Thanks to the student conferences showing up left and right in Anaheim, we published a guide to 15 Non-Disney Things To Do In Anaheim. But since the 2017 National TSA Conference AND the 2017 BPA NLC are both in Orlando, FL this year, we decided Orlando deserved one too.
Without further ado, here are 17 amazing things you and your high-achieving students can do that don’t involve mouse ears.
Gatorland shows up on literally every list of Orlando Attractions, so we’d be remiss not to ring that bell too. This theme park is a 110-acre monument known as “The Alligator Capital of the World,” and offers such simultaneously adventurous and family-friendly fun as zip lining and rookie gator wrestling. There’s also a children’s water park, should you want to splash down and cool off–not unlike a gator.
Who doesn’t love boat tours? Hop aboard a pontoon boat with 17 of your closest teammates, and spend your afternoon gliding across the Winter Park lakes. Be prepared for a seriously scenic experience–that is, views of both gorgeous wildlife and waterfront mansions.
Come for the golf, stay for the attractions! Their website has a whole lot of exclamation points, and they’re well-earned–in 2016, they were voted into the TripAdvisor Hall of Fame–for the 6th consecutive year!
At the location in Orlando, you can feed live gators, mine gems, and play arcade games. If you want to dive even deeper into the atmosphere of the park, you can play the Exploration Game–a real-life treasure hunt that takes you all across the park on your own adventure.
All hail special tours! With these, you can take a boat tour and explore some incredible coastal animals, you can debunk some myths about the world’s scariest animals, and you can hang out with some typically nocturnal creatures like owls or frogs (or college students–just kidding).
This sweet little nature preserve provides miles of trails to hike, and just enough of the wild environment to suitably feel like you’re escaping the conference environment. Overlook a lake, have a picnic, or nap–the possibilities are endless.
This isn’t your average bowling alley with fluorescent lights and mediocre fries–this is a luxury, upscale bowling alley complete with a gourmet food menu. Grilled sushi with mango chutney, anyone? Or, enjoy a Ghirardelli brownie with ice cream while you’re celebrating your strike.
With a name like The Ravenous Pig, you might be expecting some traditional barbecue fare…but you’d be dead wrong. They’ve got what you might see as traditional, but they spin it on its head. Their shrimp and grits, for example, are served with green tomato chutney and chorizo oil. Good for any TSA or BPA student looking for something more than diner food!
A waterfront on Lake Monroe, a pedestrian walkway, old shops and restaurants, culture–Downtown Sanford has it all. Drink in the lesser-seen side of Orlando at the Hotchkiss Building or the Historic Sanford Welcome Center, or–my personal favorite–the local bookstore.
9. Watch an Orlando City Soccer Match
In Orlando, it’s hard to throw a stone without hitting an Orlando City bumper sticker. (Also, you shouldn’t be throwing stones at cars. What do you think you’re doing?) Hailed as Orlando’s own pride and joy, the city backs these soccer players with fervor and spirit. Get in on the action, if you get a chance–you won’t regret it.
10. Wekiwa Springs
Looking to get some more water in your life? Wekiwa Springs is a picturesque place to canoe or kayak, or even swim if you’re feeling up to it. Hop in, cool off, and enjoy the wildlife.
Looking for something truly strange to take your mind off things? This little boutique has somewhat dark items like bizarre taxidermy and two-headed mummies. Without a hint of sarcasm, enter…if you dare.
4 Rivers Smokehouse has a classic rags-to-riches story; they started out of a garage, and now they’ve got a cult following. Since their humble beginnings, they’ve racked up award after award and now serve barbecue to long lines of hungry customers. Hop in line and see what you’re missing.
13. Mills 50 District
The Mills 50 District is a shockingly real place in Orlando, a city whose image has been all but replaced by a giant pair of Mickey Mouse ears. But with an incredibly diverse collection of local restaurants serving cuisines around the world, you get the authentic Epcot experience–without the Epcot.
Some couples collect scrapbook photos or snow globes–Harry P. Leu and his wife collected exotic plants and brought them home to their 40+ acre estate in Orlando. Today, even though Leu and his wife are long gone, their gorgeous gardens are carefully maintained and publicly accessible. Be sure to check out the camellias–it’s one of the largest camellia collections in the entire country, with a plant count of over 2,000!
Come on, it’s a science center! These are always great places to spend an afternoon in a major city. At the Orlando Science Center, you can feed fish, experience the winds of a hurricane, or try out a flight or driving simulator. Knowledge is power–and entertainment!
16. Albin Polasek Sculpture Gardens
On these beautiful grounds, visitors can tour the sculptural works of acclaimed Czech artist Albin Polasek–plus some rotating exhibitions. Up through September 3rd is “Summer of Love: Reflections on Pulse,” in which a group of highly skilled artists shares works focused on unity and inclusivity.
Want more than a kayak or a pontoon boat? Why not take an old-fashioned sternwheeler out on the water? St. Johns Rivership Co offers an unparalleled experience, providing lunch, dinner, and dinner-dance cruises for whatever escape you and your students are looking for.
Which one are you most excited to work into your itinerary? Let us know in the comments!
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