Last Updated on March 27, 2022 by Jim Ferri
By Jim Ferri
I didn’t know what to expect in Orlando this time around.
I’d been there several times before – I’d been to Disney, Universal, International Drive, etc. – but now I wanted to see what one could do beyond the theme parks.
Orlando sans theme parks and kids was my target. Things to do in Orlando for adults, so to speak.
I only had three days, which wasn’t quite enough, but I was surprised by what I found. There are quite many interesting “adult things” to do in Orlando, some that are also interesting to kids.
However, there is one caveat: if you’re going to see the “other side,” i.e., adult Orlando, you’ll need a car. That’s because many of the things of interest to adults are far beyond Disney, Universal, and carnivalesque International Drive.
But thankfully, finding a car rental in Orlando usually isn’t a problem since rental cars are a huge industry there. Just ensure you have GPS, either in the car or on your phone.
On the other hand, I saw many cars from the Northeast, Midwest, and the southern U.S., perhaps driven down by those vacationing on a budget. Or, maybe they were families wanting to keep away from the crowds in this covid-conscious society.
But to cut to the chase, if you’re in Orlando without kids, I’d rate the following as the top things to do in Orlando for adults. As said earlier, you’ll see several places kids should love also.
Incredible Bok Tower Gardens
Most people don’t realize Bok Tower Gardens is one of Florida’s first attractions. Likely, that’s also why it remains one of Florida’s best-kept secrets.
I admit I was one of those who didn’t know much about it. And I was shocked by its beauty when I visited.
Consequently, I never knew the gardens were a National Historic Landmark. Only a little over an hour south of Orlando, they were dedicated in 1929 by Edward W. Bok as a gift of gratitude to America. Bok, a humanitarian, highly successful publisher, Pulitzer Prize-winning author, and world peace advocate, immigrated to America from the Netherlands at age six.
During visits from Pennsylvania to his family’s winter retreat near Lake Wales, Florida, he became enchanted with the beauty and vistas from nearby Iron Mountain. (The name “mountain” is a bit of a misnomer since it is only 295 feet above sea level. But still, it’s one of the highest points in peninsular Florida).
Awed by the area’s tranquility, Bok wanted to create a place that would “touch the soul with its beauty and quiet” and chose it as the perfect setting for a bird sanctuary. Consequently, he purchased the land and commissioned Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. to change the arid sandhill into “a spot of beauty second to none in the country.”
Olmsted had landscaped many of Washington, D.C.’s most prominent landmarks, including the White House and Jefferson Memorial. He was also the son of the famous developer of Central Park in New York City.
The “Singing Tower”
In the incredible gardens laid out by Olmsted, Bok built a majestic “Singing Tower,” housing a 60-bell carillon. Today thousands of people visit the garden not only to admire its incredible beauty but to picnic on the lawns beneath the magnificent ancient trees to listen to the carillon.
They also find that Bok Tower Gardens’ nearly 700 acres of citrus groves, woodland gardens, nature trails, conservation lands, and endangered plants are the perfect setting for visitors to explore breathtaking sights throughout the year. And Olmsted’s plantings are now home to 126 species of bird.
Undeniably for nature lovers It’s a don’t miss it. If you’re an adult, or even if you’re not, make it one of your things to do while you’re visiting Orlando.
(Note: in Orlando, you will also find the 50-acre Harry P. Leu Gardens, obviously much smaller than the Bok Tower Gardens. Unfortunately, when I went to visit the Leu Gardens, I arrived a few minutes past 4 pm and was denied entry because of their “last entry” policy at 4pm. Therefore, I cannot include it here since I couldn’t visit the gardens).
Bok Tower Gardens
1151 Tower Boulevard
Lake Wales, FL 33853
Tel: (863) 676-1408
Open: Daily 365 days a year 8am–6pm
Admission: Adults $16 / children (ages 5-12) $ /, children under 5 are free / dogs $5
Museum of Illusions
With more than 50 exhibits, the Museum of Illusions offers mind-twisting, eye-tricking fun at ICON Park. It primarily explores the world of mental perception—and deception.
