9+ Unusual Things to Do in Orlando Today

Venture into Orlando's Lake Eola, where secret corners brim with enchantment—will its alluring paths reveal the city's unexpected mysteries? Read on...
Date Published
March 8, 2024

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Get ready to toss the theme park map and journey into Orlando's heart with activities that locals whisper about and adventurers seek. From the serenity of Lake Eola's tucked-away corners to the uncharted territories of West Orange Trail, you're about to experience a different kind of thrill—one where culture, nature, and history collide in an explosion of Floridian finesse. Buckle up, sunshine seeker; you're about to explore Orlando's most compelling attractions—beyond the glint of the obvious, into the glow of the city's best-kept secrets.

Uncover the Beauty of Lake Eola's Secret Corners

You know that feeling when you find a hidden gem in a bustling city? That's the vibe you get when you stroll around Lake Eola. It's like Orlando decided to tuck away some magic in the heart of downtown and whispered, "Psst, here's a secret slice of serenity—don't tell everybody!"

Picture this: swans gliding across the water, the Orlando skyline reflecting like a mirage, and no loud touristy noise to burst your bubble of peace. Yes, my friend, taking a visit to Lake Eola Park is the chill pill your over-stimulated mind deserves.

Lake Eola isn't just a lake; it's an urban oasis. It's got all the calm you want, but with a side of 'let's take a lap around the lake and see something cool'. You can rent those fun swan-shaped paddle boats and play captain—minus the risk of pirate attacks, obviously. And hey, if you're feeling extra, why not pack a picnic? Find a grassy knoll and enjoy Orlando's version of a nature Netflix—ducks included.

You come here to escape the theme park crowds, but you won't escape the fun. Spend a couple of hours—or hey, why not a whole afternoon? And it's not just a solo adventure; bring your partner, your kiddos, or even your dog. Everyone's welcome to indulge in the good vibes.

And here's a secret within a secret: those corners? Yeah, that's where the real treasures lie. Murals that tell a story, hidden art installations, and benches with views that make your camera beg for just one more photo.

So, next time you're in Orlando and you're thinking, "Hmm, what's something cool and unusual to do?" give Lake Eola's secret corners a shot. It's where the locals go when they need a break from the usual, and where you can finally take a breath and say, "Ah, this is the good life."

Pedal Through Hidden Trails on West Orange Trail

Get ready to work those calves because the West Orange Trail is calling all bike enthusiasts for an adventure like no other! Imagine yourself, yes, you, pedaling through lush landscapes, feeling the fresh Florida breeze as the sun kisses your skin. Golden rays peaking through the canopy as you skirt past scenic lakes and charming old towns—this is bike heaven.

But why stop at imagination? West Orange Trail isn’t your average bike path; it's a world where you, the pedal-happy explorer, can truly unlock the serene and less-travelled corners of Orlando. You're not just riding; you're on a voyage through a 22-mile long oasis that stretches from Winter Garden to Apopka with unique stops in between.

The trail is perfect for a solo jaunt but equally grand for a family escapade. Imagine the little ones cheering as they speed down the safe, well-maintained paths, or your friends racing to the next rest stop—this trail has the magical power to transform a simple bike ride into lifelong memories.

What makes West Orange Trail stand out? Besides the peace and quiet you'll rarely find in bustling tourist spots, it offers a slice of local life. Brush shoulders with Orlandoans who treasure this trail as a daily escape. Fancy a little picnic? There are spots aplenty. Want to stretch those legs a little? Why not hop off at Winter Garden Station and treat yourself to a spot of shopping or a delightful cafe break?

You should carve out a good half day for this cycling sanctuary. Pack a snack, fill up your water bottle, and pump those bike tires. Be the spontaneous thrill-seeker you are and tackle the trail at your own pace.

And remember, it's not just about the destination; it's about the joyride. The West Orange Trail is your path to bliss. So, grab your helmet, hop on that bike, and let the journey unfold!

Savor the Local Flavors at East End Market

Picture this: a place where the aroma of fresh-baked bread, the vibrant colors of organically grown produce, and the buzz of inspired foodies fill the air. That's East End Market for you! Nestled in the heart of Orlando, it's where locals dine, chat, and savor the community's best flavors.

East End Market isn't just any farmers market; it's a hub of culinary innovation and a feast for all senses. From artisanal cheeses to hand-crafted chocolates, you'll find a tapestry of tastes to explore. You're thinking "Where should I dine in Orlando?", right? Restaurant Row is fab, sure, but here you'll mingle with local farmers and chefs, all while indulging in the freshest farm-to-table eats.

