With 233 days of sun every year, Orlando is one of the most visited cities in the United States. Visitors flock to the city for a number of different reasons, but once you arrive it’s easy to understand why so many people choose not to leave.
More than 2.5 million people call Orlando home, and Orange County boasts some of the most amazing sights, sounds, and experiences that can’t be missed. Downtown Orlando has something for everyone, with delicious dining opportunities, culture-rich museums and galleries, and some of the most beautiful eco hotspots for nature-inspired relaxation, so you can find your ideal activity without having to stray too far.
You won’t spot many of the usual theme-park-inspired characters or buildings in Downtown Orlando, just a fresh vibe of individuality and representation that keeps drawing people back time and time again. Whether you want to see the sights for free or access a luxury experience that you’ll never forget, downtown Orlando truly has it all.
Let’s dive into 10 can’t miss activities you’ll find in Downtown Orlando.
1. Take a Swan Boat for a Spin at Lake Eola
Lake Eola Park is situated right in the heart of downtown Orlando. A sidewalk circles the lake, attracting visitors who walk or run along the waterline to benefit from fresh air and beautiful views.
There are many activities on offer at Lake Eola Park, including swan-shaped paddle boats that you can rent out to explore the lake, the opportunity to feed the many birds that inhabit the park, stopping for a delicious meal at Relax Grill on Lake Eola, or simply unwinding amongst the flower beds as you view the spectacular Orlando skyline. It’s a great spot for an afternoon picnic with family or friends, and you can even find outdoor exercise groups that aim to make the most of the sunshine, too!
Lake Eola Park is widely known for being one of the best kept and well-maintained parks in the U.S., so it’s no wonder it attracts so many keen visitors each year. W
2. See What’s Fresh at the Farmers’ Market
Orlando boasts some of the most amazing farmers’ markets around, so it’s the perfect place to explore and purchase a variety of local and international products as well as masses of fresh produce to enjoy.
One of the most popular farmers’ markets is at Lake Eola Park which is soon to enter its 35th year. It is always expanding, as each year many new vendors make the marketplace their home. There’s a brand new wine and beer garden, lots of entertainment, an outdoor dining area, and themed Sundays to promote pet-friendly, family-friendly, food and wine as well as arts in the park programs.
You can pick up all the ingredients you need to make a range of fresh, local, and delicious dishes while soaking up the sights and meeting friendly residents that flock each week – what’s not to love?
3. Sip and Stroll at Thornton Park’s Wine Walk
Thornton Park hosts a number of beloved monthly events, but the Wine & Art Walk which takes place on the second Thursday of each month is one of the best in the business.
Tickets are affordable for the 3-hour event coming in at just $10 when ordered in advance (or $15 at the event), and you’ll receive a glass and a map of more than 20 spots around the downtown district that are offering free drink samples. A
Although it’s called a wine walk, a number of locations on the tour serve mini cocktails, too. In addition to the drink stops, you will get to witness local artisans set up along the sidewalk selling their unique creations, along with the beautiful architecture in the area. Be sure to make a stop at The Veranda at Thornton Park, as they host an epic open mic night when the wine walk takes place every month!
4. Learn and Explore the Orlando Science Center
Welcoming visitors for over 65 years, Orlando Science Center, located near Rowena Park, is a place that inspires, excites, and encourages the imagination to run wild.
The Science Center is certainly one of the best daytime activities for families in downtown Orlando, as it combines fun and learning under one jaw-dropping roof. Boasting 4 vast floors of enchanting exhibits and 3D films, the Science Center is the ideal rainy day escape when the weather makes outdoor activities impossible.
The interactive and engaging exhibits are perfect for school-age children, keeping them occupied for hours on end. From explorations in natural science to the modern world of simulation technology, there are countless opportunities to educate, experiment, and discover. If you get hungry during your expedition around the center, be sure to check out the 4Roots Cafe – they serve an innovative plant-forward menu, and aim to source as much produce as they can from local growers in the Orlando region.
5. Enjoy the Nightlife on Orlando’s Church Street
Church Street is a very popular nightlife district in downtown Orlando that features a variety of epic bars and restaurants.
Block Parties on Church Street are a common occurrence, and they aim to bring live music, top-quality vendors, and entertainment together. There are 3 bars over 3 different levels, including Chillers which is a frozen drinks bar, Cahoots which is an arcade bar, and Latitudes which is a rooftop tiki bar.
Whatever kind of nightlife you’re searching for in downtown Orlando, you’ll be able to find it on Church Street! This hotspot is ideal for date nights and evenings out with friends, and there’s a wonderful feeling of community spirit in the Church Street area. Every month new events take place, offering different themes and music genres to suit people from all walks of life, from nickel beer night to runway Sundays.
6. Peddle Around Town with an Orlando Bike Share
Tired of spending money on taxis or Uber? Take a bike instead! There are hundreds of dockless bikes across Orlando, and it is the healthiest and most affordable form of transit in the area. Renting a bike is kinder to the environment, and it can transform the way you explore Downtown Orlando.
