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Best Tours for Orlando Visitors: From Inside Disney to Outside the Box



Whether you’re interested in a new way of visiting your favorite theme park or a fabulous departure from fabricated Florida, Orlando is overflowing with tour and excursion options both on and off the path. Close to Disney and its spoils, you can take a spin on a Segway and tour the streets and nature trails of Celebration, perhaps the Orlando metro’s most famous “planned community.” Closer to the parks, Sammy Duvall’s Watersports Centre offers myriad opportunity to play in and spray in the waters of WDW’s Seven Seas Lagoon – or even soar above it via parasail. And in the depths of Mother Africa, or at least Disney’s Animal Kingdom’s stunning facsimile, fans of the popular Kilimanjaro Safari ride can level it up with the three-hour Wild Africa Trek, where the animals are closer, the guides are personal and the meals are oft served in the company of a flamboyance (that’s the word for a group of flamingos). Outside of Mickey’s realm, the real Florida awaits in both natural and even paranormal forms. Wild Willy’s Airboats is a local favorite; passengers soar over beautiful Lake Tohopekaliga in St. Cloud. Downtown, haunting havens await. American Ghost Adventures offers a “Last Call Pub Crawl” along with tours in other locations, as well. 


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Orlando Brewing
Photo courtesy of Orlando Brewing


"Organic" and "local" are all kinds of foodie buzzwords these days, but throw the word "beer" into the mix and you might prick up a few sets of ears that were previously tuning you out. Orlando Brewing is Florida's only USDA-certified organic brewery and its lovely, long list â€" blonde, red, brown and well beyond, with sassy names like Miami Weiss and Pompous Ass (at 7.4% ABV, that last one may well turn you into one if you're not careful) â€" is sure to have at least one beer for every member of your taproom-visiting party. That said, the beer's not gratis, but the awesome brewery tour â€" held Monday through Saturday at 6:00 p.m. â€" most certainly is! What's more, Orlando Brewing welcomes families, so feel free to bring the kids along and enjoy darts, board games and live music on Friday and Saturday nights.




Who ya gonna call? The ghostbusting crew at American Ghost Adventures have been leading the paranormally curious on various tours of Orlando since 2010 and often venture to outer-lying areas in Florida â€" such as Daytona, Mount Dora, Deland, Sanford and Winter Garden â€" where spectral activity is said to be off the chart. Some ventures even require the use of paranormal detection equipment. Like spirits with your spirits? Try the "Last Call" Haunted Pub Tour and explore some of Orlando's downtown hot spots for both ghosts and happy hour. (Above listed address is for "Last Call" meetup spot, the Harp & Celt; participants on other tours will be emailed appropriate instructions.)


Limo Cycle


All aboard the Limo Cycle, the "stretch" version of the traditionally two-wheeled favorite. This one is built for up to 15! An on-board sound system and storage for food and beverages mean you can nosh and imbibe while pedaling. Bring a birthday cake and work the calories off while you celebrate!Tour historic downtown Sanford, a charming little burg with bars, shops and galleries; Pub Crawl packages bring riders to an array of popular establishments where each can soak up a drink along with the local color. Worried about the heat? Don't be. A misting system keeps participants cool, as will the frosty beverages.


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Disney's Animal Kingdom ®


This privately guided VIP experience brings guests behind the scenes â€" and even above them â€" in a "Disney-fied" version of a Kenya safari. Groups of up to 12 take a hike through the territory that makes up the Kilimanjaro Safari ride, traversing rope bridges, getting up close and personal with hippos and crocodiles, seeing a bit of what the animal caretakers do (Note: Disney's "Backstage Safari" tour delves deeper into DAK animal care and what it entails.) and heading out onto the savannah for an even closer look at its free-ranging rhinos, giraffes, zebras and more. Guides are there to answer all guest questions and while photography is welcome, Disney's own will be documenting your excursion the entire way. You'll receive the images later. Gourmet eats are included, as well. Enjoy an Africa-infused lunch in the company of flamingos and perhaps other delightful creatures.


