Looking for the top things to do in Orlando?
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Finding the best family vacation spot is always on my mind. We have traveled all around the world but if you ask my kids, Orlando is the place they love the most.
There are lots of family friendly activities throughout the area more than you could possibly do in one vacation.
If you need some ideas of how to spend your vacation, this is the right place!
In this post, 11 travelers share their advice and experiences on what they have loved in the Orlando area!
Psst! Don’t forget to pin this post for later!
Now Get Ready For this Great List of Things To Do In Orlando
Disney World is obviously the most visited place in Orlando! Disney World consist of four parks. Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom, and Epcot. It also has two water parks Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon.
Disney World encompasses 30,000 acres! It is a massive resort! There are 25 resort hotels located on the property. 200 food locations and 90 full service restaurants are located on the property. You can truly drive for 15 minutes and still be on the property.
Disney World is open 365 days a year. Disney even offers extra hours for hotel guest making it possible to go before the park is open to the public or stay after the park closes. Everyday at least one park has these hours offered.
Disney World is a dream vacation. It is a top world wide travel destination, 52 million people visit each year. There is a planning process involved sometimes 6-9 months in advance. 180 days in advance you can make dining reservations, 30-60 days in advance you can book your fast passes. If you would like more information on planning you can check out my Disney World Planning Series.
Universal Studios and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Universal is another highlight of Orlando. If you are a Harry Potter fan it should be on the top of your list of places to visit. Universal consist of three parks, Island of Adventure, Universal Studios, and Volcano Bay. Both Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure have the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, in fact if you want to ride the Hogwarts Express you need to purchase and double park pass.
Differences Between the Parks
Volcano Bay is a full themed water park. Universal Studios has attractions and rides based more on movies and TV shows. Islands of Adventure is full of thrill rides.
Universal has eight resorts located very close to the parks. The longer you stay the more discount ticket price you will get. Universal runs promotions all the time. (buy 2 days get 2 free and so on) You will have to check what the current promo is. For us we only had one day, which made the cost more than Disney World!
If you want to learn more about How To Plan a Trip To Harry Potter World check out my post or you can check out my post on Everything You Need to Know About Universal Studios!
Location: 486 E Buena Vista Dr, Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830
Hours: 10am – 12am Daily
There are so many things to do at Disney Springs: great shopping, amazing food, and spectacular live entertainment. With FREE parking in their large garages it’s usually not too difficult to find a spot. We often stay in one of the hotels that is walking distance to Disney Springs when we visit – there are many and we usually can find a great deal or use our reward points.
With 106 listed stores, Disney Springs really has it all if your looking to do some shopping. Disney merchandise, name brand stores, gift shops, the Lego store, a year round Christmas shop, and the list just goes on!
My favorite reason to visit is the restaurant selection. You can find almost every kind of food among their 62 dining options!
Some not to miss options are:
The Basket at Georges Wine Bar for tapas, mouthwatering skirt steak, and a wine list you won’t find anywhere else (we go here EVERY visit to Orlando)
Enzo’s Hideaway for Italian in a beautifully appointed setting
The Rainforest Cafe for an interesting experience for children of all ages!
(Keep in mind that some of the restaurants really require reservations, so plan ahead so you’re not in for a long wait.)
Also, if you’re a dole whip fan, there’s a Marketplace Snacks quick-serve stand where you can grab some for dessert!
There are 14 options for entertainment at Disney Springs from movies to bowling to live music and dancing. You’ll have to check the website for dates and times for different events. They are also working on a New Cirque du Soleil show rumored to be opening sometime in March 2020!
With so much to do, you’re bound to find something for everyone!
When in Orlando, it can be easy to spend too much money. Fortunately, Orlando does have some budget friendly activities. If you want to save some money without missing out on any fun, be sure to check out Gatorland!
Although it’s slightly off the beaten path, it’s only twenty minutes east of Disney. Open 365 days a year, you can visit any day between 10-6. I’m not exactly a fan of reptiles and had basically no interest in visiting, but am so glad I did! Many different types of animals live there in addition to the 2,000+ alligators. It was really neat to be able to immerse myself in this environment and learn so much about these reptiles!
Since this zoo strives to be interactive, there are many ways to get maximum enjoyment throughout the day. They even offer many activities for thrill-seekers if you need a little adventure in your life. Find out more in this photographic guide to Gatorland!
Busch Gardens (Tampa near Orlando)
Take a short 2 hour road trip from Orlando to Tampa Florida to visit one of south Florida’s unique amusement parks, Busch Gardens. Open at 10am daily, while closing time varies between 6pm – 9pm depending on the day.
Check out their newest thrill addition Tigris. This is a forward and backward coaster with a 150 food surge and inverted roll all at more than 60 mph. Busch Gardens has over 200 species of animals to gander at, beautiful gardens and displays and thrill rides for all.
You’re never to young or old to enjoy what Busch Gardens has to offer. Learn about my last trip to Busch Gardens .
