The best things to do in Orlando include an incredibly wide range of attractions, and it could be claimed that this is the most exciting city for pleasure and entertainment in all of the US. It’s the startling quality and variety of activities available to you in Orlando that really marks it out as something special. It should be no surprise that the city’s world-class theme parks feature heavily in our list of the best things to do in Orlando. Both Disney and Universal dominate the tourist market here, with a host of different amusement parks and water parks between them, not to mention all the branded shopping, dining and nightlife experiences that don’t require a day pass.

Although visiting Orlando without at least saying a quick hello to Mickey and Co might feel like you’ve not had the full experience, the city – and the surrounding central Florida area – does promise plenty of alternatives. Explore the quaint downtown quarter and the inner-city parks on foot, airboat your way around the vast swamps, or take a tour to the world-famous Kennedy Space Center on the eastern shores.

What are the best things to do in Orlando?

    • Families

    While other theme parks around town tend to cater more towards certain age groups or tastes, Universal’s Islands of Adventure™ has got it all. There are live-action stunts to entertain the kids, while rollercoasters and themed rides tower overhead. Immersive simulators place you in the middle of your favourite movie – ideal for those who prefer their adrenaline fix to be a bit closer to the ground.

    Opened in 1999, Islands of Adventure™ is made up of 7 different areas, with the Wizarding World of Harry Potter™ pulling in the biggest crowd year-round. It sits alongside the likes of The Lost Continent, Toon Lagoon, Jurassic Park and Marvel Super Hero Island.

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    Location: 6000 Universal Blvd, Orlando, FL 32819, USA

    Phone: +1 407-224-4233

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    Magic Kingdom, Disney World’s first-ever theme park, remains one of its best. It welcomes a whopping 20 million visitors each year with its 6 different lands of fun and adventure. The iconic Cinderella Castle stands as the park’s centrepiece, which gets illuminated by the famous fireworks display every night. 

    Entrance into the Magic Kingdom theme park – which starts at around $100 – unravels a whole world of Disney-inspired shows, parades, rollercoasters, rides and simulators, most of which cater more towards the younger kids. The park is divided into Adventureland, Fantasyland, Frontierland, Tomorrowland, Main Street, and Liberty Square.

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    Location: 1180 Seven Seas Dr, Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830, USA

    Phone: +1 407-939-5277

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    Universal Studios Florida draws in the bumper crowds with its long line-up of Hollywood-inspired rides and attractions. Part of the wider Universal Orlando complex, the theme park focuses on delivering an immersive movie experience, with state-of-the-art technology used throughout the range of simulators. 

    This theme park lets you get up close with those naughty yellow minions from Despicable Me, fly across Springfield with The Simpsons, ward-off alien attacks in the Men in Black simulator, or get lost in a world of magic at Harry Potter’s Escape from Gringotts ride.

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    Location: 6000 Universal Blvd, Orlando, FL 32819, USA

    Phone: +1 407-363-8000

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    The Kennedy Space Center is one of the region’s most popular attractions – away from all the theme park action, that is. It sits on the eastern coast of Florida, around 45 minutes from downtown Orlando.

    Thanks to Orlando’s relentless tourism boom, the Kennedy Space Center has become so much more than just a site for NASA to launch their astronauts off from the surface of the Earth. You can get up close with the original Apollo Saturn V rocket, stand nose-to-tail with the huge Atlantis Space Shuttle, take a trip out of the atmosphere in a simulator, or even arrange to have lunch with a veteran astronaut.

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    Location: Space Commerce Way, Merritt Island, FL 32953, USA

    Open: Daily from 9 am to 7 pm (hours may vary)

    Phone: +1 855-433-4210

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    One of the best waterparks in Orlando is Aquatica®, located next to the larger SeaWorld® complex. Alongside all the waterpark essentials like head-to-head slides, rapids, and high-speed flumes, it also delivers a few slightly more unique attractions.

    A must-try is Dolphin Plunge®, where your transparent flume passes through a pool full of dolphins (if you’re lucky, they’ll even try to race you as you zip over them). If you want an adrenaline rush, try the oblivion-style drop at Ihu’s Breakaway Falls®.