Billed as a brain-bending “edutainment” experience, the Museum of Illusions offers visitors interesting exhibits, more so if you have kids with you. Most of the presentations are based on math, science, and psychology – and are pretty interesting, some baffling.
Among other things, experience the expanse of the Infinity Room, “defy gravity” in the Reverse Room, and shrink your size in the Ames Room.
If you’re in ICON Park visiting other attractions during your Orlando visit, you may want to see it despite the steep ticket price.
Museum of Illusions
8441 International Drive Suite #250
Orlando, FL 3281
Tel: (386) 256-1001
Open: Daily Monday–Thursday 12pm–9pm / Friday 12pm–10pm / Saturday 11am–10pm / Sunday 11am–9pm
Admission: Monday–Friday Adults: $24.95; Children: $20.95 (Online) / Weekends:
Adults: $26.95; Children: $22.95 (Online) / Children 2 and under: Free
Orlando’s chapter of the world-renowned Madame Tussauds is part of ICON Park on International Drive. At Madame Tussauds Orlando, you can see lifelike figures of stars from film and television, music, sports, pop culture, and history.
Since each Madame Tussauds worldwide has a special focus, in Orlando you’ll meet some of the world’s best-known superheroes as part of Justice League: A Call for Heroes. Naturally, as in other Madame Tussauds worldwide, it’s selfie-heaven.
Madame Tussauds Orlando
8387 International Drive
Orlando, FL 32819
Open: Daily 11am–5pm / Friday and Saturday 11am–6pm
Admission: Wax Museum Admission + Digital Photos $33.99 / Combo tickets with other Orlando attractions are also available.
Sea Life Aquarium, Helping Adults in Orlando Relax
For me, Orlando’s Sea Life Aquarium was reminiscent of the famous, and incredible, Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta. Accordingly, like its much, much larger Georgia cousin, the Sea Life Aquarium is a great place to learn more about the life in the ocean about us.
Part of your “education” takes place in a walk-through 360° tunnel (the only one in Florida) where fish swim around you. The tunnel is seemingly based on the walk-through tunnel in its Georgia counterpart (which is hundreds of times larger to accompany whale sharks) but still lets you observe plenty of sea life – sharks, stingrays, sea turtles, and much more.
Also, you can touch and learn about starfish and anemones in the hands-on area. Then, in Feeding Frenzy, you can feed a swarm of colorful tangs from the coral reefs of the southern seas. You’ll learn many things about the sea here, as well as about the many creatures in it.
Make a stop at Sea Life because it’s one of the great things to do in Orlando for adults. On the other hand, bringing kids along will only add to the wow factor.
Sea Life Aquarium Orlando
8449 International Drive
Orlando, FL 32819
Open: varies by day/month.
Admission: (online) Adult $33.99 / Child (3-12 years) $28.99
Outlet Malls – One of the Most Popular Things to do in Orlando for Adults
Along with Disney and Universal, Orlando is also well known for shopping malls, especially among adults. In fact, with shopping centers and premium outlets galore, you’ll be in retail heaven in Orlando.
Many malls are home to the same brands. There are exceptions, however, so first review malls online to ensure you’ll those of interest to you..
Of course, many people select a mall closest to where they are staying. Orlando Vineland Premium Outlets, for example, is the nearest mall to Disney. You’ll find it on I-4 across from the east entrance of Disney World. It’s home to both high-end designer outlets such as Versace and DKNY and more mainstream brands, including Banana Republic and Nike.
You’ll also find some high-end stores, including Kate Spade, Lucky Brand, and Coach, among others, in Disney Springs.
Orlando International Premium Outlets, on the other hand, is closer to Universal. Located on International Drive, it’s home to 180 stores, including Lacoste, Michael Kors, Kate Spade, and Victoria’s Secret, among others.
