Los Angeles

50 Things To Do in Orlando with Kids Other Than Theme Parks

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. 

Laser Tag: Must-Try Spots for Family Fun or Epic Birthday Parties

Kids, teens, and adults all love laser tag. A little bit tag, a little bit hide and seek, laser tag is great fun for a mixed-age group. Video games fans can get up off the sofa and jump right inside the game, with an adrenaline rush practically guaranteed. Players wear special vests and use laser guns; the vests light up when hit (so no arguments!), and no protective gear is required—you cannot feel the laser, and it is eye-safe as well.

Some SoCal multi-activity family fun centers (of the type, for example, that might have glow-in-the-dark mini-golf) offer small versions of a laser tag game; if you've played at one of these, it's time to ramp up your game at one of the major laser tag arenas below! A dedicated laser tag center is two to four times larger than the games at family fun centers, and usually offers multiple levels. There are also fewer extra activities to pull at your wallet. Arenas are dark (the better to see the lasers) and may have other effects such as fog and sounds or music—not to mention blacklights. If you are feeling competitive, don’t wear white.

Laser tag is a great activity for a birthday party, too. In case none of the arenas are convenient to you, we've also found some mobile laser tag companies who bring the guns and vests, barricades, and inflatables to you. Indoor or outdoor, daytime or nighttime, going to battle with your kids is just good, wholesome fun.

Weekend Fun for LA Kids: Zoo Spectacular, CicLAvia, Peacock Day, March 25-26

So I guess it's a new season now. We're starting to see events with Spring in the title. The swallows are making their annual appearance, along with their show-off cousins the peacocks. And lo! A certain bunny has even been seen hopping down that well worn trail.  

In this season of renewal, it's a good time to think about this place we call home. Why not take an hour off to appreciate what our world looks like unplugged. (I'm assuming darker.) Look to the skies; look to the streets where you live. Don't be swayed by pretty little liars: be inspired by those who help

Now's the time to appreciate all you can do; now's the time to find your power. We might even be able to set things straight. After all, it ain't over til the fat lady sings.

Keep reading for the springiest picks for this weekend...

10 Tips to Organize a Community Easter Egg Hunt

When my son was nearly two, I was excited to start new traditions, especially around the holidays. And while it was easy to come up with activities for us, like decorating Easter eggs, I had a hard time finding an Easter Egg Hunt that I felt would be age appropriate for him. I knew he wouldn’t quite get the point of the hunt, and might even possibly be trampled by older kids. I also wanted a tradition that we could count on year after year, creating a lasting and memorable experience.

I didn’t grow up with local Easter traditions, and occasionally times like the holidays make it harder to feel connected. So I decided to do something about it. I organized a neighborhood hunt for my son and the other toddling tots I've grown to know and love from neighborhood mommy meet-ups. The egg hunt has been such a hit that we have repeated it every year, and each year we've found more ways to make it special and grow the participation into a true neighborhood event where we all make new friends, build memories, and enjoy some true village parenting.

So, here are my 10 tips and tricks for organizing a great, easy community Easter egg hunt!

Spring Break Camps: 14 Kinds of Vacation Fun for LA Kids

Spring Break around Los Angeles is a moving feast; some districts have one week, and some have two. Some take vacation in March, and some in April. Add to the mix the complications of Easter, Passover, and parent work schedules, and Spring Break camp can be a tough knot to untie. Whether your family needs two weeks full time or a day here and there, we've chosen a few of our favorites that run the gamut. From the Valley to the sea, surfing to soccer, we think you'll find something worthy of a few days away from school among the camps below.

And if you're so on the ball that spring is already covered and you've moved on to summer, check out some of our favorite art, cooking, horse, and classic outdoorsy camps in our Summer and Vacation Camp Guide!

The Butterfly Pavilion Returns to the Natural History Museum

Everyone's all a-flutter at the Natural History Museum. The seasonal re-opening of the Butterfly Pavilion took place over the weekend, giving us months of access to the unfettered joy that is an afternoon among the butterflies. The old pavilion was replaced by an entirely new screened structure a few months ago, still on the museum’s South Lawn, and the doors are now open once more for some delightful flutterby time on the site that becomes the creepy Spider Pavilion come autumn. From chrysalis to butterfly, the pavilion is full of magical moments, which is why it rates as one of our 100 things to do with LA kids before they grow up.

Weekday Picks: First Day of Spring, Beauty and the Beast, Cars, and Puppies, March 20-24

The first day of spring puts a spring in everyone's step, with its promise of warmer weather, longer days, and colorful flowers—lots of flowers. The biggest "superbloom" of recent memory is upon us, as tons of wildflowers spring up after our particularly wet winter followed years of drought. You can go far afield and check out the desert show at Death Valley National Park or choose among our list of wildflower hikes and open spaces close to home to best see nature's work.  

Other ways to mark the changing of the season could be a hike to a local waterfall if you're feeling adventurous, or a free Italian ice at Rita's if you're not (there are about 20 locations in Los Angeles and Orange counties).  

Thinking of catching Disney's new Beauty and the Beast movie? Check our review to see if it's right for your kids, of course, and if you're ready to forge ahead you can choose between screenings at El Capitan with all the extras, at the Arclight with free popcorn, or at Cinépolis with the new in-theater playground.

Our 10 picks for the week are below. Looking for even more ideas? Those can be found on our Mommy Poppins Event Calendar and our March GoList.

Amazing Water Park Deals for Spring Break or Family Summer Vacation

Spring break and summer vacation deals have stormed in like a March blizzard, and there are big discounts to be had for family travel.

Awesome water parks like Atlantis, the new Nickelodeon resort in Punta Cana, and Beaches Turks & Caicos are slashing prices on trips booked in March. Plus resorts in Orlando, Punta Cana, Vegas, and Hawaii are a few more bargain options on tap for early spring. If you prefer your water fun indoors, all Great Wolf Lodge properties are promoting legitimate spring savings. We even threw in a few East Coast spring ski resort bargains.

Read on for our roundup of family getaway deals, but act fast; these offers will be gone faster than a melting snowman on a hot spring day.

Glow-in-the-Dark Mini Golf: a Glowing Twist on a Classic Game

There's plenty to love about mini golf; it's a timeless crowd pleaser that can rescue a dull afternoon or set the stage for a great birthday party. But just when you thought you knew all you needed to know about this classic pastime, along comes glow-in-the-dark mini golf! That would be indoor miniature golf, lit with black lights. It's a whole new twist on an old-fashioned game, and it works day or night, rain or shine, little kid or teen. We found five cool spots around the Southland that crank up the day glow effects to set the stage for mini golfers. Be sure to wear white or clothes with glow-in-the-dark designs and take the family to one of these luminous, eye-popping destinations.

Beauty and the Beast Parent Review: Disney's New Live-Action Feature

Regardless of whether this movie gets raves or pans, if you have a princess-obsessed child in your home chances are you're seeing this movie in the theater—probably opening weekend. So let me get right to the good news: my 11-year-old daughter and I, both fans of the 1991 animated original, quite enjoyed Disney's live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast. It is, perhaps, overly faithful to the source material. But hey, if it ain't broke, right?

There really was no reason for Disney to reinvent this classic, since the sight of Hermione—er, Belle in her frilly yellow dress will probably catapult this movie to the top of the box office. However, this isn't a soulless brand-expanding cash grab, either. For all of its familiarity, Beauty and the Beast is lovely to look at and listen to, with a smattering of new songs and a fairly subtle injection of progressive politics.

Is it good for preschoolers? Is it worth splurging for IMAX? Be our guest and read on for our honest opinions.

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