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    Location: 5800 Water Play Way, Orlando, FL 32821, USA

    Open: Hours vary by season

    Phone: +1 407-545-5550

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    Legoland Florida delivers heaps of things to see and do, including rollercoasters, huge Lego-built models (such as Florida, New York, Kennedy Space Center and Daytona Speedway), shows and performances. Most of the rides are geared towards kids (2-12-year-old), such as the popular Duplo fairground-style rides, the indoor-outdoor Dragon rollercoaster, wooden Coastersaurous, and safari trek.

    A range of flexible day passes is available for Legoland Florida There’s also a Legoland Water Park next door, which costs around $100 for a combined ‘park-hopper’ pass. Legoland’s largest park sits right next to Lake Eloise in the Lakeland region, around an hour’s drive from Downtown Orlando. There's a daily shuttle to the park from International Drive at 9am.

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    Location: 1 Legoland Way, Winter Haven, FL 33884, USA

    Open: Hours vary by season

    Phone: +1 888-690-5346

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    Epcot’s huge spherical design is one of the most instantly recognisable images of Disney World. This science-themed attraction has 2 areas: Future World, demonstrating human endeavour and innovation, along with World Showcase, a permanent world’s fair with 11 nations represented around a giant manmade lake. The fun of Epcot is really found in just strolling around and soaking up the incredibly realistic sights.

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    Location: 200 Epcot Center Dr, Orlando, FL 32821, USA

    Open: Daily from 9 am to 9.30 pm

    Phone: +1 407-824-4321

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    Disney’s Hollywood Studios is where movie magic comes alive, with the collection of family-friendly shows, rides, and attractions inspired by Disney’s classic movies. Scenes from the 1930s and 1940s classics draw in millions of visitors every year.

    Rides like The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror™ and the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster® provide some pulse-raising excitement alongside live-action rides and immersive simulators. Movie buffs shouldn’t forget to check out the excellent Animation Courtyard either, home to a few particularly interesting exhibits detailing the life and work of Walt Disney himself.

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    Location: 351 S Studio Dr, Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830, USA

    Open: Daily from 8 am to 10 pm (hours may vary)

    Phone: +1 407-939-5277

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    Orlando water parks

    For splashing thrills under the Floridian sun

    Orlando water parks
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    Orlando water parks offer thrilling rides, experiences, and buckets of fun under the sun. They also have educational experiences that instil a sense of environmental stewardship and the opportunity to get up close and personal with sea creatures.

    With so many fantastic water parks to choose from, there’s no doubt you’ll find the best one for your squad. Top-notch experiences can be found in every famous Orlando venue. Your mission to find that one dream water park for you and your family is made easy by the great choices available.

    Location: Orlando, Florida

    • Nightlife

    The Blue Man Group is a comedy, theatre, rock concert, and dance party combined! Enjoy an outrageous and sensory show from this worldwide group of talented performers in the heart of Universal Orlando Resort. Featuring an upbeat trio of multi-instrumentalists, the Blue Man Show in Orlando has several episodes of audience participation and appeals to pretty much all ages.

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    Location: Universal Orlando Resort, 6000 Universal Blvd, Orlando, FL 32819, USA

    Phone: +1 407-258-3626

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    Fun Spot America Theme Park

    Fun Spot America Theme Park
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    Fun Spot America is one of the few independent theme parks in Orlando. Located across International Drive from the sprawling Universal Resort, this particular Orlando amusement park stays clear of any branded rides promoting movies or Hollywood gimmicks, Instead, you'll find plenty of adrenaline-filled rollercoasters, go-karting tracks, and a whole bunch of attractions for younger kids to enjoy.

    Location: 5700 Fun Spot Way, Orlando, FL 32819, USA

    Open: Daily from 10 am to midnight

    Phone: +1 407-363-3867

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    Blue Spring State Park spans over 2,600 acres and includes the largest spring on the St. John’s River. The water is crystal clear and usually around 73°F (22.7°C) during the swimming season. The freshwater spring is a manatee refuge and, from November to mid-March, is home to hundreds of West Indian manatees. Blue Spring State Park also has animals including tropical birds, and turtles, squirrels, and even alligators.

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    Location: 2100 W French Ave, Orange City, FL 32763, USA

    Open: Daily from 8 am to sunset

    Phone: +1 386-775-3663

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    Canaveral National Seashore is a sanctuary for many endangered species, including the sea turtles who come to the beach to lay their eggs in the sand. Like many seaside cities, the area is ideal for those who enjoy outdoor activities. You’ll find horseback riding, canoeing, kayaking, surfing, swimming, fishing, and boating. If you enjoy hiking, there’s a trail near the Visitor’s Center.

