Explore Orlando's lesser-known (and often less crowded or expensive) attractions

Be a tourist in your own town

Explore Orlando's lesser-known (and often less crowded or expensive) attractions
Cover design by Melissa McHenry

Hard Rock Tours

Universal Orlando offers a range of rarely publicized special tours, including exclusive (and expensive) VIP guides to back-door you past the attraction queues and free secret peeks behind the scenes at select rides like Men In Black and Reign of Kong. Unfortunately, you have to pay for a park ticket or annual pass in order to participate in most of these experiences, but there is one tour at CityWalk that you can enjoy without spending a penny (aside from the parking fee). Orlando's Hard Rock Cafe boasts the biggest musical memorabilia collection of any restaurant in the globe-spanning chain, and they offer daily complimentary guided "Vibe Tours" every afternoon and evening. Inquire about availability at the podium in the main lobby, and you may find yourself inside ordinarily off-limits areas like the Lennon Room, exploring musical instruments and artifacts representing everyone from the Beatles to Bootsy Collins. If you want more, walk or take the free water taxi to the Hard Rock Hotel, where QR codes let your smartphone lead you on a self-directed tour of costumes worn by Lady Gaga, Rihanna and J.Lo. Visit hardrockhotelorlando.com for a guide to all the garb. hardrock.com/cafes/orlando

Bootsy Collins glasses - Courtesy Hard Rock
Courtesy Hard Rock
Bootsy Collins glasses
Kurt Cobain ephemera (Polaroid, receipt) - Courtesy Hard Rock
Courtesy Hard Rock
Kurt Cobain ephemera (Polaroid, receipt)


The giant Icon Orlando 400-foot tall observation wheel (formerly known as the Coca-Cola Orlando Eye, and before that simply the Orlando Eye) continues to roll along on International Drive, and we're still awaiting the start of construction on the 501-foot Polercoaster at Joshua Wallack's proposed Skyplex up the street. Now those nosebleed-inducing structures have another skyscraping neighbor in the newly opened Starflyer, billed as the tallest ride of its type in the world. Just picture that old-fashioned fair favorite, the spinning swing ride – only set so high up in the air that you can see the coast on a clear day. Guests ride in 24 tandem seats which are attached to the 450-foot-tall tower by metal chains, and which reach speeds of up to 45 mph while circling more than 40 stories above the cement. DO save a couple bucks off the $13 ticket by buying online, and DO avail yourself of the Star Bar for some liquid courage (just a little) before riding. DON'T drop your smartphone from the top while trying to take a selfie, as seen in a recent viral video. starflyer.com

click to enlarge Starflyer - Photo courtesy Matt Roseboom/Attractions Magazine
Photo courtesy Matt Roseboom/Attractions Magazine


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