Best Things to Do in Fall in Orlando

Fall into Orlando: when the weather cools down, the calendar fills up

Ah, fall. Time for leather jackets and boots and snow prep and...hey, wait a minute! We live in Florida! Summer may be over officially, but the warm, beautiful weather continues well into fall in Orlando - though the season does take the edge of the heat. That means outdoor activities become even more appealing and all kinds of festivals pop up on the calendar. From the wildlife to the watersports to myriad food and wine events that fall under the headings of world famous (like the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival) and locally loved (like Harry P. Ley Gardens), there's lots to jot in your autumnal Orlando events planner. Florida fall also brings with it weather that still make outdoor activities enjoyable like visiting Orlando Water Sports Complex or Wekiwa Springs State Park. If you're looking for some Halloween fun, there's plenty to be had. Disney's After Hours Boo Bash is a new event this year at Magic Kingdom. Head over to Universal Orlando for a spookier experience at Halloween Horror Nights


Wakeboarding (a super popular sport here in Florida), paddleboarding and the area's very first Aquapark - a wonderland of bouncy, floating inflatables on which to climb and play are all on tap at the Orlando Watersports Complex. And noobs are more than welcome. Lessons in every discipline are available (none are necessary for the Aquapark!). Wakeboarding, something of an amalgam of surfing, waterskiing and snowboarding, is an enticing and potentially high-adrenaline way to pass time in the Florida sun, while SUP'ing is more staid and relaxing. It's a win-win decision, either way, and visitors of all ages will enjoy the color and bounce of the Aquapark.

Recommended for Things to Do in Fall because: Florida's fall can certainly have it's dog days. This is a great place to cool off.

A.D.'s expert tip: Most activities here require some form of waiver are booked according to time increments and many need to be planned in advance via the website. Visit and read up. Minimum age for the Aquapark is 6.

Read more about Orlando Watersports Complex →

Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens

From goats at the petting zoo to the super cool insect zoo (your enthusiasm will depend on your comfort level with creepy-crawlies) this Sanford Zoo isn't as small as it may seem. More than 500 animals representing roughly 200 species call this place home, including elephants, llamas, cheetah, apes and a whole house full of reptiles to ooh and ahh over. Active visitors may want to take a turn on the on-site aerial adventure course and everyone enjoys the weekend Keeper Chats. Who wouldn't want to learn more about the zoo's colorful, beautiful residents?

Recommended for Things to Do in Fall because: This is a wonderfully manageable zoo. Ideal for parents looking for an attraction that's as easy to navigate as it is fun and educational.

A.D.'s expert tip: The Florida bear exhibit is among the zoo's newest additions. Come see the beautiful animals with whom some of us literally share our backyards.

Read more about Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens →

Escape the craziness of the city and spend a delightful fall day among a 50-acre botanical garden just minutes from downtown Orlando. Harry P. Leu Gardens has been a fixture in the city since 1961 since its namesake and his wife, Mary Jane, donated the garden and historical home. It's open every day, except Christmas, from 9 a.m. –" 5 p.m. It cost $10 for adults, $5 for children ages 4 –" 17 and free for children 3 and under. From now through October families can take part on an alphabet hunt. Download the scavenger hunt online and then wind your way through the gardens where you'll explore different plants and discover all the letters of the alphabet. The scavenger hunt is included in the price of admission.

Recommended for Things to Do in Fall because: The gardens are a beautiful escape from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Michelle's expert tip: Check the calendar for special events, like movie night where you can pack a picnic, and even adult beverages, to enjoy a flick on the big screen.

Read more about Harry P. Leu Gardens →


Explore Florida's natural beauty at Wekiwa Springs State Park. Hike through wild, diverse ecosystems, paddle the famous Wekiva River, or camp beneath the stars. Wekiwa Springs offers nature lovers the opportunity to experience a part of Florida that is all too quickly vanishing �" and just minutes from the theme park area. Bring your camera, because wild turkey, black bear, deer, and many species of birds call this park home. Canoes and kayaks are available for rent and guided tours are available. Those interested in exploring the area on horseback may do so on weekends (minimum age: 6). Guided trail rides are $25/per person and run about an hour long.

Recommended for Things to Do in Fall because: Temperate weather makes for time well spent in the woods of Wekiwa, whether walking, riding, swimming or paddling.

A.D.'s expert tip: Leashed pets are welcome on the trails, so bring Fido along for the hike.

Read more about Wekiwa Springs State Park →

Halloween Horror Nights

This year marks three decades of horror legends, scare zones and haunted houses at Universal Orlando Resort. Halloween Horror Nights runs select nights through Oct. 31. The 30th year of this favorite among spook seekers features 10 haunted houses, five scare zones, live entertainment and plenty of frightening surprises lurking in expected places. Famous creepers will make appearances including Leatherface from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Beetlejuice, the Bride of Frankenstein and other nightmarish characters. New this year are scenes from the Netflix show The Haunting of Hill House. If you need a safe zone, you can take a break and enjoy two different shows.

Recommended for Things to Do in Fall because: A spook-filled night at one of Orlando's iconic theme parks is the ideal start to the Halloween season.

Michelle's expert tip: Buy multi-night tickets or bundle your ticket with a hotel stay for a discounts.

