Last Updated on December 21, 2023

When thinking of Orlando, your mind might immediately picture Disney World, the so-called Happiest Place on Earth. Anyone who’s ever been knows there’s a flip side to that coin. SeaWorld, Universal Studios, Legoland – the Orlando area is the world epicenter of theme parks for kids and kids at heart. But what to do in Orlando for adults? Adults who don’t like theme parks.

Florida native, author and traveler Rick Kilby has lived in Orlando since the late 1980s. He co-hosts “The Florida Spectacular ” podcast, a weekly celebration of the Sunshine State. On an episode early in 2023, Kilby was asked what to do in Orlando for adults, for one day – without visiting theme parks– and his recommendations prove there’s more to Orlando than Mickey Mouse and Harry Potter.

Orlando Breakfast

It may surprise you to learn, there’s a great brunch and Orlando breakfast restaurant scene. Kilby suggested the Hourglass Social House for brunch, and despite being a tamale place, he hyped up the huevos rancheros as his favorite menu item. Voted one of the best wine shops in Orlando Weekly’s Best of 2022 edition with a selection of craft beers as well, when looking for what to do in Orlando for adults, the Social House is a great place to start. Hourglass Social House is vegetarian and vegan friendly, so all non-meat eaters can enjoy their brunch too.

The restaurant even hosts events like its charcuterie board workshop taught by local chef Nicole Muvundamina from Granarium Sourdough and Pastry. If you’re more of a straight-up breakfast eater, Orlando breakfast has you covered. Kilby recommends Daybreak Diner and Zaza’s.

A classic Orlando breakfast local’s favorite, the Daybreak Diner boasts an extensive menu of breakfast favorites with an especially deep selection of breakfast burritos. The friendly staff and great service make this spot reminiscent of the iconic American diner from years ago.

Looking more for flavors of Florida? South Florida? Zaza’s, family-owned by third-generation immigrants from Puerto Padre, Cuba, serves traditional Cuban recipes and coffee Kilby swears will keep you awake for 25 hours!

One Day in Orlando What to Do

Kilby’s a self-proclaimed museum geek and when suggesting what to do in Orlando for adults, thinks half of your day should be dedicated to visiting museums. From March through November when temperatures approach 90 with high humidity, you’ll be glad to spend the midday inside. Through its museums, you’ll find Orlando has more history, art and culture than its given credit for – Orlando is a real city, not just Themeparkville.

A point of order: while this article is about what to do in Orlando for one day, we’re making no distinction between Orlando and Winter Park. Winter Park is technically a distinct small city on the northeast edge of Orlando proper, but when visiting, there’s no way of knowing – or reason for caring – where one stops and the other begins.

Visitors will find six museums located in compact, upscale Winter Park: the Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens, the Orlando Museum of Art, Casa Feliz, Morse Museum of American Art and the Winter Park History Museum.

The world of American-born Czech sculptor Albin Polasek comes alive at the museum named in his honor (Tuesday-Saturday 10 AM to 4 PM, Sunday 1 PM to 4 PM, closed on Mondays) where guests tour his house, wander through the sculpture garden and gawk at one-of-a-kind exhibits along with the art collection that consists of over 200 pieces of his work. 

The Orlando Museum of Art (Tuesday-Friday 10 AM to 4 PM, Saturday-Sunday 12 PM to 4 PM, closed on Mondays) features rotating special exhibitions, events and educational programming along with displaying items from its permanent collection. Highlights from the permanent collection include works by Georgia O’Keeffe, a two-wall-filling Kerry James Marshall, a Nick Cave Soundsuit and a quilted portrait from Bisa Butler that appeared on the cover of “Time” magazine.

Kerry James Marshall artwork at Orlando Museum of Art.
Kerry James Marshall artwork at Orlando Museum of Art. Photo by Rovology.

Also known as “Winter Park’s Community Parlor,” Casa Feliz (Tuesdays and Thursdays 10 AM to 12 PM) was originally built in 1933 and was restored in 2001 by a “friends” group who raised funds locally to keep the historic building standing. Originally located by Lake Osceola, unused city-owned land on a golf course was offered for the project to relocate. The son of the original architect, Jack Rogers, aided in the restoration alongside local contractor Frank Roark.

Inside the Morse Museum of American Art (Tuesday-Saturday 9:30 AM to 4 PM, Sunday 1 PM to 4 PM, closed on Mondays) is one of the largest collection of works by Louis Comfort Tiffany in the world, consisting of jewelry, pottery, paintings, art glass and even a chapel interior he created for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. All of these items from Tiffany’s life are accompanied by pieces salvaged from his Long Island estate. Beyond the stunning Tiffany items, the museum displays late 19th- and early 20th-century American pottery, paintings, graphics and decorative art.

