6 Family Friendly Destinations in Orlando Besides Theme Parks
With it’s warm climate, abundance of theme parks, it’s claim to fame, Disney World, Orlando is a destination for families from around the world. And while there is no shortage of activities on International Drive and around the parks, just north of Kissimmee our city offers a different experience - what some locals might refer to as “the real Orlando.”
The “real” Orlando has something for everyone with great restaurants, unlimited shopping, a bustling music and art scene, and many more family friendly activities that you won’t find in any guidebook.
Keep reading below to find out our list of the Top 6 Destinations for Families in Orlando (that are not theme parks!).
At the top of our list is the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, a collection of venues housed together to honor and promote community outreach, arts education, and musical and theatrical performance. In 2015, it was named by Travel & Leisure magazine as one of the “World’s Coolest Tourist Attractions,” and again named by Southern Living as one of the “50 Best Places in the South.” The center includes the 2,700 seat Walt Disney Theater as well as a full orchestral concert hall. Past performances have included Wicked, Disney’s Little Mermaid, and Harry Potter & the Sorcerer’s Stone in Concert.
Another fun in the sun family destination, Wekiva Island is a great escape to island life without ever having to leave Orlando! Wekiva Island offers full and half day canoe, kayak, and paddleboard rentals for people looking to explore the Wekiva River and nearby Wekiwa Springs. For those not interested in getting a workout on the water, there is a long boardwalk to sit and people watch and games on land to keep everyone entertained. Bring your kids, bring your dog, and bring plenty of sunblock because once you arrive and start feeling the Florida vibes you may never want to leave.
The Orlando Science Center is a hidden gem for families that are looking to get inspired and promote learning to their children. Permanent exhibits include the Dino hall which features full-size replicas of kid’s favorite dinosaurs and prehistoric creatures, the Severe Weather Center 9 Experience where they can play meteorologist and analyze weather for the first time, and the National Geographic Experience 3D theater which shows cutting-edge educational films that delight people of all ages. Not terribly busy during the week aside from the occasional field trip, the Orlando Science Center makes for an excellent rainy day activity.
Winter Park is one of the many districts that make up the city of Orlando and is home to interesting cafes, boutique shopping, and family-friendly activities. If you’re truly looking to get off the beaten path, why not try the Winter Park guided boat tour? It leaves every hour between 10 am and 4 pm, and takes guests to three of the seven lakes that make up the Orlando chain of lakes. From the boat, families can view Florida flora and fauna like tropical flowers, swaying palms, lush mangroves, and birds and other wildlife. Added bonus for parents, the estate homes that line either side of the canal provide another topic of conversation.
Families that are looking to do a bit of urban exploring may want to consider doing a morning or afternoon bike ride on the Cady Way Trail. The Cady Way Trail is a 7.5 mile bike paved bike path that crosses through parts of Winter Park, suburban Baldwin Park, and eventually connects to the Orlando Urban Trail that goes downtown. Much of the trail is shaded by the large oak canopy trees and families will be happy to discover amenities (benches, water fountains, etc) along the way and plenty of beautiful places to stop and relax. If you need to rent bikes, the good people at Retro City Cycles have rentals starting at just $20.
Who says that family-fun needs to cost money? With all of the other vacation musts, it’s nice to find a little relief from the wear and tear on your wallet. The Enzian Theater’s family event “Popcorn Flicks in the Park” is just what it sounds like - movies shown on the lawn underneath the stars in Winter Park’s Central Park. Films are shown on the second Thursday of each month (assuming weather cooperates) and guests are actually encouraged to bring their own snacks, and something to sit on. Check the website to see what films are playing during your trip and remember - this event is free!
As much as locals hate giving away their secrets, we couldn’t resist the urge to share some of them with you. We hope our list of family-friendly activities inspires you to make your way out of the theme parks and do a little bit more Orlando exploring on your next trip.
For your next trip to the Orlando area, check out Clanventure's great family-friendly Orlando area vacation rentals here!
Featured photo by Rob Barlett at http://bartlettimage.com/