50 Friend Dates Near Orlando

Ah, date night. The perfect opportunity for a young couple to get to know each other — or for a seasoned couple to rekindle the sparks of youthful romance. It’s a time to get dressed up, to explore outside your comfort zone and hopefully to impress your partner while doing so. We pour so much attention and effort into romantic partners and potential matches. And in today’s picture-perfect social media environment, the bar has never been higher.

What about for our friends? The people who know us best? The people who’ve been with us through thick and thin? What do we plan for them? Well, if you’re like me, the conversation usually goes something like:

"What do you wanna do?”

"Idk, what do you wanna do?”

Usually we’ll just end up chilling at somebody’s house. While there’s nothing wrong with this (especially if one of your love languages is quality time) it does make me wonder: why do we pull out the stops for our romantic partners but not our platonic friends?

When you’ve been single for a while, it’s easy to feel left out of the dating scene as you scroll past others’ cute posts on Instagram and TikTok. That’s why I started taking my platonic friends on “friend dates” — because being single shouldn’t keep you from doing fun things. In doing so, I got to know my friends better, resulting in a stronger bond.

Even if you’re in a relationship, planning friend dates is a great way to keep the connection with friends who otherwise might feel ignored from all the time you spend with your SO. 

The ideas below are general enough to use anywhere, but if you’re in Orlando, I’ve added links to local places to take your friends. Obviously any of these work as actual dates or group get-togethers, but I want to encourage you to put the time and effort into planning friend dates; you never know whose day you could make.

So without further ado, here are 50 friend dates near Orlando:

two women sitting on a car Photo by Elijah O'Donnell from Pexels

Outdoors:

  1. Beach: Orlando is close to so many beaches, like Cocoa Beach and the Canaveral National Seashore. Bonus points if you go at sunrise or sunset.

  2. Bicycling: If you have your own bikes, you can take a cruise around the neighborhood. If not, you can rent bikes at places like Elite Bikes Orlando or The Ride Xperience.

  3. Botanical Garden: Enjoy Florida’s year-long flora at Harry P. Leu Gardens or Mead Botanical Garden.

  4. Cloud Watching: The best thing about cloud watching is that you can do it from literally anywhere. If you want to try your hand at classifying, check out the International Cloud Atlas

  5. Dog Park: If you don’t have furry friends of your own, most dog owners will let you play with theirs. Meet dogs at Lake Baldwin Dog Park or Meadow Woods Dog Park.

  6. Farm: Pick fresh fruit and flowers in season at farms like Sledd’s U-Pick Farm for sunflowers and Far Reach Ranch for blueberries and strawberries.

  7. Hiking: Get lost in nature with the trails at Tibet-Butler Preserve or the UCF Arboretum.

  8. Kayaking: Lots of Florida springs and beaches have kayak rentals, but for a real treat, kayak with manatees at Blue Springs State Park or bioluminescent kayaking. If you’re a UCF student, you can kayak for free at Lake Claire or rent for a small fee at UCF Outdoor Adventure.

  9. Paddle Boarding: Just like kayaking, UCF students can paddleboard at Lake Claire or rent for a small fee at UCF Outdoor Adventure. If you’re looking for rentals outside of UCF, try Lake Life Paddle where you can take sunset classes in floating yoga and meditation.

  10. Park: Sometimes it’s nice to go for a plain old walk. For scenic views, try Lake Eola Park downtown or Oviedo on the Park.

  11. Picnic: Another great way to spend time in a park is to pack a picnic to enjoy in the fine weather. Check out some tips for planning the perfect picnic.

  12. Stargazing: While you can technically stargaze anywhere, it’s best to find a dark spot to see the most stars. For a real show, check out this guide for when to see full moons, meteor showers and eclipses in 2021.

  13. Swimming: Florida is filled with natural springs for swimming, like Wekiwa Springs State Park and Silver Springs State Park. The water is often so clear that you can see your feet when you’re totally submerged.

people decorating sugar cookies for Christmas Photo by Pavel Danilyuk from Pexels

At Home:

  1. Baking: Now’s your time to finally try out that recipe you’ve had pinned for ages. Baking with friends is a great way to bond through teamwork. Plus, you get to enjoy the fruits of your labor afterward. 

  2. Dinner Party: Dinner parties are a fun way to introduce new people and can range from casual get-togethers to elegant affairs. You can plan the theme, menu and dress code with these tips.

  3. DIY Photoshoot: Express your creativity and capture some #aesthetic Instagram shots with an at-home photoshoot. Get props at your local craft store or find them lying around the house. The world is your oyster.

  4. Happy Hour: Get the girls together and try your hand at some new mixology. For inspiration, check out some of our favorite cocktail recipes.

  5. Movie Marathon: Grab a bowl of popcorn and theater snacks and watch your favorite films, whether on streaming services like Netflix and Hulu or on good old-fashioned DVDs. Some themes for movie marathons include Harry Potter, Marvel and Star Wars.

  6. PowerPoint Party: Made popular in quarantine as a Zoom hangout, PowerPoint parties let you explore your interests and learn more about your friends.

  7. Sip & Paint Night: With a bit of wine and some supplies from the art store, you and your friends can be your very own Bob Ross. Follow his famous tutorials or come up with your own new twist.

  8. Yoga: Create your own workout class setting at home. Set the mood with calming music, candles or incense and dim lights, then relax into your favorite poses with online tutorials.

