100 things you must do in Orlando

Updated for 2017

100 things you must do in Orlando

An updated list (in no particular order!) of things every person who lives in Orlando should do at least once

1. Marvel at the beauty and the delicious scent of a night-blooming cereus. The cactus flower known as Selenicereus grandiflora unfolds only at night and sometimes only once a year. They're so beloved in Orlando that there's a Facebook group devoted to tracking them down.

2. Kayak a bioluminescent lagoon. In the summer through early fall, the Indian River and Mosquito Lagoon near Titusville are full of bioluminescence after dark – every movement in the water produces an eerie, sparkly light.

3. See as many movies as you can at the Florida Film Festival, more than two decades old and still going strong (floridafilmfestival.com).

4. Visit the West Art District and marvel at the thousands of square feet of mural art. Then go back a month later and see all new work covering up what you saw (1011 W. Central Blvd., westartdistrict.com).

5. Vote in a local election instead of complaining about the way things are (ocfelections.com).

6. Lose yourself in the visceral, testosterone-chugging, fossil fuel-incinerating joy of Monster Jam, every January at the Citrus Bowl (1 Citrus Bowl Place).

7. Pay your respects to the 49 victims of the mass shooting at the gay nightclub Pulse (1912 S. Orange Ave.). Dozens of people visit this site every day to bring flowers, teddy bears, balloons and even painted rocks. But please, no smiling selfies.

8. Brave the well-refreshed crowds and squeeze into Tako Cheena to grab a much-needed bite after last call. For the hardy, we recommend the kimchi cheese fries (932 N. Mills Ave., mytakocheena.com).

9. Go to an Orlando Pride soccer game, our team in the National Women's Soccer League. Led by Alex Morgan, one of the top soccer players in the world, the club has set NWSL attendance records in our soccer-crazed town. (Season runs April-September; Orlando City Stadium, 655 W. Church St., orlandocitysc.com)

10. Camp out in front of Park Ave CDs (2916 Corrine Drive, parkavecds.com) for Record Store Day in April for the most fun you'll have in queue in Orlando – with live music, comedy, food trucks, giveaways and more, it feels more like a party than a ridiculous waste of time.

click to enlarge No. 7: Visit Pulse. - Photo by Monivette Cordeiro
Photo by Monivette Cordeiro
No. 7: Visit Pulse.

11. See who would win in a fight – you or your bestie – by dueling in a multi-fighting game tournament at Player 1 Video Game Bar (8562 Palm Parkway; player1orlando.com).

12. Find a new show to love on the Rollins College student-run radio station, WPRK (91.5 FM) – "the best in basement radio" and one of the last surviving terrestrial student stations in the country.

13. Go to a reading at the Kerouac House (kerouac project.org) and see the unassuming College Park room where Dharma Bums was written.

14. Throw away your umbrella and get soaked on purpose during the inevitable summer-afternoon downpour.

15. Order Mama Ling Ling's Thanksgiving sandwich at Pom Pom's Teahouse & Sandwicheria (67 N. Bumby Ave., pompomsteahouse.com) to experience our most indulgent holiday meal any time, without a day's worth of prep.

16. Take a pedicab back to your car after partying downtown; admire your driver's calves.

17. Get buzzed on craft beer at the Geek Easy and end up going home with way more comics than you had planned to purchase. Because sometimes a Rick & Morty trade paperback is exactly what you need when you're drunk (114 S. Semoran Blvd., Winter Park, facebook.com/mygeekeasy).

18. Get some culture while smashing a cocktail: Take a happy-hour tour of the stunning collection of contemporary art at the Alfond Inn (300 E. New England Ave., Winter Park, thealfondinn.com).

19. Instead of taking the boring way around, do/see/ride all the Harry Potter attractions at Universal Orlando (6000 Universal Blvd., universalorlando.com) in the order of Harry's journey in the books: Gringotts Money Exchange to Diagon Alley to the Hogwarts Express and so on and so on for seven damn books.

click to enlarge No. 36: Plan an East End Market food crawl (don’t forget Domu). - Photo by Rob Bartlett
Photo by Rob Bartlett
No. 36: Plan an East End Market food crawl (don’t forget Domu).

20. Go ice skating outdoors in Florida: November through January, enjoy Winter in the Park in Central Park's West Meadow (corner of Morse Boulevard and New York Avenue, Winter Park, cityofwinterpark.org).

