100 things to do in Orlando before you die (updated for 2015)

100 things to do in Orlando before you die (updated for 2015)

See this list as a slideshow.

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

click to enlarge Jack Kerouac wrote Dharma Bums while living in this College Park bungalow.
Jack Kerouac wrote Dharma Bums while living in this College Park bungalow.

2. Drink a Duff beer (or a Flaming Moe) and eat a Krusty burger at the Simpsons Springfield at Universal Orlando's Islands of Adventure (6000 Universal Blvd., universalorlando.com).

click to enlarge Drink a Flaming Moe at Universal's Springfield USA
Drink a Flaming Moe at Universal's Springfield USA

3. Learn the chants to properly tailgate Orlando City Soccer Club's crowd-drawing MLS games (orlandocitysc.com) in the sanctioned parking lot parties at the Citrus Bowl (1 Citrus Bowl Place).

Tailgate at an Orlando City Soccer game - Ian Suarez
Ian Suarez
Tailgate at an Orlando City Soccer game

4. 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., 407-246-2616; greenwood-cemetery.net).

5. Discover the impossibly scenic 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.

click to enlarge Feel like you're a million miles away from civilization at Orlando Wetlands Park - Ashley Belanger
Ashley Belanger
Feel like you're a million miles away from civilization at Orlando Wetlands Park

6. See a show at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts (445 S. Magnolia Ave., drphillipscenter.org), downtown Orlando's new centerpiece. The venue itself is impressive – all modern, sleek interiors and pleasing acoustics – but really it's the excellent programming that's making the splash.

7. Stop traffic on a bike with Orlando Critical Mass (facebook.com/orlandocriticalmass), because your fixie is better than their Audi, any day.

8. Visit Holy Land Experience (4655 Vineland Road) on its annual free day. Every year the Biblically themed amusement park run by Trinity Broadcasting Network opens 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. Check the park's website (holylandexperience.com) for the announcement of its admission-free date.

9. Conquer your impatience and enjoy a Lineage pour-over, hand-crafted from beans painstakingly sourced, micro-roasted and ground by one of the guys brewing your cup (Lineage at East End Market, 3201 Corrine Drive, lineageroasting.com).

10. Decide for yourself if the Legend of Spook Hill (in Lake Wales; find directions at spookhill.info) is true.  

11. Get hip to the free in-store performances at Park Ave CDs (2916 Corrine Drive, parkavecds.com).

12. Go shopping at Magic Mall for the best mixtapes and affordable gold (2155 W. Colonial Drive, 407-841-0777, magicmallplaza.com).

13. Take a kayak tour of a bioluminescent lagoon at the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge near Titusville. A guide from A Day Away Kayak Tours (adayawaykayaktours.com) will help make sure you don't lose your way in the dark.

14. Find out what it feels like to squish 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).

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

16. 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.

17. Find a new show to love on the Rollins College student-run radio station, WPRK (91.5 FM, wprk.org).

18. Get acquainted with Orlando's British expat and tourist communities, which are surprisingly active 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; orlandogeorgeanddragon.com), Murphy's Arms (6582 International Drive; murphysarmspub.com) or the Fox and Hounds (3514 W. Vine St., Kissimmee; facebook.com/foxandhoundskiss).

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, Madam Malkin's, Ollivander's, Florean Fortescue's, Leaky Cauldron, Hogwarts Express, Hogwarts, Flight of the Hippogriff, Hogsmeade (Three Broomsticks/Hogs Head/Honeydukes), Dragon Challenge, The Knight Bus, Weasley's Wizard Wheezes, The Celestina Warbeck show, Knockturn Alley, The Tale of the Three Brothers show, Escape From Gringotts.

click to enlarge Visit the attractions of Diagon Alley and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in the order they appeared in the books
Visit the attractions of Diagon Alley and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in the order they appeared in the books

20. Get permission to paint the Pho Hoa wall (649 N. Primrose Drive; phohoaorlandofl.com), a community canvas that blends graffiti artists of all experience levels to form a colorful local conversation piece.

click to enlarge The Morse Museum houses the significant collection of works by Louis Comfort Tiffany
The Morse Museum houses the significant collection of works by Louis Comfort Tiffany

21. Marvel at the intricate workmanship of Louis Comfort Tiffany and his artisans at the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art, the most significant collection of Tiffany's work – not just glass windows and lamps, but pottery, mosaics, watercolors, jewelry, enamelwork and furniture as well (445 N. Park Ave., Winter Park; morsemuseum.org).

22. On an overcast, carefree day – or perhaps when fall first gets the air to cool and crisp – take time to stroll beneath the oaks, camphor and pines highlighted on the city's Significant Trees Map (cityoforlando.net), a loop that travels through various parks as grand as Leu Gardens and as humble as Big Tree Park.