Pexels

Food:

  1. Brunch: Getting brunch together is the perfect way to spend a lazy weekend morning. Check out The Robinson Room, Briarpatch Restaurant and The Wellborn.

  2. Coffee: For a quick meetup, grab a coffee at Barnie’s Coffee & Tea Co., Craft & Common, Vespr Coffee or Lineage Coffee Roasting.

  3. Ice Cream: Ice cream makes a great add-on to any outing. Try The Greenery Creamery or Kelly’s Homemade Ice Cream.

  4. New Restaurants: It’s always fun to find a new restaurant neither of you have been to. Her Campus at UCF writers recommend Hunger Street Tacos (Mexican), Old Cuban Café (Cuban), Pig Floyd’s Urban Barbakoa (BBQ), Doghouse (hot dogs), King Bao (Chinese), Purple Ocean (Açaí bowls) and First Watch (Diner).

  5. Pizza: There’s nothing like ending the day at a good old-fashioned pizza parlor. Try a slice that's the size of your face at Lazy Moon.

Chevanon Photography from Pexels

Volunteering:

  1. Animal Shelter: Play with cute animals while making a difference at Orange County Animal Services or the Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando.

  2. Food Bank: Anyone can volunteer at a food bank, whether it’s running a food drive or serving on-site. For more information, check out Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida or Feeding Children Everywhere.

  3. Litter Cleanup: All it takes for this one is a couple of trash bags and an hour or two. Parks and beaches are great places to clean litter. Check out Orange County’s website to find a park near you or see above for nearby beaches.

Vintage-looking regal movie theater Photo by Aditya Vyas on Unsplash

Entertainment:

  1. Aquarium: See cute octopuses, turtles and more at Sea Life Aquarium. Make sure to snap some cute pics by the jellyfish and in the 360 Ocean Tunnel.

  2. Concert: There’s always something going on at Dr. Philips Center for the Performing Arts and Addition Financial Arena. Check their websites for event schedules and tickets.

  3. Escape Room: There are loads of escape rooms in Orlando, like American Escape Rooms Orlando, The Escape Game Orlando and The Escape Ventures Orlando. Even if you don’t have a full group, they’ll often let you play with other groups.

  4. Ferris Wheel: Take your adventures to new heights with Ferris wheels like The Wheel at Icon Park and Light Up UCF.

  5. Ice Skating: There may not be snow in Florida, but you can enjoy winter sports year-round at RDV Sportsplex Ice Den and Ice Factory of Central Florida.

  6. Laser Tag: Challenge your friends to a game of laser tag at Battleground Orlando or Ultrazone Ocoee.

  7. Mini Golfing: Test your swing at one of Orlando’s many mini-golf locations, like Pirate’s Cove Adventure Golf, Congo River Golf or Orlando Putting Edge.

  8. Movie Theater: Any nearby cinema will do if it’s showing the movie you want to see, but for a step up, try a dine-in theater like Alamo Drafthouse or Aloma Cinema Grill.

  9. Rock Climbing: UCF students can climb for free at the RWC’s Climbing Tower. You can also try Aiguille Rock Climbing Center or Blue Swan Boulders.

  10. Rocket Launch: Rocket launches are visible from anywhere in Orlando with a clear view of the eastern sky, but it’s best to get near the Cape. Check the online schedule to see when the next launch is.

  11. Roller Skating: Roller skating is making a huge comeback thanks to TikTok. If you have your own skates, head to Orlando Skate Park to try new moves. Make sure to also check out Astro Skating Center or Semoran Skateway.

  12. Theater: You can catch a play, ballet or opera at Dr. Philips Center for the Performing Arts. When looking for theater, always check to see if any local high schools are having performances.

  13. Zoo: Animal lovers will have a blast at Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens, Brevard Zoo or Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

Courtesy of Bumble

Out & About:

  1. Cat Café: Grab a bite and play with adorable (and adoptable) cats at the Orlando Cat Café or The Kitty Beautiful.

  2. Entertainment Complex: You can make a whole day out of adventuring through entertainment complexes like ICON Park, Universal CityWalk or Disney Springs.

  3. Flower Shopping: Make each other bouquets from a florist like Orlando Wholesale Florist. Bonus points if you can get some Victorian flower symbolism in there.

  4. Mural Spotting: There seems to be a new mural popping up everywhere you look in Orlando. Check out this guide to Orlando street art to find your next photo spot.

  5. Museums: There are so many options when it comes to museums, like the Orlando Museum of Art, the Orlando Science Center or the Orange County Regional History Center.

  6. Photoshoot: I mentioned DIY photoshoots above, but you can also take advantage of your surroundings to act as backgrounds. Any of the places above would make for cute pictures, or you can go to a professional photoshoot location like Wall Crawl.

  7. Pottery Class: Make each other keepsakes to last forever at the City of Orlando’s Pottery Studio or All Fired Up.

  8. Thrifting: Buying second hand is one of the most ethical ways to shop these days. Learn more about thrifting and find local thrift stores here.

Let these ideas be a jumping-off point for your brainstorming. You can combine dates, add your own ideas or use a random number generator if you can’t choose what to do. Pinterest and TikTok are great sources of inspiration. In the end, I hope this list leaves you with enough ideas to last a while and makes “Idk, what do you wanna do?” a saying of the past.

*Food suggestions made by Anna Tam, Ashley Kramer, Ashley Reichert, Farrah Muwalla and Maclane Mautz.