21. Argue over where College Park begins and ends with another longtime resident, but don't even get into the whole Mills 50/Colonialtown/ViMi mess.

22. Learn Spanish. Whether you're reading a menu, listening to the radio or helping someone with directions, it's time to stop pretending that Florida is a monolingual state. Brush up on your vocabulary and irregular verbs at Orlando Language Exchange, a group trying to bridge language barriers in fun, relaxed social settings (facebook.com/orlandolanguageexchange).

23. Go have a stiff drink at Ace Cafe, scarf down some loud food, browse through the apparel and finally realize that, yes, you were indeed born to be wild (100 W. Livingston St., acecafeusa.com).

24. Buy plants from Leu Gardens (1920 N. Forest Ave., leugardens.org) at the annual plant sale, a massive flora and fauna bonanza that takes place every March. Spend some time exploring the gorgeous formal gardens while you're there.

25. Visit Holy Land Experience (4655 Vineland Road, holylandexperience.com) on its annual free day. Every year the Biblical-themed amusement park is required to open its doors to the public for free in exchange for property-tax exemptions. The annual event is chaotic and crowded, but the experience is ... well, it's something.

26. Do yoga outdoors at the mass class in Lake Eola Park on Sundays, because your dog could be a little more downward.

27. Take a selfie in front of one of Orlando's many colorful murals, found all over town.

28. Visit the Cassadaga Spiritualist Camp (cassadaga.org) to get your tarot and/or aura read, shop for crystal balls, take a ghost tour, and perch on the Devil's Chair. A more unique day trip is impossible to find.

29. Ride an airboat and gawk at gators at Black Hammock Adventures (2356 Black Hammock Fish Camp Road, Oviedo, theblackhammock.com). Riding airboats is a quintessentially Central Floridian activity, as is slugging a few beers after your experience.

30. Take a leisurely 45-minute trip east on picturesque Colonial Drive to get your Christmas cards postmarked in Christmas, Florida.

click to enlarge No. 4: Tour the West Art District. - Photo by Joey Roulette
Photo by Joey Roulette
No. 4: Tour the West Art District.

31. Order your Pub sub online (at publix.com); give the lunchtime crowd side-eye as you stroll in and pick it up with no waiting in line.

32. Watch a rocket blast off into space at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex (Kennedy Space Center, State Road 405, Titusville, kennedyspacecenter.com). Make sure you reserve a spot early because tickets go out quickly for this jaw-dropping, awe-inspiring event.

33. Feed a fuzzy giraffe at the Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens (3755 NW Highway 17-92, Sanford, centralfloridazoo.org) from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily. Watch the tallest animal in the world munch down on some lettuce for $5 a person.

34. Experiment with the high-tech tools at the Dorothy Lumley Melrose Center (101 E. Central Blvd., 407-835-7323, ocls.info). Record a podcast, set up a photo shoot, make your own movie – whatever you do, don't neglect this resource.

35. Remember why Shakespeare is known as the greatest English-language writer in history by experiencing one of his plays, transformed and performed by the 28-year-old Orlando Shakespeare Theater company (812 E. Rollins St., orlandoshakes.org).

36. Plan an East End Market food crawl: with hyperlocal Florida & Co., cheesemonger La Femme du Fromage, ramen house and bar Domu, healthy breakfasteers Farm-Haus, Skyebird's raw foods, Houndstooth's sandwiches and the half-pound, chip-studded insanity that is a cookie from Gideon's Bakehouse, there's almost too much to choose from (3201 Corrine Drive, eastendmkt.com).

37. Squint and pretend you're in a climate with more than two seasons when the bubble-snowflakes descend on Main Street at Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party in the Magic Kingdom (1180 Seven Seas Drive, Lake Buena Vista).

38. Take a twirl through the Florida Prize in Contemporary Art at Orlando Museum of Art, an annual celebration of the best new artists working in Florida (2416 N. Mills Ave., omart.org).

39. Complete a feat that has only been accomplished by the few, the proud, the elite drinkers among us: Start at either Savoy or Wally's, and have a drink in every bar in Mills 50 and Ivanhoe Village in a day. This one gets harder and harder every year.

click to enlarge No. 9: Go to an Orlando Pride game. - Photo by Jeremy Reper
Photo by Jeremy Reper
No. 9: Go to an Orlando Pride game.

