While there’s certainly no shortage of well-known attractions and activities in Orlando, there’s nothing like trying something new. And just when you think you know the City Beautiful, it surprises you with unique, thrilling experiences.
Whether you have a taste for adventure or are looking for something romantic to make this the summer of love, here are 10 activities that will inspire you to make the most of your vacation time in Orlando.
FOR A TASTE OF ADVENTURE
Catch some air
Experience the thrill of skydiving, no planes required, at iFly Indoor Skydiving. Slip into a flight suit alongside a small group of flyers and step onto a flight deck for a safety lesson, where you’ll pick up tips about proper body positioning and hand signals in case you need to communicate with your instructor during the experience. Next, everyone takes a turn stepping into the flight chamber – a wind tunnel-type simulator that slowly fills with enough air to lift you off your feet, allowing you to spin, float, and flip around as if you were skydiving. The exhilarating experience takes up to two hours from start to finish.
Stand, paddle, repeat
Many people don’t realize that Orlando is home to more than 100 lakes, many of them perfect for paddleboarding. Paddleboard Orlando offers classes for beginners as well as tours on Lake Killarney, the Winter Park or Butler lake chains, or any location of your choice. Take a class to learn the art of balancing on the paddleboard (tip: keep your eye on the horizon, even as you’re climbing on) or simply rent a paddleboard and glide access the lake for an hour or two on your own. Yogis will love their Paddleboard Yoga experiences on weekends at 10:00 am. Opt for the spring-fed Lake Killarney location and enjoy a waterside lunch at Shake Shack or Hillstone, both on either side of the shop.
Soar above the city
Thrill seekers will love a visit to the first full-time “aerotow” hang-gliding flight park in the world, Wallaby Ranch. Most people think you need to launch a hang glider from a mountain or cliff for the full experience, but aerotowing is a system by which you’re gently pulled from a specially designed towplane. Once you’re released, you’ll experience what it’s like to hang glide on your own for a full 15 minutes up to 2,000 feet in the air. You’ll need calm wind conditions to fly, which means morning or late afternoon flights are ideal – and first-timers can book tandem flights alongside an instructor.
PERFECT FOR COUPLES
Sip a cold brew
The only USDA certified-organic brewery east of Colorado, the Orlando Brewing Company is committed to preserving what’s known as the German Purity Law, which states that beers should only be brewed using four simple ingredients: water, hops, yeast, and malted barley. The result is a crisp, clean taste that’s won the hearts of many (the beer is now served in more than 500 locations). Sit back on a hot summer day with a cold brew in the taproom downtown or join one of the free tours offered Mondays through Saturdays at 6:00 pm for a behind-the-scenes look at how the brew is made. From live music on select nights to yoga classes under the stars, Orlando Brewing Company does a lot more than just serve good beer, so be sure to check the calendar online as you plan your visit.
Head for the clouds
See Orlando from 400 feet in the air aboard the tallest observation wheel on the East Coast of the United States, the ICON Orlando 360 observation wheel (formerly known as the Cocoa Cola Orlando Eye). If you’ve ever checked it out while driving on I-4 near International Drive, now’s the time to enjoy a slow-moving but breathtaking 40-minute ride high above the City Beautiful with views of Disney World, downtown, and beyond. Time your trip to the sunset hour and opt for a private capsule complete with two glasses of champagne. Later this year, the attraction plans to incorporate a synchronized light display timed to the courtyard fountains on the ground level.
Immerse yourself in art
Nestled on Lake Formosa in the museum trifecta known as Loch Haven Cultural Park, the Mennello Museum of American Art is home to a permanent collection of paintings by artist Earl Cunningham. His vibrant works are influenced by both folk art and pop culture and capture uniquely American landscapes, many of them along the East Coast where he lived most of his life. A few Impressionist paintings from other American artists round out the small yet impactful collection.
Step into a balloon
Imagine flying thousands of feet in the air in a hot-air balloon as the sun rises over the horizon, casting its warm glow over the treetops below, as well as theme park attractions, orange groves, and more. That’s exactly the bird’s-eye view you’ll have during a trip with Orlando Balloon Rides. After a brief safety introduction, you’ll be transported to one of several launch sites around the Disney area where you’ll watch as these magnificent balloons inflate, forming a colorful canopy right before your eyes. Step inside the passenger basket and enjoy the 60-minute flight before landing for a final champagne toast.
Go the beach without leaving the city
There’s no need to drive to either coast for an exhilarating jet ski ride or a calm glide on a paddleboard or kayak. Nestled on Lake Bryan, Buena Vista Watersports offers all of that and more just a few minutes from Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando. Learn to wakeboard and waterski and go tubing on Nautique competition boats driven by professional instructors who can show you the ropes. The 400-acre private lake is large enough for pontoon boats, which you can rent for an hour or a half-day and do your own driving if you wish. Off the water, take advantage of the private beach and volleyball courts for a fun-filled day in the sun. Feel free to bring Fido too, as this is a pet-friendly establishment.
Color your world
Perfect for rainy days, the Crayola Experience offers a slew of fun family activities. Little ones will love the Activity Studio (where projects involve only paper and scissors), solving riddles and puzzles using a “magic” tablet in the Adventure Lab, and snapping pics with Bluetiful, the world’s largest crayon at nearly 16 feet long and 1,352 pounds. Kids can also melt crayons into a ring they can wear on their hand or a racecar they can play with, or use melted wax to make a spin art masterpiece. Live shows, a two-story playground in the shape of crayons, character meet and greets, and a café where the menu features colorful renditions of kids’ favorite foods round out the list of bright and bold experiences.
Take a walk on the wild side
Watch a pro wrestle with a Florida alligator, ride an airboat for a glimpse of eagles, wild boar and roseate spoonbills, and take the kids to a petting zoo at Wild Florida Gator & Wildlife Park, a unique destination on Cypress Lake near Kissimmee. Sign up for special animal encounters where you can take a selfie with a sloth, a lemur, or a porcupine, watch a gator feeding or walk under the shade of cypress trees in the Hawk Swamp boardwalk for a peek at owls roosting.