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Old 02-07-2013, 03:16 PM   #1
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Which "Minor" (non-Theme Park) attractions to do?

OK, I found these forums a week ago and have quickly become addicted to them. I've gone so overboard with my trip planning that I might be traveling alone by the time we go because I'll drive my wife batty! Either way, you guys are totally awesome, so I will continue to ask all of my questions in the hopes that you will continue to answer them.

Our trip is June 6-12. We're planning to front-load the trip with the long, exhausting days in the hopes that we can sort of wind down towards the end with less-stressful activities so we won't be completely exhausted when we go home and, eventually, back to work.

It'll be me, my wife and our two boys (12 and 6). We're driving from Nashville and we'll roll into town on Thursday afternoon/early evening. We're going to be staying at a rental home, so I figure the first night will be mostly grocery shopping and getting situated to hit the parks hard for the next few days. We'll be at Hollywood Studios bright and early for Star Wars Weekend on Friday and we'll hit the other parks on Saturday and Sunday as desired...then we'll try to start slowing it down a little. On Monday we're planning a day at Sea World and currently don't have anything planned for Tuesday before leaving on Wednesday morning to come home. I'm trying to find some smaller, somewhat less of a rush-rush types of things that we can do. I've got a few ideas, but I'm hoping you all can give me some more.

I would really like to squeeze Gatorland into the trip as that's the place I always remembered from when I was a kid. Depending on what time we get into town and what time they close we might even hit them on Wednesday afternoon before we do anything else. The only other item on our to-do list is that my 6 year old has asked us for years if we would take him to the ocean so he could see it. From what I've found it seems that Cocoa Beach is the closest place to do that about an hour away, so that's probably where we'll go. So on Tuesday I figure we'll get up and drive to Cocoa Beach for a short time, but that will probably get us back around lunch time leaving a lot of the day to do other things. What else is there to do?

Kennedy Space Center seems like a good option but it's pricy (since we'll most certainly be broke from the previous 4 days!) and I'm not sure it's a good fit for the whole family. Are there any other local attractions you've found in the past that you would recommend for a 2-3 hour or half-day activity?
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Old 02-07-2013, 07:42 PM   #2
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What about legoland? Have the little ones watched titanic? My 9 year old enjoyed the titanic experience and not far from there is a boardwalk with a few attractions an arcade and some go karts!
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Old 02-07-2013, 09:51 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by planning View Post
OK, I found these forums a week ago and have quickly become addicted to them. I've gone so overboard with my trip planning that I might be traveling alone by the time we go because I'll drive my wife batty! Either way, you guys are totally awesome, so I will continue to ask all of my questions in the hopes that you will continue to answer them.

Our trip is June 6-12. We're planning to front-load the trip with the long, exhausting days in the hopes that we can sort of wind down towards the end with less-stressful activities so we won't be completely exhausted when we go home and, eventually, back to work.

It'll be me, my wife and our two boys (12 and 6). We're driving from Nashville and we'll roll into town on Thursday afternoon/early evening. We're going to be staying at a rental home, so I figure the first night will be mostly grocery shopping and getting situated to hit the parks hard for the next few days. We'll be at Hollywood Studios bright and early for Star Wars Weekend on Friday and we'll hit the other parks on Saturday and Sunday as desired...then we'll try to start slowing it down a little. On Monday we're planning a day at Sea World and currently don't have anything planned for Tuesday before leaving on Wednesday morning to come home. I'm trying to find some smaller, somewhat less of a rush-rush types of things that we can do. I've got a few ideas, but I'm hoping you all can give me some more.

I would really like to squeeze Gatorland into the trip as that's the place I always remembered from when I was a kid. Depending on what time we get into town and what time they close we might even hit them on Wednesday afternoon before we do anything else. The only other item on our to-do list is that my 6 year old has asked us for years if we would take him to the ocean so he could see it. From what I've found it seems that Cocoa Beach is the closest place to do that about an hour away, so that's probably where we'll go. So on Tuesday I figure we'll get up and drive to Cocoa Beach for a short time, but that will probably get us back around lunch time leaving a lot of the day to do other things. What else is there to do?

Kennedy Space Center seems like a good option but it's pricy (since we'll most certainly be broke from the previous 4 days!) and I'm not sure it's a good fit for the whole family. Are there any other local attractions you've found in the past that you would recommend for a 2-3 hour or half-day activity?
Well you have not mentioned a water park. If I were you I would add that option on to your tickets and believe me, in June you will be very glad you did. We spend almost every afternoon at a waterpark when its hot. (9 am theme park, 1 pm water park, 6 pm or so back to theme park). I know it sounds really busy but it works well, especially if you like to eat/pack lunches from your rental house. And that will easily fill up your time with more leisure activities, plus you could go to DisneyQuest too.
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Old 02-07-2013, 10:31 PM   #4
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Welcome to the DIS! Yes, we all try to help each other out around here and Yes it is quite addicting! You said you were going to Sea World---they too have a "sister" waterpark called Aquatica--you can buy a combo ticket for both parks and lounge on the lazy river, enjoy the wave pool & water slides.