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    Location: 7611 S. Atlantic Avenue, New Smyrna Beach, Florida 32169, USA

    Open: Summer: daily from 6 am to 8 pm. Winter: daily from 6 am to 6 pm

    Phone: 1-386-428-3384

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    Church Street is home to many of Orlando’s best restaurants, a bustling nightlife scene and the city’s iconic Railroad Depot (that sits alongside the SunRail commuter rail system). It’s the place to go for first-timers wanting to get to know downtown a little better. Built in 1889, the old Railroad Depot still stands as a reminder of the city’s long-lost past, well before Disney and Universal arrived in Orlando.

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    Location: Orlando, FL 32801, USA

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    The Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens is a small museum located in Winter Park, just north of Orlando. The museum is in the historic home of Czech sculptor Albin Polasek. Although the property is small, it provides the ability to be close to the artwork and take great photographs. The guided tour includes a short video which explains the history of the property, giving you a better understanding of the sculptures and why Polasek created them. Each sculpture tells the story of Polasek and represents different times in his life, with most pieces focused on religion.

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    Location: 633 Osceola Ave, Winter Park, FL 32789, USA

    Open: Tuesday–Saturday from 10 am to 4 pm, Sunday from 1 pm to 4 pm (closed on Mondays)

    Phone: +1 407-647-6294

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    photo by Ebyabe (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified

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    Cornell Fine Arts Museum Orlando has over 5,000 exceptional exhibits on display, from antique art to contemporary art. Located in Rollin's College, it's right in the heart of Winter Park and overlooks the stunning Lake Virginia. The museum's collections include the only European Old Masters collection in the Orlando area, along with contemporary American pieces. 

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    Location: Rollins College, 1000 Holt Ave, Winter Park, FL 32789, USA

    Open: Tuesday–Friday from 10 am to 4 pm, Saturday–Sunday from 12 pm to 5 pm (closed on Mondays)

    Phone: +1 407-646-2526

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    photo by Ebyabe (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified

    • Families

    Discover just how exciting colouring can be at the Crayola Experience in Florida Mall. Try out 26 hands-on activities and enjoy being creative and free in the mesmerising Crayola Store. The range of fun and family-friendly activities at the Crayola Experience go from a simple colouring page to animating yours and your child's creation on a large digital projector. 

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    Location: The Florida Mall, 8001 South Orange Blossom Trail, Orlando, FL 32809, USA

    Open: Daily from 10 am to 6 pm (weekends until 8 pm)

    Phone: +1 407-757-1700

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  • Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort is a campground between the Magic Kingdom and Epcot theme parks. Almost 2,000 different camping sites are available, ranging from individual tent sites to full RV parking spots. The camping sites are a combination of paved driveways and sandy paths. Each site offers running water, electricity, outdoor grills and picnic tables. Private showers and laundry facilities are located near all sites. Fort Wilderness Resort also has 409 air-conditioned cabins, each of which sleeps up to 6 people. These cabins also include full bathrooms, free Wi-Fi, and bunk beds.

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    Location: 4510 N Fort Wilderness Trail, Orlando, FL 32836, USA

    Phone: +1 407-824-2900

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    Chocolate Kingdom Orlando allows you the chance to take part in an interactive journey to discover how chocolate is created from the bean to the bar, and from the bar to your belly. Explore the centre's Cacao Tree Greenhouse, onto the Mystical River of Chocolate and finally on the Micro Batch Bean-to-the-Bar tour to find out more about the machinery involved in making chocolate. 

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    Location: 9901 Hawaiian Ct, Orlando, FL 32819, USA

    Open: Daily from 10.30 am to 6 pm

    Phone: +1 407-705-3475

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    Downtown Kissimmee is a typical all-American historical town in Osceola County. Despite its past as a shipping town, the area now has plenty of boutique shops and restaurants, as well as a lively night scene. See as much of downtown Kissimmee by taking a self-guided walking tour, starting from the Kissimmee Street Office. Easily reachable by car or taxi, Kissimmee is within a 30-minute drive south of Orlando. 

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    Location: Kissimmee, FL, USA

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    • Nightlife

    The Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts is an arts complex in Downtown Orlando, hosting numerous shows and events. The venue features a 2,700-seat theatre hall for the Broadway plays that are performed several times a month. There's also a 1,700-seat venue for smaller events such as ballet recitals, orchestral performances and award ceremonies. The Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts also offers free 45-minute tours centred around a brief history of the centre and the story of each distinctive space. 

