You can’t escape the fact that Orlando is the ‘theme park capital of the world’ but despite that, there are SO many other things to do in Orlando with kids beside Disney and Universal.
Whether you need some down time from all the buzz of the parks, perhaps (dare I say it) are not really into amusements parks and rides, or simply need to find some rainy day activities in Orlando, here is a guide of things to do in Orlando with kids besides Disney for first timer. I’ve also included activities a little further out too. If you are looking for a bumper guide of over 100 things to do in Orlando with kids, see here)
Any information I’ve found on discounted tickets is also included under each attraction.
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However, if you do see visit one of the major parks, a good general discount site is Orlando CityPASS. Just like its counterparts in London, New York etc, it offers a discount on multiple attractions including Legoland, Universal and Disney.
Getting Around Orlando Without a Car
If you haven’t hired a car, Uber or Lyft is a great way to get around and some do have car seats. Alternatively, if you are in the International Drive resort area, you can use a service like the i-ride hop on hop off bus which operates from 8:00 AM to 10:30 PM and stops at premium outlets and many key attractions with unlimited rides. Check out the pass details here.
If you are on a road trip or planning to travel further afield and explore South Florida or have kids wanting to discover the ecological marvels at 10,000 Islands, then definitely plan on hiring a car. Make sure you book plenty of time in advance.
Crayola Experience Orlando
If you are looking for something different to entertain the kids, wanting to escape the heat of the day or perhaps looking for things to do in Orlando on a rainy day, then the Crayola Experience Orlando could be for you!
Situated in the Florida Mall, you can’t help but notice this bright colourful venue. With the fun available before you even purchase your ticket (you can ‘wake-up’ the sleeping crayons on the wall and make them move) it’s completely geared up to entertain.
You are given 2 silver coins and a plastic bag and up stairs you will find a plethora of activities to entertain. (26 exciting hands-on attractions.). If it is busy, I recommend heading straight to the ‘Melt and Mold’ area. Here you choose a crayon, melt it down and use a machine to mould it into a ring, shark, car or seahorse souvenir.
Another firm favourite activity was Drip Art where you can create a swirly-whirly masterpiece with melted wax. My then 3 and 6 year old made at least 10 of these to bring home and I intend to frame a couple too!
My eldest really enjoyed the ‘Color Magic’ area where you color in a favourite picture, then take it over to the computers to scan it, and turn it into an animated picture.
To burn off some energy, both girls spent some time in the soft play area and also enjoyed the Stomp and Play” zone. This has an interactive floor where you use your feet in a series of fun and colorful games.
With your silver coin tokens you can opt to make your crayon label. Having personalised crayons certainly impressed them both. You can also use your token for Crayola Model Magic and take your creation home with you.
We attempted the new Adventure Lab, which is like an escape room. Before you enter you are handed a tablet which tells you what your mission is.
Once inside, you’ll see various marked activities and challenges that need to be completed. We failed dismally by running out of time, but a lot of fun was had.
Verdict – Perfect place to while away a few hours with a variety of active and creative activities. We visited on a sunny weekday in February and didn’t have to queue for any of the more popular activities.
Price: Approx $24 per person. Under 2’s free. Advisable to book a skip-the-line ticket for $28 to avoid the queues.
Click here to check for a Crayola Experience Coupon and discount ranging from $3 off to FREE entry for some professions.
Here is a video snapshot of the place too!
Boggy Creek Airboat Rides
Ever fancied zooming across the Everglades, a bit like the guy from CSI Miami? Ever since I saw him do that on TV, I wondered what it would be like, so when the opportunity arose to visit Boggy Creek Airboat Rides, I leapt at the chance.
The great thing about visiting Boggy Creek, is it’s not ‘just’ an airboat ride. Although that experience is thrilling, whilst you wait kids can go prospecting for fossils and semi precious stones. $6 for a huge bucket to sift through and discover ‘treasure’.
Ours included a huge chunk of amethyst and shark teeth! Also check out the baby alligator creche and experience the past Native American way of life.
