Maybe you’ve visited Walt Disney World too many times to count. Or perhaps you never really understood the Mickey and Minnie craze in the first place. Whatever the reason, you’re in luck! Orlando is teeming with attractions that don’t involve mice, ball gowns, or three-hour-long lines.
While we’d never pass up a photo op with a Disney princess or a swig of Butterbeer from Hogsmeade, this Central Florida hotspot is so much more than Mickey’s home. From science centers to sprawling gardens, these five cultural venues will help you view Orlando in a new light. Now that’s what we’d call magic.
1.) Orlando Science Center
777 E. Princeton Street
Orlando, Florida 32803
Science fans of all ages will delight in an array of interactive features including Science Live! tabletop demonstrations, alligator feedings and swamp talks, Digital Adventure Theater stage shows, and much more. Whether you’re a dinosaur buff or have been studying the stars since you could hold a telescope, there’s something in this museum for everyone.
Don’t Miss It: Leaving the little ones at home? Adults 21+ can head on over to the Orlando Science Center’s Science Night Live! For a small fee, you’ll enjoy an evening of stargazing through a giant refractor telescope, unleash your inner mad scientist with lab experiments, test your knowledge in trivia, and indulge in a variety of food and drinks. Now isn’t that better than watching sitcom reruns in your hotel room?
2.) Harry P. Leu Gardens
1920 N Forest Ave
Orlando, Florida 32803
Central Florida’s balmy climate is the ideal home for a vast assortment of vibrant vegetation. Palms, cycads, azaleas, and vines are just a few of the many plants that pack color and life into the rambling grounds. Couples can embark on a romantic stroll under camphor trees, elms, and oaks while the tech-savvy among us can scan QR Code images on signs throughout the gardens to learn interesting tidbits on plant life.
Don’t Miss It: Overcrowded movie theaters are always an option, but you can skip the crowds in favor of some open air cinema. Lie under the stars next to blooming flowers and catch flicks like If I Stay or The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1. Popcorn, popsicles, and various foods will be available for purchase. For details on upcoming Harry P. Leu Gardens Movie Nights, click here.
3.) Mad Cow Theatre
54 West Church Street
Orlando, Florida 32801
Broadway might be theatre’s center, but the talented actors of the celebrated Mad Cow Theatre Company prove that the performing arts can thrive in the Sunshine State. Featuring both classic and contemporary works, the Mad Cow Theatre offers an experience your friends will think you trekked to Manhattan for. A head’s up to parents: Children under eight are not admitted to performances, so if you’re planning a night at the theatre, make alternative arrangements for the little ones.
Don’t Miss It: Mad Cow Theatre’s beloved 13th Annual Orlando Cabaret Festival is on from now through May 10, 2015, and it’s sure to be a hoot. Check out the calendar here for a full performance schedule.
4.) Kennedy Space Center
SR 405, Kennedy Space Center
Orlando, Florida 32899
At some point in your life, you wanted to be an astronaut. Maybe a poster of Neil Armstrong is hanging proudly on your wall. Your inner child – and your actual children, if you have them – will gaze in delight at the wonders of the universe. Breathtaking 3D IMAX theaters pay homage to the glorious heavens while soaring rocket gardens serve as a curious kids’ playground.
Don’t Miss It: Have you ever dined with a veteran astronaut? If you’re one of the lucky few, we’re officially jealous. But if you’re like the rest of us, you’ll want to ask about the Kennedy Space Center’s Lunch with an Astronaut experience. Goers enjoy a buffet lunch and a special Q&A session with a guy or gal who’s been to infinity and beyond – or at least out of this world.
5.) Orlando Museum of Art
2416 North Mills Avenue
Orlando, Florida 32803
With nearly one dozen on-site exhibitions, gallery tours, art lectures, and studio classes, Orlando’s Museum of Art is a must-see for any lover of the arts. Perhaps most notably, you’ll enjoy its collection of a whopping 270 contemporary prints by the likes of celebrated artists including Andy Warhol and James Rosenquist.
Don’t Miss It: Through May 10, 2015, visitors have the special change to view Maya Lin: A History of Water. This exhibition features sculptures, drawings, installations, and multimedia supplements that both celebrate the earth and lament the destruction of its diverse habitats.
These five must-see attractions are proof that Orlando is just as cultured as it is fun. Which ones would you visit? Do you have any of your own recommendations to add to the list? Let us know in the comments below!