Orlando vacations without a visit to Disney World are possible! Personally, we have been to many non-Disney attractions during vacation and had an amazing trip. I know most Disney fans will gasp at that statement. Disney World isn’t for everyone, and there is plenty to experience in the Number One Vacation Destination in the United States. Let’s take a look at how you can have a fun Orlando vacation without visiting the Mouse.
How to Visit Orlando Without Going to Disney World
My kids and I are seasoned Orlando travelers. My job has put me in Central Florida for many events and training sessions. Disney World is great but it can be costly. And depending on when you visit, it can also be a mob scene. Don’t get me wrong. We love Disney World; however, we have learned to love life outside of the House of Mouse as well during Orlando vacations.
Step One – Choose a Resort
The first step in planning a non-Disney Orlando vacation is your resort. I can’t even imagine how many resort residences there are in Orlando for rent during a vacation. How do you choose a resort when you are staying away from Disney?
For my family we need space, as in at least one bedroom. My teen can’t be bothered with us when she needs “her time” and at the end of the day, Mom and Dad want their own room. My family of four needs at least one bedroom, and if we are staying for more than a week, it has to be two bedrooms. When we aren’t visiting Disney, we can broaden our search a little more. You can find everything from a studio to a three bedroom condo for your Orlando vacation. Don’t just settle for a hotel, enjoy a vacation residence.
While I will be the first to say I prefer not to cook on vacation, it is nice to have a full kitchen when you are in an Orlando vacation rental. The cost of eating out in Orlando really adds up. But you can save if you do a couple of meals yourself, from your own vacation kitchen. Even if you only prepare breakfast, and make a lunch for on-the-go, you are saving big bucks.
Always on my resort list is a great pool. if I can’t be on a beach vacation I want an amazing pool, preferably with a water slide for the kids. If your resort has a great pool or fun family amenities such as movie nights, bingo and kids clubs, taking a day to stay in and enjoy your resort is always something I suggest. After all, you spent a good amount of time deciding on the resort. You should enjoy it!
The kids will never miss Mickey if they are floating around the lazy river, or having nighttime scavenger hunts with new friends from the resort.
Top Non-Disney Attractions
As many visits as my family and I have made to Orlando in the past four years, we always leave saying, “We will do that next time!” There’s always something that we miss. With so much to see and do, you cannot get it all done in one visit. Sure, Disney is in Orlando, but so are a myriad of other great attractions and they may cost you half as much. Here are my top four other-than-Disney favorite attractions in Orlando.
- Discovery Cove is a tropical Oasis in the middle of Central Florida. You cannot see anything but the sign from the road, and what awaits you is pure beauty and peace in this all-inclusive day of family fun. You can snorkel, swim with dolphins, visit with birds and so much more. This attraction is at the top of my Orlando list, as it is a haven and one-of-a-kind experience. Why drag yourself around a hot theme park when you can connect with nature and make unbelievable memories at Discovery Cove?
- Gatorland has been in Orlando since 1949! If you have an animal (especially reptile) lover in your family, Gatorland is the place for you. Kids can even safely wrestle a gator if they aren’t too afraid. Pack a swimsuit because there is a really fun splash and play area for kids as well. Going to Gatorland is an Orlando rite of passage. If you don’t visit you are missing a true Florida experience.
- SeaWorld is a fantastic park that rarely sees crazy crowds. If your family wants to experience coasters, family rides and aquatic experiences, you won’t be disappointed. SeaWorld is also home to Orlando’s tallest and fastest roller coaster, Mako. Don’t forget to see the show “One Ocean” starring Shamu, sit in the splash zone (you’ve been warned) and enjoy. You can also feed see lions, pet a penguin or get up close and personal with dolphins. A day at SeaWorld will not disappoint.
- I-Drive 360 is a brand new addition to Orlando attractions on International Drive. This entertainment complex offers fantastic dining, a ride on the Orlando Eye or a visit to the Sea Life Aquarium. Honestly, you can spend an entire day at I-Drive 360 during your Orlando vacation. The Orlando Eye, a 400 foot observation wheel, will give you the highest view of the Vacation Capital of the US, and on a clear day you can catch a glimpse of Disney.
- If you are looking for a day trip, head out to the coast about 45 minutes east and visit Cocoa Beach or Kennedy Space Center for the day. Every little kid that dreams of being an astronaut will be in awe at the amazing tours offered at the Space Center. You can even have lunch with an astronaut for a fee. Talk about a memorable vacation experience.
I could go on and on about great attractions in Orlando because they really are endless. Don’t think for a minute that just because you are going to Orlando you have to go to Disney World. From water parks, to air boat rides and indoor sky-diving, there is so much more to explore.
What are your favorite (non Disney) Orlando attractions?
This post is sponsored by Vacatia, all opinions and facts are from my own experiences.