A vacation to Orlando, Florida can be more than just an expensive theme park visit. In one day, Orlando-goers can enjoy shopping, tasty eats, adventure, relaxation, and family fun! Our Southern TravelingMom, a frequent visitor, offers her suggestions for a suitable one-day itinerary for visiting Orlando for families with children of all ages. She has your normal-paced day planned out with activities that will entertain the entire family (shopping, sightseeing, play, food) and hotel suggestions for where to lay your head.
A One-Day Itinerary for Visiting Orlando
Florida is a popular family travel destination. The biggest draw in the Sunshine State, Orlando boasts the title of #1, 2, and 3 vacation spots in the country by Family Fun magazine! While most people think first about Walt Disney World and Universal theme parks, Orlando is much more than a theme park mecca. Here is a sample one-day Orlando itinerary with plenty of fun and memory-laden activities that do not require an admission ticket. Let’s eat, drink, and be merry, taking advantage of over-shadowed Orlando experiences as well as the free options of those big attractions.
First Stop: Best Breakfast in Orlando
Keke’s Breakfast Cafe
7512 Dr. Phillips Boulevard, Suite 100
Orlando is known for its culinary scene; Keke’s Breakfast Cafe is a great introduction to how delicious Orlando is. There are seven Keke’s Breakfast Cafes around Orlando. Begin your day with egg dishes, combo plates, or fluffy pancakes drizzled with pure maple syrup. Kids will love the Chocolate Chip Pancakes or Banana Split Waffles. Although Keke’s offers lighter options, my favorite is the perfect Eggs Benedict with silky hollandaise sauce. If you have a hard time choosing between fabulous sounding plates, you may want to familiarize yourself with the menu before arriving. It is a hard choice!
Second Stop: Supreme Shopping Adventures
Orlando International Premium Outlets
4951 International Drive (northern end of I-Drive)
I could not think of anywhere better to splurge or update your wardrobe than at this huge outlet shopping megaplex. Even though there are several malls in the area, I prefer shopping at the Orlando International Premium Outlets, Florida’s largest shopping mall. Popular stores include Nike, Neiman Marcus Last Call, kate spade, Columbia, and Victoria’s Secret. People from all over the world shop at Orlando International Premium Outlets’ 180 stores. Don’t be surprised when you see people pulling suitcases behind them through the mall; they buy new luggage to fill with their purchases.
TravelingMom Tip: Get to the Orlando International Premium Outlets when it opens; parking is a challenge. Be sure to snap a photo of your parking spot so you can find your car at the end of your shopping day.
Third Stop: Leisurely Lunch, Slow or Fast
By now, you’ve worked up an appetite from all of that shopping. Hey, shopping and swiping credit cards is hard work! Take a break with a quick lunch from Shake Shack, minutes from the outlet mall (8359 International Drive). This gourmet-take on fast-food classics will impress your taste buds at affordable prices. This is one spot where I eat vegetarian just because it is so good. Don’t miss Shake Shack’s frozen custard! If you prefer a sit-down, full-service meal, visit Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurant (8005 I-Drive) for delicious salads and wine offerings or Chuy’s (8123 I-Drive) for Mexican fare in a lively setting that the kids will enjoy. If you end up at Cooper’s Hawk, the Drunken Mexican Shrimp is fantastic!
TravelingMom Tip: Kids meals at Chuy’s include a free beverage and dessert!
Fourth Stop: Unwind and Use What You’ve Paid For
After filling their bellies, let your kids have fun. Head back to the hotel to prop your feet up, relax a bit, and let the kids swim their hearts out in the hotel’s free swimming pools. Families sometimes pay big bucks for a savvy hotel with killer amenities, yet do not factor in time to use them. My kids LOVED having their time to splash around and unwind…plus, it is included! Cocktails anyone? I’ll have a Miami Vice, half Piña Colada, and half Strawberry Daiquiri.
Fifth Stop: Family Fun at Universal CityWalk
1000 Universal Studios Plaza
Some of the best entertainment in Orlando is free! Walk around the enormous Universal CityWalk, outside of the Universal theme parks. You’ll find a collection of vibrant stores, dining options, live music, dancing, and more; an array of options to suit any desire. Kid favorites include Hollywood Drive-in Golf, CityWalk’s Rising Star, and Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville. For me, just being part of the high-energy, colorful and artsy complex while seeing my kids have fun is enough. We like to visit the stores, watch the street performers, and even see movies at the AMC Universal Cineplex. Mini-golf is always a family favorite. I think this stop has to be on your one-day itinerary for visiting Orlando!
TravelingMom Tip: If you are staying at one of Universal’s properties, you can take a free shuttle ride from the hotel. Stops 5, 6, & 7 are all at the same location. You won’t have to move the car or fight the traffic! If you have to drive, the CityWalk offers free self-parking after 6 PM.
Sixth Stop: Delectable Dinner
Since you are already at such a fascinating attraction, go ahead and grab dinner at the Universal CityWalk as well. The Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar has a most interesting menu featuring the All-American Bacon Double Cheeseburgooshi (Cheeseburger Sushi) and Crab Rangoon Dip with wonton crisps. I still dream about those dishes. Adults can indulge in Cowfish’s spiked milkshakes and exotic martinis, while children can choose the Kids’ Bento Boxes and playful aquariums around the restaurant.
If you crave a sandwich, my favorite option is Bread Box Handcrafted Sandwiches. The 4-Cheese Bread Box Melt on sliced brioche is life-changing! If the kids are feeling a bit wild by this time of the evening, there is plenty of outdoor seating so they will able to run loose.
Seventh Stop: Don’t Skip Dessert
Regardless of how stuffed you may be from dinner, a visit to the Universal CityWalk is not complete without a mind-blowing milkshake or dessert from the Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen. Be prepared to wait as the lines are long, but these Instagram-worthy creations are well worth it. The steampunk decor and gizmos make it a fun wait at least. Not being a chocolate fan, my specialty milkshake picks are Red Velvet (#2 on the menu) and Strawberry Cheesecake (#6 on the menu).
TravelingMom Tips: Put your name on the list and walk around to the nearby stores. Also, consider splitting a dessert with a family member to save money and calories.
Since so much of our one-day Orlando itinerary is at the Universal CityWalk, it makes sense to stay at one of Universal’s fabulous hotels. The best values are at the Cabana Bay Beach Resort (retro decor that families love!) and Loew’s Sapphire Falls (huge swimming pool with a waterslide).
We thoroughly enjoy Cabana Bay Beach Resort’s onsite restaurants, bowling alley, fun shops & arcade, and brightly colored 1950s-60s throwback rooms.
If you are looking off property, an economical hotel with a ton of fun for kids is Coco Key Water Resort Hotel (I-Drive). Admission to both the indoor and outdoor water parks is included. Coco Key has an arcade with the best games ever! We love it! The location is convenient and within walking distance to WonderWorks, Ripley’s Believe It Or Not!, and The Coca-Cola Orlando Eye.
TravelingMom Tips: Adults can upgrade their vacation with a visit to Portofino Bay’s Mandara Spa, which also has a stellar kids’ program.
Need More Excitement in Your Day?
If you need another activity to fill your day, I recommend visiting the Mills 50 District’s colorful art installments in between stops three and four. Driving along, you will encounter art boxes, drains, murals, and dumpster art projects contributed by local artists. (access the driving map here). Three neighborhoods feature the art offerings: Lake Eola Heights, Park/Lake Highland, and Colonialtown North. At Lake Eola, take a walk on the sidewalk that goes completely around the photogenic park or rent swan-shaped paddle boats and get out on the lake. The central fountain is stunning!