Most of us know Orlando as the Theme Park Mecca, offering tons of memories at Disney World and Universal; but Florida's mega tourist destination offers a variety of fun things to do with kids of all ages other than the obvious options. Whether you live in Florida or are just visiting, Orlando is a great destination for families on both short and extended stays.
As a former Disney World cast member and Universal passholder, I could tell you a million and one ways to have fun at a huge theme park with kids, but we'll save that for another post. If you're looking for simple fun, unique experiences, and virtually no lines, Orlando still ranks as one of the world's most kid-friendly destinations.
The list below includes a little bit of everything. From canoeing to museums to themed dinners, these 50 fun spots offer a variety of family entertainment and "must do" activities for kids in Orlando, with or without a visit to the Mouse. Get ready to forego the theme park ticket and experience the real Orlando.
- Take a ride on the Orlando Eye for a fabulous view.
- Explore the oceans of the world at SEA LIFE Orlando Aquarium.
- Swing like Tarzan at Orlando Tree Trek Adventure Park.
- Take a safe climb on the Rock Wall at the Oviedo Recreation Gym.
- Zipline over gators at Gatorland.
Get silly with some historic figures at Madame Tussauds.
- Take some silly family photos with celebrities at Madame Tussauds.
- Enjoy art, technology, and music at the Blue Man Group Show.
- Go tubing in the free-flowing natural spring at Kelly Park.
- Learn how to wakeboard or paddleboard at Orlando Watersports Complex.
- Try playing basketball in a bumper car at Whirly Dome.
- Create your own crayon label and make masterpieces of color at the Crayola Experience.
- Discover where chocolate comes from and taste chocolates from around the world at The World of Chocolate museum.
- Get catapulted vertically at 100mph on the Slingshot.
- Be a cowboy for a day at Florida Forever Eco Adventures.
- Go kayaking or canoeing on Shingle Creek with a Master Naturalist.
- Have a glow-in-the-dark putt-putt experience at Putting Edge.
- Anyone over the age of 3 can find out what it feels like to fly at iFLY.
- Milk a cow or take a pony ride at Green Meadows Petting Farm.
- Enjoy a medieval dinner at the Medieval Times Tournament–a fun night out for the entire family.
- Share some arcade games of the past with your kids at Happy Days Family Fun Center.
- Become a pastry chef at Farris and Fosters.
- Have a family race on the the multi-level go-cart course at Fun Spot.
- Take a Sunday stroll, buy some fresh flowers, and taste local flavors at the Orlando Farmers Market.
- Explore Kids Town at the Orlando Science Center.
- Expand your building imagination during the monthly mini build events at the LEGO Store at Disney Springs.
- Walk through hundreds of odd exhibits at the Ripley's Believe It Or Not Odditorium.
- Bike on the 22-mile West Orange Trail for a scenic exploration.
- Take a scenic ride above the clouds with Orlando Balloon Rides.
- Play in what is known as “Castle Park,” a large wooden playground that excites kids imaginative play.
- See over 400 real animal skeleton at SKELETONS: Museum of Osteology.
Finding out what osteology means at the Skeleton Museum...
- Paddle the waters of Lake Eola on a Swan Boat.
- The Orlando Repertory Theatre gives children a great introduction to theatrical performances.
- Hop on the I-Ride Trolley to explore International Drive.
- Take the Winter Park Scenic Boat Tour for a unique tour on a pontoon boat through local lakes.
- Pack a lunch, bring your bikes and put on your swimsuit for a family fun day at Dr. Phillips Community Park.
- Enjoy free admission, a mini-tour and craft stations for kids at Mennello Museum on the second Sunday each month.
- Feed giraffes at the Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens.
- Have a catered camping experience at Makinson Island.
- Relax in a 50-acre botanical oasis or take in a story time, movie night or special family events at Leu Gardens.
- Be amazed in the many rooms of wonder at the Great Magic Hall.
- Let the little ones run around and play indoors at Grammy’s Indoor Playground.
- Pack a picnic, bring a blanket and enjoy dinner and a movie under the stars at the monthly Popcorn Flicks in the Park at EnZian.
- Learn the basics of good nutrition and healthy food prep with a family cooking class at Kids Cooking Connection.
- Learn how to fly through the air at Orlando Circus School.
- Laugh, eat and be amazed at the Outta Control Magic Comedy Family Dinner Show.
- Attend a special family performance or class at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts.
- Take a catch and release fishing excursion with a professional fishing guide at Grande Lakes.
- Introduce your kids to improve with family friendly shows at SAK Comedy Lab.
- Visit the largest public library in Florida for a fun day of imagination through books and free family activities.
- Train-obsessed kids will enjoy their free ride around the city on the SunRail.
The list could go on, but this should get you started on planning beyond the BIG 4 of Disney World, Universal, SeaWorld, and LEGOLAND.
Top photo: An eco-tour of Shingle Creek may be the best way to use a kayak. Image courtesy the Grande Lakes Adventure Experiences). All other photos by the author unless otherwise noted.