Right in the heart of the state, Central Florida is a unique blend of Old Florida charm, natural beauty, and modern thrills. It may be home to the “Theme Park Capital of the World,” but this region is much more than meets the eye.

From exploring beautiful springs, lakes, and parks to outdoor activities like kayak tours, wine tastings, and dining out on one-of-a-kind Michelin-starred meals — there is so much to do in Central Florida.

Get your itinerary set for your stay at an Element Vacation Home or resort. When you’ve had your fill of theme or water park fun and want to relax and explore all the hidden gems, here are 12 unique things to do in the center of the Sunshine State that don’t involve the Wizarding World of Harry Potter!

Visit Central Florida’s Famous Springs

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Central Florida is home to some gorgeous natural springs with crystal clear water surrounded by stunning scenery. No visit to Central Florida is complete without a visit to the springs, where you can swim, snorkel, float, or paddle down the ethereal waters and lush green landscapes.

If you prefer to stay out of the water, there are still plenty of opportunities to enjoy the views. Most parks have hiking trails and even observation boardwalks where manatees and other wildlife can often be spotted from above.

Wind Down at a Winery

Whether you prefer a classic Chardonnay or want to try something a little adventurous like fruit wine, Central Florida’s wine scene delivers. From wineries and vineyards to wine bars and tasting rooms, there are plenty of great spots around Central Florida to wind down with a glass of wine.

Spend a day touring and tasting at Florida’s largest vineyard, Lakeridge Winery. Enjoy a glass of organic, small-batch wine in the cozy tasting room at Quantum Leap Winery. Sample a classic wine flight and charcuterie board at Eola Wine Company. Or, try a one-of-a-kind blueberry wine at True Blue Winery or strawberry wine at Formasa Winery.

Celebrating a special occasion or looking for a more upscale place to wine and dine? Check out the famous Wine Bar George in Disney Springs (no ticket is needed to enter Disney Springs). It’s the only Master Sommelier-led wine bar in Florida and holds numerous awards and accolades, including being named “The Best Wine Bar List in the World.”

Discover Unique Museums

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Central Florida is no stranger to museums. You’ll find dozens throughout the region, including the ever-popular Orlando Museum of Art and Orlando Science Center. While the big museums are certainly worthy of a visit, there are several smaller museums that offer unique exhibitions and experiences.

Travel back in time to peek inside one of history’s most ill-fated ships at Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition. Find fun for the whole family at Wonderworks, touted as “an amusement park for the mind” with brain-bending illusions, artwork, and virtual reality experiences. Or, learn history through live reenactments at the Osceola Pioneer Village.

To end your day with something truly unique — visit the World of Chocolate Museum. You’ll learn everything there is to know about chocolate, browse a collection of chocolate sculptures and artwork, and, of course, sample some sweet treats.

Sip, Stroll, and Swan Boat at Lake Eola

Right in the heart of Downtown Orlando, Lake Eola is a peaceful oasis in the middle of a bustling city. It’s the perfect spot to take a break and get out into nature without leaving town. You can stroll the lake trail, grab a coffee or bite at one of the cafes, or set sail on the lake in one of the famous Swan Boats.

The Swan Boats are one of Lake Eola’s most popular attractions, and yes — they are shaped like actual swans! Spend an afternoon peddling around the lake, enjoying the cool breezes and picturesque views.

Go on an ATV Off-Road Adventure

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If you’re not afraid to get a little dirty, there’s no greater adventure than exploring the rugged wild landscapes of Central Florida on an ATV. Get your adrenaline pumping while you ride through rocky trails and muck through marshes. Don’t worry; you’ll be outfitted in safety gear.

There are several places that rent ATVs or offer tours around Central Florida, but one of the most popular is Revolution Adventures. They offer a wide range of vehicles, from different types of ATVs and swamp buggies to the famous “Mucky Duck,” a unique, amphibious vehicle made for all-terrain and water. There’s no shortage of adventures to be found on four wheels!

Take an Airboat Tour

Central Florida has a vast chain of lakes, wetlands, and marshes; this is where the headwaters of the Florida Everglades begin.

One of the best ways to explore these swampy areas is by airboat. You’ll find more than a dozen airboat tour operators in the Central Florida area, providing a unique way to get out on the water and spot wildlife. You’ll have a chance to spot alligators, birds, turtles, and more.

Want to make a whole day of it? One of the most popular airboat tour companies in the area, Wild Florida, offers other outdoor adventures you can pair with your airboat ride. Explore the nature park, meet their resident alligators, or hop on a safari wilderness tour to see some roaming bison.

Enjoy a Michelin-Starred Meal

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There’s no shortage of great restaurants in Central Florida, but if you want to try a culinary experience like no other, make reservations for a Michelin-starred meal. That’s right, foodies take note — this region boasts four Michelin-starred restaurants! When you want to indulge or celebrate a special occasion, these restaurants deliver a one-of-a-kind, luxury dining experience.