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Walt Disney World ®

Ever found yourself sailing over or perhaps across the Seven Seas Lagoon, headed for fun at the Magic Kingdom, and spied folks enjoying a sunny Orlando day on its sparkling waters? You may have thought it was a privilege reserved for guests at Disney properties. It isn't. At Sammy Duvall's Watersports Centre, located at the Contemporary's Marina, anyone can tube, wakeboard, parasail, water ski or, for the purposes of this particular list, TOUR the waters of Walt Disney World on a PWC (personal watercraft). Morning, hour-long tours offer up loads of nature photo-ops (beautiful birds and other animals call this oasis home) and stunning, unique views of iconic Disney architecture and other points of interest.




Looking for something different than the usual walking or trolley tour? Let ZE Tours introduce you to the Segway, a zippy mode of transport that's easy to learn and fun to do. Guides here will help newbies learn the ropes, then escort your group on a fun outing in quaint Celebration. Residential areas, downtown, nature trails and more are included, and headsets mean you won't miss a word of history and trivia as you soak up the local lore and Florida sun. Tours run between 70 and 130 minutes. For theme-park visitors, Celebration is close by and getting out in the fresh air and away from the crowds makes for a nice break. ZE also rents bicycles if you prefer a more traditional two-wheeled excursion.




Up, up and away in a beautiful balloon! Orlando Balloon Rides' flights depart daily â€" weather permitting, of course â€" with participants meeting up for early-morning lift offs into the bright, blue yonder. Depending on conditions, your soaring experience will last between 45 minutes and an hour and a half (the average is one hour); balloons can either cruise just above the treetops or soar thousands of feet, giving you a bird's-eye view of Central Florida's wilderness, theme parks, orange groves and more. A post-landing champagne toast is not only traditional, but included, and non-alcoholic beverages are available, as well.




This local outfitter runs tours throughout Central Florida, even out to Merritt Island, but in-town excursions through the Winter Park chain of lakes take intrepid explorers straight through the majestic landscape and history of this lovely little town. They're happy to give you an escort, but with the handy map they are happy to provide: it's wholly unnecessary, allowing you and your partners in paddling to slip unencumbered through the waterways, guided by easy-to-read, hand-drawn maps. Navigate through lush foliage, beneath towering cypress and past the area's magnificent estates on a two-and-a-half-hour journey. Tours of the Little Econlockhatchee and other excursions are available, as well. Call or check website for details.




Looking for a different view of the City Beautiful? Paddleboard Orlando will give you waterborne perspective...vertically! And they're pros when it comes to first-time SUP'ers. Offering beginner lessons and peaceful, fun excursions on a wide array of Orlando's lakes and canals; you can sign up for manatee or moonlight paddles, group or private lessons, even nighttime bioluminescence outings. No equipment or experience necessary. This is a passionate operation; they want to get you as hooked on SUP'ing as they are. Private parties and corporate events are available, as well. Paddleboarding is a unique way to experience the aquatic terrain, flora and fauna of Central Florida; definitely worth a try!




Local are always talking up how cosmopolitan Orlando is. We're not denying it, but just outside the city sits acres of wetland wilderness so loaded down with wildlife â€" alligators, bald eagles, wading birds and more â€" you may spot more animals than at the zoo. Of course, you'll need an expert guide and Wild Willy's can help with that. Tours are exciting (if you've never glided over the seas of grass before, you're in for a treat) and uber-educational. Photo-ops with the "on-staff" gators are available, as well. Florida nature is unlike any other, it's well worth a quick side-trip from the parks (and close by, too).


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Meet A.D. Thompson

Amy Drew has spent nearly three decades as a professional writer and roughly half her life as a Floridian. The words, she has found, come easier with bare feet and rum.

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