Soak it up, folks! You could easily lose track of time as you wander from one mouthwatering stall to another, sampling goodies and chatting with passionate vendors. And don't forget to grab a cup of locally roasted coffee for that mid-market energy surge! You could easily while away a whole afternoon here, so clear your schedule.

This spot isn't just for the foodies either. It's a family-friendly outing where even the pickiest little eaters will discover something they love. And for you romantics, the market's charming atmosphere is perfect for a casual, yet unforgettable date.

Get ready to taste Orlando's local flavors at the East End Market, where you'll blend in with the locals in no time—it's not unusual to leave not just with a full belly, but also with new friends. Whether you're a hardcore food lover or just looking for a unique experience away from the typical tourist traps, this market's got you covered. Just don't blame me if you can't get enough of the place and find yourself coming back for more!

Admire Lesser-Known Art at Maitland Art Center

Picture this: a hidden gem where architecture and art blend in a historical setting so captivating, it's almost like stepping into another world. The Maitland Art Center is your go-to spot to feed your soul with some truly unique and mind-expanding art.

Sure, you might have heard about the Orlando Museum of Art, but have you discovered the artsy wonders that lurk within this cultural sanctuary? Let me tell you, friends, the Maitland Art Center is on an entirely different level of cool.

Nestled in a tranquil neighborhood, away from the buzz of downtown, this space welcomes you to an unforgettable experience. Gothic-revival architecture meets lush, tropical foliage and the fusion creates an aura that whispers creativity at every corner. It's like a secret garden, but instead of roses and daisies, you're surrounded by inspiring sculptures and powerful murals.

Grab your camera (and maybe a sketchbook, too) because you're in for a visual feast that is both Instagram and introspection-worthy. Soak in exhibitions that stretch your imagination, or wander the grounds and admire the unique Mayan Revival architecture that makes this place an artistic wonderland.

Whether you're an art aficionado or just looking to immerse yourself in a little local culture, set aside a couple of hours and prepare to be enthralled. If you're riding solo or with your art-loving pals, this spot has got something for everyone to get those creative juices flowing.

And hey, make it a day of art exploration by following up with a trip to CityArts Factory to see what local artists are conjuring up. Trust me, your inner art critic is going to thank you.

Journey Back in Time at Fort Christmas Historical Park

Travelers looking for an off-the-beaten-path adventure, listen up! Imagine strolling through a full-size replica of a fort straight out of 1837, surrounded by ten acres of homestead bliss. This isn't your typical Orlando scene. You've just stepped into the living history at Fort Christmas Historical Park, a completely unique gem that will transport you and your crew back in time.

Your first order of business? Get ready to absorb all the intriguing tales and rich narratives of the Seminole Wars as you explore original Florida pioneer homes. Imagine the creak of the wooden floorboards beneath your feet, the spicy scent of wood smoke in the air, and the warm Florida sun painting shadows across the rustic homestead buildings. Oh, and did I mention the seven restored homes complete with period furnishings? Yeah, that's right, you're getting the immersive time-traveler experience here!

Now, as much as you might want to claim a rocking chair and spend the day soaking in the ambiance, remember there's more! Walk through a schoolhouse, check out the sugar cane mill, and even drum up some old-fashioned fun with the events and festivals that frequently take root in this historical soil.

But here's the kicker – it's perfect for everyone, whether you're history buffs, families seeking educational fun, or just a group of friends itching to see something delightfully different. How long should you hang around these parts? Give yourself at least a couple of hours to really get a taste of the pioneer life.

Oh, and one last thing! If your history hunger still isn't satisfied, how about diving deeper into the past at the Orange County Regional History Center? That's your two-for-one history punch combo right there. Talk about a day filled with dynamic storytelling, all within the heart of Orlando. Trust me, it's an unexpected throwback experience that you'll be talking about for ages!

Soak in the Solitude at Kraft Azalea Garden

Ever wanted a quiet spot where you can hear your own thoughts, away from the theme park chaos? Kraft Azalea Garden is your secret escape in Orlando. Imagine 5.22 acres of serene lakefront tranquility—that's this garden for you!

Here's what makes this place magical:

  • Hidden Gem: Tucked away in Winter Park, this garden rarely appears on the typical tourist itinerary, making it pristine and often uncrowded.
  • Spectacular Views: The Exedra Monument provides the perfect backdrop for Instagram-worthy photos or moments of introspection.
  • Botanical Beauty: Camellias and azaleas bloom in a riot of color, especially from January through March. It's like stepping right into a fairytale!