23. Browse acres of antiques at one of Renninger's Flea Market and Antiques Center's annual extravaganza events (20651 U.S. 441, Mount Dora; renningers.net).

24. Bust out that bicycle and take the Cady Way Trail toward Winter Park to treat yoself at Jeremiah's Italian Ice (6864 Aloma Ave., Winter Park, 407-679-2665; jeremiahsice.com). Just hop off at Forsyth Road and find the slush stand on Aloma Avenue.

25. Go to at least one show at the Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival. It's the longest-running fringe festival in the United States, and 2016 is its 25th anniversary (orlandofringe.org).

26. Take the required courses so you can experiment with the high-tech tools at the downtown library's Dorothy Lumley Melrose Center (101 E. Central Blvd., 407-835-7323; ocls.info). Record an album, set up a photo shoot, make your own movie – whatever you do, don't neglect this rare resource.

27. 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; 2015 dates TBA at cityofwinterpark.org).

28. Jump feet first into the shockingly (but also refreshingly) cool springs at Wekiwa Springs (1800 Wekiwa Circle, Apopka; floridastateparks.org/wekiwasprings).

29. Eat vegan for a whole day without getting bored: Skyebird (skyebird.com) or Drunken Monkey (drunkenmonkeycoffee.com) for breakfast; Dandelion (dandelioncommunitea.com), Infusion (infusionorlando.com) or Woodlands Indian buffet (woodlandsusa.com) for lunch, Extract (extractjuicebar.net) or Grounding Roots (groundingroots.com) for a mid-afternoon snack or juice break; Loving Hut (lovinghut.us/florida) or Ethos (ethosvegankitchen.com) for dinner (plus beer/wine at Ethos), and the award-winning Vegan Hot Dog Cart (facebook.com/theveganhotdogcart) for fourthmeal.

30. Buy a $4 suit – seriously – at Community Thrift (5456 S. Orange Ave.).

31. Pick from any number of classic songs and belt them out during karaoke at Big Daddy's (3001 Corrine Drive; bigdaddysorlando.com), which happens pretty much every night of the week.

32. Find your perfect sausage among the plethora of house-made varieties at Cavallari Gourmet (1954 W. State Road 426, Oviedo, 407-365-8000; cavallarigourmet.com).

33. Walk through Mead Botanical Gardens (1500 S. Denning Drive; meadgarden.org) on a full moon and either become slightly crazy or super romantic.  

34. 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, 407-998-8090, thealfondinn.com), 5:30 p.m. on the first Wednesday of the month, May through September.

35. Buy plants for your home and garden from Leu Gardens (1920 North Forest Ave., leugardens.org) at the annual plant sale, a massive flora and fauna bonanza that takes place every March. Admission to the park is free during the sale, so make sure you spend some time exploring the gorgeous formal gardens while you're there.

36. Dine at the Florida Hospital cafeteria (it's surprisingly good!) in Ivanhoe Village, where you'll find a comprehensive selection of comfort foods and bottled smoothies. The Lakeside Cafe even specializes in vegetarian dishes (601 E. Rollins St., floridahospital.com/orlando).

37. Get married (or attend a wedding) at the Acre (4421 Edgewater Drive; theacreorlando.com), one of the coolest event venues in Orlando.

38. Buy a man a cocktail and he drinks for an evening; teach a man to mix a cocktail and he drinks for a lifetime: Take a class at the Courtesy (thecourtesybar.com; $55; 5:45 p.m. the first and third Saturday of the month; email [email protected] to reserve a spot).

39. Get wasted with Elvis Presley on the stage at Whiskey Lou's, because Whiskey Lou's (101 N. Bumby Ave.) has the best Elvis Presley mannequin this side of Madam Tussauds.

40. 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 Houston Astros all stay relatively near Orlando. See game schedules at floridagrapefruitleague.com.

41. Pass out on the mysterious Rock Lake Beach behind Parliament House (410 N. Orange Blossom Trail; parliamenthouse.com).

42. Attend a Sunday Gospel Brunch at House of Blues Orlando (1490 E. Buena Vista Drive, Lake Buena Vista; houseofblues.com).

43. Play jumbo Jenga at Barley and Vine (2406 E. Washington Street; barleyandvineorlando.com) before you fall apart.

44. Down a SunRail train shot: Every time a train goes by, Hammered Lamb (1235 N. Orange Ave.; thehammeredlamb.com) and PR's Taco Palace (499 W. Fairbanks Ave., Winter Park; prstacopalace.com) serve patrons cheap or free shots.

45. Sit through an Orlando City Council (every other Monday) or Orange County Commission meeting (every Tuesday) sober.

46. Buy fresh eggs (duck, quail or chicken) or just cluck at the birds at Lake Meadow Naturals (10000 Mark Adam Road; lakemeadownaturals.com).

