*Disclaimer: I received complimentary passes to ZoomAir, Central Florida Zoo, Legoland Florida, and The Crayola Experience in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own and that of my family.
Family Friendly Activities in Central Florida that are NOT Disney!
Our family just got home from our second Spring Break trip to Orlando, Florida, and we haven’t been to Disney World. Can you believe it? When we told people we were going to Orlando, the first question was always, “Are you doing Disney?”. I think it was shocking when we told them we weren’t. Our boys (ages 8 and 5) haven’t shown much interest in going to Disney so we figured we would wait until they would remember it more. But, that didn’t stop us from booking a week in the Florida sunshine!
There is SO much to do in the Orlando area so I thought I would share some family friendly activities in central Florida that have nothing to do with going to the Disney parks. Keep in mind that you will have to drive a little bit for some of these, but it’s really not bad at all considering going anywhere in a big city takes 20-30 minutes.
Our first stop was Zoom Air in Sanford, Florida – about 30 minutes from Orlando. They have adventure courses including zip lines for kids and adults. I was super excited because I’ve been looking for a course like this that my boys could experience. They did the Kids Course and LOVED it!! There are actually two sections to the Kids Course. The first section is just a few feet off the ground so they can get comfortable moving through the obstacles. This is where they also learn how to clip and un-clip themselves to progress through the course safely. The course ends with a low zipline. The second section is higher (the reason kids need to learn to clip) and a little longer. It took my boys about an hour to through both courses. Parents are required to walk through the course with their children.
Right next to Zoom Air, is the Central Florida Zoo. The zoo was is fairly small but a great addition to our Zoom Air experience. We spent about 2 hours walking the zoo and would have stayed longer if it was a little warmer. It was in the low 70s and misting while we were there. My youngest son’s favorite animals were the river otters – they were at eye level for him, and you could see them going in and out of the water playing. My oldest son loved the rhino and black bears. We saw two employees in the park – one with an Indigo Snake that visitors could touch and one in the house by the black bears. They were both very friendly and shared a lot of good information.
There are quite a few “extras” at the zoo like a children’s playground, children’s zoo, splash park, and lunch/snack bar area. They also have a carousel and train although neither seemed to be running the day we were there. We packed a lunch and ate in the parking lot between visiting the two attractions. Honestly, I felt the prices were a little steep for the zoo ($19.50 for an adult, $14 for children), but if you have a membership at another zoo, you may be able to get a discount as part of a reciprocal program.
The next day, we went to LEGOland in Winter Haven, Florida – about 45 minutes from Orlando. If you don’t want to visit Disney but want a theme park experience with young kids, this is it!! We were there from open to close (10am – 7pm) and didn’t see or do everything. If we are able to do it again, we would get at least a 2 or 3-day pass and add on the waterpark. Premium parking can be purchased online at least 24 hours in advance to save $2 ($25), but it is not necessary. We paid $17 to park onsite and were (maybe) an extra “block” away from the premium parking. If you are there in the dead of summer, the premium parking is covered which would be kind of nice, but we had a beautiful 78* day. The park is divided into different areas – LEGO City, LEGO Chima, LEGO Friends, LEGO Ninjago, LEGO Duplo, and more. Most lines for rides were max 20 minutes except the brand new VR Ride (opened 3 days prior to our visit) which we waited 2 hours to ride. They have LEGO stations in all of the waiting areas so kids can play while waiting so the lines didn’t feel long at all (awesome!!). You are allowed to bring in snacks so we also ate those while we were waiting in line. The only food we bought at the park was an ice cream sundae which was delicious…Haagen-dazs! We read about the Granny’s Apple Fries and wanted to try them, but just ran out of time. The kids did not want to stop to eat.
In addition to rides, there are character meet and greets, shows, minifigure trading, and plenty to see! There is also a hotel and waterpark which we were not able to visit on this trip. If you are going to be in the area for a while, you may consider a season pass which allows you access to Madame Tussauds Orlando, the Sea Life Aquarium – Orlando, and the Coca-Cola Orlando Eye.
On our final day, we visited The Crayola Experience in Orlando. I was little nervous that my older son may not find it as enjoyable, but both boys (and the adults) had a lot of fun! We got there when they opened and stayed for 3 hours. We actually could have stayed longer, but we were all getting hungry. 🙂 There is a dining area, but we already had plans to go out for dinner that evening (see my post about how we save money while on vacation). When you enter The Crayola Experience, each person gets a small bag and two tokens. The tokens allowed each person to create a personalized crayon wrapper and get a bag of Crayola Model Magic. There were over 10 interactive stations plus a 15-minute live show to see how crayons are made.
We spent our last evening at Disney Springs (formerly Downtown Disney) in Orlando. This area has changed so much since our last visit three years ago. There is a TON of shopping and dining options plus a movie theater and bowling alley. We enjoyed walking around and listening to the live music while waiting to have dinner at the T-Rex Café which my boys thought was pretty awesome. There is a small sand box area at the café for kids to play while you are waiting or hang out at the LEGO store where kids can build and play with LEGOs. Parking in the decks is free, but valet parking is also available.
Our family also spent a lot of time at the pool and just enjoying the sunshine and mid-80 degree weather while it was overcast and in the 40s at home. There is so much to do in this area that we still haven’t seen or done it all. I’m sure we will be back to this area in a few years and find some new activities for our family!
Hope this was helpful in planning your trip to Orlando, Florida!
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