Orlando owes its long-held designation as one of the top family vacation destinations to a lot more than its proximity to Disney parks. The fact is, this iconic Florida city is home to a broad range of wacky and fun attractions perfect for people of all ages, from theme parks and water parks to animal adventures, eco-tours and more.
This urban destination houses many one-of-a-kind hotels and resorts for families, as well as rental condos and Airbnbs galore, so whatever you choose to do in Orlando, you can easily find a memorable place to stay. An endless array of fun and educational activities in and around the city awaits travelers, and you may be able to fit several in a single visit. Read on to learn about the best things to do in Orlando for all ages, but especially for families and groups with kids.
Soar over alligators at Gatorland
(Courtesy of Gatorland)
Orlando’s Gatorland dubs itself the “Alligator Capital of the World,” and it’s easy to see why: This educational park is a spectacular place to gaze upon scores of alligators and crocodiles of various varieties, ranging from babies to 14-foot-long giants. Other animals also call the grounds of this crocodilian park home, so you’ll have the opportunity to see wild cats, birds, snakes and small critters too.
Travelers who visit Gatorland with kids say they’re impressed by the variety of attractions, from the petting zoo to a train ride to the chance to feed alligators – plenty to keep younger guests entertained for hours. One of the most exciting features of the park is the Screamin’ Gator Zip Line, which lets you soar over enormous alligators at heights up to 65 feet; there’s no age restriction, but you must be at least 3 feet tall to ride the zip lines.
Address: 14501 S. Orange Blossom Trail, Orlando, FL 32837
Crayola Experience Orlando
(Courtesy of Crayola Experience)
No attraction in this city is better suited to providing children with colorful and creative activities than Crayola Experience Orlando. This kid-friendly indoor destination in The Florida Mall brings the magic of crayons to life with art projects, entertaining shows, a playground, the on-site Crayola Store and much more. Whether your youngsters want to make drip art, create a souvenir out of crayon wax, draw a chalk masterpiece or name their own crayon, Crayola Experience will help you keep them entertained even on a rainy day with nearly 30 unique hands-on attractions. Past guests recommend a visit especially for younger kids such as toddlers and those who want a break from the typical Orlando theme park offerings.
Address: 8001 S. Orange Blossom Trail, Orlando, FL 32809
Hang glide at Wallaby Ranch
(Courtesy of Wallaby Ranch)
Wallaby Ranch is the world’s first full-time aerotow hang gliding flight park – conveniently located in the heart of Orlando. This park offers tandem flights and hang gliding instruction for thrill-seekers of all ages year-round, guided by professional pilots and experienced teachers to make this adrenaline-inducing activity as safe as possible. Wallaby Ranch has hosted kids as young as 4 on its Tandem Discovery Flights, so adventurous youngsters will want to test out this flight park. Families rave about the exhilarating flights and wonderful staff, noting that they appreciate the emphasis on safety.
In addition to the thrill of flight, the ranch offers tent and RV camping facilities, a climbing wall, an on-site swimming pool, and a playground for kids with a Dr. Seuss treehouse and merry-go-round. Walking and biking trails in the area also help ensure everyone in your crew will have something to do.
Address: 1805 Deen Still Road, Davenport, FL 33897
Plan a trip to Universal Orlando Resort
Universal Orlando Resort comprises three separate parks, all bound to delight everyone who tags along – especially kids. One such theme park, Universal Studios Florida, offers everything from rides themed around film favorites such as “Despicable Me” to nonstop shows and entertainment to meet-greets with beloved characters like Spongebob. The next park, Islands of Adventure, boasts superheroes, magical creatures and even dinosaurs – you won’t want to miss the reptilian raft ride of the Jurassic Park River Adventure. Universal’s water park, Volcano Bay, provides endless aquatic entertainment, whether guests choose to slide down a volcano or relax in the lazy river.
