I have always loved Florida. Why wouldn’t I, I grew up in the Sunshine State. However, after growing up, getting married and starting a family, we moved north with my husband’s career. That didn’t stop us from vacationing in Florida, and let me tell you, there is much to do in this beautiful and action-packed state. Here are five great things to do in Orlando with kids.
Orlando Theme Parks
Walt Disney World
There are four theme parks at Walt Disney World. Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. When I was growing up, we visited Mickey Mouse several times a year. There is no shortage of fun while exploring the Disney Parks.
Universal Orlando Resort
There are two spectacular theme parks to enjoy. Universal Studios Florida and Universal’s Islands of Adventure. You can also experience The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. And let’s not forget Orlando’s hottest nightlife – Universal CityWalk where you will find outstanding restaurants, live music and shows (including the fabulous Blue Man Group). We could spend days just at this theme park alone.
At SeaWorld Orlando, you can visit with penguins, dolphins, sharks, flamingos and pelicans. You can also watch an amazing live show featuring Shamu. This aquatic theme park has added some new additions such as Turtle Trek, a 360-degree 3-D movie that takes guests through the hidden world of Nyah, a deep sea turtle hatchling. You can also spend time at Sea World’s Discovery Cove park where you can swim and play with dolphins and snorkel with stingrays and beautiful tropical fish. Ever heard of the Kraken or Manta roller coasters? You will find these both at this theme park and you will definitely want to wait in line for these thrilling rides.
This major theme park covers 150 acres of those colorful building blocks and is filled with more than 50 rides and several great shows and attractions for kids and adults. There are 10 themed sections with everything from medieval castles to fun pirates, and if you are wondering which ages are best for the park, I feel children 2 to 12 will enjoy everything there is to offer, from the Duplo Village where they can extinguish flames like a fireman to The Kid Power Towers where kids pull themselves up high with a rope and then “free fall.” LEGOLAND is actually located about 35 minutes from Orlando in Winter Haven, but close enough that you won’t want to miss this gem.
This attraction has the largest collection of white alligators. Yes, I said white and they are awesome looking and huge. Gatorland opened in 1949 as a simple roadside attraction and now has expanded to 110-acre habitat that houses crocodiles, alligators, snakes, and several other exotic wildlife. You can also take a train ride through the swamp and zip line if that is your preference. There is also gator wrestling which is pretty interesting to watch.
These are the five closest beaches to Orlando:
- Cocoa Beach – driving time ~ 1 hour
- Daytona Beach – driving time ~ 1 hour 5 minutes
- New Smyrna Beach – driving time ~ 1 hour 7 minutes
- Canaveral National Seashore – driving time ~ 1 hour 8 minutes
- Melbourne Beach – driving time ~ 1 hour 24 minutes
Orlando offers dining for any budget and most restaurants offer discounts. Just the dining alone at Universal CityWalk and Disney Parks is something to brag about. From theme park dining, dinner shows and gourmet, I recommend you come hungry! One of my favorite spots to visit when we go out to eat in Orlando is Buca di Beppo located at the Florida Mall, which is owned, I recently discovered, by Planet Hollywood.
Do you like to shop? Maybe buy a few souvenirs for the friends back home? No problem. A trip to Orlando would not be complete if shopping were not on your list. You will find several shopping malls (The Florida Mall is my favorite spot), outlets, flea markets, and of course, more shopping at all the theme parks.
In addition to the gators you can see at Gatorland, you will find:
Loggerhead Sea Turtle along Florida’s East Coast, south of Melbourne Beach. That’s where you will find Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge. The beaches here are the Western Hemisphere’s most vital area for nesting Loggerhead Sea Turtles. The best time to watch the turtles nesting is June and July.
Manatees, Bald Eagles and Florida Scrub Jay in Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge near Cape Canaveral. This is a 220 square mile refuge that owes its pristine natural state to the space program operations near Kennedy Space Center. If you really are craving wildlife, drive along the 7-mile route, Black Point Wildlife Drive, which winds through a marshy and flatwood environment.
I certainly could go on listing many reasons to visit Orlando, Florida but this is a good start. There is no shortage of fun, educational things to do, delicious foods to eat and beautiful scenery to take in. One more thing. Remember I mentioned that I grew up in Florida, moved away but still vacation in the Sunshine State? Well I like it so much that I ended up moving back, right here in Orlando.
Have you visited Orlando, Florida and if so, what is your favorite attraction?