Read more about Halloween Horror Nights →

Disney's After Hours Boo Bash

A new after-hours Halloween event debuted this year at Magic Kingdom. Disney's After Hours Boo Bash takes place select nights through Oct. 31. The event is from 9 p.m. until midnight and includes plenty of family-friendly holiday fun. The night includes random cavalcades featuring Disney villains including Maleficent in the form of a fire-breathing dragon. The Cavader Dans will be entertaining guests along Main Street, U.S.A. and other friends, like Chip 'n' Dale and Goofy will be around in their Halloween costumes. Guests also get to feast on complimentary novelty ice cream, popcorn and beverages as well as candy at various different trick-or-treat stations. Specialty food and beverages are available for purchase. This nighttime event also gives guests a chance to ride 20 popular attractions with minimal wait times since the event is limited in capacity. Tickets start at $129 but vary depending on the date.

Recommended for Things to Do in Fall because: Although the event officially begins at 9 p.m., your tickets gets you into the park a few hours before that.

Michelle's expert tip: Although the event officially starts at 9 p.m., guests can get into the park a few hours before the event begins.

Read more about Disney's After Hours Boo Bash →

Starting Oct. 1, the corn maze returns to Long & Scott Farms. This is the 19th year this sweet, tradition will take place, and the theme this time around is dinosaurs. The 6.5 acre corm maze includes riddles, games and plenty of twisty pathways. For an extra special experience, go through the maze at night. The maze is open eight different nights throughout October and November. If the big maze is a little too daunting, there's a .5-acre mini maze that may be more your size. With the exception of Oct. 1, the maze is open Friday and Saturdays and costs $15. The farm also includes a 60-foot slide, castle playground and pumpkin patch. You also can take an audio tour of the farm on a hay ride.

Recommended for Things to Do in Fall because: What's better for autumn than getting lost in a corn maze?! Bring your cameras for great photo ops.

Michelle's expert tip: It's encouraged guests purchase tickets online to guarantee quick entry to the maze park.

Read more about Long & Scott Farms →

Dark Arts at Hogwarts Castle

Dark Arts at Hogwarts Castle is back at Universal Orlando Resort. Taking place in Hogsmeade, the spectacle begins with ominous green light and fog that fills the village and signals the arrival of the Death Eaters. They meander through the area practicing dark arts amongst the guests. As the sun falls, the sinister creatures and villains, including Dementors, Aragog, Mountain Trolls and Thestrals, will put on a showcase filled with lights, music and special effects. Guests need to stay on alert for Death Eaters. These devoted followers of Lord Voldemort will appear and lurk among the guests with complete disregard for wizarding laws. This is event debuted in 2019 and is back with even more spectacle.

Recommended for Things to Do in Fall because: This limited time event is a must for Harry Potter fans.

Michelle's expert tip: Keep your ears on alert for music composed by the great John Williams.

Read more about Dark Arts at Hogwarts Castle →

The EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival has been a cult favorite for decades. What's not to love about more than 30 marketplaces offering up food and beverages from all around the world? There's warm raclette Swiss cheese from the Alps, roasted lamb from Australia, pan-fried chicken dumplings from Chins and plenty of other delectable offerings. If you've got a sweet tooth, the Donut Box is a must stop for the Candy Jar Donut. Plenty of the booths offer options for vegetarians, but there's even an Earth Eats marketplace with Impossible dishes. The beverage choices are almost overwhelming, from adult to virgin. New to the festival this year are marketplaces from Kenya, the Lobster Landing, Brew-Wing, and a few other must-trys. The event runs through Nov. 20 and is included with admission to EPCOT. Don't forget you'll also need to make a park reservation for the day you want to go.

Recommended for Things to Do in Fall because: "Drinking around the world" is a great Epcot pastime, but add phenomenal food and free world-class music to the mix and it's even better.

A.D.'s expert tip: Go on Remy's Ratatouille Hide & Squeak. Purchase the map and go on the hunt for the "Little Chef" throughout World Showcase and the Global Marketplaces. If you're successful, you'll be rewarded with a surprise.

Read more about Epcot International Food & Wine Festival →

Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Food & Wine Classic
Photo courtesy of Michelle Spitzer

After a one-year hiatus, the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Food & Wine Classic is back. Held Oct. 29 and Oct. 30, this outdoor festival features unlimited food and beverage tastings from the resorts various restaurants. There's live music, more than 20 food stations and 100 beverage selections in areas like the beer garden and the bubble lounge. Food samples include apple butter-bourbon barbeque, beef tenderloin from Shula's Steak House and ahi tuna by Kimonos. The event is held on the walkways between the Swan and Dolphin, which provides a picturesque setting and plenty of space to mill around. Overnight packages for the event start at $580 and event-only ticket options are $165 per person.

Recommended for Things to Do in Fall because: Dozens of food and beverage stations, live music and all within 75,000 square feet surrounding the resort's private lake.

Michelle's expert tip: Wear good shoes. You'll have a lot of ground to cover to get all the food and drinks.

Read more about Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Food & Wine Classic →


Meet Michelle Spitzer

Michelle Spitzer grew up in South Florida taking many family vacations to the Orlando area. For the past 14 years, she's called central Florida home.

A journalist for more than two...  More About Michelle