Linger on one of the benches and bask in the dappled sunlight. It's the kind of place that calls to poets, painters, and those looking for a moment of peace. Got kids? They'll love spotting the graceful swans.

Kraft Azalea Garden is great for:

  • Solitude Seekers: Ideal if you're solo, needing a break from the buzz.
  • Romantic Couples: The garden's beauty offers a perfect date spot.
  • Families: Enough space for kids to explore without the crowds.

Spend an hour or a whole afternoon; it's your oasis to enjoy. Nearby, you might want to relax at Wekiwa Springs State Park or enjoy Mead Botanical Garden, just a stone's throw away, each offering their own unique slice of natural Florida.

Kraft Azalea Garden is waiting, with open branches and quiet pathways, to welcome those in search of Orlando's peaceful side. So, go ahead—take that much-needed breath of fresh, floral air.

Explore the Mystique of Greenwood Cemetery Moonlight Walking Tour

Imagine strolling under the moonlit sky, the soft glow casting elongated shadows among the gravestones, while the whisper of ancient stories fills the air—welcome to the Greenwood Cemetery Moonlight Walking Tour. It's not just a cemetery, it's your gateway to Orlando's past, a place where history sleeps beneath your feet.

Greenwood Cemetery isn't your typical tourist hotspot, but that's exactly what makes it fascinating. On this one-of-a-kind walking tour, you'll uncover tales of the city's founding fathers, marvel at eerie epitaphs, and might even experience a friendly chill down your spine. It's the perfect mash-up of a history lesson and a ghost tour, giving you a peek into Orlando's rich heritage, with a side of the supernatural.

How long should you spend on this moonlight tour? Well, it typically lasts around an hour, giving you plenty of chills (the fun kind) and education without testing the endurance of your sneakers. It's ideal for a night when you crave something offbeat, away from the usual bustling theme parks.

Is this walking tour good for everyone? Definitely! Whether you're a history buff, a lover of lore, or just hunting for a spooky good time, the Greenwood Cemetery has you covered. The tour is captivating for both locals and tourists, so bring a buddy or brave it solo—either way, you'll leave with a story to tell.

Just make sure to book your spot ahead of time! These moonlight escapades are popular, so snagging a reservation is key. And when it's all said and done, you'll have a new appreciation for Orlando's unique blend of the past and present—making your stay in the city all the more enchanting.

Engage with Nature at Tibet-Butler Preserve

Out in the wilds of the Tibet-Butler Preserve, you're not just walking a trail—you're embarking on a journey where each step brings you closer to Florida's serene side. Feeling daring? Tackle the preserve's varied terrain and let the sounds of nature replace the city's buzz. It's where the busy world fades and the lush greenery whispers, "take it easy."

Forget about the time as you roam through this slice of wilderness. It's not about the minutes spent; it’s about the moments taken in. The preserve offers a sweet escape for families seeking to teach their little ones the wonders of the wild, or for singles and couples craving a moment of tranquility away from the theme park adrenaline.

Picture yourself weaving through towering pines, catching glimpses of local wildlife that call this habitat home. Grab your best hiking boots and prepare for pure eco-bliss as you:

  • Discover vibrant ecosystems along the well-marked trails
  • Snap Instagram-worthy pics of the contrasting landscapes
  • Pause, reflect, and literally breathe in the fresh air at the designated rest spots

After your invigorating hike, you're just a short drive from more excitement if you wish. Unleash your inner adventurer with indoor skydiving at iFLY Orlando or test your wits at an escape game in Orlando. But really, how long should you bask in the preserve's tranquility? As long as it takes for you to feel recharged and rejazzed by nature's endless energy.

Whether you're a solo explorer or rallying the family troop, Tibet-Butler Preserve welcomes all who seek a moment of calm. So what are you waiting for? Lace-up, step out, and let Mother Nature be your guide!

Feeling like an adventure on the water? Kayak at Shingle Creek and steer through the natural beauty that's a stone's throw from the theme park capital of the world. As your paddle slices the water and dragonflies zip past, get ready to be transported far from the hustle.

Shingle Creek, not just a creek but the northernmost headwaters of the Florida Everglades, is where you can embrace the stillness and the whispers of wildlife. You're the captain of your own little vessel on this serene paddling trail, a chance to spot turtles, herons, or maybe an alligator sunning itself (from a safe distance, of course). It's unique—unlike any roller coaster or 3D movie experience in town.

