Things to Do in Orlando

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You may not be a competitive Quidditch player just yet, but you can get started by picking up a riding broomstick, an essential element in any Quidditch... Read More

If you’ve read the Harry Potter books, you’ll know that Pygmy Puffs are small pets bred in the back of the Weasleys’ shop. Pick up a plush version of... Read More

No wardrobe of wizardwear is complete without an authentic wizard’s robe, available in your choice of Hogwarts houses. Choose from Gryffindor, Slytherin... Read More

Need a less expensive – or more practical – way to show your support for one of the four houses of Hogwarts? Go for a Gryffindor, Slytherin, Ravenclaw... Read More

Step into Ollivanders—with locations in both Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley—and find yourself immersed in a world where the magic of a wizard’s wand... Read More

In Epcot's World Showcase, this large outdoor theater hosts several annual concert series, including Flower Power (March through May, featuring artists... Read More

This unique SeaWorld attraction is part ride, part animal encounter, which adds up to an incredible, immersive experience. One of SeaWorld’s newest... Read More

There's another uncrowded period between spring break and summer vacation, with the exception of the week before and after Easter. Plus, spring in... Read More

Behind-the-scenes Disney secrets are divulged on this daylong walking tour (lunch included), which takes in some dauntingly complex operations at work... Read More

Essentially a condensed version of both the popular film Beauty and the Beast and the Broadway musical of the same name, this Broadway-style show at... Read More

Fifty minutes north of downtown Orlando, find this 2,600-acre park, which includes the largest spring on the 310-mile St. Johns River. You can swim,... Read More

This public park features a gorgeous beach as well as opportunities to fish or take nature hikes. You’ll see tons of wildlife here, including 14 species... Read More

Set inside a museum that has one of the country’s finest, most complete collections of Louis Comfort Tiffany glass, this gift shop is stocked with... Read More

The sprawling store in China is filled with every trinket you can imagine; I loved visiting when I was a kid! But this beautiful pavilion also offers... Read More

The nightlife district at Universal Studios is a little touristy, but locals love it too. Park in the Universal garage and ride the moving sidewalk in... Read More

If it’s the Gulf coast you’re craving, venture southwest to Clearwater Beach, where the sand is powdery white and the sunsets are dazzling. See Winter... Read More

One of the beaches that Orlandoans consider “ours,” Cocoa Beach sits just east of Orlando, a straight shot down the State Road 528 toll road. It’s... Read More

Just as famous for its NASCAR speedway as its seashore, Daytona Beach nonetheless offers a great Atlantic oceanside environment. It’s easily accessible... Read More

Orlando's parks can make for a whirlwind vacation, but Discovery Cove offers a pleasing blend of adventure and relaxation. The park is all-inclusive and... Read More

More than just an attraction, this is a theme park unto itself—but it’s like nothing you’ve ever experienced. For one all-inclusive price, feed tropical... Read More

This SeaWorld park is simply stunning. Your ticket buys you an unlimited day of snorkeling with tropical fish and stingrays, feeding exotic birds, and... Read More

Disney is the best cruise line for families. What may surprise you is that the 1,760-passenger Disney Magic and Disney Wonder are gorgeous ships, even... Read More

In 1998, this park became the fourth of Disney's Orlando projects, a vast project that pays living tribute to Walt Disney's passions of conservation and... Read More

The concept for this water park may seem a little weird—it's the remains of a fictitious freak snowstorm that resulted in a melting ski resort—but the... Read More

The third of the four Walt Disney World theme parks, this tribute to the glory days of Hollywood opened in 1989. Six themed areas include a recreation... Read More

Let’s face it, if you’re visiting Orlando, there’s probably someone at home who expects you to bring a Disney souvenir back. Instead of spending big... Read More

Disney’s entertainment district is in the midst of a major renovation, but it’s still a thriving center of fun. This is where you’ll find La Nouba by... Read More

