20 spots where locals can appreciate what the world travels here to enjoy 

Be a tourist in your own town

click to enlarge haunted-mansion-inside-magic.jpg

Photo via Inside the Magic

GET HIGH

Air Florida Helicopter Charters

8990 International Drive, 407-354-1400, airfloridahelicopter.com

You'll be surprised how exhilarating it is to go up in a 'copter right off I-4. Tours give you a bird's-eye view of the theme parks, the malls, downtown Orlando and more. A variety of tours are available starting at $20.

iFly Orlando<

6805 Visitors Circle, 407-903-1150, iflyorlando.com

Skydive without a plane: Fly in the vertical wind tunnel. Training session and use of flight gear included. Reservations are suggested. Admission starts at $59.95.

The Orlando Eye

8445 International Drive, 407-601-7907, i-drive360.com/the-orlando-eye

The 400-foot-tall Ferris wheel is the center of the I-Drive 360 entertainment complex, perfect for a sunset view of the area. See as far as Kennedy Space Center during the 30-minute, $25 ride.

Wallaby Ranch

1805 Deen Still Road, Davenport, 863-424-0070, wallaby.com

Even in flat Central Florida, you can hang-glide – no mountain required. Wallaby Ranch's aerotow system will launch your glider into the air, or for newbies, your tandem flight with an instructor. Prices vary widely based on experience level and equipment rental.

GET WET

Airboat Rides at Midway

28501 E. Colonial Drive, Christmas, 407-568-6790, airboatridesatmidway.com

You are almost guaranteed to see gators – lots of them – on this popular airboat tour. It's the one we always take visitors from out of town to experience. Open 9:30 a.m. daily, night tours available. Tours start at $40 for one hour.

Aquatica

5800 Water Play Way, 888-800-5447, aquaticabyseaworld.com

SeaWorld's water park. Enjoy a variety of slides alongside animal attractions. Hours vary seasonally; admission prices vary with deals for Florida residents.

Discovery Cove

6000 Discovery Cove Way, 877-557-7404, discoverycove.com

If SeaWorld doesn't get you close enough, try across the road where you can actually swim with fish and dolphins. Prices vary, but start at $219. Reservations are required.

Wet 'n Wild

6200 International Drive, 407-351-1800, wetnwild.com

Enjoy it while you can: The water park that's served Orlando since 1977 says it's closing Dec. 31, 2016. Experience thrill rides with vertical drops, multi-person tubing rides, toboggan slides and more. If you like your water rides on the milder side, float along the lazy river or splash in the wave pool.

GO FAST

I-Drive NASCAR Indoor Kart Racing

5228 Vanguard St., 407-581-9644, idrivenascar.com

This indoor go-kart race facility isn't just for the little ones – big kids will also enjoy racing the environmentally friendly electric carts around the half-mile track at up to 45 miles per hour. Races start at $18.99.

Orlando Speed World Dragway

19164 E. Colonial Drive, 407-568-5522, raceosw.com/dragway

If you're into drag racing, this is the place to be. Check out street dragsters, motorcycles, old hot rods and even school buses as they go flat-out. Street drags every Friday and Saturday, and drifting events, too. Check the schedule online for events and prices.

GET NATURAL

Audubon Center for Birds of Prey

1101 Audubon Way, Maitland, 407-644-0190, fl.audubon.org

Get up close and personal with awesome raptors at this rehab center located in a 1920s bungalow on Lake Sybelia. There's a walking trail and aviaries housing injured birds that can't be released back into the wild. Admission: $5.

Central Florida Zoo and Botanical Gardens

3755 NW Highway 17-92, Sanford, 407-323-4450, centralfloridazoo.org

Home to more than 500 animals, not counting the Insect Zoo. They also have a couple of ziplines (check their sports and recreation section for details). Admission: $14.95.

Gatorland

14501 S. Orange Blossom Trail, 407-855-5496, gatorland.com It's a roadside attraction turned eco-preserve. The flesh-eating monsters roam (almost) free, along with many more scary things. Watch them swim, eat, sleep, wrestle and jump. Adult admission: $26.99.

Jungle Adventures Nature Park

26205 State Road 50, Christmas, 407-568-2885, jungleadventures.com

Kind of like Gatorland, but smaller and more intimate, this roadside attraction takes in injured and abandoned wildlife for rehab. Enter through the mouth of the "largest gator in Florida," a 200-footer that used to double as the home of the park's original owner. Inside, you'll see rarities such as a Florida panther and gray wolves. Adult admission: $23.95.

GET SMART

Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex

State Road 405 east of Titusville (or GPS coordinates 28o31'34.10"N and 80o40'45.12"W), 866-737-5235, kennedyspacecenter.com

Space junkies, this complex is worth the drive to Titusville: Take guided tours of launch areas, see historic rockets, ride the Shuttle Launch Experience and see the Astronaut Hall of Fame. It really is rocket science. Check website for admission.

Orange County Regional History Center

65 E. Central Blvd., 407-836-8500, thehistorycenter.org

The 1927 county courthouse includes permanent exhibits from natural Florida through Disney's coming. Traveling exhibits broaden its appeal, and a local history archive awaits scholars. Adult admission: $8.

Orlando Science Center

777 E. Princeton St., 407-514-2000, osc.org

The museum is home to SimMan, a life-sized simulated sick person whose vital signs you can follow until he flatlines, as well as Florida's largest refractor telescope and all sorts of hands-on learning experiences that'll appeal to kids and grown-ups alike. Adult admission: $19.95.

GO GREEN

Bok Tower Gardens

1151 Tower Blvd., Lake Wales, 863-676-1408, boktowergardens.org

A botanical and historical masterpiece designed by Frederick Law Olmsted Jr., crowned with a 205-foot bell tower. Open daily 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., with singing carillon concerts at 1 and 3 p.m. Adult admission $12; $3 for children.

Harry P. Leu Gardens

1920 N. Forest Ave., 407-246-2620, leugardens.org

Three miles of paved paths wind through gorgeous botanical displays, including the largest formal rose garden in Florida and a butterfly garden. Open daily 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; $10 for adults, $3 children.

Mead Botanical Garden

1300 S. Denning Drive, Winter Park, 407-599-2800, meadgarden.org

This green oasis features bike paths, boardwalks and picnic areas full of native plants. The park also features restored wetlands and riparian forests. It's a hidden Winter Park gem. Open daily, 8 a.m. to dusk, free.

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