Activities that will make you grin
By Sarah Sekula
From the thrilling to the relaxing, Orlando’s many activities expand far beyond the theme park playgrounds. For instance, check out the captivating Cirque du Soleil La Nouba, an experience filled with the most incredible music and talented performers. Or test your own aerobatic skills with a class at Orlando’s Circus School, founded and operated by individuals with 17+ years of experience in the Circus and Live Entertainment world and ten years working with Cirque du Soleil. Or opt for a relaxed stroll through the beautiful gardens and property at Harry P. Leu Gardens. If a family outing is what you are after, try a visiting the thousands of alligators, animals and birds at Gatorland or pick up some hula dancing moves at Disney’s Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show. Maybe you are in need of a night out with the friends, choose the SAK comedy lab for a laugh attack. Regardless of the activity you opt for, Orlando has you covered.
10 Harry P. Leu Gardens
Leu Gardens offer a peaceful, relaxing spot in which to enjoy the beauty of nature. Guests can tread shaded paths and view large oak and camphor trees, as well as roses, camellias, and azaleas. The property also includes the Leu House Museum, a restored farmhouse. Be sure to visit the floral clock before saying goodbye to these lovely gardens. The first Monday of each month is free admission all day. (407-246-2620)
9 Orlando Circus School
The Orlando Circus School offers a exhilarating list of classes for adults and children, including The German Wheel, Trampoline Classes and Aerial Arts. Founded in 2009, their goal is to share an experience, a unique opportunity to learn and bring a little bit of the circus culture to the Orlando community. (407-858-0670)
One part animal habitat plus one part educational outing equals twice the fun. Family-owned Gatorland shelters thousands of alligators, animals, and birds on its premises, and you can pet some of them, learn fascinating facts about all of them, and observe the natural habitats of many of them. Although guests may not buy a baby croc or gator to take home, they can still participate in the "Adopt -A- Croc" program -- check at the gift shop for details. A great excursion for kids and adults alike. (407-855-5496, 800-393-5297)
7 Cirque du Soleil: La Nouba
Billed as a "theatrical ride for the senses," La Nouba is one of a handful of permanent Cirque du Soleil shows. Consistent, rave reviews make the show, written and directed by Franco Dragone, a must-see for the whole family. The theater is set up so that each spectator has the best possible view, and performances live up to their reputation, featuring unbelievably magical talents. Reservations can be made up to 6 months in advance. (407-939-7600)
6 SAK Comedy Lab
The SAK Comedy Lab is one of Orlando's most popular comedy clubs, featuring a variety of nationally and internationally recognized comedians. Improv is the modus operandi here, and they do it well. Different nights feature different themes, including the popular "Duel of Fools" (Thursday through Saturday) and Saturday's "Request Live." For those wanting to learn more about the trade, workshops are offered on Mondays -- call for more details. Casual attire is suggested, as are reservations. (407-648-0001, 407-648-1333)
5 Disney's Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show
Disney's Polynesian Luau is one of the most spellbinding performances in Orlando. The open-air theater is ideally situated right on the idyllic Seven Seas Lagoon, offering a spectacular view to guests as they dine on barbecued pork ribs, island rice and an array of other authentic, Polynesian dishes. As the cast weaves an enchanting, traditionally South Pacific tale augmented by elaborate costumes and impressive choreography, visitors will feel sure they've been transported to tropical paradise. (407-934-7639, 407-939-3463)
4 Hard Rock Live/Cafe Orlando
Head over for a thrilling live concert at the Hard Rock Live located near CityWalk and Universal Studios. This 2,500-capacity concert hall is decked out with the latest in sound and light technology making it one of the hottest spots to enjoy your favorite bands. Some of the biggest names play on this stage including Earth, Wind & Fire, Rob Thomas and 311. (407 351-LIVE (5483))
3 Universal CityWalk Rising Star
Universal CityWalk's Rising Star is for those with big dreams of taking the stage and belting out a song. But wait, there's more, this is no ordinary karaoke club, here when you grab the microphone you will be preforming with a live band and your own backup signers. This 440-seat club is not for the faint at heart but those of you willing to preform get one heck of a spotlight. ((407) 224-2189)
2 House of Blues Gospel Brunch
Every Sunday, the House of Blues is filled with the joyous noise of inspiring gospel performances. Before the signing begins pile up a plate of the soul food buffet with enough options to make you sing Hallelujah. Be sure to try the signature cheese grits, Creole chicken jambalaya and the white chocolate banana bread pudding. ((407) 934—BLUE (258)
1 Universal Studios Florida®
This park has recreated a variety of movie sets and rides from comedy to horror, all of which have been tailored to give the guest the feeling of being in specific events from movies. "Twister," "Jaws," "Back to the Future" and "Terminator 2" are a few of the ultra-fun exhibits worth trying. There is something for everyone here. (407-363-8000, 800-711-0080)
About Sarah Sekula
When Sarah's not zigzagging around the planet — swimming with sea lions in the Galapagos Islands, scaling glaciers in Iceland or roaming through remote jungles in India — she's writing about her adventures, the environment, fitness, health/wellness, extraordinary people and social injustice issues.
Sarah's written for USA Today, ISLANDS, Sherman’s Travel, Caribbean Travel & Life, Cayman Airways Skies, American Eagle Latitudes, Orlando Sentinel, abcnews.com, Where Orlando, Where First Coast, nileguide.com, tripatlas.com, Upscale and Wild Blue Yonder.
She's also an editor and photographer, and has a strong background in public relations. She has a real knack for rounding up facts, making deadlines, project-juggling, storytelling, and wiggling her ears (which she claims hasn’t come in handy yet).
Read more about Sarah Sekula here.