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Orlando is one of the world’s most visited family destinations, and while its illustrious themed attractions may steal the limelight, with a vibrant and well-kept city center and a climate that averages around 75° Fahrenheit (25° Celsius), there is a surprising amount of things to experience here.
Welcoming tens-of-millions of visitors per year, both Disney World and Universal Orlando pack in an entire trip’s worth of fun on their own. But it would be a mistake to overlook Orlando’s other activities because the rest of ‘The City Beautiful’ is full of similar family-friendly attractions like water parks, giant aquariums and zoos, exciting shows, air boat tours around the swamps and plenty of golfing opportunities.
With 9 different parks between them, not to mention all the branded shopping, dining and nightlife experiences that don’t require a day-pass. Although visiting Orlando without at least saying a quick ‘hello’ to Mickey and Co might feel like you’ve not had the full experience, the city – and surrounding central Florida area – does promise plenty of alternatives. Explore the quaint downtown quarter and the inner-city parks on foot, air boat your way around the vast alligator-infested swamps, or take a tour to the world-famous Kennedy Space Center on the eastern shores.
Connect to the ocean like never before at SeaWorld Orlando, the city’s premier aquatic theme park. With 1-day admission, share an epic voyage with sea turtles at TurtleTrek, fly like a giant ray on the Manta roller coaster, or get close to sharks in the underwater tunnel. You even have the chance to see animals that are not native to the southeast United States. Listen to the roaring sound of California sea lions as they bask in the sun or experience the icy world of Antarctica through the eyes of a penguin. And of course, no visit to SeaWorld is complete without getting to know the killer whales.
Nightlife in Orlando may not be the biggest priority for most, but the city – along with its several big-name theme parks – hosts an awesome range of restaurants, bars, clubs and live shows. You’ll certainly not be lacking for choice. Both Disney and Universal promise plenty in the way of things to do after dark, including whole zones dedicated to nightlife, such as the popular City Walk or the famous nightly light and firework shows over Cinderella’s Castle. Orlando’s quaint downtown area also comes alive in the evening, with a solid mix of local-style taverns, modern bars, rooftop spots and live theater. There’s a good selection of huge nightclubs dotted around town, hosting everything from live rock bands to globetrotting EDM- DJs.
Think shopping in Orlando and the first thing that comes to mind is the city’s favorite outlet stores, which often roll out some huge discounts on big-name designer labels. There are also a few enormous malls dotted around the city, the largest of them all being The Florida Mall, which draws some 20 million visitors a year with its 250 fashion, electronics and home-ware stores. This being Orlando, it’s no surprise that Disney gets in on the retail action, too. The Downtown hub of the city also promises some slightly less touristy shopping opportunities, in the form of markets and local boutiques.