  • Orlando: Try a one-of-a-kind chef-tasting menu at Kadence.
  • Orlando: Indulge in a steak like you’ve never had before at Knife & Spoon.
  • Winter Park: Savor several courses of sushi at Soseki.
  • Orlando: Enjoy the quirky charm and Filipino cuisine at Kaya in the Mills 50 district.

Go for a Bike Ride

With over 100 miles of bike trails throughout the region, Central Florida is a peddler’s paradise. Whether you want a smooth ride around the city or a rugged off-road adventure, there’s a trail for every type of cyclist. Biking is also a great way to explore many of the parks and natural areas.

One of the most popular trails in the area is the Lake Apopka Loop Trail. This 14+ mile gravel trail winds around Lake Apopka and is the best for wildlife spotting. You’ll see countless birds, turtles, and, of course, alligators that can be spotted basking along the shores at nearly every turn.

Visit Local Breweries

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If you’re a craft beer connoisseur or just occasionally like to mull over a microbrew, you’ll love getting to know Central Florida’s brewery scene. The greater Orlando area boasts over 25 breweries — each with its own unique twist. Spend an afternoon touring breweries and tasting in taprooms until you find your favorite.

You’ll find every type of beer imaginable, from pilsners to porters, plus plenty of unique flavors. Sample a Jelly Bean Sour at Broken Strings Brewery, try a Coquito Cream Ale at Motorworks Brewing, or taste a Chocolate Coffee Stout at Crooked Can Brewing Company.

Hit the Golf Course

Want to hit the links? Central Florida is home to dozens of world-class golf courses designed by Greg Norman, Arnold Palmer, Rees Jones, and other award-winning architects. Don’t be surprised if you spot famous golfers or PGA professionals around — Central Florida is a mecca for all golfers.

Whether you want to play a quick 9, a leisurely 18, or just work on your swing at the driving range, Central Florida is a great place to spend a day on the greens.

Book a Food Tour

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If you’re a foodie at heart and love to discover hidden gems, there’s no better way to spend a day than on a Central Florida food tour. Learn local history while you stroll the streets, explore new restaurants, and of course — sample lots of delicious food!

Let Wandering Palm Food Tours take you through several different districts, including Ivanhoe Village, Winter Park, Downtown Orlando, and more. Most food tours feature at least five stops where you’ll sample a variety of different dishes, drinks, and desserts along the way. It’s a great way to get to know the area and find places you’ll want to come back to for dinner.

Take a Day Trip

One of the best things about Central Florida is, well — just how central it is! You’re only a day trip away from so many other great Florida attractions. Here’s a small sample of the places you can visit within a few hours.

1-Hour Drive from Central Florida

  • Beaches: Explore the beautiful beaches of Daytona, New Smyrna, Clearwater, or Tampa Bay.
  • Botanical Gardens: Visit the iconic Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales.
  • Space Coast: Get up close and personal with rocket ships at The Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral.
  • Adventure: Go hiking, kayaking, horseback riding, ziplining, and more in Ocala.

2-Hour Drive from Central Florida

  • St. Augustine: Stroll centuries-old cobblestone streets and explore historic landmarks in the nation’s oldest city.
  • Manatees & Mermaids: Kayak, swim, or snorkel with manatees at Crystal River and Three Sisters Springs. Or, catch the iconic mermaid show at Weeki Wachee Springs.
  • Wildlife: Drive through Paynes Prairie Preserve to spot wild horses and bison.
  • Devil’s Den: Dive into a prehistoric underground spring in Devil’s Den.

3-Hour Drive from Central Florida

  • Rapids: Visit Big Shoals State Park to see the only whitewater rapids in Florida.
  • Museums: Explore art, culture, and history in Jacksonville’s dozens of museums.
  • Amelia Island: Experience horseback riding on the beach at Amelia Island State Park.
  • Scenic Drive: Cruise down the Black Bear Scenic Byway for endless wildlife-spotting opportunities.

If you don’t feel like driving but still want to take a day trip, check out the new high-speed Brightline Orlando. With stops in several major South Florida cities, you can reach West Palm Beach in just two hours or Miami in a little over three hours.

Play and Stay in Central Florida

Whether you’re looking to fill your itinerary between visiting theme parks or staying off the beaten path, there’s no shortage of unique things to do in Central Florida.

Looking for a place to stay in the center of it all? Element Vacation Homes offers the ultimate luxury vacation rentals close to Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, Icon Park, and all the fun things to do on this list. With amenities like resort-style pools, themed rooms, home theaters, arcade games, and even indoor mini-golf courses, the fun never stops!