Updated: Jun 26
The Orlando Metropolitan Area, referred to as Greater Orlando, includes mainly Orange, Lake, Osceola, and Seminole counties. According to the 2020 U.S. Census, the population of Greater Orlando is 2,673,376, an increase of nearly 540,000 new residents between 2010 and 2020. People from all over the world are enjoying vacations in Orlando and relocating their primary or second homes to Orlando. When visit or live in Orlando, what can you do to have fun and enjoy leisure time? You can enjoy the following amazing activities as part of your adventure in Orlando.
1. Thrill in the Theme Parks
Of course, first you want to visit the theme parks. If you come to Orlando and you don’t visit at least one of the Disney parks, you may leave with great regrets in your adventure. Riding on the rocket, soaring above majestic scenes in virtual reality rides and exploring on the fast train tracks, the amazing adventures will leave a lifetime of memories. After raising your pulse rate on these spectacular rides, you may want to relax and wander in all the different country-themed attractions, enjoy some wonderful music, and have a royal dining experience. Finally, you may want to experience the wild animal kingdom in the African Safari tour. After all these, in SeaWorld you can kiss a dolphin, pet a whale, feed a shark, or soak yourself in the water roller coaster ride. Besides these, there is excitement, joy, and horror in the rides and attractions at Universal Studios Florida. All these theme parks provide royal service and luxury retreats to every adventurer and vacationer.
2. Spend Time on the Waterways
If you want to explore some of waterways in Orlando, you can ride or paddle on the Wekiva, a wild and scenic river. With a kayak, canoe, paddleboard or motorboat, you can cruise the cool green waters in the shade of granddaddy oaks past sunbathing turtles and talk with gators and some long-legged wading birds. You can bring your own watercraft or simply rent one at the site. Don’t worry about getting hungry, there are many waterfront dining sites provided for you.
Your passion for enjoying wildlife does not have to end there. You can observe manatees up close at Blue Springs State Park, and you will be amazed at how big these sea cows can grow. A shady pathway with viewing decks allows you to travel alongside the spring. Here visitors can observe the gentle giants floating in 72-degree water. When the sea mammals come up to breath, you can get a glimpse of their rotund gray bodies, flippers, and flat tails.
After spending time with these gentle giants, it may raise your heartbeat if you are beside a 10-foot-long alligator weighing 700 pounds. Be sure not touch them, you may lose your hands or life if you get too close to them. You can experience it all from a safe distance at Gatorland Park. Besides these, you can see multiple lakes riding a pontoon boat in the Winter Park Boat Tour. Listen to the boat pilot explain Winter Park and Orlando history while you explore beautiful lakes and canals and see all the fancy mansions of rich celebrities or VIPs, including some real gaudy homes and castles on the lake. You can also take an air boat ride in Osceola County or pedal a swan boat at Lake Eola. At Lake Eola you will experience the waterways as part of the urban life of Orlando, climbing on a paddleboat shaped like a big white bird and pedaling around Lake Eola, enjoying the water fountain and the real live swans in the lake. It’s a great way to relax.
If you are in the mood for a little ride, you can drive to historical downtown Clermont to experience the ancient Floridian small town and enjoy vast Apopka Lake and showcase of citrus trees. Florida’s Fresh Air Attraction is a family owned operated 2,500-acre grove cultivating over 50 varieties of citrus that began in 1989. You can experience the U-pick citrus, the Old Time Country Store, gem mining in a real sluice box or simply have a relaxing picnic. There is something for everyone at the Showcase of Citrus. Harvest season typically runs from November through May.
3. Explore Sports and Entertainment Activities
Mentioning sports, our famous Orlando Magic Basketball will bring you to the Amway Center. You can see a star like Paolo Banchero, the 2023 NBA Rookie of the Year, scoring points in the last two minutes, and wave your arms and raise your voice cheering for your favorite teams.
If you are a soccer fan, roar with the Orlando Lions professional men’s soccer team or the Orlando Pride, the women’s professional soccer team. Since Orlando’s Exploria soccer stadium debuted in 2017, enthusiastic crowds draped in purple have filled the seats to watch rousing men’s and women’s soccer games. Soccer is a worldwide sport that helps to unite the world audience together. if you are visiting Orlando, you may want to enjoy some of these soccer games. Pizzas, food trucks, and DJs add a lot of fun of the soccer experience.
Besides these professional and college sports teams, there are plenty sports activities available for children during weekdays and weekends. Baseballs is one of America’s favorite sports. In my neighborhood Baldwin Park, all kinds of sports games are hosted for the little ones. You can also ride bicycles on the many bicycle trails and parks and explore Greater Orlando.
If football is your favorite game, you can attend a University of Central Florida (UCF) football game. The UCF football team has been in the Division 1 national rankings several times over the past few years and is joining the Big 12 Conference in 2023. Experience the majesty and grandeur of the game. If you are a foreigner and never knew what an American football game looks like, it is like a bunch of buffalos are fighting on the stage. That is exactly what a football game is like. You don’t need to be a student at UCF to reap the benefits of having one of the country’s largest universities. By the way, you may want to get a tour of the campus and learn more about UCF; your children may want to be in one of those UCF students.
In the area of entertainment, UCF’s FBC Mortgage Stadium and Addition Financial Arena have hosted many concerts for some of the biggest musical stars in the country. The Amway Center has hosted big-name country stars like Luke Bryan, Thomas Rhett or Brooks & Dunn firing up the stage; and for kids, it’s no doubt Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus or Disney on Ice turning the Arena into a magical venue. The Amway Center is a modern, comfortable, and spacious venue that hosts some of the biggest touring acts.