Have you thought about perhaps doing activities on Disney property but not in the parks? Perhaps a trip to Disney Quest, Typhoon Lagoon or Blizzard Beach or mini-golf. These places can also be combined with your park ticket for some savings.

There are a wide variety of things you can do at the various Disney properties that are fairly economical and you DON"T have to stay on property to do them! When we don't stay on property we often visit a moderate or deluxe property to have lunch or dinner and enjoy the recreation that the facilities have to offer such as cane pole fishing at Port Orleans Riverside or renting bicycles at the Boardwalk and touring around. You can also rent all types of watercraft at several of the hotels. We've done tea parties and also pirate adventure cruises at the Grand Floridian. (My son had the best time on this.) Pools, however, are for resort guests only. One of our favorites is to have breakfast at the Animal Kingdom lodge and then stroll the grounds to watch the animals. Dusk is probably a better time to see more animals moving about....but we always seem to be busy.

The best place to find all of the information and details is right here on the DIS. Look at the top of your screen and you will see "resorts" tab. Just click on that and you'll see the list of all the hotels on property. Click on a property and then recreation and you'll see what each facility offers. You can also click on the "planning" tab and scroll down to planning with children for more info.

Best of luck and have a great time planning your magical vacation!
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Old 02-08-2013, 05:55 AM   #5
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If you're going to cocoa beach, you will be right next to the Kennedy Space Center, which can be anything from a 2-4 hour experience if you skip the bus and Imax to a half to full day experience.
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Old 02-08-2013, 07:14 AM   #6
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Keeping the ages of your children in mind........

There are several things I could suggest. Gatorland is a great half-day park, and is very relaxing. The shows are fantastic, gators by the thousands, you can hop aboard a little train that takes you around the park, and if the weather is hot (which I'm guessing it will be in June), there's even a small splash park onsite that's included with your admission. And at just over $20 per adult (not sure of the kid's rate), its very well priced.

I will second the recommendation of a waterpark. We have visited Aquatica three times (twice in August, once on Christmas Eve) and its awesome. Roa's Rapids is the best water feature EVER, and good for the whole family. The park is beautiful, you can see the Commerson dolphins and their trainers (they do a little info session/performance several times a day), and there's a HUGE kids play area in addition to the expansive sand beach, two wave pools, and tons of fun slides (including one that takes you through the dolphin pool).

Mini golf can be tons of fun, and there are a multitude of courses throughout the area. Many have gators onsite, or fish to feed. Our favourite for gator interaction (we got to hold one) was Gator Golf on International Drive, but our two faves for theming and overall quality are Congo River and Pirates Cove. We have not done the Disney mini golf courses though, so can't compare there.

I would skip Titanic with the ages of your children. The 12 year old would probably like it, but the 6 year old would be to young IMHO. I know my DS would have hated it at 6 (but loved it at 16).

Two suggestions that haven't been tossed out (but would definitely be my top recommendations, if the budget allows) would be a day at Discovery Cove and an airboat ride. Discovery Cove is, hands down, my best recommendation for a day in Orlando. Its our favourite park, ever. If the dolphin swim makes the cost too prohibitive, do the day resort package (same inclusions but just no swim with the dolphins and about $50 cheaper pp). In either case, all food is included (breakfast and lunch, buffet style), snacks are included, all drinks are included (both alcoholic and non), parking, sunscreen, towels, shampoo, conditioner, etc. are all provided, and you get a free 6 x 8 photo per family. Another bonus is that with the purchase of a day at Discovery Cove, you get 14 days admission to both SeaWorld and Aquatica for free.

As for the airboat ride, we highly recommend Wild Willy's in St. Cloud (a short drive from Orlando.....maybe 45 minutes). A one hour tour that is so much fun. We saw gators and all sorts of wildlife and had a ball. We combined the airboat tour with Gatorland (GL in the a.m. and the airboat in the p.m.) and ha a "gator day". They were a perfect combination and made for one of our most memorable trip days!

If you want to check out my Christmas trip report (see link in my signature), you could see tons of pics and information about Aquatica, Gatorland, the airboat tour, SeaWorld, and two mini golf experiences (Hawaiian Rumble and Congo River). If you have any questions about Discovery Cove, feel free to ask. We have done DC twice in 2012....once in January, once in August, once with the dolphin swim and once without.

Have a great trip, whatever you decide to do!
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Aug. 2012...Westgate Lakes Resort & Spa: Aquatica, Discovery Cove, and more
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Old 02-08-2013, 07:40 AM   #7
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Thank you all so much for the suggestions! There are a lot of things I've either never thought of or totally forgot about with all the theme park planning!