47. Try a Cuban sandwich at one of Orlando's many Cuban eateries. A couple of our faves include Cuban Sandwiches to Go (1605 Lee Road) and ZaZa New Cuban Diner (3500 Curry Ford Road; zazacubandiner.com).

48. Take a free yoga class at Lake Eola on Sundays, because your dog could be a little more downward.

click to enlarge Get your Christmas cards postmarked at the Christmas, Florida post office
Get your Christmas cards postmarked at the Christmas, Florida post office

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

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

51. Get your picture taken with Hamlet or Puck at Orlando Shakes' annual Open House. The 2015 Open House is 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 1 (812 E. Rollins St.; orlandoshakes.org).

52. Vote in a local election instead of complaining so much (ocfelections.com).

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

54. Discover the hangout zone behind Shake Shack and Trader Joe's (northwest corner of Orlando Avenue and Morse Boulevard in Winter Park, on Lake Killarney); claim one of the bronze hand-shaped chairs for yourself.

55. Use the CentralFloridaModern.com website to build your own modern home tour. You'll have to do some sleuthing to find some of these mid-century gems but once you do, gawk respectfully from the sidewalk, please.

56. Score a coveted seat at Kappo – they no longer accept reservations at the seven-seat omakase bar, so show up between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, and be prepared to wait a bit (Kappo at East End Market, 3201 Corrine Drive, kappoeastend.com).

57. Get addicted to 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 – you could stay in the AC reading all summer, if you wanted to (ocls.info).

58. Help reverse the slow decline of an awesome sport: Cheer on the jai-alai players at Orlando Jai-Alai, or if you miss the April-May season, learn to play yourself on a real fronton (Orlando Live Events, 6405 S. U.S. Highway 17-92, Fern Park).

click to enlarge Lose yourself in the unique Mayan architecture at the Maitland Art Center - Macbeth Photography
Macbeth Photography
Lose yourself in the unique Mayan architecture at the Maitland Art Center

59. Explore the striking grounds and Mayan Revival buildings of Orange County's first National Historic Landmark, the Maitland Art Center (231 E. Packwood Ave., Maitland; artandhistory.org).

60. Take a cooking class almost any day of the year at Truffles & Trifles in College Park (711 W. Smith St.; trufflesandtrifles.com).

61. 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 Amura.

62. Plan your own SunRail pub crawl. Start by hitting a bar or two in downtown Orlando, ride the rail up to Winter Park for a beer anywhere along Park Avenue, then head up to Sanford where SunRail is a short walk to the bars and restaurants along First Avenue.

63. Volunteer. There are dozens of organizations that could use your help – try searching at volunteermatch.com – and we can personally recommend the satisfaction of a good  shift in the warehouses at Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida (foodbankcentralflorida.org) or the Mustard Seed of Central Florida (mustardseedfla.org).

64. Get some free therapy from Eliza, "the computer psychologist" from 1985. "She" is one of the earliest interactive computer interfaces, and you can solicit her advice at Orlando Science Center (777 E. Princeton St.; osc.org).

65. At Sushi Pop Restaurant, watch as they prepare the Peanut Butter and Jelly Sorbet right at your table: grape, raspberry or strawberry sorbet frozen tableside with liquid nitrogen, topped with marshmallow foam and peanut butter powder (310 W. Mitchell Hammock Road, Oviedo; sushipoprestaurant.com).

66. Mark out (that's industry slang for freak out) with the roar of the crowd at a taping of a WWE NXT professional wrestling match at Full Sail Live (3300 University Parkway, Winter Park; wwe.com/events).

click to enlarge Take advantage of Orlando's bike share program
Take advantage of Orlando's bike share program

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

68. Take a class or spring for a membership at "fabrication laboratory" Factur and get the run of their MakerBot Replicator v5, Weller Digital Soldering Station and Shopbot CNC Router (520 Virginia Drive; factur.org).

69. Eat and drink your way through DeLand's burgeoning artisanal food scene, including Dally in the Alley (dallyinthealleybistro.com), Trilogy Coffee Roasting (trilogycoffee.com), Persimmon Hollow Brewing (persimmonhollowbrewing.com), and Cress (cressrestaurant.com).

70. Take the Summit Plummet at Disney's Blizzard Beach water park (1500 W. Buena Vista Drive, Lake Buena Vista).

71. Take advantage of Bite30 (bite30.com): Every June is a citywide celebration of culinary delights, offering fabulous prix fixe menus at around 30 of Orlando's best restaurants.

72. Stop by New Beginnings Church (13 N. Hampton Ave.; jesusneverfailsorlando.com) when you're down on your luck in the middle of the night to gain inspiration from the boasting neon "Jesus Never Fails" sign.

