Orlando Local Highlights

Published on May 09, 2022 - Updated on May 09, 2022

Orlando is synonymous with theme park magic and larger-than-life characters. But this land once filled with orange groves is now bustling with so much more than the world Walt Disney started here in the 1970s. Beyond the theme parks that beckon visitors to Central Florida, we have museums, sports, theater, zoos, parks, beaches, farms, and so many new adventures around every corner. Here are some of our favorites, from a local!

Orlando Highlights and Local Favorites

Orlando Science Center

Loch Haven Park, 777 E. Princeton Street, Orlando, FL 32803

Orlando Science Center

The Orlando Science Center is located right outside the heart of downtown in what is known as Loch Haven Park. The museum has 4 interactive floors of STEM-based activities for kids of all ages! The center also features traveling exhibits, after-hours events, and camps to prolong your time at the venue. The best part is you can possibly get in free with your reciprocal membership from your local science center!

Nearby family-friendly attractions & restaurants:

+ The Soda Fountain and Doghouse are classic venues where you feel like you traveled back in time for counter service hot dogs and ice cream.

+ The Twisted Handle is an open-air brewery and taproom with lawn games and a kid’s menu to make it a great family-friendly environment.

+ Other nearby attractions in Loch Haven Park include the Orlando Museum of Art, Orlando Repertory Theatre, Orlando Fire Museum, and more!

Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens

3755 W. Seminole Blvd, Sanford, FL 32771

Central Florida Zoo

What’s visiting a city without visiting their local zoo? The Central Florida Zoo is full of local and exotic animals, as well as beautiful landscapes to enjoy. There is also a chance to get up-close to have an encounter with an animal! The zoo offers a variety of programming for different age groups, along with after-hours events for both families and adults!

Nearby family-friendly attractions & restaurants:

+ Head to nearby historic downtown Sanford to enjoy a day out and discover the charm of this city just north of Orlando.

+ While there, visit Hollerbach’s Willow Tree, a festive German restaurant that will keep you in place if not for the food but for the entertainment! Or satisfy your sweet tooth at Wondermade and delight in marshmallow treats!

+ Enjoy the lakeside Fort Mellon Park with a playground, splash pad, walking trails, and beautiful views!

Wekiwa Springs State Park

1800 Wekiwa Cir, Apopka, FL 32712

Wekiwa Springs State Park

Wekiva Springs is the perfect Central Florida activity for anyone wanting to spend time in the outdoors! Explore the park on a hiking trail, swim in the springs pool, or even rent a canoe or kayak and take it down the river and pair it with a visit to Wekiva Island, where you can find even more fun!

Nearby family-friendly attractions & restaurants:

+ Westmonte Recreation Center is a great outdoor area featuring tennis courts, playgrounds galore, and pools to use!

+ Cool off at RDV Sportsplex Ice Dean for ice skating – or if the weather doesn’t hold out for a day at the park.

+ Keke’s Breakfast Café is a casual spot for your first meal of the day – and this local favorite can be found all over Central Florida if you want to go back for more! If you’re looking for dining later in the day, visit Tibby’s New Orleans Kitchen or Jimmy Hula’s for memorable food – both are also places you’ll find in multiple local spots!

Winter Park Scenic Boat Tour

312 East Morse Blvd, Winter Park, FL 32789

Winter Park Scenic Boat Tour

Are you in Florida without access to a boat but want to get on the water? Try the Winter Park Scenic Boat Tour! The tour is a great short option to make your way through the Winter Park Chain of Lakes, get a chance to learn about the history of the area, and see some famous homes. A perfect introduction and fun way to visit this adorable little city just north of Orlando!

Nearby family-friendly attractions & restaurants:

+ Ride the SunRail from the iconic Winter Park station (also used by Amtrak). The parking lot in Winter Park is free to utilize and it’s a great middle point in the route to either travel north or south! Plus, pay for an adult ticket and kids under 6 ride for free! It’s a great way to check out Orlando and surrounding cities!

+ Stroll Park Avenue in Winter Park and window shop!

+ Visit the Martin Luther King Community Playground, locally hailed as the castle playground, for a day at the park!

+ Have lunch at 4Rivers Smokehouse in Winter Park – another local favorite with various locations all around Central Florida. Home to BBQ that will definitely bring you back for more!

Harry P. Leu Gardens

Mills 50, 1920 North Forest Avenue, Orlando, FL 32803

Leu Gardens

These beautiful botanical gardens outside downtown Orlando are a great place to stroll! The gardens are also open once a month for free days to visitors, and are home to traveling exhibits! Leu Gardens also hosts after-hour events, including movie nights, music festivals, and holiday exhibits. These historical lands are a hit for so many reasons!

Nearby family-friendly attractions & restaurants:

+ East End Market is an eclectic hall of eateries right around the corner from the gardens, and home of the original Gideon’s Bakehouse, which had a recent claim to fame in the mouse house with their flagship shop!

+ Stroll through Ivanhoe Village – a strip of locally-owned shops and restaurants accessible to Lake Ivanhoe. Visit Gaston Edwards Park for a walk around the lake and a chance to enjoy a playground with views!

+ The Orlando Milkhouse is another collection of some recognizable local brands all in one location. It’s a great place to get the kids a scoop of Kelly’s Homemade Ice Cream, while the adults enjoy an adult beverage from Ravenous Pig or a coffee from Foxtail Coffee!

