Beyond theme parks: Local Orlando highlights

Orlando is best known for its proliferation of theme parks, but this large city has delights that go far beyond cartoon characters and thrill rides. Locals love the city for more than its pixie dust. These popular destinations highlight a lesser-known side of Orlando that is well worth a visit.

Church Street – For Action-Packed Evenings

Nestled in the heart of Orlando, the Church Street district is popular for its night life. Things really step up around the holidays where traffic is blocked off so parties for events like Halloween and New Year’s Eve can literally spill into the streets. Popular bars like Chillers, Big Belly, and Latitudes keep things exciting year-round with weekly events and drink specials that draw big crowds. Several downtown hotels like the Grand Bohemian Orlando, Autograph Collection are just minutes from this popular area.

Lake Eola Park – For Outdoor Entertainment

Photo by Ivory Rines via Trover.com

Lake Eola Park offers a refreshing patch of nature in downtown Orlando. The park is dominated by Lake Eola. The signature fountain in the middle is the icon of the City of Orlando. A 0.9-mile path circling the lake offers a popular spot to jog or stroll. The Walt Disney Amphitheater hosts live performances, and many downtown festivals take place in and around the park. Lake Eola’s best-known residents are the live swans that fill the park. Visitors can get a little swan-like themselves with paddle boat rentals on the water.

The Orlando Science Center – For Kid Friendly Fun

Visitors of all ages can enjoy the immersive entertainment available at the Orlando Science Center. Over four floors, guests find exhibits that showcase live animals, dinosaur skeletons, and Florida farms. Children can watch bees build a hive, excavate a dinosaur fossil, or pick and sort play oranges at the Orange Grove Factory.

Local parents often opt for a season pass so they can return again and again for the experiments and exploration that never get old. You can enjoy convenient access to the Science Center during a visit to Orlando with a stay at a nearby hotel like the Comfort Suites Downtown.

The Dr. Phillips Center – For Live Performances

The Dr. Phillips Center is a new collection of entertainment venues with theaters for every type of performance. The Walt Disney Theater seats over 2,700 people, while The Bob Carr Theater is only slightly smaller with a capacity of just over 2,500. Both are ideal for Broadway performances, concerts, and other big events. The Alexis & Jim Pugh Theater offers an intimate setting with just over 300 seats and a multi-purpose space that accommodates live entertainment as well as special events like banquets.

Check the center’s schedule before booking your flights to Orlando and you can adjust your stay to coincide with performances from the Orlando Ballet, Orlando Philharmonic, and others. The packed schedule includes concerts, plays, musicals, comedians, and more.

While Orlando’s theme parks offer plenty of entertainment, this city’s lesser-known side offers just as much to explore. Find out what locals already know about Orlando’s diverse draws and try visiting one of these highlights in one of America’s most popular cities.

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