Family-Fun Things to Do in Orlando Beyond Theme Parks

Ballet, Broadway, deep space, and fine dining don't need magic to shine.

orlando florida skyline
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Most people associate Orlando with its beloved theme parks: Walt Disney World (which is currently celebrating its 50th anniversary), Universal Studios Orlando, SeaWorld, and Busch Gardens, which collectively bring in more theme park visitors than any other U.S. state or even any country in the world.

But along with an ambitious multibillion-dollar airport renovation designed to make travel to and from Orlando more convenient, there are dozens of new restaurants and attractions on tap to open in the coming years, expanding tourism options beyond the theme parks and giving visitors even more reasons to return to Florida for another dose of magic.

Ballet, Broadway, and Deep Space

We'd be remiss not to mention the latest attractions over at Orlando's theme parks. At Walt Disney World, these include Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind and Remy's Ratatouille Adventure at EPCOT, plus a new show, "Finding Nemo: The Big Blue…and Beyond!" at Animal Kingdom. Then there's the Jurassic World VelociCoaster at Universal Studios, as well as DreamWorks Destination, an interactive experience with characters from films like Trolls, Madagascar, and Kung Fu Panda. Preparations are also underway for a fourth theme park at Universal Studios in 2023 called Epic Universe.

Farther afield at LEGOLAND in Winter Haven, guests can celebrate the first Peppa Pig Theme Park in the world, as well as the park's newest ride, Pirate River Quest, a treasure hunt for the whole family.

Once you're tired of theme parks, take in a Broadway, orchestra, or ballet performance at Steinmetz Hall at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, which just opened in early 2022 and is called "one of the world's most acoustically perfect spaces." If you're a fan of Cirque du Soleil and Disney, check out a performance of Drawn to Life, combining Disney animation with jaw-dropping acrobatics.

Orlando's NASA headquarters will see upgrades to its Kennedy Space Center Visitors Complex with the opening of the Deep Space Launch Complex in spring 2022, expected to entice space fans with immersive displays and launch viewing opportunities.

Where to Eat in Orlando

Orlando has always gone beyond what most folks think of as typical theme park cuisine, and the city's latest offerings are a testament to that.

Four Flamingos, which opened at Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress from acclaimed Top Chef All-Star Richard Blais, offers a Floridian menu that sings with tropical flavors, like the Oxtail and Foie Gras Empanada with Mango Salsa and Passion Fruit Flan.

Launch your meal into outer space by checking out Space 220 at EPCOT, a new restaurant experience designed to make diners feel like they're in space, offering prix-fixe lunches and dinners with items like Big Bang Burrata, Galactic Lobster Globe, and Space-Ghetti.

A great family activity for foodies of all ages is to take a food crawl through Disney Springs, hitting up favorites like the Daily Poutine, Cookes of Dublin, Sunshine Churros, the Coca Cola Store, and our family favorite, T-REX.

The Milkhouse in downtown Orlando is a new casual space for grabbing breakfast or an afternoon snack, featuring locally-roasted coffee and homemade ice creams.

Where to Stay in Orlando

On the heels of the opening of Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance at Disney's Hollywood Studios comes the much-anticipated opening of Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser, where guests can enjoy a fully immersive, all-inclusive stay aboard the starship Halcyon.

A slate of other new hotels have opened or have scheduled openings in the coming months, among them: Walt Disney Swan Reserve and Ette Hotel Orlando, a Tuscan-inspired, wellness-themed hotel.

My family loved our stay at Reunion Resort as an alternative to staying on-site at one of the pricier theme park villas. Each one- to three- bedroom unit includes spacious bathroom and kitchen facilities, as well as nightly turndown service.

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