Known for its world-class theme parks which attract millions of visitors each year, Orlando is one of the most popular vacation destinations in Florida. However, between its well-known destinations, such as Walt Disney World and Universal Studios, Orlando is home to some more low-key attractions that will delight first-time tourists and repeat visitors alike. When the theme parks have worn you out, or you are looking for something off the beaten path, consider visiting our picks for the top 5 under-the-radar Orlando attractions. Keep reading to learn more!
Jack Kerouac House
Jack Kerouac is one of America’s most revered poets and writers, but many people don’t realize that he spent the final years of his life in Orlando, Florida. The home where he resided with his wife and mother may not look like much from the outside, but it has become a popular destination for his fans to pay homage to his legacy. While living here, Kerouac penned The Dharma Bums which has become one of his most iconic works. After his death, the house continued to be quietly owned by his family. In 2000, ownership of the home transitioned to a group known as the Friends of Jack Kerouac, who then opened a writers’ residency called the Kerouac Project. In 2013 the home was added to the National Register of Historic Places, and in
2014 signage was added to designate it as a Florida Heritage Site.
Wekiwa Springs State Park
During your trip to Orlando, consider getting in touch with the beautiful natural scenery of the area with a visit to Wekiwa Springs State Park. Located approximately 30 minutes outside of Orlando, this is a great place to relax, unwind, and disconnect from the hustle and bustle of daily life. Wekiwa Springs State Park boasts 13 miles of trails for walking, hiking, and bicycling, as well as 60 campsites, including ones specifically designated for those traveling with kids. Amenities offered here include a pavilion, recreation hall, as well as a kitchen and dining hall. Popular activities include canoeing, kayaking, and swimming in the clear natural spring water that stays a cool 72 degrees. year round! The park is open from 8am to sundown every day of the year. Fees to enter the State Park are also minimal at just $6 per vehicle.
Orlando Science Center
Combine learning and fun together with a visit to the Orlando Science Center! This is a fantastic destination for both local and visiting families, as it features tons of kid-friendly activities and exhibits. Consisting of four floors of exhibits, you’ll find exhibits featuring Curious George, dinosaurs, a planetarium, and more! The dinosaur area is widely considered the highlight of the science center, with an impressive Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton that resides in the center hall and two fossil dig areas that will keep your dino-loving kiddos occupied.
Hours: Sunday-Thursday from 10am-5pm, Friday & Saturday from 10am-9pm
Tickets: $21 for adults, $19 for students and seniors, $15 for kids 2-11, and free for children under 2.
Harry P. Leu Gardens
One of the most unique destinations in Orlando that is far removed from the busy theme park scene is the Harry P. Leu Gardens. Founded by Harry Leu and his wife, the gardens began when the couple started collecting exotic plants on their travels. Over 40 acres of sprawling land, you’ll find thousands of species of tropical and subtropical plants that thrive in the hot and humid climate of Florida. One part of the collection that is especially impressive is the camellias. The couple had a particular fondness for camellias and the gardens feature over 2,000 different species, making it the largest collection in the country! There are many paths throughout the gardens for you to wander during your visit here, but also be sure to check out the floral clock that changes flowers seasonally. The Leu property was donated to the city of Orlando after their passing and remains a favorite destination for those seeking beautiful scenery.
With the dominance of Walt Disney World throughout Orlando, it’s hard to believe that they ever had an attraction fail. However, Discovery Island is a piece of Disney history that has been abandoned. Once part of Walt Disney World’s Animal Kingdom, Discovery Island closed in 1999 and has been left to nature ever since. Many concepts were considered to reopen it as an attraction, but all of the potential ideas fell through and now the island remains a testament to squandered potential. Although a bit of a morbid side of Disney history, it continues to fascinate locals and Disney enthusiasts alike. It doesn’t get much more under the radar in Orlando than Discovery Island!
Enjoy the quieter side of Orlando by visiting one of our top picks for under the radar attractions!