This sprawling area outside the theme parks includes the world’s largest Disney character store as well as specialty stores such as The Art of Disney,... Read More

This is one of the areas that locals flock to for a night out. Catch an Orlando Magic game at the Amway Center or a live show at the Social. Enjoy a... Read More

These two dueling coasters are old-school theme park wizardry at its best. Pick one side or the other—the Chinese Fireball dragon or the Hungarian... Read More

The second of Disney's Orlando parks to open, EPCOT became a reality in 1982 after sitting on Walt Disney's drawing board for years. Known as "the... Read More

This one is also a favorite among Disney guests. Typically running from mid-March to early May, this Epcot festival features themed flower and garden... Read More

My favorite festival of the year, this multi-week annual event, which typically runs from mid-September through early November, offers so much that you... Read More

The eleven pavilions around the World Showcase Lagoon offer some of the best shopping on property. Buy an elaborate cuckoo clock in Germany, a rare... Read More

Sure, Space Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain are classics, and the brand-new Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is currently one of Disney World’s most popular... Read More

Also at Animal Kingdom you’ll find this show, which is just as spectacular in a completely different way. Enjoy live songs from The Lion King in a... Read More

One of my favorite attractions on Disney property, this 40-minute Animal Kingdom show follows the story of the popular Finding Nemo film. The performers... Read More

Perfect for younger visitors (36 inches and up) with a daring streak, this family-friendly coaster is surprisingly fun for adult riders too. It provides... Read More

Granted, this may not draw you to Orlando unless you’re already a major film buff. But if your vacation plans include an April stay in the Sunshine... Read More

It’s no surprise that after having lived briefly in Paris, I remain a bit obsessed with France. When I’m missing my old Eiffel Tower neighborhood, I get... Read More

Okay, I admit it. I’m a sucker for anything French. And here in Epcot’s France, themed to look like a series of winding streets and alleys in beautiful... Read More

Not far from the better-known theme parks, you’ll find this family-owned 110-acre park that calls itself the Alligator Capital of the World. Your... Read More

The shops that surround the beautiful central plaza of the German pavilion are very evocative of Germany itself, which in my book is a very good thing.... Read More

On the opposite end of the festival spectrum, find Universal Studios’ enormously popular Halloween Horror Nights, an annual scare-tacular taking place... Read More

At Universal's CityWalk, this popular concert venue, steeped in the tradition of the Hard Rock Cafe (just a short stroll away), features interesting art... Read More

My favorite musical event in town is the monthly Velvet Sessions, which takes place in the lobby of the Hard Rock Hotel at Universal Orlando. An... Read More

In a city full of high-tech thrills and cutting-edge adrenaline injections, it's sometimes nice to step back and surround yourself with more analogue,... Read More

Located in Diagon Alley, the ride theoretically takes place in the deep underground vaults below Gringotts, the goblin-run bank. If you’ve ever wondered... Read More

Words can’t begin to describe how very cool I think this ride is. Located in Universal Studios’ Diagon Alley (the newer section of the Wizarding World... Read More

Walk through the gates of Hogwarts and join Harry, Hermione and Ron in an exciting Quidditch match—which unravels into a high-speed chase. An action... Read More

If you’re a music fan, you’ll love this Universal Studios coaster, which includes the world’s first non-inverting loop and allows you to pick your... Read More

Nothing against religious reenactments, but when a blood-smeared Jesus sings into his head-mike from the cross, things start to get creepy. This park ... Read More

This popular dinner experience at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground is a rip-roaring good time. Enjoy an Old West-style singing, dancing... Read More

The Orlando outpost of this popular concert venue chain is based at Downtown Disney, so it's easy to park and grab a bite before the show. The acoustics... Read More

Epcot’s Japan pavilion is essentially one big Japanese department store, featuring everything from Sanrio items to jewelry to toys to a wide selection... Read More