40. Laugh until your beer comes out of your nose at some of the best comedians in the country at the annual Orlando Indie Comedy Fest (2018 dates TBA, orlandoindiecomedy.com).

41. Mark out (that's industry slang for freak out) with the roaring crowd at a taping of a WWE NXT professional wrestling match at Full Sail Live (wwe.com/events).

42. Ride one of Orlando's bright orange Juice bicycles, available for rent in various places around the city (orlando bikeshare.com).

43. Go to a Grapefruit League game – of the Major League Baseball teams that come to Florida for spring training, the Atlanta Braves, Detroit Tigers and New York Yankees all stay relatively near Orlando. See game schedules at floridagrapefruitleague.com.

44. Sacrifice yourself to a volcano on Ko'okiri Body Plunge's 125-foot drop at Universal's Volcano Bay water park (6000 Universal Blvd., universalorlando.com).

45. Get married at the Acre (4421 Edgewater Drive, theacreorlando.com), one of the coolest wedding venues in Orlando – or just wait for someone to invite you to their wedding there.

46. See a Broadway musical at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts (445 S. Magnolia Ave., drphillips center.org) The venue itself is impressive – all modern, sleek interiors and pleasing acoustics – but it's the excellent programming that really makes a splash.

47. Follow the city's Significant Trees Map (cityoforlando.net), a loop that travels through various parks as grand as Loch Haven Park and as humble as Big Tree Park, and give your favorite a hug.

48. Drink a Duff and eat a giant Lard Lad doughnut at the Simpsons' Springfield at Universal Studios (6000 Universal Blvd., universalorlando.com).

49. Learn about cricket and rugby from the British expat community, which is strangely significant in this part of the state. The best way to do this is to head to one of the area's British pubs. Try the Orlando George and Dragon (6314 International Drive), Murphy's Arms (6582 International Drive) or the Fox and Hounds (3514 W. Vine St., Kissimmee).

click to enlarge No. 32: Watch a rocket launch. - Photo by Joey Roulette
Photo by Joey Roulette
No. 32: Watch a rocket launch.

50. Go to at least one show at the Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival. It's the longest-running fringe festival in the United States (orlandofringe.org). Don't forget to drink a beer on the Green Lawn of Fabulousness.

51. Browse acres of antiques at one of Renninger's Antiques Center's multiple extravaganza events (20651 U.S. 441, Mount Dora; renningers.net). Start out on the sprawling lawn and then work your way up to the impressive collections housed in two separate buildings.

52. Explore the expansive collection of the works of Louis Comfort Tiffany at the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art (445 N. Park Ave., Winter Park, morsemuseum.org). Be blown away by the completely gorgeous chapel interior that's been reconstructed inside the museum.

53. Take the Winter Park Scenic Boat Tour (312 E. Morse Blvd., Winter Park, scenicboattours.com), which takes you through an amazing series of lush, narrow canals that connect the Winter Park Chain of Lakes. If you've ever wondered whether this tour was worth checking out, the answer is yes – do it.

54. Gawk at the show dogs strutting their stuff at the AKC Eukanuba National Championship, which takes place at the Orange County Convention Center every December (akc.org/nationalchampionship).

55. Use a 3-D printer to make your dreams come true at "fabrication laboratory" Factur (520 Virginia Drive, factur.org).

56. Go shopping at Magic Mall for the best mixtapes and affordable gold (2155 W. Colonial Drive, magicmallplaza.com).

57. Consume copious amounts of Butterbeer Ice Cream at Diagon Alley at Universal Studios. Wash it down with the Deathly Hallows (Guinness, Hog's Head Brew and Strongbow) in Hogsmeade Pub (6000 Universal Blvd.; universalorlando.com).

58. Pick a side and cosplay at MegaCon as either a DC or Marvel character, then get in the huge group photo with some star creators (spring 2018, megaconorlando.com).

59. RSVP on the website and join one of Greenwood Cemetery's Moonlight Walking Tours, where you'll see the final resting places of people with last names like Bumby, Carr and Tinker (1603 Greenwood St., cityoforlando.net/greenwood).

click to enlarge No. 61: Explore Orlando Wetlands Park. - Photo by Ashley Belanger
Photo by Ashley Belanger
No. 61: Explore Orlando Wetlands Park.

60. Dye your feet purple by squishing grapes between your toes at Lakeridge Winery and Vineyard's annual harvest grape stomp, which takes place in August (19239 U.S. 27 North, Clermont; lakeridgewinery.com).

