It’s probably true that many visitors here in Orlando don’t actually see Orlando. That is, they don’t break away from the main tourist areas to see the wonderful downtown areas or some of the superb natural attractions that are a short drive away.
So, with that in mind, this latest blog is dedicated to some of the ‘hidden gems’ that are in and around The City Beautiful in a bid to highlight some fabulous alternatives to the obvious headline attractions that Orlando has to offer, and the Real Florida Adventures that pair perfectly with them.
10. Wekiva Island
This beautiful rural retreat is only 15 miles from downtown yet light years away in terms of ambiance and style. Its prime draw is kayaking on the crystal clear Wekiva River, whose waters stay at a constant 70 degrees from the natural springs that bubble up hereabouts. With a super little food truck café and a lively bar, this is total chillout territory in the midst of the great tourist hubbub. See more at https://wekivaisland.com.
This also pairs really with RFA’s Clearwater Beach & Aquarium tour, which provides a full array of marine wildlife to enjoy.
9. Tank America
New in town in 2022, this is a unique opportunity to actually drive military-grade hardware – tanks and armored personnel carriers – and crush cars with them! It’s fun, intense, and truly a one-off chance to know what it feels like not just to be inside one of these amazing machines, but to drive it through different types of terrain and over various obstacles, including cars. See more at www.tankamerica.com.
8. Orange County Regional History Center
In the heart of downtown is this wonderful museum that tells the full back story of our region, highlighting the key moments in Central Florida history, from the indigenous peoples to the arrival of a certain Mouse and its city-changing effects. It has a great gift shop, too, and the unmissable photo op outside of Bunk Baxter, alligator wrestler. See more at www.thehistorycenter.org.
This also pairs really well with Real Florida Adventures’ Kennedy Space Center tour, which provides the full history of the Space Race.
7. SAK Comedy Lab
For those who remember Disney’s Pleasure Island and enjoyed the fun of the Comedy Warehouse, with its audience-response moments, downtown Orlando boasts a similar set-up of improv comedy and audience involvement. It’s called SAK Comedy Lab, and it actually appeared at Disney from 1984-91 as the street theater shows in Epcot. Now they offer live comedy in their own right, and it’s equally enjoyable. See more at www.sakcomedylab.com.
6. Leu Gardens
When you need the peace and quiet of beautiful tropical gardens, downtown features one of the best in Florida. Dating back to the 1930s, this dazzling collection of plants, shrubs, and trees in a lovely lakeside setting is the perfect antidote to the hustle-bustle elsewhere, and it is usually quiet on weekdays, so it makes for an ideal day out. See more at www.leugardens.org.
5. Plant Street Market
To see where the locals go at weekends, head to the pretty city suburb of Winter Garden – just 15 miles north of Disney – and discover this wonderful food hall and brewery, boasting a terrific array of different dining outlets, plus fresh produce and a coffee roastery. A Winter Garden must-see since 2015, it also features the award-winning Crooked Can Brewery, which is worth making the journey to sample on its own! See more at https://crookedcan.com/plant-st-market.
4. Pioneer Village at Shingle Creek
For a spell-binding look at Central Florida’s yesteryear – and how people survived in the region without air-conditioning – check out this clever re-creation village from the 1880s. It features a variety of original buildings from the late 18th and early 19th centuries, all brought in from different parts of Osceola County, and presents them in the best story-telling form. See more at https://osceolahistory.org/pioneer-village/.
This also pairs really well with the Boggy Creek Airboat adventure, which includes a stop at their Native American village.
3. Paddling Center at Shingle Creek
Yes, the Kissimmee area boasts TWO great opportunities to enjoy this natural environment, and this one actually puts you in the headwaters of the Everglades, with a chance to paddle along five miles of pristine cypress forest and marshes. You can hire kayaks, canoes, and paddleboards for a gentle adventure with Mother Nature in a truly tranquil setting close to all the main attractions. See more at www.paddlingcenter.com.
This pairs really well with RFA’s Manatee Snorkelling tour at Crystal River, which also promotes Florida’s natural side.
2. Lake Eola Park
If there is one iconic view of Orlando away from the theme parks, it is picturesque Lake Eola in the heart of downtown. With a one-mile trail around the park, paddle boats, and the bonus of great artwork, wildlife, and history to explore – and some fab dining opportunities nearby – this is the REAL Orlando. See more at www.orlando.gov/Parks-the-Environment/Directory/Lake-Eola-Park.
1. Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive
This is arguably the best-value attraction in town as it is absolutely FREE to enjoy each Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Lake Apopka is little more than a 20-minute drive from the Disney area and boasts a stunning vista of lakes, marshes, and wildlife, with plentiful birdlife and the virtually guaranteed chance to see alligators in the wild. The 11-mile, one-way drive can take two hours to explore fully, so bring a drink or snack with you. See more on this link.
This pairs really well with the Real Wild Florida Adventure tour, which also provides its share of gator action!
Be sure to ask about the Price Match Guarantee. If you find a lower qualified price for an identical tour on another site, RFA will match it, no questions asked.
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