Orlando is famous for Disney World and Universal Studios, but that isn’t all there is to this city. Families can enjoy fun and hands-on learning experiences at nature preserves, resorts, museums, and much more. Even if you skip the amusement parks, Orlando provides a full itinerary of family-friendly things to do.
If your kids aren’t afraid of heights, or if they’re willing to challenge that fear, take them on one of Orlando’s older attractions. Citrus Tower is a 226-foot-tall structure where visitors take an elevator to the top to enjoy a panoramic view of the orange groves and Orlando. All ages will surely be amused by the coin drop, where you can drop a coin to the bottom and hear the sound echo back up to you. The lobby includes a museum and a gift shop, and the tower itself is near the Presidents Hall of Fame.
Whether you’re visiting from elsewhere in America or abroad, a trip to the Presidents Hall of Fame should be on your itinerary. It includes a recreation of Mount Rushmore, wax sculptures, and informational exhibits about the leaders who’ve shaped the history of the world’s leading nation. Get a look inside the White House at a faithfully recreated, walk-in model.
Kayaking through a beautiful mangrove beneath the stars is already a wonderful experience, but you’ll enjoy a delightful twist when you go kayaking around Merritt Island. The water is rich in dinoflagellates, a type of bioluminescent bacterium, that illuminate the water for a glowing kayaking experience. Fin Expeditions is highly regarded and provides tours of the area that include journeys through the mangrove tunnels, manatee-spotting, and dolphin-spotting.
Orlando’s iconic Discovery Cove is filled with beautiful, natural sights and activities. Among these, Dolphin Lagoon is undoubtedly the highlight. This open-water area recreates a natural dolphin habitat teeming with happy, healthy dolphins. A key feature is that visitors are welcome to take a swim with the dolphins in the lagoon. The focus of Discovery Cove is to provide visitors with a hands-on educational experience on the importance of conservationism.
The Holy Land Experience is the perfect show-don’t-tell learning experience for any religious family. The park consists of an intricately detailed recreation of Roman-era Jerusalem; a walk around the park will give you a good idea of what life was like when Jesus was alive. What’s more, there are many interactive exhibits and informational exhibits that contain works from dozens of Christian traditions from Europe, Africa, and Asia. Even if you’re not religious, this park is a wonderful learning experience.
Inquisitive and curious minds will fall in love with the Wonderworks. There are over one hundred hands-on exhibits that make science and art come alive. The extreme weather zone gives kids a chance to see the craziest conditions Mother Nature creates, and the physical challenge zone and laser tag will help your kids get their excess energy out. After all that fun, go to the Wonderworks comedy show, complete with beer for the adults and rootbeer floats for the kids.
Gatorland, USA, is the kind of park that you can only find in Florida. The hundred-plus acre two-in-one theme park and nature preserve is the most fun you can have while observing these living dinosaurs. Daring families can take the Screaming Gator Zipline and fly above hundreds of gators in various exhibits, or take the night tour on guarded bridges above the waters. Gatorland also has many tamer exhibits, where you and your family can get up close with giant tortoises and other tropical wildlife.
Lake Eola is one of Orlando’s most beautiful urban lakes. The grassy, gently sloping waterfront is perfect for a picnic or a game of frisbee. The view is beautiful, too; the Orlando skyline serves as the ideal backdrop for a postcard-worthy snapshot. Some calm, peaceful time for the family is the perfect way to unwind between resorts, museums, and amusement parks.
A bus from Orlando will take you to the LEGOLAND Florida Resort, where architecture is never more hands-on. Experience a bit of New York City in Orlando by checking out the scale recreation of the Statue of Liberty, or take a fantastical tour of Pirates' Cove. It’s not just LEGOs, either; your kids can go rock climbing, learn about robotics, and explore botanical gardens.
It seems like everyone had a phase of their life where they wanted to be an astronaut. A child’s sense of wonder and fascination about the universe is something precious, and the best place to foster it in Orlando is the Kennedy Space Station. A short drive out of Orlando will deliver you to America’s visitor-friendly Spaceport. After you’ve taken the interactive Astronaut Training Experience, you can dine with an astronaut who’s happy to take questions.