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    Location: 445 S Magnolia Ave, Orlando, FL 32801, USA

    Open: Monday–Saturday from 10 am to 4 pm (closed on Sundays)

    Phone: +1 407-839-0119

    Price: Varies by event.

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    Escapology is a theme-based escape game, where up to 6 people can have 1 hour to work together to find hidden objects, uncover clues, and solve any puzzles needed to escape. Each game room is open to between 2 to 6 people and there’s a variety of fun and challenging themes to choose from – from a Southeast Asian-based theme to solving the Cuban Missile Crisis.

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    Location: 11951 International Dr c3, Orlando, FL 32821, USA

    Open: Daily from 11 am to 11 pm

    Phone: +1 407-278-1515

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    Disney Springs is an outdoor complex at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. It is one of several such areas that offers a mix of shopping, one-of-a-kind restaurants, and entertainment all in one place, but this one is undoubtedly the biggest in Orlando, with 110 shops. Most shops are speciality boutiques within a particular theme, such as Disney's Days of Christmas, The Candy Cauldron, and Pin Traders. 

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    Location: 1486 East Buena Vista Drive, Orlando, FL 32830, USA

    Open: Daily from 10 am to midnight

    Phone: +1 407-939-6244

    Price: Parking and Admission are free

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    The Harry P. Leu Gardens covers 50 acres of beautiful gardens, lakes, trails, and forest. Mr. and Mrs. Harry P. Leu, who travelled the world, started the Leu Gardens. On each trip, they would bring home exotic plants and over 240 varieties of camellias for their gardens. In 1961, the Leu family gifted the property to the city of Orlando to preserve its lush gardens. The Harry P. Leu Gardens is open to the public on guided tours. 

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    Location: 1920 N Forest Ave, Orlando, FL 32803, USA

    Open: Daily from 9 am to 5 pm

    Phone: +1 407-246-2620

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    Icon Park is a popular entertainment plaza on International Drive. This plaza is home to Madame Tussauds Orlando, SEA LIFE Orlando Aquarium, and The Wheel at ICON Park™. You can purchase a single-attraction ticket or a package to experience all 3. The Wheel at ICON Park™ is a famous 40-storey observation wheel, allowing you to see most of Orlando in air-conditioned capsules. Madame Tussauds Orlando displays celebrity wax figures with a special emphasis on locally known figures. SEA LIFE Orlando Aquarium houses 5,000 different sea creatures, including turtles and sharks.

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    Location: International Drive, Orlando, FL 32819, USA

    Phone: +1 407-248-9590

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    International Drive Orlando

    International Drive Orlando
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    International Drive Orlando is the centre of the city’s entertainment scene. The long street connects all of Orlando's major attractions, including Aquatica Waterpark, Chocolate Kingdom, The Wheel at ICON Park™, and Sea Life Orlando Aquarium. Adrenaline seekers can try an indoor skydiving wind tunnel at iFLY Orlando or take a helicopter tour of the city with International HeliTours. International Drive also has some great museums, including the weird and wonderful Ripley's Believe It or Not!, Madame Tussauds, and Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition.

    Location: International Drive, Orlando, FL 32819, USA

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    Kelly Park is a popular public park in Apopka, Florida. It’s best known for its free-flowing natural spring. Visitors flock to the park year-round to swim, tube and kayak in the cool, crystal-clear water. Tent and RV camping is offered at the park, alongside a full-service concession stand, picnic pavilions and a playground. Tube rentals are available as well, with lifeguard stations staffed during spring.

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    Location: 400 E Kelly Park Rd, Apopka, FL 32712, USA

    Open: Summer: daily from 8 am to 8 pm. Winter: daily from 8 am to 6 pm

    Phone: +1 407-254-1902

    Price: $5 per vehicle.

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    Lake Eola Park is a pleasant downtown spot for picnics, exercise, paddle-boating or just a quick escape from the nearby high-rises. The 23-acre site, located off East Washington Street, has an almost mile-long walkway around the lake edge. There's also an event amphitheatre, a children’s playground, a bright red Chinese pagoda, and a famous fountain.