Renting a bike allows you to plan your own route, giving you the opportunity to stop off at some of the best sights in your own time without any feeling of rush or hurry. There are many different areas that you can explore on a bike, and it’s such a cheap way to see the city. When the weather is so beautiful outside, it’s an easy choice between a bike and rideshare!
All you need to do is sign up and log in, then when you’ve located your nearest available bike share you simply scan the QR code and start riding! As soon as you’re done, park up in a Bike Share bay and lock the wheel to finish your ride, and you’ll be charged based on how long you’ve been riding (unless you’ve already bought a daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly pass).
7. Step Back in Time at the Orange County History Center
The Orange County Regional History Center is located inside a restored courthouse that dates back to 1927, and it’s home to some of the most inspiring collections of the Historical Society of Central Florida.
Spread out across 3 floors, many intriguing exhibits showcase over 12,000 years of Florida’s colorful and interesting history. You can also expect to find nationally important limited-run exhibitions during your visit to the Orange County Regional History Center, so no two visits are likely to be the same.
With exciting events and educational programs for adults and children alike, including lectures, camps, workshops, you can easily spend hours entranced by the local history. It’s a great spot for families looking to educate their little ones on the culture of Orlando, and you’ll no doubt be able to learn a thing or two yourself while you browse the many exhibits that line the center’s halls.
8. Enjoy Forbidden Libation at an Orlando Speakeasy
There are many brilliant speakeasies in the downtown Orlando area, but one of the best is Hanson’s Shoe Repair. Hanson’s Shoe Repair is totally unique, as it serves some of the most delectable cocktails in the city surrounded by aesthetics that you simply won’t find elsewhere. It occupies the uppermost floor of a 19th-century building and aims to retain the classic olde-worlde charm that the premises exude.
Intimate is an understatement when describing this former cobbler’s shop, as besides the rooftop bar there are only a dozen or so seats with standing space for perhaps 20 people. You can rest on the dilapidated main bar while chewing the fat with one of the talkative bartenders, or alternatively head outside to the rooftop terrace to see a live band or film screening. It’s important to add that the speakeasy vibe isn’t just limited to the aesthetics, as you actually need a password to get into Hanson’s Shoe Repair! This can be obtained by calling or emailing the management before your visit, so don’t forget.
9. Experience Downtown Orlando’s Art Scene
CityArts Factory in downtown Orlando is a huge multi-use arts and culture facility, inside which visual and performance art co-exists. Situated in the middle of the downtown Arts District, it hosts 6 independently run art galleries that feature the work of both local and international artists that rotate monthly.
You can also find studio space at CityArts Factory if you are a working artist, so this is definitely a hotspot to check out if you’re a creative searching for other inspiring individuals to collaborate with. They even have a dedicated ‘Young Artists’ section that aims to inspire the youth of the day to get involved in the world of art while presenting some of the best up-and-coming creatives in the area, so it’s definitely worthwhile location to head to. The Arts District in downtown Orlando is a unique area that’s up and coming, so if you want to mix with the ‘in’ crowd then CityArts Factory is the place to be.
There are many more art hotspots downtown that can keep you busy for hours on end, so it’s a wonderful place to immerse yourself in the unique creative beauty that you won’t find elsewhere.
10. Tickle Your Funny Bone at SAK Comedy Lab
Sak Comedy Club is like nowhere else in Orlando, as they host a range of award-winning comedy shows while presenting some of the best improvisers in the business.
With comedians making up songs, scenes, and characters on the spot based on audience suggestions, Sak Comedy Club takes improvisation to a whole new hilarious level. Sak has been a career-boosting beginning for a number of writers, actors and producers for shows like Saturday Night Live, Scrubs, The Office and 30 Rock.
They have shows for all ages and aim to make comedy accessible for everyone. The Sak Comedy Lab boasts 250 seats inside a beautiful venue, and they offer a selection of beers and wines to choose from. If you want to witness the next generation of comedic talent from the local Orlando area and laugh your socks off until the early hours, then you need to plan a visit to the Sak Comedy Lab!
Their signature improv comedy competition the “Duel of Fools” takes place every Friday and Saturday night, so don’t miss out. If you’re interested in actually learning improv comedy then you can book yourself onto one of the many courses that SAK Lab offers, as they are a main training hub for the industry.
Ready to Make Downtown Orlando Home?
It’s clear to see just how many exciting, intriguing and entrancing activities, events, and places that you can take part in or visit in Downtown Orlando, which makes the rising number of new homeowners even less surprising.
Downtown Orlando is the ideal neighborhood to buy a home if you want to be surrounded by evolving individuals that are attracting investment from culture-focused organizations, as the area is aiming to protect the unique heritage that makes downtown Orlando so amazing.
Learn more about Downtown Orlando neighborhoods including Baldwin Park, Delaney Park, and Park Lake Highland. Sign up to request a home guide now to learn more about Orlando’s best neighborhoods located downtown and beyond.