Ideas for Your Family Vacation in Orlando

    By Jodi Mailander Farrell

    As one of the world’s most kid-friendly destinations, Orlando is tailor-made for family getaways that take advantage of O-Town’s theme parks and other amazing features.

    With the area’s growth into a sophisticated city, options to entertain, engage and make memories have multiplied for families with kids of all ages.

    Disney World

    Orlando’s reputation as a magical place was built on its theme parks, which continue to awe. Walt Disney World Orlando is one of the largest themed attractions on Earth, with a portfolio that includes two waterparks and four theme parks. Disney regularly adds new attractions, such as the 11-acre Toy Story Land at Hollywood Studios designed as Andy’s backyard for fans of Woody, Buzz and the whole Pixar films’ gang.

    There’s also Disney Springs for shopping, live music, movies and other entertainment. Shorten family wait time for theme park rides by booking a FastPass in advance.

    More Theme Parks

    Universal and SeaWorld complete Orlando’s crown for theme park fun. Universal’s interactive rides are built with TV and movie fans in mind, with the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and its recreated Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley the ost popular. At the marine-based SeaWorld, there’s a waterpark, roller coasters, shows and a swim with dolphins encounter, among other zoological adventures.

    Defying Gravity

    Roller coasters aren’t the only adrenaline-pumping pastime in town. At iFLY, 8969 International Dr., feel the rush of flying with an indoor body flying experience.

    The Orlando Circus School, 6809 Visitors Circle, offers trapeze and aerial silks lessons for all ages.

    The ICON Orlando, 8401 International Dr., is a 400-foot-tall observation wheel that provides fabulous, 360-degree views of the city.

    Tree Trek Adventure Park, 7625 Sinclair Rd., is an elevated, outdoor obstacle course with zip lines, suspended bridges, nets and Tarzan swings.

    The Orlando Slingshot, 7001 International Dr., propels passengers over 390 feet at 100 miles per hour for a human rocket sensation.

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    Kids can get close-up views of sharks, sea turtles and other sea creatures at Sea Life Orlando Aquarium.

    - Sea Life Orlando Aquarium

     

    Animal Encounters

    Get up close with sharks, clownfish and sea turtles in the intimate Sea Life Orlando Aquarium, which offers talks and feedings at 8449 International Dr.

    Zip line over gators or ride an off-road monster vehicle through mud and alligator ponds at Gatorland, a family-owned, 110-acre theme park and wildlife preserve at 14501 S. Orange Blossom Trail.

    Exotic Animal Experience is a private, seven-acre animal sanctuary at 32833 Quinlan St., where visitors pet and hold sloths, lemurs and other small animals.

    Wet & Wild

    Kelly Park, 400 E Kelly Park Rd., is a free-flowing natural spring in nearby Apopka that is a local favorite for tubing in water that stays a constant 68 degrees.

    At Orlando Watersports Complex, 8615 Florida Rock Rd., try beginner or advanced wakeboarding, water skiing or kneeboarding at one of the country’s largest cable wakeboard parks.

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    Dinner and a show at the Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament inside a “castle” includes knights jousting, swordplay and horsemanship.

    - Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament

     

    Fun Food

    Join the noble guests dining over roast chicken and potatoes at Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament, 4510 W. Vine St., where dinner comes with a show that features jousting, horsemanship and falconry in a castle-like space.

    Enjoy an Italian-America buffet dinner and a 1930s gangland Chicago-style show at Capone’s Dinner & Show, 4740 W. Irlo Bronson Memorial Hwy.

    Learn about and try chocolates from around the world at World of Chocolate Museum & Café, 11701 International Dr., or create your own at Farris & Foster’s Chocolate Factory, 4875 New Broad St., where every Monday is Family Night.

    Indoor Retreats

    Pose with lifelike wax figures of famous folks such as Steve Jobs, Selena Gomez, Ryan Gosling, and Shaq O’Neal at Madame Tussauds, 8387 International Dr., where there’s also a Great Escape Room. (Nothing brings the family together like trying to get out of an enclosure with hidden passageways and trap doors.)

    Gawk at kitschy oddities, such as shrunken heads and a vampire killing kit, at Ripley’s Believe It or Not, 8201 International Dr. For ages 8 and up, glow-in-the-dark mini-golf at Putting Edge, 5350 International Dr., is challenging and fun.

    Artful Pastimes

    Catch Blue Man Group at Universal CityWalk, 6000 Universal Blvd., in a show that combines comedy, theater, rock music and dance.

    Create crayon labels and color masterpieces at the Crayola Experience, 8001 S. Orange Blossom Trail.

    Family workshops, tours and even yoga are customized to connect kids to the world of art at the Orlando Museum of Art, 2416 N. Mills Ave.

    Science Adventures

    Designed for ages 7 and under, Kids Town at the Orlando Science Center, 777 E. Princeton St., has seven interactive zones that encourage curiosity and hands-on exploration.

    At Skeletons Museum of Osteology, 8441 International Dr., over 40 exhibits feature 500 animal skeletons, with hands-on activities and visits from live animals as part of Family Fun Days.

    Family Fun Nights at Leu Gardens, a 50-acre garden at 1920 N. Forest Ave., include night hikes, children’s crafts, a nocturnal animals display and telescopes for star-gazing.

    Free Fun

    In nearby Winter Park, the Enzian arthouse movie theater, 1300 Orlando Ave., offers free, public “Popcorn Flicks in the Park” on the second Thursday of every month featuring classic films for the whole family.

    Hands-on play tables and a calendar of building activities make for a worthwhile stop by the LEGO Store at Disney Springs, 1672 E. Buena Vista Dr.

    Visit the Disney-made, Rockwellian town of Celebration to let the kids play in the interactive fountain, visit the Sunday farmers market and see fake snow falling during winter months.

    Places to Remember

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