No matter what you do at Universal Orlando Resort, an array of awesome hotels nearby can help make your visit even better. Top options include Universal’s Surfside Inn and Suites, Universal’s Aventura Hotel, Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort and more.
Address: 6000 Universal Blvd., Orlando, FL 32819
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
(Courtesy of Universal Orlando Resort)
This magical experience makes the perfect stop for any “Harry Potter” enthusiast in your family. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, spread across two parks within the Universal Orlando Resort complex, has a handy Hogwarts Express to connect it all. These themed areas offer realistic landscapes to immerse you in the fictional universe: Diagon Alley, situated in Universal Studios Florida, features attractions such as a ride called Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts, which takes you deep underground and way too close to an enormous, fire-breathing dragon. Hogsmeade, however, sits in the Islands of Adventure park and will bring you on an unforgettable adventure with rides like Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. Even park patrons with little interest in this fantasy series admit to enjoying all these areas have to offer. If you want to traverse the whole Wizarding World, make sure you purchase tickets that let you access both parks.
Stay active at Nona Adventure Park
Located just minutes from the Orlando International Airport, this activity park is a great place to take kids who have extra energy to burn. Attractions include a giant floating obstacle course, a ropes course and two 50-foot climbing walls. Nona Adventure Park even boasts a junior ropes course for kids ages 3 to 8. If you love water sports, catch some air at the Wake Park, which is designed for riders of all skill levels. Past guests in particular praise the wakeboarding, calling it an extraordinary experience for any age group.
Address: 14086 Centerline Drive, Orlando, FL 32827
Legoland Florida Resort
For a delightful daytrip, Legoland Florida Resort is located in Winter Haven, Florida, about 50 miles from Orlando. As the name suggests, nearly everything at Legoland is decorated with or constructed out of Legos, so the park was practically made for lovers of these building blocks. But this Lego-filled destination has something for everyone, including a theme park with more than 50 rides and a water park with tube slides, body slides, a Build-a-Raft feature, interactive water play features and more. Kids can let their imaginations run wild at the driving school, toddler train, spaceship playground and more. Wind down after a day of fun at the on-site Legoland Hotel, complete with themed rooms, complimentary creative workshops and a heated resort-style pool.
Address: 1 Legoland Way, Winter Haven, FL 33884
Peppa Pig Theme Park
Located just steps away from Legoland Florida Resort, the new Peppa Pig Theme Park offers activities and attractions guaranteed to wow its youngest guests. A range of rides spans a small roller coaster, pirate boat ride, drop ride, balloon ride and more. The park also features several spaces for open play, including the Peppa Pig’s Treehouse playset, a sand play area and a splash pad. Visitors can even visit with Peppa Pig herself during interactive shows, which can be a fun treat for children who love watching the pink pig character on television. Patrons say the size of this park is perfect for small children, though they caution that shade is lacking, so you may want to bring an umbrella or two.
Address: 1 Legoland Way, Winter Haven, FL 33884
International Drive is Orlando’s main strip, bursting with attractions, restaurants, shopping and more. I-Drive connects major theme parks like Universal Orlando Resort, SeaWorld Orlando and Fun Spot America; you can hop on the I-Ride Trolley for convenient transport across this entertainment district. Travelers will find no shortage of stops to satisfy kids, whether they’re eager to indulge their imaginations at WonderWorks Orlando, an educational indoor amusement park devoted to science, or simply play some putt-putt. One mini golf option, Pirate’s Cove Adventure Golf, brings pirate lore to life on a realistic ship.
Entertainment complexes also await you on I-Drive: ICON Park boasts rides such as The Wheel – also called the Orlando Eye – alongside a wax museum, aquarium and arcade. Its iconic observation wheel takes you 400 feet from the ground for dramatic city views in every direction of Walt Disney World Resort, Universal, several natural lakes and other central Florida landmarks; if you time your visit just right, maybe you’ll even see a rocket launch in the distance from the Kennedy Space Center.