The actual airboat ride was thrilling for all of us. We spotted 4 alligators, an eagle, a heron amongst other natural wildlife.
Good to know:
- If you have a really tiny baby it is probably not suitable as you need to wear ear defenders.
- When you stop to look in these tropical wetlands, there can be lots of flies so wear long sleeves. (Unlike us who didn’t prepare! It was just a mild annoyance – we didn’t get bitten.). If you are prone to being nibbled on or prefer to deter flies coming near you prepare your clothes with permethrin spray and your skin with a good insect repellant.
This was one of my favourite attractions around Orlando other than Disney or Universal. If you wish to travel further, you can see more about alligators in the Everglades here!
Visiting Kennedy Space Center With Kids
The Kennedy Space Center is SO inspiring to visit. Daily admission prices include:
- Space Shuttle Atlantis®
- Shuttle Launch Experience®
- Heroes and Legends featuring the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame® presented by Boeing®
- Kennedy Space Center Bus Tour including Apollo/Saturn V Center
- Journey to Mars: Explorers Wanted
- Astronaut Encounter
- IMAX® Theater 3D Films
- Rocket Launch Viewing (when available)
- Numerous Shows and Exhibits.
The hour or so drive down is completely worth it and the Kennedy Space Center has plenty of parking. (Pay $10 at the gate). We sadly missed a rocket launch by a couple of days but had a great time exploring the site nonetheless.
As you enter the complex, you are suddenly met with the magnitude of rockets. They stand resplendent and etched with history of space. We headed straight to the IMAX theatre.
Journey To Space gives an overview of NASA’s past space accomplishments, current activities and future plans. My 6 year old loved it, but the special effects were a bit too much for my 3 year old. I covered her eyes and that helped – and a cuddle of course!
Over at the Journey to Mars, discover NASA’s plans to explore deep space, including Mars, asteroids and once again, the moon. This multimedia exhibit includes a live presentation and highlights what’s happening at NASA right now.
We all had great fun with the interactive games and simulators (we landed a pod on the moon by using thrust power alone!).
The Heroes and Legends hall was inspiring and also hit home how few female astronauts there were/are.
Even in February, the weather was pretty hot, so the small water splash area to cool down was a welcome sight. The girls also enjoyed the space themed outdoor covered play area. Bring a change of clothes, swim clothes and a packable microfibre towel when they inevitably get soggy!
For a completely inspirational and once in a lifetime experience – do try and plan for a rocket launch. A friend recently went and LOVED it. A perfect treat for slightly older kids!
Another option is to organise a Space Pass entrance ticket with Get Your Guide which includes:
- NASA Space Pass
- Buffet style lunch with an astronaut
- Up-close explorer tour
- Admission to Kennedy Space Center
Visit American Girl.
Any kid who adores dolls will also revel in the American Girl store. Little ones can role play with various dolls, toy strollers, changing stations, play house etc.
All the dolls and accessories (not cheap!) are available to buy. You can not only purchase little girls outfits which match the dolls, but also visit the bistro and dine with your doll! If you haven’t brought a doll, don’t fret as the store will lend you one.
Here is a little glimpse of what’s inside American Girl
Weeki Wachee Springs
A lovely park with a beach, a large natural spring and mermaids. It’s about 1hr 40 minutes from Orlando.
Swim with the manatees. My four and seven year old LOVED this experience of snorkelling these sea cows in the wild. Crystal River is about 1.5 hours from Orlando. Again remember to pack swim essentials for the kids.
We were only in Orlando for 6 days so we didn’t get a chance to explore all the activities available but some other options include:
Visit Disney Springs and head to Disney’s outdoor shopping, dining, and entertainment complex at the Walt Disney World Resort by Lake Buena Vista for some family friendly fun. Apart from being free to enter and full of stuff to see and experience, there are plenty of free things to do at Disney Springs too!
US history and pirates and lots more to be found at St Augustine. Featuring attractions such as a pirate-themed museum, the nation’s oldest masonry fort, an iconic lighthouse, zoological parks and archaeological sites, and a host of fascinating historic sites, there’s always something fun to do. Kids will love the boat rides, the train and trolley tours & the cannon firings. St Augustine is about 1h 52 minutes drive from Orlando.