61. Discover the impossibly scenic nearby oasis that is Orlando Wetlands Park (25155 Wheeler Road, Christmas, orlandowetlands.org), a breathtaking wildlife preserve and one of Central Florida's most picturesque parks.

62. Attend Orlando's epic and outrageously colorful Come Out With Pride parade (Oct. 14, 2017; comeoutwith pride.com).

63. Chug a yard of beer out of a big glass boot while the crowd cheers you on at Hollerbach's Willow Tree Café (201 E. First St., Sanford, willowtreecafe.com).

64. Get dressed up and do dinner and a show, all on the same block: See a play at Mad Cow Theatre (54 W. Church St., madcowtheatre.com) and eat a swanky supper afterward just steps away at Kres Chophouse, the Rusty Spoon or ... Jersey Mike's Subs (no judgment!).

65. Take a train shot at Ivanhoe Village's Hammered Lamb (1235 N. Orange Ave., thehammeredlamb.com), where the shots are complimentary for bar patrons each time the train rolls past the back patio.

66. Devour oysters at Lee and Rick's Oyster Bar (5621 Old Winter Garden Road) until someone discovers a pearl. The world may not be your oyster, but the pearl you have a claim to.

67. See a show at the Timucua Arts White House (2000 S. Summerlin Ave., timucua.com). This unique music venue is actually in the home of local musician Benoit Glazer and his family, but don't by shy – it's an acoustically pleasing, fully functional venue with three tiers of seating for a crowd of up to 150. Most shows are free, but you're expected to bring a bottle of wine to share. A pittance for such a gorgeous experience.

68. Wear lingerie to CityWalk at Universal Orlando for a Rich Weirdoes shadowcast performance of the Rocky Horror Picture Show (every second and fourth Friday and Saturday of the month, AMC Universal Cineplex 20, 6000 Universal Blvd., richweirdoes.com).

69. Try to build a robot out of random items from the looks-like-a-mad-robotics-engineer's-laboratory-just-exploded electronics surplus shop, Skycraft Surplus (2245 W. Fairbanks Ave., Winter Park, skycraftsurplus.com).

click to enlarge No. 95: Wander around the Maitland Art Center.
No. 95: Wander around the Maitland Art Center.

70. Stab a zombie with an actual Walking Dead survivor at a Spooky Empire ultimate horror weekend. These events, intense conventions full of all things macabre, take place twice a year, in May and October (spookyempire.com).

71. Pet a tarantula at Jungle Adventures – and a scorpion, and a baby gator, and a big slithery snake (26205 E. Colonial Drive, Christmas, jungleadventures.com).

72. Show your friends how smart you are by conquering one of Orlando's many "escape room" attractions.

73. Drink your way around the world at the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, and don't miss the live chef demos (disneyworld.disney.go.com).

74. Arrive early enough to grab a front-row couch seat while doing dinner and a movie at the Enzian (1300 S. Orlando Ave., Maitland, enzian.org).

75. Cruise the forever-rotating food trucks at Tasty Takeover on Tuesdays (2424 E. Robinson St., facebook.com/tastytakeover) or the roaming Daily City Food Truck Bazaar (check thedailycity.com for locations).

76. Enjoy a home-cooked meal and down-home sounds at Southern Fried Sunday (hosted by Will's Pub, 1042 N. Mills Ave., facebook.com/southernfriedsunday).

77. Plan your own Sunrail pub crawl: Start by hitting a bar or two in downtown Orlando, ride the rail up to Winter Park, then head to Sanford where SunRail is a short Uber ride away from the bars and restaurants along First Street. (Don't forget to stop drinking in time to catch the last train home.)

78. Conquer your fear of heights by riding the Orlando Eye (8401 International Drive, officialorlandoeye.com), a 400-foot tall observation wheel overlooking I-Drive, and getting stuck at the top.

79. Drink a beer you've never had before at Redlight Redlight (2810 Corrine Drive, redlightredlightbeerparlour.com) – ask a knowledgeable bartender to recommend one or just close your eyes and point. You won't be disappointed.

click to enlarge No. 74: Do dinner and a movie at the Enzian.
No. 74: Do dinner and a movie at the Enzian.

80. Take a date on a swan boat tour of Lake Eola (boat rentals are in the park near South Rosalind Street and East Robinson Avenue).

