What is the first thought that comes to mind when you hear ‘Orlando’? Some might think of the actor, Orlando Bloom, while many others might see images of Mickey and Minnie Mouse. Orlando is home to the mouse ear caps, colorful characters and a variety of theme parks that make up Walt Disney World Resort. And, families can spend many days at the multiple parks of Disney World, creating memories of a lifetime. However, they are missing out on a lot of other fun and memories.
Orlando has a lot of family-friendly activities that aren’t Disney related. From a variety of dinner-themed shows, sky-themed activities and interactive museums of all sizes and shapes, the non-Disney side of Orlando provides a ton of family fun.
What to Do
The International Drive (i-Drive) houses several museums, shopping centers, and even a zombie apocalypse. The i-Drive trolley provides shuttle service from one end of the main strip to the other, with low daily fares. Spend some time with the weird, wacky and wowing items within Ripley’s Believe It or Not. Practice skydiving at i-Fly indoor attraction. Stun some zombies in Orlando’s Zombie Attack. Teams use state-of-the-art weapons to clear out a military base full of walking dead zombies. This real-life video game is a must-do attraction! The fun of i-Drive also includes a few shopping centers, including two outlet malls. WonderWorks is also included within the list of places covered by the trolley. Experience, question and learn about all sorts of items and theories at Wonder Works Museum. Stay for their comedy-science dinner show.
SeaWorld and SEA LIFE Orlando Aquarium provide plenty of interactive play, amazing shows and viewing options of your favorite water mammals and birds. Sea World provides stunning dolphin and killer whale shows each day and offers some top-notch roller coasters as well.
Sea World properties also have Aquatica, SeaWorld’s Waterpark Orlando, a water park. Additionally, they offer guests the chance to swim with dolphins at Discovery Cove.
Where to Eat
In addition to the wide variety of dinner shows, Orlando is home to a full spectrum of fast food and high-end dining. The standard drive-thru restaurants are scattered around town, along with the pizza buffet, Cici’s. A handful of steakhouses are also available, along with some upscale restaurants such as The Oceanaire Seafood Room, Texas de Brazil, and The Capital Grille.
Where to Stay
While there are a wide range of lodging options, two places stand out.
For a great night’s sleep that allows guests to wake up and walk to Sea World, The Renaissance Orlando at SeaWorld® is the place to stay! In addition to modern and stylish rooms and suites, the hotel provides 5-star customer service, valet parking, and an onsite water park. Our room was a beautiful, large one, with plenty of room for my teen and I. The glass elevators overlooked the inner courtyard; a beautifully-decorated common area. The room was virtually soundproof, providing a quiet evening and night. Grab a free shuttle to Sea World, or take a quick stroll to the front gate at your leisure. A stay at Renaissance also provides free front-of-the-line access on most rides and attractions and merchandise discounts. Sign up for a trolley to Disney or Universal. Sea World’s other two parks, Aquatica water park, and Discovery Cove are a short and convenient drive from the Renaissance.
A second lodging option is the condo-like setting at Lake Buena Vista Resort Village & Spa. The village offers a 1,080 square-foot, two-bedroom suite that has a full kitchen, bathtub, washer and dryer and more. Three and four-bedroom units are also available. This location also has a nice-sized outdoor pool with an interactive pirate ship. This property also offers spa treatments and fine dining room service. Lake Buena Vista is great for families, groups or even multiple couples. The fully-stocked kitchen allows meals to be fixed in-house. The master bedroom features a huge, huge jetted tub. Ceiling fans are in all bedrooms and the living room. The patio of our room opened poolside, but be sure to request a patio facing Disney. Each night, the fireworks can be enjoyed from the comfort of your private balcony.
About the Author: Debra Pamplin has been published by USA Today Travel, Coldwell Banker, SouthernEdition.com, AAA Southern Traveler, AAA Midwest Traveler, Desoto Magazine and Floss Magazine. She lives in Jacksonville, Florida. You can follow her work on her website or on Twitter.
All photos property of the author unless otherwise noted.
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