You might be wondering why Disney World isn't #1 in this attractions list for Orlando. First of all, Lake Eola Park is a great way to see the "real" Orlando- it's located in the middle of downtown where tourists and locals alike gather for everyday activities, and it's free! There's a fantastic Sunday farmers' market, and it's the perfect venue for a romantic stroll, a play date with the kids, an afternoon jog in the sun, or a fun swan-feeding experience. Go for a ride in one of the swan boats and circle the majestic fountain in Lake Eola's center. Enjoy the sunset on the lake and the art sculptures spattered throughout the park, then head to one of the many restaurants conveniently located close to the park.
It's difficult to mention Orlando without also mentioning Walt Disney World. There's a reason so many flock to the area for their vacations: with the diversity in entertainment available to all who enter the grounds, who wouldn't want to spend a day here? Universal Studios Orlando offers the newer attraction being The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (whether you've read the books or not you will be in awe), and if the fictional fun isn't for you, there are always the roller coasters in Universal's Islands of Adventure!
See the center that has been the place of launch for every single manned space flight from the U.S. since 1968! Clear away an afternoon to explore it; it's free and has something for everyone. There's an early space exploration exhibit as well as a rock garden and multiple tours of areas such as the Launch Control Center.
Literally and figuratively Discovery Cove is an oasis. Relax on a float down the waters of the lazy river and admire the waterfalls and the tropical landscape. Snorkeling is the best way to appreciate the lovely fish here, and doing the dolphin swim is a MUST before exiting the cove. Birds will fly to you and even land on you in the tropical bird section if you have food for them. The ticket price at first glance seems hefty, but it includes a complimentary breakfast at the park, as well as open tickets to Aquatica and Busch Gardens.
Dining and shopping is the name of the game at Thornton Park. This park is part of what makes up the true "downtown Orlando." Hit the shops and rest at one of the many popular restaurants available. One of the most stylish-looking districts with its brick-lined streets, you can be sure to find great photo opportunities as well as a relieving break from the hustle of the city, even though you're practically in the center of downtown. Take a walk through the residential neighborhood and see the charming houses built Florida "cracker style" (wrap around front porches).
With Jiminy Cricket as a host, you know this event is sure to please. Let all your favorite Disney characters tell you a spectacular tale as you sit in anticipation of the fireworks show to come. The owner description says that "this is a story so big that only the sky can hold it," and perhaps this is true, as Wishes Fireworks is the biggest fireworks event in the entire Magic Kingdom theme park.
Perhaps not the main attraction but a reason in itself to go, the unlimited pizza, salad, drinks, popcorn, and desserts are more than enough reason to try out this dinner show! The comedy is just the reason to stay. Laugh your night away at the impersonations and improvisations, and "oooh" and "ahhhh" along with the crowd at the magic tricks. This show's atmosphere has the ability to give you one of your most memorable nights in Orlando. Book tickets in advance though, as reservations fill up quickly!
See the Orlando area in a way you'll never have the chance to experience otherwise! Bob's hot air balloons are the ticket to a sunrise experience you will remember forever. The wildlife and scenery able to be seen from the balloon are one-of-a-kind and the staff will almost always fly wherever you wish.
Originally opened in 1949, this theme park was started as a small-time roadside attraction. Nowadays, it is a 110-acre habitat home to alligators, snakes, crocodiles, and other exotic wildlife that you don't see in the Midwest! Catch a gator wrestling match or a train ride through the swamp. If the ground isn't interesting enough for you, there's a zip line that offers a great aerial view of the park. Gatorland has the world's largest collection of white alligators and is a great place to get educated about the beautiful and oftentimes misunderstood reptiles.
This area is primarily residential- but don't be put off by that initial description! The Lake Cherokee District has over 160 historical structures and some of the best historical architecture in all of Orlando. Most of the building began in the 1870's so you're sure to find plenty of great photo opportunities here. Lake Cherokee is great for a morning or early afternoon stroll, exercise, and picture-taking session to kick start the rest of your busy Orlando day.