There’s more to Orlando than theme parks! In just two days, you can experience delectable dining, world-class shopping, family adventures, and lots of special memories! See what Southern TravelingMom suggests for two days of travel in Orlando, Florida, the No. 1 family vacation destination in the world! She has your fast-paced days planned out with fun for the entire family, rainy day activities, and hotel recommendations that won’t break the bank.
A Two-Day Itinerary to Orlando, Florida
Florida is a popular family travel destination. The biggest draw in the Sunshine State is Orlando. Not only is Orlando home to Walt Disney World and Universal Studios Resort, but it has a whole other world waiting to be discovered. Here is what I suggest for a two-day Orlando family vacation that packs your trip with fun and memorable activities that do not require an expensive park admission ticket. Let’s discover the over-shadowed Orlando offerings that will delight your family as well as the free options at the coveted big attractions.
Day One in Orlando
Keke’s Breakfast Cafe
7512 Dr. Phillips Blvd, Suite 100
Orlando is known for its culinary scene; Keke’s Breakfast Cafe, a local chain, is a great introduction to how delicious Orlando is. I recommend the fluffy pancakes drizzled with pure maple syrup or KeKe’s creative egg dishes. My go-to dish, Eggs Benedict, is near perfection with a flavorful, silky hollandaise sauce. Youngsters will enjoy the Chocolate Chip Pancakes or Banana Split Waffles.
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 shopping destinations in Orlando, I prefer shopping at the Orlando International Premium Outlets. It is Florida’s largest shopping mall. Some of the more popular stores include Nike, Columbia, kate spade, and Victoria’s Secret. People from all over the world enjoy discount shopping 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.
Is it Lunchtime Yet?
You’ve probably worked up a thirst and appetite from all of that shopping, so lunch is in order. Shake Shack is only minutes from the outlet mall (8359 International Drive). This gourmet take on fast food classics will impress your taste buds and the affordable prices will astound you. I often order vegetarian food here just because it is so good. Shake Shack’s frozen custard is amazing, so save some room for dessert!
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!
Relax During Your Vacation
After everyone has been fed, 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! Take some time for yourself to enjoy a refreshing beverage or catch up on your social media. You’ve earned it.
Exploring the Universal CityWalk
1000 Universal Studios Plaza
Some of best entertainment in Orlando is free! Stroll around the gigantic Universal CityWalk located right outside of the Universal theme parks. You will 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. Bonus: If you are staying at one of Universal’s properties, they offer free shuttle rides from the hotel.
TravelingMom Tip: This and the next two stops are at the same location. You won’t have to move the car or fight the traffic! If you wait until evening, the CityWalk offers free self-parking after 6 PM.
Munch on a Delicious Dinner
Since you are already at such a fascinating attraction, go ahead and grab dinner at the Universal CityWalk. The Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar offers amazing creations like the All-American Bacon Double Cheeseburgooshi (burger sushi) and The Big Squeal. Adults may enjoy Cowfish’s spiked milkshakes and exotic martinis, while children will love 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.
Indulge in Dessert
Regardless of how stuffed you may be from dinner, a visit to the Universal CityWalk is not complete without a mind-blowing dessert from the Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen. Calories don’t count while on vacation, right? The lines at Toothsome can be long, but these Instagram-worthy creations are well worth it. The steampunk decor and gizmos make it a fun wait, at least. Go for the amazing Decadent Chocolate Brownie Sundae with plenty of chocolate chips, whipped cream, and fudge sauce.
TravelingMom Tip: 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.
HDay Two in Orlando
Good Morning, Sunshine
Today we are experiencing Disney Springs, a dining mecca, so we won’t fill up on breakfast. A quick pastry or breakfast sandwich from your hotel will be sufficient. Be sure to bring rain gear just in case; we will be outdoors most of the day.
Disney Springs or Bust!
Hello, Disney Springs! Young children will think this IS Disney when they see how many cool Mickey and Disney movie character references are at the Disney Springs complex, a food/shopping/entertainment megopolis. It is entirely free to visit.
Start your adventures by parking in the orange parking garage and walking to nearby shops such as Lilly Pulitzer, Anthropologie, and LACOSTE.
TravelingMom Tip: The green parking garage is more convenient to the LEGO Store, World of Disney, and Mickey’s Pantry, a cook’s dream shop!
Other stores the family will want to visit are Disney’s Days of Christmas, Coca-Cola, D-Tech on Demand at the Marketplace Co-op (jazz up your electronics), and ALEX and ANI. More kid-friendly places include Once Upon a Toy, Build-a-Dino by Build-a-Bear Workshop (at T-REX), Super Hero Headquarters, and Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique.
For a splurge, Dream Boats (Amphi car tours at The BOATHOUSE) are retro cool and make great memories as well as photos of floating through the waters at Disney Springs. Tours last 20 minutes. Another unique option that kids will love is that AMC Disney Springs 24 Dine-In Theatres actually allow you to do just that: Dine in while enjoying your choice of movies.
TravelingMom Tip: Be sure to snap a photo of where you parked your car in the garage including color, floor, and row. The garages are highly confusing and huge!