On the other hand, the most popular mall is the huge Florida Mall, home to 270 stores. An enclosed mall, it’s the largest in Florida and attracts more than 20 million visitors annually. Stores here range from Armani Exchange and Michael Kors to M&M’s World and Sunglass Hut. It’s considered one of the best malls in Central Florida.
Upscale The Mall at Millenia, attractive both inside and out, is targeted at shoppers searching for designer brands. Think Tiffany & Co., Jimmy Choo, and Louie Vuitton, although there are also mid-priced stores such as Macy’s and Pottery Barn. It’s not a place where you’re likely to find the bargain prices you’ll find in other malls.
In addition to the top malls listed below, you’ll find numerous smaller malls filled with factory outlets.
Orlando Vineland Premium Outlets
8200 Vineland Avenue
Orlando, FL 32821
Tel: (407) 238-7787
Orlando International Premium Outlets
5269 International Drive
Orlando, FL 32819
Tel: (407) 352-9600
8001 S Orange Blossom Trail
Orlando, FL 32809
Tel: (407) 851-6255
The Mall at Millenia
4200 Conroy Road
Orlando, FL 32839
Tel: (407) 363-3555
Morse Museum, Winter Park, FL
Winter Park was built in the late-19th-century as a winter refuge (hence the name) for wealthy northerners. It is Central Florida’s oldest community.
In addition, today it’s mostly surrounded by modern-day Orlando, making it only a half-hour from bustling I-Drive, and is a great diversion for adults. That not only makes it an easy place to visit, it’s also a great place to escape the theme-park aura of Orlando.
Furthermore, the small town is quite picturesque, with plenty of small stores, boutiques, and restaurants, many along the town’s popular Park Avenue.
Above all else, for many its top claim to fame is the excellent Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art. It is home to the world’s most extensive collection of objects, in a single place, created by Louis Comfort Tiffany. This collection includes glass windows and other things.
The cozy museum’s collection also includes ceramics, late 19th- and early 20th-century decorative arts, paintings, and graphics. The museum and town are a don’t miss for adults on an Orlando vacation.
Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art
445 N Park Avenue
Winter Park, FL 32789
Tel: (407) 645-5311
Open: Tuesday through Thursday, Saturday, 9:30am–4pm / Friday 9:30am–8pm / Sunday, 1pm–4pm
Admission: Adults $6 / Seniors 60+ $5 / Students with ID $1 / Children 12 and younger free
Note: Free Fridays from 4pm–8pm
Winter Park Boat Tours
As one might expect, all those wealthy Northerners who escaped to Winter Park also built magnificent homes on the lakes and waterways of the area. The easiest (and best) way to see them is on Winter Park Scenic Boat Tour, a very relaxing and informative tour.
Beginning on Lake Osceola, the one-hour, narrated cruise takes you through three of the area’s seven lakes and some of the beautiful narrow canals linking them. All along the way, the captain/guide enlightens you with his repertoire about the magnificent multi-million-dollar- mansions and the people who built and lived in them.
You’ll also see the beautiful campus of Rollins College, a top-rated private liberal arts college.
Scenic Boat Tours
312 East Morse Boulevard
Winter Park, FL 32789
Tel: (407) 644-4056
Open: Daily 10am – 4pm (closed Christmas Day)
Admission: Adults $16 / Children 2–11 years $8
Note: Tours leave on the hour
Orlando Museum of Art and the Orlando Science Center
Among other things, Orlando also has two good museums that may interest adults. One is the Orlando Museum of Art (OMA), which focuses on American art from the 19th century to the present. An additional focus is on the art of the ancient Americas and Africa. It’s a good and quiet respite from the chaos of the theme parks.
Another very interesting place is the Orlando Science Center which is right across the parking lot from OMA. The Science Center is all about how things work in the natural world about us.
I found this exploratorium fascinating, as, seemingly, did many of the other adults and the few children who were also visiting. There are a lot of hands-on displays relating to electricity, physics, mechanics, health and much more.