For pirate fans the Pirate and Treasure Museum is a great attraction as well as the Treasure Hunt Cruise and Onboard Show. The Trolley Tour and and History Museum is also a great insight into the local area and wonderful for kids. For those water babies Marineland Park is wonderful to explore the oceans.
In Winter Park you will find more than 70 parks, all home to various events, festivals and celebrations throughout the year. Look out for the farmers market and loads of eateries, including the Ravenous Pig (sister to the The Polite Pig). Today, the arts- and culture-filled city of Winter Park includes Rollins College and the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of Natural Art. Winter Park also is a nature lover’s destination. Winter Park is 4.9 miles from Orlando
City Sightseeing Orlando
City Sightseeing is a hop on and hop off double decker bus.
The Wheel at ICON Park.
The Wheel at ICON Park is a 400 ft tall giant Ferris wheel. We saw this from Orlando’s International Drive tourist district. The main attraction is the 400-foot tall former Coca–Cola Orlando Eye, is one of the world’s tallest observation wheels, but it’s also home to the IFLY Orlando Indoor Skydiving, Sea Life Orlando Aquarium & Madame Tussauds Orlando. With its lights and views it makes for a great activity to do in Orlando at night. Get your tickets in advance here to avoid queues.
Anna Maria Island
Anna Maria Island is a bit of drive (2.5 hours away) from Orlando. With a beautiful beach and not over commercialised. The island is only 7 miles long and no more than a few blocks wide which leaves you with sounds of waves and visions of the sunset in every location. Enjoy a day at the beach and watch the kids play in the sand.
Walk along pristine beaches and dine in award-winning restaurants, Enjoy fresh grouper sandwiches on a pier and sipping martinis while enjoying live music. Go shopping in our specialty shops and boutiques all along the island. They even have a Free Trolley to take you where you want to go.
Pack a cool bag for snacks and drink as well as swimwear, suncream, microfibre towels, water bottles, sun hats and a nice linen shirt to throw on as a cover up when going into the beautiful restaurants and boutiques.
Showcase of Citrus
A Monster Truck Tour in the Swamps. During the one-hour tour, riders likely will see some familiar Florida animals like snapping turtles, alligators and snakes. Learn Geology at the Gem Mine, taste local jams, jellies, salsa, hot sauces, hand crafted fresh juice slushies, farm fresh honey and so much more!
Close to ICON park
Orlando Cat Cafe
The Orlando Cat Cafe where you can visit for the price of a coffee and play with cats who are waiting to be adopted.
Titantic Museum on I- Drive
The Titantic Museum has artifacts Directly from the wreck site, & dramatic room recreations.
I had no idea there was one in Orlando too! Ideally for kids aged 2-12 this Legoland resort is just 45 minutes from Orlando and Tampa. There are over 50 rides, shows and attractions inspired by the popular LEGO® brands and characters.
If you are USA based try Costco. Costco members can sometimes purchase Legoland tickets at significant discounts. If you are in the UK, try Attraction Tickets Direct and compare the latest deals. Get Your Guide also has good advance pricing. If you are planning on seeing a few attractions, it might be worth also checking out the Orlando CityPASS for great deals too.
Medieval Times Dinner
The Medieval Times family-friendly dinner attraction is inspired by an 11th century feast and tournament. Guests are served a four-course banquet and cheer for one of six competing in the joust and other tests of skill.
Guests feast on garlic bread, tomato bisque soup, roasted chicken, sweet buttered corn, herb-basted potatoes, pastry of the Castle, coffee and two rounds of select beverages.
There are vegetarian meals are available upon request. Seating is based on first come- first served and shows start at 6pm and 8.30pm.
Orlando Science Center
The Orlando Science Center is full of educational fun and a great option for a rainy day activity in Orlando. With lots of hands on exhibits for kids of all ages.
Other activities include a climbing structure, giant water table, an air tube system, toddler area, dinosaurs skeletons, a fossil dig area, tornado machine, earthquake bridge and more.