Lunch and Leisure at Disney Springs
Venture throughout the park, enjoying the cool things to see and take pictures of, and add a tasty lunch stop along the way. For a quick lunch, visit Cookes of Dublin for the best Fish & Chips (add a side of curry sauce for your fries!) or The Polite Pig (oh my, the BBQ Cobb Salad with brisket!). Cookes of Dublin is our top-pick for a counter service restaurant at Disney Springs. Grab a seat in the cozy courtyard and enjoy the lively Celtic music.
For a full-service restaurant, your kids will adore the exciting Rain Forest Cafe or for the more adventurous eaters, Bongos Cuban Café.
Save room for a sweet treat from the world-famous Ghiradelli Ice Cream & Chocolate Shop. I love the marshmallow topping while my family always shares The Cable Car.
Refresh and Relax a Few Minutes
Now it is time to grab a quick 20-minute nap or just freshen up for your evening back at your hotel. Again, just like day one, you may want to give the kids some time to relax at the pool or get the energy out of their system splashing around.
TravelingMom Tip: Don’t forget to charge your electronics after all of that Disney Springs fun!
8401 International Drive #100
I-Drive 360, a super fast-paced, $250 million dollar entertainment complex offers eye-catching attractions such as the Coca-Cola Orlando Eye (a 400 ft tall giant Ferris wheel), Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum (world-famous celebrity wax attraction), Arcade City, and Sea Life Aquarium. Choose your favorite and add these special attractions to your vacation. Don’t lose track of the time because our next stop requires arriving on time.
A Family Favorite: Medieval Times (Includes Dinner)
4510 W Vine Street, Kissimmee
If you’ve never been to Medieval Times, you are missing out! This energetic dinner and show have been entertaining families for decades. I recently went for my first time and was bowled over at how much fun it was. The evening starts by spending some time mingling with the show’s characters, grabbing a cocktail, buying a souvenir, and taking special photos.
Afterwards, the castle’s doors open and your family is ushered into the stadium style arena where you will be served a pretty darned tasty meal that you eat without utensils. I was skeptical at first but honestly, the food was top-notch. Waitresses dressed as bar wenches added to the camaraderie of the evening in a castle-like setting.
The show is a full out story of medieval knights (think chivalry, rivalry, and revelry, as they boast). It will have you cheering for your team’s knight (you are given this with your seating arrangement) as you watch engaging and interactive jousting matches, beautiful horses, and falconry in a dazzling performance. I can see why this is such a long-lasting and spectacular show. The music is fantastic as well as the talent of the performers involved. The whole family will have fun at this activity!
TravelingMom Tip: Vegetarian meals are available upon request. Splurge for one of the packages which include VIP seating, cheering banners, and rally towels.
Craving More to do in Orlando?
If you need another activity to fill your day, I recommend visiting the Mills 50 District’s colorful art installments in between stops. On your drive, 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 lovely park or rent swan-shaped paddle boats and get out on the lake. The central fountain is stunning!
Main Street Entertainment: A Perfect Rainy Day (or Any Day) Activity
Main Event Entertainment
9101 International Drive, Suite 1032
Pointe Orlando is a popular complex on I-Drive that has dining, shopping, and entertainment. Main Event Entertainment has just what everyone in your party will be craving…49,000 square feet of unadulterated excitement! With state-of-the-art bowling, more than 100 video games, laser tag, high ropes adventure courses, and V Play Virtual Reality (chase and kill zombies), this high-energy space is filled with thrills! Main Event also has handcrafted food and an attractive bar area with plenty of seating arrangements all under one roof. Be sure to squeeze in a game of billiards in their cool setting.
Alternatives to Disney Springs
If Disney Springs is not on your radar, an alternative would be to hotel hop through Disney properties to check out the stellar offerings. Maybe have a cocktail, snack, or pick up a souvenir while enjoying the enticing decor of Disney’s remarkable hotel. Check out these four Disney hotels to visit even if you aren’t staying there.
Visit the Florida Mall (8001 S Orange Blossom Trail) for the Crayola Experience where making crayons, naming and wrapping your own crayon, coloring, and 23 other hands-on attractions are the fun things to do. American Girl (store and bistro) are also on at this mall. I’m sure your kids will lure you into M&M World before leaving; who can resist?
Since so much of our Orlando itinerary is at the Universal CityWalk, it makes sense to stay at one of Universal’s fabulous hotels. The best value is at the Cabana Bay Beach Resort (retro decor that families love!). We thoroughly enjoy Cabana Bay Beach Resort. There are onsite restaurants, a bowling alley, fun shops and arcade, and comfy rooms with bright colors and 1950s and 60s features such as an alarm clock, Zest soap, and throwback furniture.
If you are looking to splurge, the Loew’s Royal Pacific Resort (huge swimming pool with a waterslide) is for you. The spacious and vibrant luxury accommodations also feature Despicable Me Kids Suites and free water taxis/shuttle bus rides to the Universal CityWalk. We prefer the water taxi, which is not only scenic but has you there in about four minutes.
The Coco Key Water Resort is located on I-Drive. Kids will be amazed at the hotel’s indoor and outdoor water park as well as the dynamite arcade. The Hyatt Regency Orlando is another luxury hotel option with stunning grounds, three pools with cascading waterfalls, seven restaurants, and more than 1,600 rooms and suites. The Hyatt Regency Orlando is also pet-friendly.
TravelingMom Tips: Staying at Universal’s higher-end properties offer VIP upgrades, like visiting Loew’s Portofino Bay’s Mandara Spa.