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Photo by Aldrin Capulong

11 Orlando tourist attractions that don’t suck 

Orlando might be home to the most magical place on Earth, but sometimes it's hard to believe that when you're backed up for hours and screaming out your window on Interstate 4 near the Disney Springs exit. As a newcomer, eventually you'll learn the tricks to avoid tourist traps (like never driving on International Drive, period), but it's also smart to have a mental list of attractions worth the trouble, and Orlando has plenty. Enjoy your newbie status and check some of these off your bucket list.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Universal Orlando Resort, 6000 Universal Blvd.,

OK, hear us out. Yes, you will be run over at some point by a rampaging cheerleading team from Texas. Yes, you will be waiting in ungodly-long lines that suck your soul out, Dementor-style. But it's downright heretical not to go and experience the magic of Hogwarts Castle, roam the streets of Diagon Alley and travel underground to the Gringotts Wizarding Bank. Pro tip: Guests staying at Universal resorts get early admittance to the parks.


200 Epcot Center Drive, Lake Buena Vista,

Has Epcot has been named a "tourist trap" before? Yes. Does that make it less worthy of a visit? No, and here's why: This Disney staple hosts boozy food and drink festivals pretty much year-round. There's the International Food and Wine Festival, the Flower & Garden Festival and the International Festival of the Arts. Find your favorite adult and take some tipsy trips around the world.


14501 S. Orange Blossom Trail,

How can anyone say no to a place that bills itself the "Alligator Capital of the World"? Mostly off the beaten tourist path, this eco-preserve is home to thousands of terrifying reptiles, and unlike your neighborhood gator, you can actually feed these. Watch alligators and crocodiles wrestle with trainers or zipline above their breeding marsh.

Bok Tower Gardens

1151 Tower Blvd., Lake Wales,

Find all the natural wonders of Florida in one place, right on the outskirts of Orlando's suburbs. Tour the botanical gardens designed by famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. as you listen to the carillon bells coming from the iconic neo-Gothic Singing Tower.

Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex

State Road 405, east of Titusville,

Get a glimpse of the future at Florida's gateway to space. Watch a live rocket launch, take a tour of the 363-foot Saturn V that took American astronauts to the moon and back, and even see the lunar dust still clinging to astronaut Alan Shepard's space suit. There's a lot to see at each of NASA's 10 field centers, so get there early.

Harry P. Leu Gardens

1920 N. Forest Ave.,

This botanical paradise is minutes away from downtown Orlando and has the added bonus of being a mostly-locals hangout (no tourists!). Home to the largest formal rose garden in Florida, this treasure-filled green space is also host to a bamboo forest, a butterfly garden, one of the largest and oldest live oak trees in the city and the historic 19th-century Leu House Museum.

Fun Spot America

2850 Florida Plaza Blvd., Kissimmee,

Steps away from the kitschy Old Town shops, Fun Spot America features a plethora of carnival-type attractions, including a four-story go-kart track, a vomit-inducing flight on the world's tallest SkyCoaster and the new Mine Blower wooden roller coaster, which features an 80-foot drop.

I-Drive 360

8375 International Drive,

One of Orlando's newer attractions is smack-dab in the middle of International Drive, but it's worth the trouble. Swing from a capsule in the slow-moving Coca Cola Orlando Eye observation wheel, try some of the unique restaurants, gawk at the octopus in the Sea Life Aquarium or spend a couple of hours locating your favorite celebrity at Madame Tussauds wax museum.

The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art

445 N. Park Ave., Winter Park,

With its singular collection of art glass by Louis Comfort Tiffany, the Morse Museum is the perfect place to take those fancy out-of-town relatives you want to impress. For all its elegance, this Winter Park museum is pretty affordable and open to the public six days a week. (Holiday hint: It has a huge and well-stocked gift shop.)

Wekiwa Springs State Park

1800 Wekiwa Circle, Apopka,

A popular hangout spot for locals and tourists alike, this cool, crystalline spring is the perfect weekend getaway as long as you get there early enough. During the summer, noon is too late – the park is usually already at capacity. Enjoy snorkeling, kayaking or just chilling at the area's favorite watering hole, Wekiva Island.

Wild Willy's Airboat Tours

4715 Kissimmee Park Road, St. Cloud,

If you thought Gatorland was tame, get a load of this airboat adventure on Lake Tohopekaliga in Osceola County. Explore a natural marsh and get close to the sharp-toothed critters that make it their home (not too close!). After ward, get gutsy and munch some quality gator meat.

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