Try your hand at an escape room
While perusing International Drive you’re bound to stumble upon a plethora of escape rooms, which could provide the perfect indoor activity especially for older kids, tweens and teenagers. The whole family will work together to complete a mission – such as a hunt for pirate treasure – or solve an immersive investigation. Games span different themes and difficulty rankings, with guides on hand to offer well-timed hints so participants can feel challenged but not frustrated.
The Escape Game Orlando designs its experiences for ages 13 and older but children of any age are welcome to join; past patrons rave about its 60-minute adventures, with some saying even kids as young as 6 were eager to participate and had lots of fun. Other popular options on I-Drive without age restrictions include Breakout Escape Rooms, whose child-friendly Ghost Zone room guarantees a spooky – not scary – time, and America’s Escape Game (but some scenery may not be suitable for younger guests, so select your adventure accordingly).
(Courtesy of SeaWorld Orlando)
All kinds of roller coasters, water rides and jaw-dropping thrill rides for kids make SeaWorld Orlando a great option for families. The leisurely capsule ride Sky Tower provides panoramic views of the city from 400 feet in the air, while the new Ice Breaker coaster subjects adventurers to a 93-foot vertical drop. Several on-site aquariums feature manta rays, sharks and other marine creatures; SeaWorld also offers a variety of animal encounters and presentations. Some travelers caution this park is better suited to older children, given the height requirements for many rides.
Address: 7007 Sea World Drive, Orlando, FL 32821
Pop into Sesame Street Land
Fear not if you’re bringing younger kids to SeaWorld Orlando: Sesame Street Land will charm the whole family with a walk down Sesame Street itself, home to favorite characters such as Elmo. This park within a park boasts an array of kid-friendly rides for the tiniest tots in your group, including a train ride, box car coaster, carousel and more. Big Bird’s Twirl ‘N’ Whirl ride can help children have a dizzying amount of fun, and Abby’s Flower Tower lets you take in unbelievable views. Past parkgoers recommend Sesame Street Land for youngsters and say even adults will enjoy reliving their childhood here.
Unwind at Discovery Cove
(Courtesy of SeaWorld Orlando)
Orlando’s Discovery Cove is an all-inclusive park owned by SeaWorld that provides a relaxing experience. Guests can lounge in the large resort pool or drift down a tropical river before donning snorkel gear – equipment rentals are included in admission – to discover brightly colored fish and reef habitats. Explore the aviary to hand-feed toucans, parrots and other exotic birds, among other animal encounters at Discovery Cove. Unlimited snacks and drinks are included in the daily rate, as well as freshly made food. Free use of lounge chairs and hammocks throughout the resort-like park will complete your visit here. Past visitors say the excellent landscaping makes you feel like you’re on a Caribbean getaway, but some caution this park can be pricey.
Address: 6000 Discovery Cove Way, Orlando, FL 32821
Book with Boggy Creek Airboat Adventures
(Courtesy of Boggy Creek Airboat Adventures)
Just 45 miles south of Orlando, get your adrenaline pumping with an airboat adventure that includes up-close views of the giant alligators living in the swamps of central Florida. Airboat passengers also frequently spot exotic birds, turtles and snakes during these wetlands excursions. Guests can book daytime tours that last 30 minutes or an hour, with options also including trips at sunset or even at night on Coast Guard-approved airboats. Boggy Creek Airboat Adventures’ park also features a living history museum in the form of a Native American village replica, as well as a gem and fossil mine where all ages can dig for treasures. Travelers call the guides friendly and knowledgeable and say Boggy Creek is a wonderful way to experience Florida away from the theme parks.
