I get it! You are in Orlando and want to do Disney.
I feel ya. I love me some House of Mouse and we frequent it often. But, Central Florida has SOOO much to offer beyond Disney. I have friends and family ask me all the time for suggestions on what they can do in Orlando on a down day that won’t break the bank. Though the list of options is lengthy, I decided to break this post down into 8 simple suggestions, some that most travelers may be aware of, and other activities that fly a little more under the radar. These are fun, family activities that we do with our own kids, that are also easy drives from the Disney resort area. Plus, they won’t break your vacation budget, leaving you with some extra moula for that Dole Whip.
Creativity is fueled here with 26 hands-on activities. It is the perfect place to let little imaginations run wild with colors and art.
This is a fun, lively attraction that will bring out the artist in everyone. My kids particularly enjoy watching crayons be made ( and getting the chance to personalize the wrapper with their own color name). The whole attraction is indoors, which is perfect on a rainy day. Tickets are $20 for ages three and up, but all educators receive free admission with valid ID. Plus, Groupon frequently offers deals like this one. If you don’t use Groupon, I would be stoked if you used my Groupon Referral link to sign up. They have amazing offers on cool things to do all over the country.
The centerpiece of downtown Orlando is the beautiful Lake Eola Park. Its fountain is an Orlando icon. Visitors can take a beautiful, leisurely stroll around the entire lake or enjoy going out on the swan paddleboats (which also have a deal on Groupon). Kids will love the several playground and spots to feed the lake’s full-time residents, the Lake Eola swans. (Insider tip: the swans can be a little feisty. Throw the food towards them and spare your fingers. I speak from experience.) Every Sunday, the park is home to the Orlando Farmer’s Market, featuring craft, food and home decor vendors to fit any taste.
3. Catch a Florida Fire Frogs baseball game
I LOVE baseball. I will attend other sporting events with my husband and kid’s, but baseball is the only sport that I get emotionally invested in. I may or may not have been biting my nails, praying and pacing the floor at 12:00 a.m.-ish when my Chicago Cubs brought it home for the win in 2016. #gocubsgo #flythew.
Josiah got invested in my Cubbies when he saw how excited I was, and I think feels a little torn between Mommy’s baseball and Daddy’s soccer. We told him he could love both. Our nearest MLB field is Tampa Bay. So, we were very excited to find out about the Orlando Fire Frogs that play close by in Kissimmee. Tickets are super reasonable and you can’t get a bad seat. The team is fairly new, so the park is generally less-crowded. We can have a whole row to ourselves, so if the kids get restless, I don’t worry about them bugging anyone nearby. Plus, they frequently have great concession promos and my kids are generally always able to leave with a free baseball.
With four floors of exhibits, the Orlando Science Center is an incredible place to spend a day, especially a rainy one. Many exhibits are hands-on and there several demonstrations throughout the day. Whether your little one likes dinosaurs, animals, space, or cars…there will be something here to excite their senses and engage their mind. Standard adult admission is $20.95, but Florida teachers can get in free with school credentials. Also, the OSC is part of Bank of America’s Museum on Us program. So, if you are a resident with a BOA or Merrill Lynch card, you also get in free! Score!
Located in Oviedo, just north of Orlando, this is one of those “fly under the radar” (no pun intended) activities that my kids really enjoy. Guests enter a small aviary and butterfly garden and get up close and personal to these beautiful creatures. Just make sure you go on a sunny day and call ahead before visiting.
The butterflies are active depending on the weather, and the encounter will close in inclement weather. Per their website, peak season is April through September.
In keeping with the nature theme, the Audubon Center for Birds of Prey is a cool facility in Maitland that rescues and rehabilitates birds of prey. Most patients are released back to the wild, however some have been too injured and find their permanent home at the center. You can spend as little or as much time as you want. We walked around for about an hour and my kids were fascinated with the Bald Eagles, Falcons, Hawks and Osprey. (Note: Most of the facility is outside, so make sure you wear some Insect Repellent.) The center was not crowded, which made for a peaceful afternoon. Adults are $8 and 3 and up are $5. However, Groupon had a deal and the 4 of us went for less than $20. It is also nice to know you are supporting a good cause. To quote Josiah ” it was awesome.”
Who doesn’t love a competitive round of Mini-golf? Pirate’s Adventure Mini-Golf is closest to the Disney Resort area.
However, Disney also it’s own mini-golf course, Winter Summerland. We personally enjoy Congo River Golf. With multiple locations, there is bound to be one near your vacation spot. Plus, you will get a true Florida feel with the opportunity to view and pet live gators.
Okay. Okay. I know. I am cheating here. The beach is obvious. Technically, it also isn’t in Orlando. But, if you are willing to drive slightly over an hour from the Disney resorts, you can easily hit Cocoa Beach for sun, sand and surf. An hour and a half north from Disney, is our favorite beach area, Ponce Inlet. It is less crowded and less touristy than Cocoa and home to the Ponce De Leon Inlet Lighthouse, Florida’s tallest lighthouse.
Side note, if you are driving and considering more than just a few hours at the beach, bring your own beach umbrella. Otherwise, you would have to pay to rent one and could risk not having one available. You do not want to be caught at the beach without an umbrella. We love our Nautica 7 Foot Beach Umbrella and it has spared us many a sunburn. For my more complete list of ‘must have’ beach day items, check out this post on the absolute essentials.
There ya have it!
These are just some of the activities we enjoy in Florida that both our kids and wallets love. If you have tried them, or have any other spots that make your Florida vacations memorable, I would love to hear them in the comment section below!
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