A stunning 52 million visitors head to Orlando each and every year. The majority of these travellers have one thing in mind: a giant mouse. If you’re not a theme park fanatic and would prefer to stay off the rodent-trodden path, avoid the rat race and check out these unique Orlando attractions that might be more up your alley:
Give Them the Boot at Willow Tree Cafe
Unless you’re a local, you probably haven’t ever heard of the Willow Tree Cafe in Sanford. The German-style beer hall is known for its authentic cuisine and lively atmosphere on the weekends, but regulars know it’s all about das boot. An enormous glass boot containing 700 mL of beer is meant to be shared. Fair warning: The last person to chug the sour beer is the person who pays for the drink. When you order das boot, the Willow comes alive with German chants, so keep your eye on the prize. That is, if you can still see straight. Tiki-toki, tiki-toki, hoy, hoy, hoy!
Go Au Naturel at Circle B Bar Reserve
It’s hard to avoid the crowds and lines when you visit most of the attractions in Orlando. That’s why it’s such a pleasant surprise to find a place like the Circle B Bar Reserve. An 80 km drive southwest of downtown Orlando, this nature reserve is an enormous space that’s completely wild and, even better, completely free. Bring along a camera, because you’ll have the chance to spot snakes, alligators, foxes, turtles, and a variety of birds in their natural habitat. This isn’t a load of croc: Circle B Bar Reserve really is worth the drive from Orlando.
Say Halo to Rock and Roll Heaven
You don’t have to be an angel to experience the incredible Rock and Roll Heaven, the largest record store in all of Florida. Open daily, this is the place to step back in time, browse the racks for 45s, and reminiscence about your favourite old bands. If you’ve got a few vinyl records at home, pack them up and sell them, or grab some on sale for less than $1 apiece. Remember, there’s a “sin” line between heaven and hell. This has all the grit of a serious rock and roll fan’s collection, but it’s heaven for any music lover!
Let Off Some Steam at Gaylord Palms Resort
Florida has a reputation for being hot, but winter comes to the Gaylord Palms Resort in style each December. Part of the hotel’s convention centre is filled with ice sculptures, leaving locals in awe of what winter actually looks like. Each year there is a different theme that ranges from a hit animated film to a classic like Frosty the Snowman. If you need a place to chill out and beat the ubiquitous heat of the Sunshine State, grab a drink (no ice needed!) and take a walk through the chilly display.
Whether you’re in town alone on business or with the whole family and in need of a theme-park detox, there are plenty of options in Orlando. From chugging boots of beer to watching gators snap, Florida’s got what you need. Wave to those suckers still standing in line for a roller coaster ride, and seek out these “shore-fire” destinations to add to your Orlando itinerary.
Have you discovered any Orlando hidden gems?