The sense of majesty and all-round general achievement is palpable here as soon as you walk through the gates. Kennedy's famous space exploration speech... Read More

Some of humankind’s greatest adventures began here at NASA’s launch headquarters, an easy hour east of Orlando on the Atlantic coast. Time... Read More

An easy 50-minute drive east, this tourist destination is a beautiful ode to the nation’s space program. The home of Space Shuttle Atlantis, the complex... Read More

One of my favorite Walt Disney World attractions overall, this Animal Kingdom experience is a must-see for any animal lover. Board an open-air safari... Read More

Also at SeaWorld Orlando, find this floorless coaster. Your feet will dangle as you hurtle through the air at up to 65 miles per hour. The idea of the... Read More

Located in a striking theater on the edge of Downtown Disney, this Cirque du Soleil spectacular is like nothing you’ve ever seen. From flying trapeze... Read More

Its web site touts it as Orlando’s best-kept secret for outlet deals, and I can’t argue with that. It’s off the beaten path, and locals don’t often... Read More

There's a brief lull between the Monday after Thanksgiving and the beginning of the school holiday breaks around the country, making this festive season... Read More

Just a bit too far away to be considered an Orlando theme park, LEGOLAND is, nonetheless, a destination you should consider if you have kids under 12.... Read More

Who would have thought that a small plastic brick invented by a Danish carpenter in 1932 would become a global empire—one that's given rise to movies... Read More

The first park to open at Walt Disney Resort in Orlando (in 1971) is also the most iconic, and is forever visually conjured up with the image of... Read More

Take a stroll down the Magic Kingdom's iconic Main Street, U.S.A. toward Cinderella Castle, and you'll find yourself wrapped in nostalgia and surrounded... Read More

The idea of this SeaWorld Orlando coaster, opened in 2009, is that you’re a giant stingray, gliding, spinning, and flying headfirst through the air. But... Read More

On the outside, the Mexican pavilion is a big, squat pyramid. But when you climb the stairs and step inside, you’re immediately thrust into a whole new... Read More

My favorite thing about the shops of the Mexico pavilion is simply being there. Step into the soaring pyramid through an exhibit of Mexican art and... Read More

For roughly a month between Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and Washington’s birthday (also known as Presidents’ Day), Orlando's tourist scene is at its... Read More

Although this overlaps with the post-Labor Day period previously mentioned, the weeks leading up to Halloween are certainly worthy of their own category... Read More

Soon after Labor Day, the blistering summer temperatures begin to fade, and the nights start to get cooler. With kids just back to school, the theme... Read More

Set inside a museum that has one of the country’s finest, most complete collections of Louis Comfort Tiffany glass, this gift shop is stocked with... Read More

Less than forty minutes away, step back in time in this charming lakefront town, a favorite among antique hunters. The downtown area features an array... Read More

This stop is the perfect place for last-minute souvenirs on the way out of the park. My aunt comes down to visit twice a year, and this is where she... Read More

The expansive souvenir store in Epcot's Future World is one of the most popular shops among veteran Disney World visitors, thanks to its huge but well... Read More

Although this CityWalk spot is (obviously) basketball-themed, you can catch all your favorite sports here. A 33-foot statue of the NBA’s “Logoman”... Read More

Quieter and more residential than the Cocoa Beach waterfront, New Smyrna Beach is further north on the east coast, but it’s also an easy drive from... Read More

Sadly, the beloved Maelstrom ride has closed, but an attraction themed after the popular Disney movie “Frozen” will soon take its place. In the meantime... Read More

This popular SeaWorld show features Shamu—the park’s signature orca whale—and emphasizes the idea that we’re all part of the same world, above and... Read More

This delightfully tacky roadside stall topped by a 60-foot orange dome has been a landmark of Americana since the early 70’s. It remains the... Read More

On the far north end of International Drive sits my favorite outlet mall in Orlando. It features outlets of Victoria’s Secret, Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman... Read More

