Orlando may be best known for its theme parks but it also has a thriving city center that’s well worth a day or two of exploring. Read on to find out about the best things to do in Downtown Orlando, whether you’re visiting on your own or with the whole family.
The best things to do in Downtown Orlando
Fun things to do in Downtown Orlando
Shop ’til you drop, check out the weekly Farmer’s Market or visit the city’s many museums, galleries and tourist attractions. Here’s a round-up of some of the best things to do in Downtown Orlando during the day.
Go boating at Lake Eola
Located in the heart of Downtown Orlando, Lake Eola Park is one of the region’s most famous attractions – and at its heart is its huge swan-filled lake. You can spend a day relaxing by the water and feeding the birds, or you can rent a swan-shaped boat and enjoy a cruise around the lake.
The park also features a kids’ playground, a Chinese pagoda and the Walt Disney Amphitheater which hosts many community events and performances. Once you’ve enjoyed boating around the lake you can stop stop off for a bite to eat at the Relax Grill.
Head to the Farmers Market in Orlando
The Farmers Market Orlando takes place at Lake Eola Park every Sunday and is worth a visit if you’re in the area. It’s home to dozens of vendors offering everything from gourmet cheese to one-of-a-kind artworks and handmade jewelry. It’s also a great place to stock up for the week thanks to the abundance of fresh produce for sale. Head down anytime between 10am and 3pm.
Visit the history center
Anyone who is interested in Central Florida’s rich heritage should visit the Orange County Regional History Center. Housed in a historic courthouse in the heart of Downtown Orlando, the museum offers 4 floors of fascinating exhibits plus a wide range of programs for families, children and adults.
Shop ’til you drop
While the wider Orlando area is a renowned destination for its malls and outlet stores, shopping options in the central hub of Downtown Orlando are smaller and less commercialized. You’ll find an excellent line-up of ‘niche’ places to shop including independent boutiques, local markets and one-of-a kind fashion stores. Church Street is one of the best places to head. You won’t find any outlet action here but there are some great arts and crafts shops, fashion boutiques, antique dealers and souvenirs stores on both sides of the road.
The quaint East End Market just northeast out of the Downtown area is another good shopping stop. Open every day except Monday, this two-story market-cum-arcade is the place for go for cooked food, local art and fresh produce.
Go on a guided tour
What better way to make the most of Downtown Orlando than to go on a special tour? You can join the Crafty Cocktail Tour and sample a variety of eclectic beverages hand-selected by local mixologists. History buffs will love the Downtown Historic Tour which gives visitors the opportunity to experience Orlando’s history first-hand. And if you join the Downtown Orlando Food Tour you’ll get to walk the Central Business District visiting some of the region’s best eateries for food samples along the way.
Play golf at a top club
The prestigious Country Club of Orlando is definitely the place to go if you want a few rounds of golf. Surprisingly close to the high-rises of Downtown Orlando, it’s one of the largest and oldest country clubs in Florida. There’s an 18-hole Donald Doss-designed course as well as a junior-Olympic sized swimming pool, a state-of-the-art fitness center and a grand clubhouse with a restaurant, banquet rooms and meeting facilities.
Brave the Orlando Free Fall Gyro Drop Tower
Located in Downtown’s Icon Park, the Free Fall Gyro Drop Tower opened in the summer of 2021, and is currently the world’s tallest free-fall ride. If you manage to get on the ride without running in the other direction when you spot the structure looming against the bright Orlando sky, you’ll experience an exhilarating, stomach-churning ride that you won’t be able to help but do again and again (or not, depending on how scared you were!) Will you brave the fall?
Things to do in Downtown Orlando at night
Orlando’s Downtown area really comes alive at night with a whole host of nightlife venues. From hole-in-the-wall wine bars and local-style taverns to huge music arenas and all-out nightclubs, you’ll find something to do in Downtown Orlando in every direction.
Check out Church Street
The unofficial center of Downtown Orlando, Church Street is the place to go if you want to get to know the area a little better. You’ll find some of the city’s best restaurants here, plus plenty of cool bars and nightspots. Church Street is also home to the historic Railroad Depot, as well as theaters, shopping plazas and the huge Amway Center sports arena.
Soak up the Downtown Orlando nightlife
The best nightlife venues in Downtown Orlando are located around East and West Church Street which both get pretty lively after-dark. There are plenty of vibrant, thrilling nightclubs and bars open around Downtown Orlando, making it one of the state’s hot spots.
Watch a concert at the Amway Center
Downtown Orlando’s famous Amway Center is home to Orlando’s 3 major sports teams; the Orlando Magic, the Orlando Predators and the Orlando Solar Bears. It can also be transformed into a live music hall and has hosted shows by big name artists including Madonna, Justin Bieber and Katy Perry.
Catch a movie
Gather your family and friends and head down to the CMX Cinemas Plaza Café 12 right in the heart of Downtown Orlando. You can catch a blockbusting new release or go for something different a little different with one of the current showings of independent and foreign films. If you get peckish, the 12-screen theater has everything from popcorn and soft drinks to beers, wines and even caviar.
Hang out at the Wall Street Plaza
One of the best venues in Downtown Orlando, the Wall Street Plaza is a top evening entertainment venue. A complex of bars, restaurants and nightclubs all located within one city block, it hosts outdoor block parties every weekend, plus some of the region’s biggest parties and special events.
Things to do in Downtown Orlando for free
Exploring Downtown Orlando doesn’t have to be expensive – there are plenty of cheap and free things to do if you know where to look!
Go on a free brewery tour
The Orlando Brewing Company is the only certified organic brewery in the whole of Florida. It holds free tours from Monday through Saturday at 6pm. You can learn all about the brewery and try a variety of different beers as you go. Tours are on a first-come-first-serve basis. Just see your server to get a ticket.
Get a dose of culture
There are heaps of museums in Downtown Orlando and many of them offer free entry. The Orange County Regional History Center offers free admission for moms on Mother’s Day and for dads on Father’s Day, then again in September to celebrate Museum Day. The City Arts Factory on Orange Avenue offers free admission from Tuesday through Saturday from 11am to 6pm. The Grand Bohemian Gallery at the Grand Bohemian Hotel is also free to have a wander around, while the the Orlando Science Center is free for members and kids age 2 and under.
Enjoy free events at Lake Eola
If you’re not planning on renting a boat, you can enjoy a day at Lake Eola Park without spending a cent. There’s a walkway around the lake for scenic strolls. The park also has a large kids’ playground which is free to use. The onsite Walt Disney Amphitheater hosts many free community events and performances. At night the fountain in the center of the lake comes alive with a choreographed show set to lights and music. Shows run nightly at around 8pm and 9.30 pm.
Go for an evening stroll
Pretty oak trees line the quaint streets and surrounding neighborhoods such as Thornton Park and Lake Eola Heights. Known as Downtown’s quintessential historic neighborhoods, these upscale districts offer first-rate eateries, inviting neighborhood bars and trendy boutiques. Some of the oldest houses in Orlando are based around nearby Lake Eola.
Celebrate art, music and business
On the third Thursday of every month, thousands of visitors head to Downtown Orlando to celebrate art, music and business. There are various free business networking events in the Central Business District, plus gallery tours, exhibitions, music events and the Gallery Hop After Party which runs from 9pm until 11pm at Wall St. Plaza’s Hooch.
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