Here's the scoop: carve out a couple of hours for this excursion; it's perfect whether you're flying solo, making memories with the fam, or out with friends. It's a gentle ride, so no white-water rapids to toss you around—just pure, tranquil bliss. Fatigue is not invited to this party, so whether you're paddle-pro or a newbie, you'll handle it just fine.

Close enough to the city for convenience but nestled in nature for that escape-from-reality feel, Shingle Creek is a refuge that calls to kayakers of all stripes. Seeking adrenaline without the sound of roller coasters whizzing by? Check. A place where tots can giggle at the splash of the paddle? Yep. A moment of zen for you? Absolutely.

Before going back to the land of the giant mice and wizarding worlds, visit the nearby eateries to refuel, because let's be honest, kayaking is like the secret workout you didn't know you signed up for. The Shingle Creek Paddling Trail is a slice of true Florida wilderness, waiting for you to dive in—well, not literally, but you get the idea.

Indulge in Retro Games at Arcade Monsters Orlando

Ever wish you could warp back to the '80s and '90s, where pixelated heroes saved the day and high scores were the ultimate bragging rights? Your neon dream is alive at Arcade Monsters Orlando. This is not your run-of-the-mill arcade. Imagine walls lined with classic favorites like Pac-Man and pinball—a haven for gamers and nostalgia-seekers alike.

Arcade Monsters doesn't just dole out a dose of old-school. The place oozes charm with murals and memorabilia that whisk you straight back a couple of decades. And it's not just about solo glory; multiplayer games mean you can challenge your buddies or make new friends who are just as jazzed about joystick jockeying as you are.

No tokens? No problem. It’s all about unlimited play here. Once you're in, go on a button-smashing spree without digging for quarters in your pockets. But hey, it's not just about clawing your way up the leaderboard. Between strategizing and socializing, treat yourself to refreshments that'll fuel your next high-score hunt.

Whether you've mastered every level of Donkey Kong or you can't tell a joystick from a jump button, Arcade Monsters is the spot for an epic time. Take your pick from rows upon rows of arcade cabinets and get lost in the electric buzz of it all.

You’re in for a few hours of uninterrupted fun, so clear your schedule! It’s the ideal escape for singles, groups, and yes, even families—everyone's inner child is welcome here. As you revel in the glow of neon lights, let the retro beats and bleeps transport you to a simpler time of gaming joy.

Experience a slice of old town charm as you play at Dave & Buster's, but with a unique twist. Arcade Monsters is a kaleidoscope of good vibes and timeless games that invites everyone—young or old—to push the play button on a blast from the past. Embrace the quirky side of Orlando while leveling up your entertainment!

Attend Eclectic Events at Timucua Arts Foundation

Picture this: you're sipping on your favorite drink, the lights dim, and the sweet symphony of an orchestra finely tuning their instruments envelops the room. That's the magic that unfolds at the Timucua Arts Foundation. Nestled in the heart of Orlando, this cozy yet vibrant venue offers an array of performances that'll make your heart sing louder than the brass section!

Why is the Timucua Arts Foundation a must-visit? It's because you, my friend, are not just a spectator here; you're part of a community celebrating diversity and creativity. Imagine catching a live performance where every note is a thread weaving together jazz, classical, and even the occasional indie rock. It's all about being unexpected yet utterly delightful.

Embarking on this musical journey feels like you're part of a secret society. And the best part? You could go from watching a show at Cirque du Soleil to swaying to the serene sounds of the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra—all in Orlando's own eclectic backyard.

And if that’s not convincing enough, think about the conversations you'll have! You’ll be mingling with both the artists and fellow art lovers, sharing thoughts or simply basking in the afterglow of a stunning performance. Plus, you'll witness the die-hard passion of musicians pouring their souls into every piece.

How long should you spend here? Clear your evening, because once the performances start, you won't want to leave. Whether it's a date night, a solo adventure, or an escape with friends, Timucua caters to all. It's the perfect spot for those who fancy a sprinkle of high culture without the formal fuss of a concert hall.

So what are you waiting for? Reserve your seat, open your ears, and let the Timucua Arts Foundation's next event be the highlight of your Orlando stay. This engaging experience is more than just a night out; it's an artful encounter that'll resonate with you long after the final bow.

