What to do in Orlando?
August 12, 2019 9:02 AM   Subscribe

I'm in Orlando for a week in October. I detest theme parks. What do I do?

I'm going to Orlando in October for a conference. My days will be spoken for by the conference, but I'll have at least one fairly free day (a Monday, if it matters - is Kennedy Space Center an all-day type thing?) and three nights to fill with things that aren't hanging out with other conference attendees.

My degree of difficulty: I have zero desire to go to a theme park of any kind. Never been my thing, and not about to become my thing. So I need some stuff to do in the theme park capital of the US that isn't going to a theme park.

I'm interested in live music, museums, record stores, good neighborhood bars/restaurants (I don't need anything super fancy, just good solid local food and beer), and things like that. Transportation isn't really an issue - I'll have access to a rental car and there's always Lyft.
posted by pdb to Travel & Transportation around Orlando, FL (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I'm with you on the theme park aversion. This nearby state park is lovely if you need a morning or afternoon of beautiful plus swimming.
posted by mareli at 9:11 AM on August 12, 2019

How far are you willing to drive? Deland, FL, is a funky little college town that ticks most of those boxes, but it's about an hour drive from Orlando. Definitely free of the theme-park vibe, though.
posted by jquinby at 9:39 AM on August 12, 2019

Best answer: There's all kinds of stuff in the Titusville area. Kennedy Space Center can certainly be an all-day thing, or even more: it consists of a museum with all kinds of stuff in it, including a full-size Saturn V, and a bunch of tours of various parts of the working KSC area. Right next to it, you have Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, and you could spend a few hours there if not more. On the way into KSC, there's an aviation museum that isn't a bad way to spend a few hours, if you're into that.
posted by me & my monkey at 10:41 AM on August 12, 2019 [3 favorites]

Kennedy Space Center can be an all-day thing (especially when you add in travel time).

For museums, I love the Tiffany collection at the Morse Museum
posted by Mchelly at 10:47 AM on August 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

Winter Park is charming. Take a boat that travels on the narrow connected estuaries into beautiful lakes. See Mr. Rogers house! Go to the museum there with all the Tiffany pieces. There's a beautiful botanical garden. There's the Enzian Theater, a fabulous movie theater. Lots of good food, shopping and nooooo Disney.
posted by lois1950 at 10:59 AM on August 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If you have any space feels whatsoever, you must got to KSC and see Atlantis.
posted by BrashTech at 12:45 PM on August 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

I had a wonderful day canoeing, escaping from an Orlando conference. It was twenty years ago and I'm vague on details, but it may have been the St John's river. The outfit put my canoe in where the river was only a few feet wide, and at the end of a leisurely day floating plus a bit of paddling, through mostly wild country, I came out where the river was much much wider. Highly recommended!

I also took a day to visit Blue Spring state park; lovely swimming and (separately) manatees.

We visited Kennedy Space Center but although it was interesting it was a rather passive experience - though cool to see all the alligators basking by the roadsides.
posted by anadem at 12:47 PM on August 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

If your conference is near downtown, The Beacham might have a show.

If your conference is near (or at!) Disney, Player 1 has all of your arcade-gaming and beer-drinking bases covered, and there's a great little Japanese street food place next door.

Go to Winter Park and see if you run into Carrot Top.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 3:39 PM on August 12, 2019

Since everyone else seems to have Kennedy Space Center covered: keep an eye out in case there's a rocket launch happening while you're in town, there's nothing quite like it! As of now, there's a possibility of a SpaceX launch, but these things have a tendency to slip, so there's really no way of being sure until much closer to the time. The launch schedule at Spaceflight Now is a reliable resource - and if it turns out that one's happening while you're down there, I am, uh, kind of a specialist in helping people find good viewing spots, so feel free to hit me up for viewing advice if you wish. :)
posted by WaywardPlane at 4:22 PM on August 12, 2019 [2 favorites]

Leu Gardens in Orlando is really lovely and large, you can spend a good afternoon walking around there.


If you enjoy bicycling, there is a fantastic bike trail nearby. The Seminole Wekiva Bike Trail is about 17 miles one way. There are bike shops for a rental in Altamonte Springs and Lake Mary near the trail. Around mile 7 or so, there begins a long section of murals painted all alongside the trail....about 500 murals in all. Very interesting and fun to see. We've biked the trail a few times and always enjoyed it.


I have always wanted to visit Bok Tower Gardens, not right in Orlando, but nearby.


Also, perhaps you might enjoy Gatorland....gotta have a little kitsch while in Orlando.

posted by SassyMcSassin at 5:14 PM on August 12, 2019

I love the Dr. Phillips area for restaurants when I'm there alone for conferences. Its not terribly far from the hotels around I-drive/Sea World depending on your particular hotel. Slade and bartaco were my favorites my last trip.
posted by gatorae at 8:06 PM on August 12, 2019

Dim sum. Banh mi. Skycraft.
posted by Don Pepino at 9:29 AM on August 13, 2019

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