This museum has been in existence since before Mickey Mouse was making his first tentative steps into popular culture. Founded in 1924, the collection... Read More

A local institution that dates back to before the roller coasters, the Orlando Science Center doesn't look its 60 years—in fact, it has a notably... Read More

This is the sister property to the outlet mall on International Drive and it’s closer to Disney World; you can reach it easily via State Roads 536 or... Read More

Just a short drive (or even a walk) away from Orlando International Premium Outlets, this small outdoor marketplace offers a handful of additional well... Read More

Popular with convention-goers thanks to its proximity to the Orange County Convention Center, this sprawling compound offers a movie theater, a comedy... Read More

This Universal Studios attraction is so much more than just a coaster. Sure, you’ll rocket through the darkness at speeds up to 45 miles per hour, but... Read More

Around since 1991, the SAK Comedy Lab improve venue has been the launching pad for several nationally known stars, including The Price Is Right host... Read More

Mellower than other Orlando theme parks—though it has several rides, including Kraken, a thrilling, floorless coaster—SeaWorld is noted for... Read More

With its striped cabanas, potted palms, and a view of downtown Orlando, SKYSIXTY the vibe is reminiscent of Miami’s South Beach. Grab a booth... Read More

This breathtaking, panoramic ride at Epcot takes guests on a hang-gliding style ride over the beauty of California. Feel the wind blow through your hair... Read More

Typically running Friday through Sunday from mid-May through mid-June, this event at Disney’s Hollywood Studios draws Star Wars fans from all around the... Read More

The Tampa Bay area -- including Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater -- is a popular vacation destination unto itself, so if you're in Orlando, it's... Read More

Whether you’re American or just visiting our country, this pavilion celebrates the magic of the United States in a way that will make your heart swell.... Read More

Stretching across a portion of the Contemporary Hotel's fourth floor, you'll find a string of shops with an open-air market feel, nestled beneath the... Read More

Technically, it serves a purpose: to take visitors with two-park passes between Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley. But this train, which is a replica of the... Read More

Themed after the comic book character of the same name, this Islands of Adventure coaster accelerates from 0 to 40 miles per hour in the first two hair... Read More

One of downtown Orlando's most popular live music venues, The Social is a jewel in the indie music scene. It hosts concerts most nights of the week.... Read More

Mike Hewell, more commonly known as Tour Guide Mike, uses his years of experience as a tour planner for the rich and famous to help families enjoy a... Read More

This enormously popular ride at Disney’s Hollywood Studios is essentially a four-dimensional shooting gallery filled with all your favorite characters... Read More

A 30-acre collection of bars, restaurants, and dance-till-two nightspots wedged between the Universal theme parks, CityWalk outweighs Pleasure Island,... Read More

Millions of guests have passed through the famous Universal arch that has stood at the gate of this park since it opened in 1990. The six main areas are... Read More

The thrill factor is in full effect at this park—with attractions like Disaster (which simulates an 8.0-scale earthquake), Revenge of the Mummy ... Read More

This addition to Universal Studios Florida opened in 1999 and trumpeted the site's conversion into the Universal Orlando Resort. The park's initial six... Read More

The city’s most thrill-filled coaster-and-flume park is also one of the most spectacularly designed; rides are all located in lavish, themed ... Read More

If it’s crowds you’re craving, head downtown to this collection of restaurants and bars. For big games such as the World Cup, the Super Bowl, or big... Read More

Just north of Orlando, the suburb of Winter Park boasts a popular and upscale nightlife scene centered around both Park Avenue and nearby Hannibal... Read More

An education in the eccentricities of Old Florida, this hour-long pontoon-boat excursion winds 12 miles through a system of conjoined lakes, past... Read More

Part of the Downtown Disney Marketplace, this 50,000-square-foot landmark is the largest Disney character store in the world. Inside, 12 rooms radiate... Read More

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