If you’re visiting the Museum of Art drop by the Science Center for a while, and vice versa.
Orlando Museum of Art
2416 N Mills Avenue
Orlando, FL 32803
Tel: (407) 896-4231
Open: Tuesday-Friday: 10am – 4pm / Saturday – Sunday: 12pm – 4pm / closed Mondays and major holidays
Admission: Adults: $20 / Seniors (60+) , Educators, First responders: $12 / College Students (with valid ID): $10 / Children 6-17 years: $8; 5 years and younger free / active duty military and veterans (with valid IDs): free
Orlando Science Center
777 E Princeton Street
Orlando, FL 32803
Tel: (407) 514-2000
Open: Open daily 10am – 5pm / closed Wednesday
Admission: Adults $21 / students and seniors with ID $19 / children 2–11 $15; free for children under 2
Boggy Creek Airboat Adventures
Another good Florida experience is taking an airboat ride in the headwaters of the Florida Everglades. I took my ride with Boggy Creek Airboat Adventures. Located about an hour south of Orlando’s central tourism districts, it takes you out on six-passenger airboats for half-hour and one-hour airboat tours.
It’s a great experience skimming across the sea of grass and seeing various wildlife, including alligators and, at times, bald eagles. The boats reach speeds up to 40 mph and are inspected and approved by the U.S. Coast Guard.
It operates seven days a week, and the company says half-hour tours are always available as walk-ins. You must, however, arrive by 5:00pm to be guaranteed a tour on the same day. It’s a fun thing to do in Orlando for both adults and kids.
Boggy Creek Airboat Adventures
2001 E. Southport Road
Kissimmee, FL 34746
Tel: (407) 344-9550
Open Daily 9:00am – 5:30pm
Admission: half hour tour $30 Adult / $25 Child; 1-hour tour $50 Adult / $45 Child
About an hour’s drive from Orlando, Gatorland bills itself as the “The Alligator Capital of the World,” and it’s likely true. It’s also a 110 – acre theme park (the theme being wildlife, not rides) and a wildlife preserve. It’s another of the fun things to do in Orlando for both adults and kids.
At first, I hadn’t planned to go to Gatorland since I thought I’d likely see mistreatment of animals. But then I decided I needed to know for myself and, if mistreatment were the case, I’d bring it to public attention.
I didn’t, however, see any animal mistreatment at Gatorland, although I wouldn’t say I liked the practice of allowing people to have photographs taken while sitting on an alligator’s back (they tape the gator’s mouth shut).
But, on the other hand, I only visited the alligator and aviary areas and petting zoo, not the other sites that were home to Florida panthers, bobcats, etc.
In Gatorland, you’ll also find Amazon Parrots, Blue and Gold Macaws, Cockatoos, and other birds, which you can see up-close. I enjoyed the walk-in aviary with its hundreds of colorful parakeets fluttering all about. You can feed them from birdseed sticks as they sit on your hand or arm.
In fact, and you’ll learn a lot about reptiles and other animals,as well. If you’re looking for a bit more excitement, try the park’s 1,200-foot Screamin’ Gator Zip Line, which will have you flying above live alligators and crocodiles.
All in all, based on my experience, I’d recommend you visit Gatorland, which can be a fun and informative adventure. It’s one of the things to do in Orlando solely as adults or with children.
14501 S. Orange Blossom Trail
Orlando, Florida 32837
Tel: (407) 855-5496 / (800) 393-JAWS (5297)
Admission: Adult $32.99 / Senior $22.99 / Child $31.98
Open: Daily 10am – 5pm
Kennedy Space Center
During your visit to Orlando, make time to visit the Kennedy Space Center on Florida’s east coast. No doubt you’ll remember it as one of the best experiences on your trip. In addition, It’s only about an hour, or less, from Orlando. And finally, if you have kids in tow, they’ll be mesmerized by it as well.