The Rollins Museum of Art (Tuesday 10 AM to 7 PM, Wednesday-Friday 10 AM to 4 PM, Saturday-Sunday 12 PM to 5 PM, closed on Mondays), associated with small Rollins College, presents the only permanent collection of European Old Master paintings in Orlando. Visitors can enjoy work from artists of the time period 1300 to 1800 along with temporary exhibitions and contemporary artwork. The Alfond Inn at Rollins College a couple blocks away shares the art collection with the museum and displays a stunning array of museum-quality artwork in its own right. 

When thinking about what to do in Orlando for Adults, if the cost is acceptable, Rovology recommends staying at the Alfond Inn.

Jaune Quick-to-See Smith artwork at The Alfond Inn.
Jaune Quick-to-See Smith artwork at The Alfond Inn at Rollins College. Photo by Rovology.

Despite its small size (only two rooms), the Winter Park Museum packs a punch thanks to its constantly updated exhibits focused on the Orlando area revealing something new to learn with each visit.

Kilby also talked up the Maitland History and Arts Museums (Wednesday-Sunday 11 AM to 4 PM, last Wednesday of each month 5:30 PM to 8:30 PM closed on Mondays and Tuesdays), four museums on one site including the Maitland Historical Museum, the Telephone Museum, the Waterhouse Residence & Carpentry Shop Museum, and the Maitland Art Center. Maitland is another distinct municipality from Orlando, north of town. With over 3,500 items documenting life in Orlando, the Maitland Historical Museum has a rich archive that depicts past businesses, developments, families, schools, churches and activities. The museum owns about 39 cubic feet of manuscripts and photographs, a collection of 90 audiotapes and 25 videotapes. There are also older items including early City records, voter registration lists and family archives, all telling the story of early Maitland and Central Florida.

The Telephone Museum shares the story of the Galloway family who brought telephone service to the area and started the Winter Park Telephone Company that lasted for 66 years until its end in 1979. The collection includes equipment like a working switching station, PBX boards and military field equipment.

Visitors will find a collection of antique woodworking tools at the Waterhouse Residence & Carpentry Shop Museum. Among the equipment are some items owned by Mr. Waterhouse, who built many of Maitland’s homes.

Formerly the Research Studio founded by André Smith, the Maitland Art Center contains many pieces from Smith himself. The collection is made up of hundreds of paintings, drawings, prints and sculptures, along with other archived materials from his life. Work from the artists who lived and worked at the Research Studio alongside Smith are also part of the collection.

Live Sporting Events

College football games can be exhilarating and UCF – the University of Central Florida – “is not the little bitty football team it used to be,” when starting its program in the 90s to quote Kilby. If you’re visiting during the season, head over to FBC Mortgage Stadium to watch the Knights amongst 48,000 other people the stadium can hold. Sporting events at UCF extend well beyond football to include men’s and women’s basketball, softball, baseball, soccer, volleyball and a full complement of major college sports in competition with the top schools in America. Many of these on-campus events are free.

For professional sports, Orlando is home to both the NBA’s Magic, the MLS’ Orlando City men’s soccer team and the NWSL’s Orlando Pride women’s soccer team. Both football “sides” play at Exploria Stadium in downtown Orlando. Holding 25,500 fans on gameday, if you’re not too tired afterwards, the downtown bar district is a short walk away.

A Dinner so Good You’ll Pray for More

With so much to do, we’ve almost forgotten to eat! Flipper’s Pizza puts out a surprisingly quality and consistent pie at its various locations around the city and you could do a lot worse than 4 Rivers Smokehouse for BBQ. Both are fast, casual and inexpensive.

The Porch in Winter Park combines the best attributes of casual food, cocktails, a sports bar and outdoor patio – with a weekend brunch and late-night hours. 

The old church on the edge of Winter Park is filled with eateries and shops reminiscent of a food hall. The East End Market, located in the Audubon Park Garden District, is one of Kilby’s favorite dinner sports. He said to try DOMU – Japanese slang for “a dream come true.” Founded in 2016 by chef Sean Nguyen, the restaurant and bar delivers house made noodles right to your plate paired with seasonal cocktails. It has been visited by Andrew Zimmerman and featured on“The Zimmern List” on the Travel Channel.

Where to Stay in Orlando

Looking for someplace with character to spend the night? Kilby has the perfect spot for you. Hidden in a cul-de-sac right by the ramp off the East-West expressway is a blast-from-the-past B&B called The Wellborn, formerly the Norment Perry Inn. The Inn consists of three buildings combining the city’s oldest house built in 1885, a 20-room hotel from the 1940s that reflects authentic Art Deco style, and a 1917 antebellum-style mansion.

Here you will also find a bar voted the best bar patio in Orlando Weekly with a menu boasting a vast selection of hand-crafted cocktails and small plates like a brie grilled cheese that’ll make your mouth water.