Orlando City Soccer Club Game

Downtown Orlando, Exploria Stadium, 655 W. Church St, Orlando, FL 32805

Orlando City Soccer Club

Soccer is the craze here in Orlando and you’re sure to feel the spirit with the Orlando City Soccer Club! Orlando City Lions and the Orlando Pride call Exploria Stadium in downtown Orlando home. And you can’t visit (in season) without checking out a game of MLS or professional women’s soccer! If you want to get even more in on the action, grab seats in the standing-room-only section with the fan group, the Ruckus – their passion for the game really gives their name life!

Nearby family-friendly attractions & restaurants:

+ Dr. Phillips Center for theater entertainment – from local theater troupes to touring Broadway productions. The center is also home to seasonal outdoor festivals and activities, and is a great place to check out during your visit if a show aligns with your interests!

+ Lake Eola Park for outdoor fun and dining, including a Sunday farmer’s market and events on the weekends!

+ Sports fans unite! If soccer is not your thing (or out of season), we have both the Orlando Magic Basketball team and Orlando Solar Bears Hockey team calling the nearby Amway Center home! Orlando is also the host to a year-end/beginning of the year college football bowl game (and other outdoor events) at Camping World Stadium, so you can always find a team to cheer for here!

Nona Adventure Park

Lake Nona, 14086 Centerline Drive, Orlando, FL 32827

Water park on the lake? In Florida this is possible! Located out in the Lake Nona neighborhood, Nona Adventure Park features everything from bounce fun at Aqua Park to a chance to learn to wakeboard at Nona Wake to a climbing tower (for the land lovers); it has it all for a fun family day out!

Nearby family-friendly attractions & restaurants:

+ Neary by Boxi Park is what it sounds like – a collection of boxes (in this case shipping containers) that have been rehabbed as outside eateries for a cool place to hang out. It’s a source for special events or even family gatherings (or adult nights out), with local music playing and a laid-back vibe to enjoy. The playground on-site also makes this a great option for kids at any time!

+ USTA National Center is also located out here and a great place for a day visit! Come out here to play tennis, pickleball, or padel; or take a lesson! Or come even just to check out this state-of-the-art facility!

Southern Hills Farm

16651 Schofield Road, Clermont, FL 34714

Southern Hills Farm

This U-Pick Farm is so much more than taking home fruit or flowers. It has become a weekend activity for families! Seasonal fruits and offerings are available to be picked but there are also on-site food trucks, straight from the farm offerings, and carnival rides and farm tours (available most weekends)!

Nearby family-friendly attractions & restaurants:

+ Showcase of Citrus is another fruitful (pun intended) activity to experience something truly Florida! Come out to experience the orange groves that called Central Florida home before everything else. From more U-Pick opportunities to monster truck rides out to the groves, there’s lots to do!

+ Take a hike or enjoy the outdoors at nearby Lake Louisa! The location also offers the opportunity to camp or glamp in a yurt!

+ Head over to Downtown Winter Garden for a day of shopping, splash pads, and sites! Stop by Plant Street Market for a marketplace of vendors to grab a bite to eat while relaxing.

Gatorland

South Orlando, 14501 S. Orange Blossom Trail, Orlando, FL 32837

Gatorland

Central Florida’s original theme park is also a great way to get up-close with one of our natives. If you’re wondering about gators, you don’t have to venture too far from here to explore. You’ll see hundreds of them in this interactive park featuring shows, water play areas, and an opportunity to learn more about Florida’s animals.

Nearby family-friendly attractions & restaurants:

+ Head to the Florida Mall but not just for shopping! Within the mall, you’ll find Crayola Experience for a great indoor activity for little hands. If you want to grab a bite, try The American Girl Bistro for a tea party!

+ International Drive for a day out to swing a club at TopGolf, race a car at Andretti Indoor Karting, ride the Orlando Eye at ICON Park, or visit the Sugar Factory for a sweet treat lunch!

+ Kissimmee Lakefront Park offers an outdoor escape for families, including playgrounds, walking trails, and seasonal events! Walk to Downtown Kissimmee Main Street for a meal at Broadway Pizza Bar to eat and then grab a treat at Abracadabra Ice Cream Factory (bounce houses included)!

Footgolf at Oak Trail Golf Course

Walt Disney World, 1950 W Magnolia Palm Dr, Lake Buena Vista, FL 32836

Footgolf

There are plenty of golf courses in the Orlando area, but not many offer footgolf! This is on our list because if you’re at the magical world of Disney, you can find so much more beyond the parks! The golf course is offered by reservation for an afternoon kick-off and is a family-friendly activity that is fast-paced and not as quiet as your traditional golf game!

Nearby family-friendly attractions & restaurants:

+ Beyond the theme parks, there are a variety of water parks to visit including Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon on Disney property. These are great alternatives for a day of outdoor fun but still getting some of that magic.

+ Check out Sunset Walk if you want to break away from the theme parks – there you can find Island H2O for a water park alternative. There are also a number of restaurants and activities happening in the area for great entertainment options!


Have you been to Orlando? Does your family live in this warm sunny city? Let us know what your favorite local spots are in the comments below! Or tag us in your photos on Instagram @gethappyly for a chance to be featured!

Interested in other amazing cities around the U.S.? We've got a whole bunch of local-recommended spots in major (and not major!) cities across the country. Check out our blog for great advice on cities like Chicago, Denver, Maui, Chattanooga, and more! Or, if you are interested in getting information about taking the family to the national parks, we've got some great tips on Saguaro National Park, Joshua Tree National Park, Haleakala National Park, and Mt. Rainier National Park!

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Thoughtfully captured by:
Priscilla Walker
Pri Walker is based out of Orlando, Florida, where she indulges in all the simple joys that life has to offer. She, her husband, and their two children are avid world travelers, fun seekers, and always yearning to learn through the experiences they share!
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