Address: 2001 E. Southport Road, Kissimmee, FL 34746
The trail system at this wildlife haven promises gentle walks through many major habitats, ideal for families looking to take a break from the crowds in the serenity of nature. Visitors say the beautiful scenery in Tibet-Butler Preserve makes it a great free attraction in Orlando, whether you spot any of its animals along the paths or just hear their calls; those with kids appreciate that the trails are easy enough for even an infant to accompany you. The on-site nature center features informative exhibits, a butterfly garden, a picnic area, a tortoise sanctuary and a sandbox for children to enjoy. Make sure you check trail conditions before setting out to ensure flooding won’t stand in your way.
Address: 8777 Winter Garden Vineland Road, Orlando, FL 32836
Spend the day at Fun Spot America
Visitors to the city should plan to spend at least one day at the Orlando location of Fun Spot America, a family-friendly theme park that harkens back to classic amusement. Attractions at Fun Spot include drop rides, bumper cars, go-kart tracks, swing rides and even an old-fashioned fun house. Of course, you’ll also find an iconic Tilt-A-Whirl and a scrambler, along with bumper boats and a teacup spin ride. This theme park even has its own Gator Spot, an exhibit in collaboration with Gatorland that’s crawling with alligators and other wildlife. Guests appreciate Fun Spot for being less crowded than some other parks in the area.
Address: 5700 Fun Spot Way, Orlando, FL 32819
(Courtesy of Giraffe Ranch)
This working ranch in Dade City, about 60 miles west of Orlando, is well worth the drive to see giraffes and other amazing animals up close and personal. Giraffe Ranch lets you move through open terrain with a four-wheel drive vehicle, on a segway or even by camel ride, and you’ll get to see all kinds of exotic animals from several yards away. On this eco-tour you’ll also learn about Giraffe Ranch’s conservation efforts; travelers say the guides’ knowledge and love for the animals are evident. You can even pay extra to feed lemurs or otters, as well as experience encounters with a giraffe, rhino or cheetah.
Address: 38650 Mickler Road, Dade City, FL 33523
Rent a paddleboat at Lake Eola Park
In the heart of downtown Orlando with impressive views of the city skyline, Lake Eola Park is a great place to see live swans and other birds in action. Tourists love renting the swan-shaped paddleboats, which let you enjoy a scenic ride and gaze upon the impressive fountain at the center of the lake up close. These paddleboats – available on a first-come, first-served basis – have a shaded cover to help you stay out of the Florida sun. When you’re finished pedaling around the water, you can go for a stroll to admire the flower beds, watch your children play or catch a show at the on-site Walt Disney Amphitheater. Lake Eola Park, which hosts a Sunday farmers market and occasional festivals, is considered a gem by locals and travelers alike.
Address: 512 E. Washington St., Orlando, FL 32801
Walt Disney World Resort
(Courtney Kiefer/Courtesy of Walt Disney World Resort)
No trip to central Florida would be complete without a few days at Walt Disney World Resort and its four major theme parks. You could easily spend weeks checking out everything there is to see and do at Magic Kingdom Park, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park, which means booking a multiday pass may be well worth the expense. At any Disney park you decide to visit here, you’ll have the chance to enjoy unique themed rides, character encounters and delicious treats.
An endless number of awesome places to stay in and around the Disney World parks are worth your while, including Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort and Disney’s Yacht Club Resort.
Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser
(Caitlyn McCabe/Courtesy of Walt Disney World Resort)
This two-night experience – the first of its kind – is perfect for “Star Wars” fanatics who have always wanted to be immersed in the fictional universe. Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser combines interactive live theater with role-playing in a themed environment.
You’ll start your journey by arriving at the Walt Disney World Resort terminal to board a launch pod and meet up with a starcruiser. Once on the ship, guests stay in a cabin or suite that boasts unbelievable views to make you feel like you’re in outer space. Enjoy appropriately galactic-themed meals and learn how to wield a lightsaber as you interact with a collection of characters both new and familiar, making alliances and aiding in quests. You can heighten your “Star Wars” experience further with a trip to the nearby planet Batuu, where you’ll be given unique missions that extend the storyline. Be aware, though, that this all-inclusive adventure comes with a high price tag.
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