excursion aboard a U.S. Coast Guard certified airboat and catch a glimpse of alligators, eagles, turkeys, wild boars, roseate spoonbills, and other native creatures. After you disembark the airboat, walk through the adjacent Gator and Wildlife Park where you can see lemurs, sloths, zebras, and other animals native to South America, Africa, and Australia. Want to take a trip back in time to one of the first cattle operations in Central Florida? Hop aboard the ranch buggy tour for a look at a working cattle operation that can trace its roots to the 1850s. On the web at www.wildfloridaairboats.com.
2. Coca-Cola Orlando Eye
The Coca-Cola Orlando Eye is the tallest observational wheel on the United States’ East Coast.
You’ll be escorted onto one of the 30 passenger capsules that feature Bose audio systems for music/narration, air-conditioning and interactive tablets that allow passengers to search for information on the Eye’s 360-degree views. The views are stunning from 400 feet above the city, especially as day turns to night. It’s a 30 minute ride, including the pre-ride 4D Cinema Experience. The Orlando Eye is wheelchair accessible and located conveniently right on International Drive with www.OfficialOrlandoEye.com serving as the website.
3. Screamin’ Gator Zip Line at Gatorland
Zip lines are all the rage across the country and Orlando is no exception. Go on an adventure with the all-new Screamin’ Gator Zip Line at Gatorland. The journey will take you along 1,700 feet of high flying, heart pounding adventure from some of the most well placed zip line towers in the world. Standing over seven stories tall, these amazing towers feature multilevel launch pads and breathtaking views from high above the treetops. Soar through the air and defy gravity over some of the theme park’s star attractions – including Cuban and Nile crocodiles. All part of the Gatorland experience at www.gatorland.com.
4. Sleuths Mystery Dinner Shows
Walk into the world of comedy, mystery and intrigue at Sleuths Mystery Dinner Shows. Laugh and mingle with unusual characters…the action is fast and the fun is contagious as you become the detective and solve the crime through a live interrogation. The actors are very talented and the food is good. Fill up on hors d’oeuvres, salad, choice of entree, dessert and unlimited beer, wine and soft drinks. Prizes are given out if you solve the mystery, watch out, you might be chosen for a cameo role! Experience different shows every night of the week at www.sleuths.com.
5. Giraffe Ranch
Since you can only watch a giraffe on the internet for so long, why not head a little outside of Orlando to the Giraffe Ranch? At Giraffe Ranch in Dade City, you’ll experience first hand, the lives of giraffe and other species from around the world living under huge live oaks and open grasslands in a setting that is right out of Africa. Giraffe Ranch is not a zoo or theme park. It is a hands-on real working game farm and wildlife preserve where animals have room to roam. There are no crowds and no lines. Here you will enjoy a natural adventure! Our knowledgeable and experienced guides will tour you through the ranch and introduce you to zebra, ostrich, warthog, pygmy hippopotamus, rhinoceros, and large herds of deer and antelope. Go on a real safari and experience Giraffes up close and personal. See more at www.girafferanch.com.
6. USTA National Campus
Come and play tennis at the “Headquarters of American Tennis.” The newly opened, USTA National Campus, offers 100 tennis courts spread across 64 acres. The USTA National Campus offers unparalleled playing, training and educational experiences for recreational players, competitive players, coaches and spectators. Tennis enthusiasts will love the National Campus. Book your courts at www.ustanationalcampus.com.
7. The Outta Control Magic Comedy Dinner Show
Combining family-friendly comedy with sleight of hand magic and unlimited pizza, The Outta Control Magic Comedy Dinner Show is one of the best values in Orlando. At only $24.99 for adults, $19.99 for kids (ages 4-12) and Seniors, guests receive table side service with unlimited, fresh, hand-tossed cheese and pepperoni pizza, salad and unlimited beer, wine, soda and dessert. Comedian, Tony Brent, entertains six days per week and a guest comedian works the seventh. The Show is in the WonderWorks complex, which is worth a tour before or after your dinner. Make your reservations at www.wonderworksonline.com.
8. Chocolate Kingdom – Interactive Factory Adventure Tour
Located near the Convention Center, Chocolate Kingdom is a chocolate lover’s paradise. See how chocolate transforms from the bean into the creamy, dreamy chocolate bar we all enjoy. Visitors will see the Chocolate Museum, a Mystical River of Chocolate and learn how old world machinery can make personalized chocolate bars. Tours begin at 11am each day, so visit: www.chocolatekingdom.com.
9. Mission Inn Resort & Club
Get out of Orlando for the day and head to Mission Inn, located in beautiful Howey-in-the-Hills, Fla. Enjoy the vistas along winding hiking paths, lounge poolside, try bass fishing, play tennis and volleyball, or even give trap and skeet shooting a try. That’s all in addition to championship golf on Mission Inn’s two award winning courses El Campeón and Las Colinas which both provide challenge and interesting layouts. Two of the best courses you’ll find anywhere at relaxing Mission Inn Resort & Club. More at www.missioninnresort.com.
10. Fantasia Gardens Miniature Golf
Since Disney’s Fantasia Gardens Miniature Golf isn’t technically located in a theme park, we can put it on the list. Warning, the courses at Fantasia Gardens are for skilled and experienced putt-putt players. Players get the choice of two different 18-hole courses consisting of par 3, par 4 and a par 5 hole measuring over 110 feet long. There are hazards to contend with and greens with slopes that will challenge even the best putters. Fantasia Gardens is open until 11pm, see all the info here: https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/recreation/fantasia-gardens-fairways-miniature-golf/.
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