Once a small town, Orlando is now a bustling city featuring multiple theme park attractions, popular convention centers for business travelers, and a multitude of entertainment venues for both kids and adults. How does one decide which Orlando activities to do with so many to choose from? Let me help!
Our visits to Orlando have been with groups from grand babies and their parents to my adult siblings. From extended family, to Papa Joe and I exploring the city alone. Sometimes it is our destination, other times it is a stop along our route.
Lets get the white elephant out of the way. Of course, everyone knows about the various theme parks - Disney, Universal, LegoLand, just to name a few. And I have to say they are #1 Orlando activity on the list. Not because theme parks are my favorite, but quite likely because it is yours. They are definitely one of Papa Joe's favorites.
As many times as I’ve seen it, nothing compares to the Disney Castle lit up at night by fireworks, Space Mountain, or hearing our grandson squeal the first time he discovered Thunder Mountain. He’s 11 now, and has discovered he loves roller coasters, by the way. Those memories are more than worth the price of tickets.
Sorry, no other theme park photos. I just won't post photos of my grandkids without their parent's permission, and somehow they are so blessed cute they are always in the pictures!
Is planning a trip to a theme park overwhelming? Taking a family to theme parks in Orlando is expensive. However, when packages combine entry into several parks, or when a package is purchased that spans several days, the prices are more reasonable. The most expensive way to go is to purchase a single day ticket for a single park.
Theme parks should count for at least 3 of the top 10 activities, but I'm counting them as 1 activity.
When you visit, make sure to download the park's app onto your smart phone, allowing you to see wait lines at popular rides, and consider buying a “Fast Pass” or comparable product that allows you the ability to access rides more quickly. Papa Joe and I also use the "Single Rider" option, which allows riders to get through lines faster without purchasing a "Fast Pass". Also, most parks offer bundled food packages, which can be a good deal if you are feeding a family.
People do purchase multi-day tickets and resell days that have not been used. There are several Kiosk shops and re-sale opportunities in the gift shops along Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway. Buyer beware. Most parks now use a fingerprint scanner that ties the ticket to the person that first used the ticket, so a ticket purchased through one of these shops MAY not gain access into a park. This is not an option I recommend.
We always visit the beach – Clearwater Beach is about 1 ½ hours away to the west, Cocoa Beach is around an hour away to the east. This is a must-do for both adults and kids. We have also spent considerable time exploring Daytona Beach, enjoying Daytona Bike Week and enjoying the incredible beach.
Did you know there are sections of Daytona Beach you can drive your car on? I think that's a pretty cool thing to do!
How is that for #2 on the list of Orlando activities!
We loved out time mudding at Hummer Off-Road Experience (prices start at $175 according to their website). While a bit pricey, this was an absolute blast! My brother and Papa Joe each got to drive the Hummers, and my sis and I were covered in mud. Not for everyone, but a must-do if you like this kind of adult fun.
If you are into jet boat rides and the chance to view alligators and bald eagles in their natural habitat, our favorite is Airboat Rides at Midway-(less than $40 per person). We have visited Midway at least 3 times. Spring months afford the best gator and bald eagle viewing, but we have enjoyed trips in the summer too. Recently we tried a different airboat ride in the same area, and it just didn't compare to Midway.
These activities are both so much fun, I'm calling them #3 and #4.
And... wait for it.... There is no admission charge.
This is a walking park, and is really a great idea. The park is part of Orlando's water reclamation project, and is full of alligators of all sizes, and birds of every local species. There are few trees, so an umbrella is recommended for those who are sensitive to the sun. This is highly recommended and worth the trip.
There is a recommended $10 per vehicle entry fee. There are a few easy walking trails to get closer to nature, offering great vantage points to see over the water and view a wider variety of wildlife than is possible from the car. Drive slow - and keep your eyes peeled. My sis says to look for "what looks out of place", and that has been good advise for spotting wildlife in it's natural habitat.
The nature activities are all within an hour drive of Orlando, and all worth the drive to get there.
You guessed it. Food.
I love the City Walk at Universal Studio. With a huge variety of restaurants, occasional street performers, and after-hours activities, there are plenty of choices for any palate. The after-hours activities range from formal shows like the Blue Man Group to dealing-piano bars. Parking can be a bit pricey, and considering adult activities enjoyed here, Uber or Lyft may be a better option for transportation.
Many of the “VacationLand Attractions” are found on Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway, which is a main thoroughfare near Universal Studios and Disney. Irlo Bronson allows easy access to the theme parks, mini golf, theme supper shows, grocery stores, and other places to pick up necessary supplies. Numerous gift -themed shops are also located on Irlo Bronson, as well as a wide variety of restaurants offering any type of food a visitor could possibly want.
Checking out the multiple activities on Irlo Bronson is a huge #6 on this list - but it could be a top 10 all on its own.
If the kids like to see larger wildlife closer to them you can’t miss the Showcase of Citrus with the 4x4 Monster Truck. Admission starts at $15, tour of orange grove at no cost. With an assortment of sauces, mixes, and snacks, this place has it all.
On our last trip, our 3 year old grandson drove the 4x4 (with help of course). The tour affords several opportunities to feed zebras, water buffalo and other wildlife kept at the site. All from a safe distance, but close enough the kids can really experience the animals.
A visit to NASA at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is a must-do - (admission starts at $40 per person). This wasn't my cup of tea, but Papa Joe was seriously like a kid in a candy shop. With hands-on exhibits to historic aircraft, there is plenty here for kids and adults of all ages.
If you time it right, you may even watch a space shuttle launch.
I'm breaking my own rules.... and following my own rule. Confused yet?
I'm breaking my own rule by recommending something we haven't done yet.... so take part of this with a grain of salt. All puns intended. And following my own rule by including the recommendation for including a food tour. Little Vietnam Food & Art Walking Tour is available on TripAdvisor, and looks like a super-cool thing to do. My next update on this feature story will include an update on this for sure!
Whether a Vietnam Food tour is your first choice or not, I highly recommend finding a food tour that speaks to you. And just do it!
Regardless of what your interests are, there are Orlando activities for you, or have something great within an hour drive or so. I love that the city is so versatile and I have tried to provide you some resources to help plan your trip and keep costs down.
Lastly, Florida gets hot, and kids (me) tire more easily in the heat. Take plenty of water, wear comfortable (preferably close-toed) shoes, and have rain gear handy if there is any chance of rain. Good advice for any outdoor activity.
There truly are Orlando activities for everyone.