Discover the Enchantment of Harry P. Leu Gardens After Dark

Imagine you're wandering under the moonlit sky, the aroma of blooming flowers in the air, a soft whisper of leaves rustling in the gentle night breeze—it's not a fairy tale, it's Harry P. Leu Gardens after dark! This isn't your typical garden walk; it's an enchanting evening adventure where the nocturnal beauty of these lush grounds comes to life.

Prepare to be mesmerized by the soft glow of night-blooming flowers, and maybe—if you're lucky—catch the fleeting glimpse of a firefly or two. Harry P. Leu Gardens transforms at dusk, revealing a magical side you can't see during the daytime. You won't need magic, just a comfy pair of shoes for your twilight trek through this botanical oasis.

A leisurely walk through Harry P. Leu Gardens after dark is ideal, not just for solitude-seekers but for romantic souls and families too. It's perfect for date night, let's be real—nothing screams romance quite like a moonlit garden—or an insightful outing with the kids who might discover a thing or two about nocturnal plants and animals.

Here's the deal: you won't be wandering for just a measly few minutes. Give yourself a good hour or two to soak in this serene and slightly mysterious atmosphere. And get this, it's a stone's throw away from bustling International Drive, so you can cap off your tranquil escape with a lively stroll down Orlando's most famous strip.

So, who's this magical night garden trip for? Whether you're a local wanting to see the familiar green space transform after sunset, or a visitor looking for a unique addition to your vacation itinerary, this one's for you. Thrill-seekers, you may not find an adrenaline rush here, but what you will find is a peaceful, reflective experience—the kind that leaves you feeling rejuvenated and a wee bit enchanted.

FAQ

Things to do in Orlando for free

Hit up Lake Eola Park for some swan boat action, or check out the local art at CityArts Factory. Both are totally free and awesome!

Things to do in Orlando for adults

For a grown-up good time, try out some fancy dining at Restaurant Row, hit a show at Dr. Phillips Center, or explore some bars on Wall Street.

Things to do in Orlando besides theme parks

You could explore the wonders at the Orlando Science Center, get fancy at the Morse Museum, or chill out at Wekiwa Springs State Park.

Things to do in Orlando with kids

Have a blast at the Crayola Experience, make a splash at the splash pads, or enjoy interactive fun at the Orlando Science Center.

Unique things to do in Orlando

Get a little wild on an airboat tour, take a hot air balloon ride, or go see the exotic plants at Harry P. Leu Gardens.

Cheap things to do in Orlando for families

Enjoy a movie at Orlando's Enzian Theater or have a picnic at Bill Frederick Park. Fun times without breaking the bank!

How do you spend time in Orlando?

Well, you could be a tourist star at the theme parks, go shopping at the outlets, or catch a game or concert at the Amway Center.

How many days do you need in Orlando?

Give yourself at least a week to hit up the major theme parks and sprinkle in some downtown fun and relaxation.

What is the closest and nicest beach to Orlando?

Cocoa Beach is the go-to spot, just an hour's drive. Perfect for a day of sun and surf close to Orlando.

What can you do in Orlando without a car?

Use the SunRail or LYNX buses to explore, or walk around vibrant areas like International Drive and Downtown Orlando.

Final Words

Alright, so you've just gotten the inside scoop on the secret gems of Orlando. From the peaceful corners of Lake Eola to the mystique of Greenwood Cemetery moonlight tours, you're practically an Orlando wizard now. You've learned where to pedal, paddle, and even where to play retro games.

But hold on, let's not forget about indulging in local eats or soaking up solitude in a hidden garden. And that's just the tip of the iceberg! There's so much to explore, so many little pockets of joy that the city has to hide. It's like every corner you turn, there's something new to discover.

So, get out there and live it up! You've got a whole list of things to do in Orlando now, and each one's waiting to add a little magic to your life. Go make some memories!So, you think you know Orlando? You’ve high-fived Mickey Mouse and braved the roller coasters, but have you ever uncovered the secret whisperings of Lake Eola's swans, or pedaled through the hidden trails like a modern-day Ponce de León on a quest for beauty instead of fountains? Oh, and let's not forget the local flavors that'll dance on your tastebuds like a Florida orange on a bright, sunny morning. When it comes to things to do in Orlando, it ain't just about the mouse and the magic; it's about diving deep into the city's vibrant underbelly, where the real enchantment lies.

Meet the Author
Isabella Kai
Isabella Kai, the Instagram wordsmith, crafts tales that captivate hearts worldwide. A dedicated foodie, she whips up culinary delights and pairs them with stories that make your taste buds dance. Beyond the screen, she's on a mission to visit every artisan bakery in town.
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