Besides sports, UCF theatres and musical hall produce a full season of contemporary and classical plays.
4. Discovery the Treasure of Arts
Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts is a performing arts center in Downtown Orlando. It joined the Bob Carr Theater, which originally opened as the Orlando Municipal Auditorium in 1927, to become Orlando's main performance venue. The center's grand opening was held on November 6, 2014. It hosts a wide variety of concerts, touring Broadway shows and other special events. When you visit Orlando, you may want to go to see one of these shows at the Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center.
Besides exploring the Dr. Phillips Center, you can hear the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra perform. You may want to discover the Winter Park Morse Museum of Art with its hidden art treasures, including the largest collection of Tiffany-stained glass art in the world. At the museum they have rare examples of artist and designer’s jewelry, pottery and paintings, art glass, leaded-glass lamps, and windows. Tiffany art design may give you many insights and inspiration for your own artistic growth.
If you want to explore the arts and science, the Loch Haven Cultural Park will expand your knowledge and appreciation of both. The 45-acre park surrounded by lakes is the headquarters for several cultural organizations. The Orlando Shakespeare Theater and Orlando Repertory Theater will be your place to explore traditional and modern theater arts performances. The Orlando Science Center, Orlando Museum of Art, Orlando Fire Museum and Mennello Museum of American Art would be great places to spend time with your children to inspire their artistic and scientific interests. Want to dance? Harriett’s Orlando Ballet Centre offers a variety of dance classes.
If you are a movie fan, the Enzian Theater is one of Orlando coolest venues. A single screen cinema and café is home for the Florida Film Festival. For 32 years, this moviegoing celebration has turned the spotlight on award-winning films from independently made shorts to international documentaries. More than 160 films and world premieres from some 30 plus countries are shown during the 10-day festival. Hanging out with friends and family to discuss the day’s showing would be a great inspiration to your children, and someday they might become one of Hollywood’s famous actors, directors, or producers. You never know.
If you or someone of your family has artistic talent or just loves good art, don’t forget the Winter Park Art Festival. Every year the nation’s finest artists gather to display their new items. The Winter Park Art Festival is considered one of the country’s top juried fine-arts festivals. The March event draws talent in some 20 categories, from painting and sculpture to digital art, graphics, mixed media, and others. You will find the finest and most inspirational artistic works.
5. Experience Dining and Shopping
While you are on the vacation, eating and shopping may be on your agenda. On the way down to Disney, SeaWorld and Universal Studios, the International Drive area is packed with great restaurants. From seafood, to steak to vegetarian, just pick one and walk in; the food is so delicious, and they have both fine dining and more affordable options. If you want to taste some exotic Asian food, the State Road 50/Colonial Drive area close to downtown is a great place to experience some Vietnam noodles, Chinese dim sum, Japanese sushi, and Korean barbeque. Orlando’s upscale shopping destinations, such as the Mall at Millenia and Florida Mall provide great shopping and dining experience for locals and tourists. One end of the Millenia Mall is anchored by Macy’s and more mainstream stores and the other end is home to Bloomingdale’s, Neiman Marcus, and A-list designer boutiques, such as Bulgari and Tiffany & Co.
Other great places for shopping and dining are Park Avenue in Winter Park and Winter Park Village. Park Avenue and Winter Park Village have tons of great stores and restaurants for shopping and dining. If you are a shopping fan, you can stay there all day along. Tourists also enjoy shopping in Orlando and pack their suitcases full before they go home.
6. Celebrate the Holidays
Orlando is the holiday heaven. If you want to have a memorable holiday season, Orlando would be a great destination. The theme parks have special holiday music and shows with Christmas decorations throughout November and December. All kinds of events and performances celebrate the holiday season and joy in these theme parks. A hometown event, Orlando’s annual tree lighting celebration in downtown’s Lake Eola Park is a festive way to kick off your holiday season with friends and family. Mayor Buddy Dyer flicks the switch starting the illuminated show of lights and music synced with the Lake’s fountain, and the crowd applauds and celebrates the season. At the park’s amphitheater, song and dance set the mood, plus you can shop at the holiday market and meet Santa and Mrs. Claus. You can also celebrate by grabbing a bite at the Audobon Park East End Market.
This local neighborhood food hub of culinary creativity is where local food artisans tempt you with their goodies. From a cup of hot coffee to baked treats and some fancy meats and yummy chocolates. You will find plenty goodies and sweets to enjoy. Finally, if you like to have a taste of southern food, don’t forget the Coop in Winter Park. They have home fried chicken, yummy shrimp and grits and other southern treats. After your belly is full of yummy food, you may want to stroll the winding pathways in the Leu Gardens and discover all the various gardens and exotic plants and photographic arts.
Last not least, you may want to experience the best event of the Citrus Bowl on the New Year’s Day. Orlando has hosted one or more collegiate bowl games during the holidays since 1947 and frequently welcomes top teams from the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten and Southeastern conferences. Pep rallies and fan fests add to the excitement before game day. Camping World Stadium is packed with fans cheering and wild noise. The holiday celebrations reach their peak at the end of the year.
In every season you will always find interesting and enjoyable things to enhance your adventure in the Great Orlando area, whether it lasts for a few weeks or for a lifetime.
Note: Some ideas adopted from Patricia Letakis