Try the Visit Orlando site for current discounts.
Revolution Off Road
Revolution is an off road attraction park. Attractions include quad bikes (ATV), Mucky Duck (8 wheel amphibious vehicle through the lakes and ponds), fishing, clay shooting and archery.
Ripley’s Believe it or Not Orlando
Pirate Cove Adventure Golf
With lush landscaping, and entertaining pirate theming, the Pirate Cove Adventure Golf is a lot of fun. Children under aged 3 go free.
Gatorland has alligators and crocodiles of all sizes plus a free-flight aviary, petting zoo, one-of-a-kind animal shows, a zip line and an off road adventure.
Try the Visit Orlando site and the Gatorland website for discounts. You can also book some really great tours, a skip-the-line ticket is always helpful to skip the queues, or you can book an Interactive tour with animal trainer or for a totally different experience a Flashlight tour at night is really exciting.
Wander among hundreds of life-sized dinosaurs in a natural setting, where lots of trees provide shade. There are plenty of interactive exhibits and a dino-themed playground at Dinosaur World. Suitable for aged 3+ and unlike other parks cool bags and your own snacks are welcomed!
The Escape Games Orlando
The Escape Game is a live 60-minute adventure with 5 themed rooms to escape from. Choose from The Heist, Mars, Gold Rush, Classified or Prison Break.
Rooms have a maximum capacity ranging from 6-8 people. The games are suitable for ages 13 and up, although younger players are allowed.
Escapology is located on the International Drive, choose from the Mansion Murder, Narco, Under Pressure, The Code, Antidote, Budapest Express or the Cuban Crisis. Groups can be 2-6 players. Children under the ages of are advised not to play as they might not understand the games.
Check out Groupon for deals!
Try ziplining, horseback riding, camping, and adventuring through the wild on a beautiful nature conservancy in St. Cloud, Florida. Children under the age of 10 are unable to participate in Zip-Line and Horseback Riding Adventures.
However, there are many other activities, such as the Trail Buggy Adventure and camping that younger children can participate in.
Wonderworks – amusement park
Wonderworks is an indoor amusement park. The outside building is an upside down design of the White House. There are more than 100 types of display for family and kids to learn and experience.
The 4th floor has laser tag game and walk rope to enjoy. Experience the trembling of a 5.3 earthquake, be blown away by 74mph hurricane force winds, land the shuttle, fly a fighter jet, lie on a bed of nails, design and ride your own roller coaster, play virtual sports, plus much more!
Special features of the attraction include a 4D extreme motion ride, 3 story indoor ropes challenge course, and a nightly magic comedy dinner show. Get access all areas tickets deals here
Bikes and Blades offer hourly rentals; full day rentals delivered directly to your hotel; or guided tours along any of the local trails or through some of the more historic downtown’s.
The hourly rentals start at Mile Marker 0 of this beautiful trail, which now stretches 22 miles along the edge of Lake Apopka and through the quaint downtown of Winter Garden.
Too hot? Or in need of things to do in Orlando on a rainy day? The Winter Club Indoor Ski is suitable for beginners or more seasoned pro’s.
This pay as you go indoor karting offers other attractions including a zipline too. The youngest drivers must reach 48″ tall. The Zip wire is also 48″ minimum height requirement, whereas the laser tag is 42″. Another option to add to your list of rainy day activities in Orlando.
Have you discovered some fabulous things to do with kids in Orlando besides Disney and Universal? Do let me know your recommendations! And if you do head to Disney, the post on the best strollers for Disney may help your child’s feet!
Family friendly accommodation in Orlando.
Orlando has ample accommodation for families, with most within easy reach of the main attraction and i-drive. Uber, Lyft, and the i-Tram are all easy ways of getting around. If you are looking for 2 bedroom suites in Orlando there are some great options:
- Blue Heron Beach Resort lakefront resort
- Celebration Suites in Kissimmee
- Fantasy World Resort
- Grove Resort (our favourite!)
Disclosure: Thanks to Visit Orlando, I was able to visit some of these places for the purpose of this post.
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