Sea World Orlando
I love the ocean! We live near it; we love to play in it and we love to travel around the world to see different parts of it. You can check out our Whale Watching Tour as well! It’s no surprise I wanted to visit SeaWorld.
They help rescue animals, rehabilitate them and release them back into the wild. SeaWorld has helped more than 35,000 animals and your visit to SeaWorld helps their efforts.
Let’s talk about the park! The girls and I took my Dad and his wife to SeaWorld for one day. Since we had two seniors with us, we chose rides and attractions that would work for all of us. The only ride that didn’t work for everyone was Journey to Atlantis. My dad’s wife and Evelyn went shopping and returned in time to see my dad, Ainsley and I come down the flume. The splash level on this ride says, “soaked and not for everyone,” but it was true for my dad. There is a human dryer next to the ride for $5 if you need it.
How we spent our time
We divided our time between shows and rides. The killer whale show as well as the dolphin show were top on our list. My kids loved feeding different species of sharks in their touch tanks. All these shows and encounters were amazing. Since neither of the girls was tall enough for the big coasters, we went on the other rides. Of course, I would love to go on the big roller coaster and will the next time we go back.
To get a great overview of the park and the surrounding area we went up the Sky Tower. This ride costs $5 each but was very cool. We then headed over to the Shamu Show but first, we had a ride on the Sea Carousel. Yes, the Sea Carousel has aquatic animals to ride. The killer whale show is thrilling, to say the least. We recommend seeing a show.
Next, we headed over to Antarctica which is an amazing experience. We chose the wild ride and it was fun and not scary at all. After the ride, we saw the penguin colony which is always a treat. I could sit and watch them play for hours.
Since we had cooled off in Antarctica, we were ready to go out to see the dolphin show. Afterward, we went to turtle trek where you get to wear 3D glasses. Who doesn’t love that?
Seeing the turtles, fish, and manatees in this aquarium was special. Sea turtles are one of my favorite animals. Our last ride was Wild Artic. This ride is a simulation of a helicopter ride over the North Pole to check out the animals and glaciers. The aquarium after this ride houses walrus, beluga whales, and polar bears.
Discovery Cove is an all inclusive day resort owned and operated by Sea World. It is located 5 minutes from Sea World. This is a place where you can live your dream and swim with dolphins.
The park hours are from 8:00 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. In the price of a basic ticket all meals are included, snorkel gear, towels, lockers. Access to the dolphin Lagoon, fresh water oasis, the grand reek, serenity bay, wind away river and the explorer aviary are also included.
There are upgrades to swim with sharks or seaventure, which is like scuba diving. This park is recommended for older kids, teens, and adults. Six year olds can participate in the dolphin swim and sting ray feedings but may not appreciate the whole experience.
If you are excited to swim with dolphins, Discovery Cove is a perfect destination. Plus, certain promotions throughout the year usually give you access to it’s sister parks Sea World, Aquatica, and Busch Gardens.
Top Natural Springs Near Orlando
If you’re looking to take a break from the crowds at most of the popular tourist attractions in Orlando, consider driving just 45 minutes northwest of the city to paddle along Rock Springs Run in Apopka, Florida. This natural spring pumps out 73 degree crystal clear water and has some fun activities like kayaking, tubing and swimming that both visitors and locals love to enjoy year round.
Playing in the shallow waters or tubing from the headsprings can be accessed through the Kelly Rock Springs gate and is perfect for kids of all ages. If you are looking for more of an adventure, rent a kayak or canoe from King’s Landing to navigate about 2 miles upstream through the dense forest of the beautiful Emerald Cut (pictured).
For an even more wild Florida experience, paddle the length of Rock Springs Run which is 8.5 miles with the current to Wekiva Island and reward yourself at The Tooting Otter with a local craft beer. Rock Springs Run has something for everyone and its unique beauty alone is reason enough to visit during your next Florida vacation. For more information about paddling Rock Springs Run, visit
Kayaking From King’s Landing.
Beaches Near Orlando Florida
There are a few options for beaches near Orlando. You can go toward the Atlantic Ocean side or the Gulf of Mexico side. The Atlantic Ocean side is about an hour away. Cocoa Beach is one of the popular choices in that direction. On the Gulf of Mexico side Clear Water is a very popular choice.
Clearwater Beach is just a two-hour-drive from Orlando and is well worth the trip!
To find pretty blue ocean water, you typically have to travel somewhere outside of mainland USA–like the Caribbean islands–because the ocean in the states often appears as a dull, grey-tinted color. The water in Clearwater, however, is a pretty turquoise! It’s actually the bluest water I’ve seen anywhere in the USA, and that’s probably why Clearwater Beach is consistently ranked as the number one beach in America.
#1 Beach in America
The water is also warm, shallow, and free of large waves, so it’s an ideal location for swimming without worrying too much about safety. I actually unexpectedly swam with manatees in the wild at this beach! They came into shore and swam around us for close to three hours, occasionally getting close enough to brush up against our legs. Manatee sightings and dolphin sightings are both incredibly common at this beach. There are even Clearwater Beach dolphin cruises that will take you on tours just to see them.
