We all love a good theme park, and Orlando’s got plenty of those. But the City Beautiful has a lot more to offer than just roller coasters and animatronics. Orlando is home to more than two million residents who love the city beyond the parks. If you’re visiting the city, here are five things I suggest you see–beyond Disney World.
5. Lake Eola. I love this park in downtown Orlando. The lake–and its iconic fountain–are the unofficial symbols of the city. When the land was originally donated to the city, its donor left one condition: that the park be kept beautiful. If the city failed in this basic mission, the family would take back the land. Well, mission accomplished. Enjoy a stroll around the lake or take a swan-shaped paddleboat out for a spin as you enjoy the sights of downtown alongside the natural beauty of the lake and its winged inhabitants. (Including, yes, actual swans–not just boat-swans.)
4. The Mall at Millennia. Hands down the city’s prettiest mall, this shopping megaplex is home to luxury brands like Jimmy Choo, Coach, Louis Vuitton, Tiffany & Co., and more. Restaurants like PF Chang’s, Brio Tuscan Grille, and the Cheesecake Factory draw hungry crowds to the mall as well.
3. Day trip time! Drive an hour east to Canaveral National Seashore for pristine beaches, beautiful lagoons, nature trails, and wildlife. You can catch glimpses of the VAB (Vehicle Assembly Building), where the shuttles were assembled, as well as other reminders that you’re in NASA’s backyard.
2. Leu Gardens. If you want an escape from the city into some natural beauty, but don’t have a day to spare for the beach, head over to Leu Gardens, where you can wander fifty acres of gorgeous Florida flora.
1. No trip to Orlando would be complete without a visit to my favorite part of town: Winter Park. Here you’ll find excellent shopping and dining (arguably the best food in Orlando) options, as well as museums, scenic boat tours, and high-end people watching.
Watch the video of our top five things to see and do in Orlando, Florida (besides Disney):