When people think of Orlando, they often immediately think of Walt Disney World. And while I’m not going to lie, Disney is fun, there is so much more to Orlando than the House of Mouse. We spent 3 weeks in Orlando and after a few days, we just needed to do something else. Here are the top 20 things we found to do that aren’t Disney-related, but still family-friendly.
- Universal Studios & Islands of Adventure – Universal is our family’s hands-down favorite theme park. Anywhere. There’s the big, scary roller-coasters for my husband, and Harry Potter, Spongebob, Curious George, Dr. Seuss and other great fun for me and the child. There are so many great rides and experiences condensed into just 2 parks, AND if you if you have teens that like to go off on their own, they’re not far away, even if they are in the other park. Read our tips on Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure for more details.
- SeaWorld – My son is a huge animal lover, and SeaWorld is his hands-down favorite theme park. There’s Shamu… need I say more? Of course I will say more, because there is a ton to do here with kids. They love the sea lion pirate show, Pets Ahoy, and the shark Encounter. Husband loves the rides – Kraken and Manta are awesome, he says. I love the dolphins and the stingrays. Like Universal, this park is compact and easy to navigate, which is a huge plus.
- Aquatica – Water park off SeaWorld with sandy beaches, pools for all ages, water slides and rides, and animal encounters!
- Discovery Cove – Snorkel park off SeaWorld that is the ultimate in animal encounters. Swim with dolphins, stingrays, a huge variety of tropical fish, feed tropical birds, meet Key Deer (the tiny deer native to the Florida Keys), and swim near sharks (while they are safely behind glass). Play, swim or relax on sandy beaches, or walk the many bridges over the snorkel areas to view the animals without getting wet.
- WonderWorks – upside-down building at Pointe Orlando – hands-on science museum that is really fun for ages 7 and up. There is an earthquake simulator, bubble factory, music lab, laser tag, and so much more!
- Wet N Wild – HUGE water park near Universal Studios. Experience world-class rides, quality service, and more multi-passenger tube rides than any other water park in Orlando. Children love the Kids’ Park, which features sandcastle-themed playground, pools, landscaping and seating. Open year-round with pools heated seasonally, Wet ‘n Wild Orlando is a perfect place for the entire family to relax, have fun, and soak up the warm Florida sunshine.
- Kennedy Space Center (about an hour east of Orlando, but worth the drive. See Daytona post for more to do here) They are celebrating their 50th birthday this year so expect some great deals and exciting behind-the-scenes events!
- Mini Golf – Pirate’s Cove Adventure Golf – mini golf with a cool pirate theme, Congo River Golf & Exploration Co. has a jungle theme and live alligators.
- LEGOLAND Florida (Winter Haven – about 45 min southwest of Orlando) – The largest LEGOLAND theme park to date, and now includes a water park. Aimed at ages 2-12, but any LEGO addict will have a great time here.
- Model trains, helicopter tour – We come for the model train exhibit… there is a scavenger hunt that our son really likes. Haven’t done the helicopter tour, but if you like that sort of thing, it’s available here. There’s no website for the trains, but if you check the address for the helicopter tour, on the building you’ll see the sign “Model Train Exhibit”. The train shares a lobby with the helicopter tours. Across I-Drive from Walgreens, near Pointe Orlando.
- Dinner Theater Shows: Dixie Stampede, Medieval Times, Arabian Nights, or the fan favorite: Pirate’s Dinner Adventure (dinner theater, but with pirates instead of horses… food better here than at the others… arguably the best of the 4… see mousesavers.com review)
- I-Ride Trolley – A must for train lovers and more fun than taking the bus. Multiple stops along I-Drive including the Prime and Premium Outlet malls, SeaWorld, Wet ‘n Wild, Pointe Orlando outdoor mall (shopping, restaurants, theater), and several more. Kids under 12 ride free with paying adult.
- Monkey Joe’s – Super fun indoor inflatable playground… slides, bounce houses, obstacle courses, etc. Ideal for kids under 10 all the way down to toddlers. The only caveat: hose your child down immediately after coming here. All of these types of places are breeding grounds for the latest flu bug or virus, and you don’t want to spend the next 3 days with a sick kid. Been there, done that.
- Blue Man Group – in a word: AWESOME! This is one of my favorite live shows anywhere. It’s funny, musical, messy (if you sit up front), and wildly entertaining for ages 8 and up (might be a little over-stimulating for younger kids) – at City Walk at Universal.
- CSI: The Experience – Immerse yourself in the life of a crime scene investigator or forensic scientist like on the show. Enter a ‘crime scene’, collect evidence, take it to the ‘lab’ or ‘autopsy’ room for testing, then bring all your information back to your ‘office’ to build your case.
- Orlando Grand Prix – Indoor go-kart racing. We haven’t done this, so if you have, let me know what you think in the comments below.
- La Nouba by Cirque de Soleil – Downtown Disney is an admission-free area filled with shops and restaurants, and this amazing energetic Cirque de Soleil show.
- IFLY Orlando Indoor Skydiving – across from Wet n Wild – safe for ages 3 and up. This, to me, looks fantastic! I am such a chicken, I know I’ll never jump out of an airplane on purpose. Especially not just for fun. So to get the feeling of skydiving while still being a safe distance from the ground is very appealing to me.
- Gatorland – Animal encounters or view from a distance. You’ll find gators, birds, and reptiles. There’s Critters on the Go where they bring the cute and cuddly animals around the park for kids to pet, watch the Gator Wrestlin’ alligator wrestling show, ride the Screamin Gator zip-line, or meet some native species (including some dangerous creatures) at the Upclose Encounters.
- Fun Spot Action Park – outdoor go-karts, bumper boats, and carnival rides for the whole family from preschoolers to teens.
As you can see, there is an endless amount of things to do in Orlando without Disney passes. Some are cheap, others not-so-much, but all will give your family a great time on your vacation.
Share your favorite kid-friendly Orlando attractions in the comments below!