Among other things, you’ll be able to see the Space Shuttle Atlantis and the Saturn V moon rocket, in addition to numerous other artifacts, replicas, and displays. The time I visited, we were able to speak with an astronaut about the space program and his experiences as an astronaut.
Also, if you don’t have a rental car, Grayline buses operates a daily shuttle.
Read more about it at Road Trip: Kennedy Space Center from Orlando.
Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex
Space Commerce Way
Merritt Island, FL 32953
Tel: (855) 433-4210
Open: Daily 9am–5pm
Admission: Adult: $57 / Child 3-11 years $47
Note: one-year admission package – Adult: $82 / Child 3-11 years $67
I’m sure that many people are surprised to learn that Disney Springs is not a part of Disney World, even though it’s in proximity to the park. And better yet, there’s no admission charge or parking fee (make a note of where you parked in the vast lot or garage).
It is one of the best things to do in Orlando for adults. Divided into four “neighborhoods,” here you’ll find more than 150 restaurants and stores. The latter includes such upscale shops as Lilly Pulitzer, UNIQLO, Oakley, ZARA, Lucky Brand, Free People, Vince Camuto, and many more. It’s also home to the world’s largest Disney character store.
Cap off your day in a tethered helium-balloon ride 400 feet above the crowd below. Or, perhaps, go on a Disney Springs bar crawl – not sanctioned by Disney but quite popular nevertheless.
1486 Buena Vista Drive
Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830
Tel: (407) 939-5277
Open: Daily 10 am–11 pm, although hours of stores and restaurants vary
Play A Round or Two
For many travelers spending a day golfing makes for a perfect vacation. In Orlando, golfers (adults and kids) will find 25 golf courses in the city (one a municipal course) and, according to Golf Link, another 34 courses within 20 miles of town. The latter includes 21 public, four municipal, and nine private courses.
In addition, the Arnold Palmer Golf Academy offers programs for all ages and levels of play to learn the fundamentals of golf according to Palmer’s philosophy of the game.
For more options, see Visit Orlando’s list of best golf courses.
9295 Universal Boulevard
Tel: (407) 218-7714
Open: Monday–Thursday 10am–11pm / Friday – Saturday 10am – 1am / Sunday 10am–11pm
Admission: varies per day and time of day. See Admission fees here.
Now 40+ years old, Disney’s Epcot is dedicated to celebrating human achievement – namely, technological innovation and international culture. It’s been called a “permanent world’s fair” and is the most adult-oriented park of all the Disney theme parks. Incredibly, it’s twice the size of the Magic Kingdom.
It has four sections: World Celebration, World Discovery, World Nature, and World Showcase. World Showcase features the culture and cuisine of Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Morocco, Norway, the United Kingdom, and the U.S.
In addition, it hosts the famous annual EPCOT International Flower & Garden Festival each spring and the EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival each fall. During the latter event, you can sample gourmet cuisine and exotic beverages from around the world.
However, with numerous bars, festivals, and entertainment in World Showcase, drinking one’s way around the world has become a popular (although unofficial) attraction at Epcot.
At the German Pavilion, you can, for example, enjoy Oktoberfest all year long at the Biergarten Restaurant while you feast on Bavarian fare and beer. In the French Pavilion, enjoy the cultural displays and finish your visit with an Ice Cream Martini from L’Artisan des Glaces. The “martini” includes two scoops of ice cream with Grand Marnier, whipped cream vodka, or rum.
200 Epcot Center Drive
Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830
Tel: (407) 939-2273
Open: Daily 8:30am–9pm
Admission: varies–see Epcot tickets
Lake Eola, Orlando
If you’ve had a long day and want to unwind, head downtown to Orlando’s Lake Eola. It’s a good escape not only from the hustle and bustle of Orlando but also from a day of running about.
It’s a beautiful lake right in the heart of the city, with a 1-mile walking trail around its periphery. Wander about it and feed its swans or rent one of the swan paddle boats to enjoy the view from the water.
Lake Eola Park
512 E Washington Street
Orlando, FL 32801
Open: Daily 6am–11:59pm