81. It doesn't matter if you're vegan or the biggest carnivore in town – after you stagger out of a downtown bar, there's no more welcome sight than the vegan hot dog cart. Wolf down a Holiday Dog; in the morning you'll be glad you skipped that run for the border (facebook.com/theveganhotdogcart).

82. Go to an improv show at SAK Comedy Lab, but don't sit in the front unless you like public humiliation (29 S. Orange Ave., sak.com).

83. Take advantage of MAYL, the OCLS home delivery service. That's right, the Orange County Library System will actually deliver books to your front door for no charge (ocls.info).

84. Pet a panther at Back to Nature Wildlife Refuge (10525 Clapp Simms Duda Road, facebook.com/btnwildlife), or any other Florida rescue they've taken in to rehabilitate, from ring-tailed lemurs to fallow deer.

85. Jump feet first into the shockingly (but also refreshingly) cool springs at Wekiwa Springs (1800 Wekiwa Circle, Apopka). Or reserve a cabana at Wekiva Island and make new friends while partying your ass off (wekivaisland.com).

86. Eat a bánh mì in the Mills 50 district. This Vietnamese sandwich is king in this neighborhood, and you have plenty of options to choose from. We suggest you start with Boston Bakery & Café (1525 E. Colonial Drive), Banh Mi Nha Trang (1216 E. Colonial Drive) or Anh Hong (1124 E. Colonial Drive).

87. Muster the courage (and best bedroom dance moves) to demonstrate your vocal prowess at Big Daddy's (3001 Corrine Drive, bigdaddysorlando.com) nightly karaoke.

88. Order the biggest slice you've ever seen at Lazy Moon Pizza (11551 University Blvd. or 1011 E. Colonial Drive, lazymoonpizza.com) – or for a real experience, order (and finish) the gigantic 30-inch pizza.

89. Enjoy Walt Disney World in the altered state of your choice.

click to enlarge No. 28: Visit the Cassadaga Spiritualist Camp
No. 28: Visit the Cassadaga Spiritualist Camp

90. Pub crawl as a zombie during Audubon Park's Zombietoberfest (audubonparkgardens.com), but drink beers, not brains.

91. Reserve the chef's table at Luma on Park (290 S. Park Ave., Winter Park, 407-599-4111, lumaonpark.com). From the moment you're seated under the spotlight and served some off-menu tidbit or other (truffle popcorn is a frequent amuse-bouche), you'll have a play-by-play view of all the haute kitchen action.

92. Catch a drag show, play trivia, or just pose on the pool deck at the famous Parliament House (401 N. Orange Blossom Trail, parliamenthouse.com).

93. Freak out at a Varietease show at the Venue (511 Virginia Drive, thevenueorlando.com). It's like performance art disguised as a drag burlesque show, brought to you by the ecstatic and wonderful Blue Star.

94. Attend an Orlando City Council (every other Monday) or Orange County Commission meeting (every other Tuesday).

95. Wander the grounds of Orange County's first National Historic Landmark, the eccentric, gorgeous, Mayan Revival Maitland Art Center (231 W. Packwood Ave., Maitland, artandhistory.org).

96. Enjoy the naked lady wallpaper at Wally's Mills Ave. Liquors (1001 N. Mills Ave.), or take your shirt off and see if you can become part of it yourself.

97. Happy chickens lay the tastiest eggs, and there are few happier birds than the ones at Lake Meadow Naturals (10000 Mark Adam Road, Ocoee, lakemeadownaturals.com). Owner Dale Volkert sells his poultry products (not just chicken eggs, but also duck, guinea fowl, and other heritage breeds) to upscale restaurants throughout Florida, but the farm store is open to the public Monday through Saturday.

98. Play with the interactive music-and-light sculpture on the Magnolia Street side of the Orlando Public Library, then play leapfrog with the bronze alligators across the street in Heritage Square.

99. Indulge in a perfectly done steak at Linda's La Cantina (4721 E. Colonial Drive, lindaslacantina.com), which has been in business in Orlando since 1947.

100. Cheer on the jai-alai players at Orlando Jai-Alai, which still books matches for one week in June and one week in July. You still have a chance to see the second half of the 2017 season, July 10-16 (Orlando Live Events, 6405 S. U.S. Highway 17-92, Fern Park, 407-951-8751, orlandoliveevents.com).

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