With its reputation for theme park thrills, it’s easy to assume you already know what to expect from an Orlando, Florida vacation. But this town doesn’t call itself the City Beautiful for nothing. There are lots of great places to explore and fun things to do beyond the famous theme parks in Florida — and the start of 2020 is shaping up to be no exception.
Here are 7 ways to kick off the new year right in Orlando.
1. Watch Champion Golfers and Celebrities Tee Off
One of the most unique events on the LPGA Tour, the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions features LPGA winners from the past two seasons, including Brittany Lincicome, Brooke Henderson and Lexi Thompson, tackling 72 holes of stroke play with no cut for $1.2 million in official prize money.
Up to 50 sports and entertainment celebrities will join the pro golfers on the course, competing for their own $500,000 prize. Attendees will get to see basketball champ Ray Allen, baseball Hall of Famer John Smoltz, comedian Larry the Cable Guy and TV personality Ben Higgins from ABC’s “The Bachelor” and more celebrity favorites compete on the course.
This four-day event will take place at Four Seasons Golf and Sports Club from January 16-19, 2020.
2. Cheer On Your Favorite Football Stars
Watch 88 of the best football players in America face off during the 2020 Pro Bowl, happening at downtown Orlando’s Camping World Stadium on January 26, 2020. Arrive early for free music and entertainment around the stadium, including a special kids’ zone with interactive play areas.
If you’re a major football fan, start the party early at the Pro Bowl Experience, a free football festival held on the days leading up to the Pro Bowl at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. From team practices that will get you up close to the players (free to attend on a first-come, first-served basis) to interactive experiences for kiddos eager to try kicking, passing and holding the line, it’s an event tailor-made for football fans. The festivities kick off on January 22, 2020.
3. Mingle With Locals While Appreciating Art
Meet an eclectic mix of Central Florida locals at the Orlando Museum of Art‘s monthly soiree known as 1st Thursdays. Held on — you guessed it — the first Thursday of the month, you may see dancers from the Orlando Ballet Company twirling through the museum rotunda or a group of local artists displaying their paintings and sculptures.
Admission includes access to the museum’s featured exhibition. Live music and cafe selections from local restaurants round out the evening. Due to the New Year’s holiday, the first event of the year will actually be held on the second Thursday of the month: January 9, 2020.
4. Tap Your Feet to Inviting Beats
Orlando’s warm and sunny “winter” weather makes it the perfect time for an outdoor festival. Each Saturday afternoon in January, top musicians from around Central Florida perform at the Winter Music Series — one of the best family activities in Orlando.
Large oak trees cast shade across the grassy fields, setting the perfect scene for an outdoor festival. Pick up provisions at one of the many food and drink vendors, and set up a blanket or chairs for a picnic. A lineup of cornhole is free for anyone who wants to play.
It’s worth the wait to celebrate Founders Weekend at the historic Bok Tower Gardens during February 1-2, 2020. Considered one of Central Florida’s secret gems, the driveway to the main entrance is flanked by orange groves that set the mood with their signature scent of Florida citrus.
Inside, garden trails wind past 150 varieties of camellias, azaleas, snapdragons and delphiniums. Sit on a shaded bench and enjoy one of the two daily carillon concerts at the 205-foot Singing Tower. Made of pink and gray marble and Florida coquina rock and equipped with 60 bronze bells at the top, the tower houses one of only 185 carillons in North America. This musical instrument made of cast bronze bells emanates soothing sounds that are ideal for a garden setting.
A short walk away is a 1930s Mediterranean-style mansion known as the Pinewood Estate, which is also open for tours. This 20-room, 13,000-square-foot home has a barrel-tile roof, carved doors and detailed ironwork. Families will love the Hammock Hollow Children’s Garden with its boardwalk and outdoor play areas, where kids can climb to their heart’s content.
6. Take a Scenic Boat Tour
Florida family vacations simply aren’t complete without a healthy dose of water-based fun. Just minutes from the theme parks, take a one-hour trip on an 18-passenger, open-air pontoon across the pristine Winter Park Chain of Lakes. “Ooh” and “ahh” as you glide past palatial homes and grand estates built as far back as the 1920s, many of them tucked between tropical gardens.
You’ll cruise through narrow canals and under a storybook bridge, past Rollins College with its stunning Spanish-style architecture, and past the Albin Polasek Museum and Sculpture Gardens — the former home of the renowned Czechoslovakian sculptor. Tours leave every hour between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. daily.
7. Soar Above the Clouds in a Hot Air Balloon
Imagine flying thousands of feet in the air as the sun rises over the horizon, the treetops below giving way to theme park attractions, orange groves and more. That’s exactly the bird’s eye view you’ll get during a trip with Orlando Balloon Rides.
After a brief safety introduction, you’ll be transported to one of several launch sites around the Disney area, where for 20 minutes you’ll watch as these magnificent hot air balloons inflate, forming a colorful canopy right before your eyes. Then, you’ll step inside the passenger basket and enjoy the breathtaking 60-minute flight before landing and hopping into a shuttle back to your car.
Whether you’re in the air or on the water, Orlando offers myriad ways to start the new year right. Diamond Resorts has a number of Orlando family resorts that make the ideal home base for your vacation. Round up your favorite fellow adventure-seekers and let the bucket list planning begin!
Diamond Resorts International Marketing, Inc., its parents, sister companies, and subsidiaries, make no warranty, express or implied, as to the condition, capacity, performance or any other aspect of the activities, events, or service providers listed herein. No inquiry has been made into the activities or events, or the qualifications or the quality of services offered by the providers. Do not consider this an endorsement of or recommendation for any of the activities, events, or providers.