73. Race the motorized zoo animal scooters  – we swear the hippos are the fastest – with your friends at Artegon Marketplace (5250 International Drive; artegonmarketplace.com).

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

75. Celebrate Valentine's Day in style: Post up outside the Mennello Museum of American Art with a picnic blanket (bring the kids and the dogs, if you're so inclined) and take in their Indie-Folkfest, a picnic party with live music, food and drink (including craft cocktails), and art and craft booths. (Feb. 13, 2016; mennellomuseum.com)

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

77. Attend Orlando's epic and outrageously colorful Come Out With Pride parade (Oct. 10, 2015; comeoutwithpride.com).

78. Solve a murder and laugh your ass off at Sleuths Mystery Dinner Shows. (8267 International Drive; sleuths.com).

79. Relive your cinematic past with friends at Enzian's Wednesday Night Pitcher Show (1300 S. Orlando Ave, Maitland, enzian.org).

80. Drink around the world at Epcot (200 Epcot Center Drive, Lake Buena Vista), where you can try cocktails, wine and brews at most of the international pavilions.

81. Get your nerd on at Player 1 Video Game Bar (8562 Palm Parkway; player1orlando.com).

82. Stop by the Lure Design studio (1009 Virginia Drive; lurepapergoods.com) and poke through their storefront, where you'll find cheeky cards and silkscreened gig posters from years' worth of Orlando shows.

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

84. Try all 20 dishes from our recent cover story, "Plate expectations: The 20 local dishes we absolutely love right now."

Disney's Haunted Mansion
Disney's Haunted Mansion

85. Make out with somebody (anybody) in Disney's Haunted Mansion at the Magic Kingdom (1180 Seven Seas Drive, Lake Buena Vista).

86. Like that arty type? Pony up the class fee for Orlando Museum of Art's Art Night Out (usually around $30; includes a workshop and an "adult beverage"), where you'll learn to do things like marble paper, do hand-lettering or paint a seascape, and they'll say "Best date ever" (omart.com).

87. Watch a pianist tear up the keys at Pat O'Brien's at Universal CityWalk (Universal Orlando Resort, 6000 Universal Blvd.; patobriens.com).

88. Be oddly moved by bubble-snowflakes on Main Street at Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party in the Magic Kingdom (1180 Seven Seas Drive, Lake Buena Vista).

89. Pub crawl through Orlando's thriving craft-beer scene, starting with the venerable Redlight Redlight (2810 Corrine Drive; redlightredlightbeerparlour.com) and work your way down to Orlando Brewing (1301 Atlanta Ave.; orlandobrewing.com) just south of downtown Orlando.

90. Find a new favorite record at Rock and Roll Heaven (1814 N. Orange Ave.; rock-n-rollheaven.com).

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

92. See a show at the Timucua Arts White House (2000 S. Summerlin Ave.; timucua.com). This unique music venue is located in the home of local musician Benoit Glazer and his family, but they have transformed it into an acoustically pleasing, fully functional venue with three tiers of seating. Most shows are free, but you're expected to bring a bottle of wine to share. A pittance for such a gorgeous experience.

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

94. Many filmmakers have chosen Orlando as the setting for their movies, but none made as big a bang as Lethal Weapon 3, in which there's a scene where they actually for-real blew up Orlando City Hall. The old building was scheduled for demolition anyway and was situated right next to the current City Hall. You know you always wanted to go see where Mel Gibson's mullet (and likely many Florida Man mullets) has gone before you, so go check out the scene of the explosion (400 S. Orange Ave., 407-246-2121; cityoforlando.net).

95. Test your taste for tart with a mazagran – espresso, lemon juice and a touch of brown sugar, served over ice – at Propagation (1221 N. Mills Ave.; instagram.com/_propagation_). Or, if you can't handle the pucker, just stick with a flat white while you soak up one of the most serene indoor atmospheres in Orlando.

96. Experience home-grown horror at Legends: A Haunting at Old Town (5770 W. Irlo Bronson Highway, Kissimmee; legendsoldtown.com), a haunted experience like no other.

97. Conquer your fear of heights by riding the Orlando Eye (8401 International Drive; officialorlandoeye.com), a new 400-foot tall observation wheel overlooking I-Drive.

98. Attend a Spooky Empire ultimate horror weekend, an intense convention full of all things macabre that takes place in May and October (spookyempire.com).

99. Take in a drag show at one of Orlando's many fabulous venues – may we suggest the Parliament House, Funky Monkey Bistro & Bar at Pointe Orlando, or Hamburger Mary's? The great RuPaul says drag queens need charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent, and Orlando's queens have all that.

100. Spend a day wandering around downtown Sanford, a short drive north of Orlando, and find yourself pleasantly surprised by all of the interesting shops, bars and restaurants lining the quaint city's streets. Stay long enough to watch the sun go down over tranquil Lake Monroe – it's worth it.

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