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    Location: 512 E Washington St, Orlando, FL 32801, USA

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    Lake Toho (Lake Tohopekaliga is a 23,000-acre fishing lake in Kissimmee that's known for its professional bass fishing competitions and birdwatching opportunities. This popular lake is home to a staggering amount of freshwater bass, alligators, water snakes and turtles. Located on the north side of Lake Toho, Lakefront Park has a seating area, a playground, and even a miniature lighthouse. Segway tours are offered nearby, taking you along the outer edge of the lake.

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    Location: 69 Lakeview Drive, Kissimmee, FL 34741, USA

    Phone: +1 407-846-2124

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    Madame Tussauds Wax Museum Orlando has 6 sections dedicated to famous celebrities, sports stars, and historical figures for you to pose with and photograph. The wax sculptures are stunningly lifelike, so you can get up-close and personal with Albert Einstein, The President of the United States, Michael Jackson, and Angelina Jolie. In fact, there are true-life wax representations of pretty much all of the most popular and influential people in history, sports, music, television, and film.

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    Location: 8387 International Drive, Orlando, FL 32819, USA

    Open: Sunday–Thursday from 10 am to 10 pm, Friday–Saturday from 10 am to 11 pm

    Phone: +1 866-630-8315

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    The Mennello Museum of American Art has a permanent collection of paintings by self-taught artist Earl Cunningham. The gallery has special exhibitions and events throughout the year, including a Folk Art Festival. Free Family Day takes place every 2nd Sunday of the month, which offers free admission, a free miniature fine art project, and free docent touring. Just outside of the Mennello Museum of American Art is The Sculpture Garden, where you can find "The Mayor", a 350-year-old live oak tree draped with Spanish moss.

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    Location: 900 E Princeton St, Orlando, FL 32803, USA

    Open: Tuesday–Saturday from 10.30 am to 4.30 pm, Sunday from 12 pm to 4.30 pm (closed on Mondays)

    Phone: +1 407-246-4278

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    photo by Ebyabe (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified

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    Mount Dora is surrounded by beautiful lakes and offers charming attractions all year round. With a population of around 12,000 people, the small city has a unique charm that’s punctuated by its active arts community. Known as the “The New England of the South” and “The Festival City”, Mount Dora sees outdoor festivals and art events taking place throughout the year, including the Mount Dora Arts Festival. 

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    Location: Mt Dora, FL 32757, USA

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    Ocala National Forest is Florida's largest nationally protected forest. It offers exciting activities, beautiful sights, and many camping and outdoor accommodation options. Located in central Florida, the area covers 383,000 acres of stunning natural landscape ready to be explored, including over 600 lakes, rivers and springs. 

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    Location: FL-40, Silver Springs, FL 34488, USA

    Phone: +1 352-625-2520

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    The Wheel at ICON Park™ is one of Orlando's most famous landmarks. The giant observation wheel elevates passengers 400 feet into the sky for some awesome panoramic views over downtown Orlando and Central Florida beyond. There are 30 air-conditioned capsules in total, which means you don’t have to queue for too long. 

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    Location: ICON Orlando 360, 8401 International Dr #100, Orlando, FL 32819, USA

    Open: Sunday–Thursday from 10 am to 10 pm, Friday–Saturday from 10 am to midnight

    Phone: +1 407-601-7907

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    • History

    The Orlando Museum of Art is a visual arts gallery near Downtown Orlando, Founded in 1924, this museum is one of the oldest and most renowned in the Central Florida area, featuring a wide range of nationally recognised exhibits. Every 1st Thursday of the month, you can discover new local artists, enjoy live music and check out the museum's featured exhibition from 6pm to 9pm.

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    Location: 2416 N Mills Ave, Orlando, FL 32803, USA

    Open: Tuesday–Friday from 10 am to 4 pm, Saturday–Sunday from 12 pm to 4 pm (closed on Mondays)

    Phone: +1 407-896-4231

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    photo by User:MrX (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified

    • Nightlife

    SAK Comedy Lab is one of Downtown Orlando’s most prominent live improv comedy clubs. The 250-seat venue is packed almost every night of the week as the team of talented actors never put on the same show twice. Stars such as Wayne Brady and Jonathan Mangum got their start at SAK Comedy Lab, as well as many award-winning writers for shows such as SNL and The Office. Prices vary per show, ranging from $5 to $20.

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    Location: 29 S Orange Ave, Orlando, FL 32801, USA

    Open: Tuesday–Saturday from 6 pm to 11 pm (closed on Sundays and Mondays)

    Phone: +1 407-648-0001

    Price: $17

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