Sunsets at the pier are also spectacularly breathtaking, so I highly recommend staying in a Clearwater Beach hotel near Pier 60 if you decide to stay overnight. Before you drive back to Orlando, you should also take a stroll down the pier, dine at one of the yummy beachfront restaurants, and shop for souvenirs in one of the quirky shops located along the Beach Walk.
Transportation to Clearwater Beach
Didn’t rent a car? No problem. Isango has a tour to Clearwater Beach that includes your transportation and lunch.
Legoland Orlando Florida
When looking for things to do in Orlando you don’t want to miss Legoland, FL. Situated in Winter Haven, Legoland has a lego themed hotel, amusement park, and water park. Legoland opens at 10 am and stays open to 7 pm (depending on the season). If staying in Orlando, Legoland provides reservation-based round trip transportation from I-Drive 360 for $5 (plus tax).
The park is geared for children ages 2-12. However, whether it’s watching their famous water ski show or riding their Lego themed rides, Legoland is an amusement park with something for the whole family.
Why We Love Legoland
We love Legoland not only because it is a great place to play and use our imaginations, but it usually does not have the crowds that typical Orlando attractions have. Check out peachykeenes.com for more information on Legoland and other family-friendly destinations.
Kennedy Space Center
Kennedy Space Center is located 45 minutes from Orlando. Once you arrive you can park for a $10 fee. The hours of operation are from 9:00 a.m. till anywhere between 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. depending on the season. Ticket Prices are $47-$57 for a one day ticket price. There are discount tickets for seniors and active military.
I would highly suggest going to the Kennedy Space Center Website to plan out your trip. There is an amazing trip planner option that allows you to answer question about your trip such as, how many days are you planning, will you have children with you and if so how old. It is really detailed and very helpful!
Dine With An Astronaut
One amazing experience you might love is the ability to dine with an astronaut. You will be able to get all your question’s answered from the men and women who have actually been to space. Restricted access is anoter great perk of this tour.
If you love space or have children that are really interested they will love this place!
Swimming with the Manatees
Swimming with manatees is one of the best day trips from Orlando! Manatee season peaks during the winter and has almost finished by the time President’s Day Weekend rolls around, but those are the best time to be in Orlando anyway.
The best place to swim with manatees is Crystal River, which is about an hour and a half drive west of Orlando. Manatee tours are three hours long, and your guide boat takes you to spots with high manatee activities, usually in clear water with great visibility.
How to Swim with Manatees
You’ll have a wetsuit, mask and snorkel, and floaty. Your job is to sit as still as possible and observe the manatees in their natural environment. If you’re lucky, they might even come up and visit you. Either way, manatees are just about the cutest thing ever and a unique way to explore Florida.
Tour From Orlando to Swim with the Manatees
If you are looking for a guided tour to see the manatees, Isango has a great option. They will pick you up in Orlando and take you to the state park to swim with the manatees. The tour includes snorkeling gear, boat ride, breakfast and lunch, and the park entrance fee. It is a really a great option!
Ocala National Forest
What do you think of when people say Florida? I’m sure it’s beautiful beaches and Disney, but there are many more things that make Florida a special destination. One of these special places are the numerous natural springs.
We finally made the time to visit several of the springs in the Ocala National Forest. Salt Springs is about a 1.5 hour drive from the Orlando area. It’s a great day trip to explore the natural side of Florida, and the perfect alternative to the beach.
You can enjoy swimming, snorkeling, trail walking, and even just relaxing in the shade under some majestic oak trees. It may not even feel like you are in Florida. Salt Springs is a hidden gem you are sure to love.
Orlando Science Center
If you just love science this museum will not disappoint. This museum is located in downtown Orlando. The hours of operation are 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Parking is $5 and is located on the south side across the street.
The Science Center has four floors of interactive science exhibits. There are also shows throughout the day that are interactive, fun, and engaging. Also, included in your admission is a 3D theater which features great educational and Hollywood films.
The best part about this museum is that it is a part of the ASTC program. So, if you are traveling and have a membership to a partner facility in your own state you can get into this museum for free!
Let’s Roam Scavenger Hunt, American Girls Store, Crayola Discovery Center, Helicopter Tour, WonderWorks Exotic Animal Experience, Skeletons Museum, Madame Tussaud’s, Holy Land Experience, Titanic the Artifact Exhibition, Ripley’s Believe it or Not!, Icon Park, Lukas Nursery Butterfly encounter,Medieval Times, Orlando’s Museum of Art, Blue Man Group and the list goes on and on!
There is a Orlando flex pass that will let you choice multiple locations to visit at one low price. Or if you want a discount for some of the less popular attractions check out the Orlando Attraction Explorer Pass.
I hope this gives you an idea of what to do in the Orlando area!
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