Legoland would be the perfect thing as both boys love Legos, but I'm expecting to be very broke by the time we would go there and the ticket prices are a bit steep after 4 days in the theme parks. Likewise, I'd really LOVE to do Discovery Cove, but that's another budget-buster that my wife just won't agree to.

Aquatica is a great idea, though and would be a perfect way to spend our last day in the area. I might have to look into that, especially since we're already planning a day at Sea World anyways!

I think the Airboat ride is my favorite. At the very beginning of our talks about this vacation I had said I wanted to take the boys to the everglades for a day to do the airboating, but then everyone started telling me that was too far and too expensive. If you're saying there is one in St. Cloud then I'm going to have to check that out. And I agree with you...a Gatorland/Airboat "theme" day fits very nicely.

Thank you all so much!
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Old 02-08-2013, 12:35 PM   #8
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I have a good list of offsite activities in the 2014 Dates thread - here's a link to the post:

http://www.disboards.com/showpost.ph...35&postcount=2

You'll need to scroll down past all the WDW info, but hopefully this will be of some help to you.
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Old 02-08-2013, 12:49 PM   #9
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Well, if you are going to Seaworld for 1 day, you can usually get the 2nd day free, or you can get a funpass good for the whole year for the price of 1 day. I would then do 2 short (1/2) days at Seaworld. But, really, you are trying to squeeze a lot into 1 trip, esp. with a drive to/from Cocoa. I would skip Gatorland and either spend more time at Seaworld, or skip Seaworld and add the Waterparks & more option to your tickets. My son LOVES DisneyQuest--almost as much as WDW parks. He has LOVED it from 7-12 years old (and has been 5X). 3 days at WDW theme parks, 1-2 days at the waterparks--WDw has 2 great, and different waterparks, and a 1/2 day at DisneyQuest would be a fun and full week.
Re. Legoland--you can usually get kids free tickets for Legoland--but it takes a solid hour to get there and, IMHO, I would do Seaworld instead. We did Legoland last Easter--my kids much prefer Seaworld.
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Old 02-08-2013, 07:19 PM   #10
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Depending upon when you plan to arrive or leave.... Rather than driving to Cocoa Beach, Why not swing by the Tampa area or another Gulf Coast beach?

I'm assuming that from TN you'll be coming down 75 (you mentioned driving down), so if you did the Tampa area you could follow 75 all the way down to Tampa, then take I-4 back up to the Disney area..... or visa versa. Depending upon which side of TN you are on, You might also look at one of the many beaches along the Panhandle if you were planning on coming down thru Alabama or Mississippi instead of thru Georgia and then taking I-10 to I75.

That would allow you to do the beach as a stop on your travel day to break up the drive and not necessarily "waste" a full vacation day on the beach trip.



Other items.... There are a TON of tourist traps along IDrive. They'd range from souvenir shops, to go kart/putt putt locations, to things like Riply's Believe It or Not. Most other major (and semi inexpensive) 'minor' attractions I can think of have already been mentioned by others already.
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Old 02-08-2013, 09:13 PM   #11
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That would allow you to do the beach as a stop on your travel day to break up the drive and not necessarily "waste" a full vacation day on the beach trip.
You just made my day! I haven't planned the driving route yet, but I'm sure we'll be jumping on I-75 in Chattanooga and driving down from there. When we told the kids we were going to Disney World the first thing my 5-year-old said was "Daddy, can you PLEASE take me to see the ocean???".....I mean, how can you say no to that??

Not being familiar with the area I didn't think about whether there are any beaches along the route, but if there's something not too far out of our way that would be perfect. I know it takes about 10 hours to get to Orlando from where I am now, so getting out and spending an hour or so at the beach around the half-way point might just be the perfect way to break up the drive. You rock!
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Old 02-08-2013, 11:50 PM   #12
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You just made my day! I haven't planned the driving route yet, but I'm sure we'll be jumping on I-75 in Chattanooga and driving down from there. When we told the kids we were going to Disney World the first thing my 5-year-old said was "Daddy, can you PLEASE take me to see the ocean???".....I mean, how can you say no to that??

Not being familiar with the area I didn't think about whether there are any beaches along the route, but if there's something not too far out of our way that would be perfect. I know it takes about 10 hours to get to Orlando from where I am now, so getting out and spending an hour or so at the beach around the half-way point might just be the perfect way to break up the drive. You rock!
I just have to say, while we thought the Gulf was beautiful, we were hoping for the ocean waves. We live in Montana and travel to the Oregon and Washington coasts. But the Pacific is so cold that the kids have never been able to truly enjoy it. So on day 2 of our trip we went to Siesta Beach (the Gulf), that was packed so we traveled a little further. The kids loved it but were wondering where the big waves were.
So on day 5, we did the hour drive to Cocoa Beach. We walked over a dune, and we all stopped and took in the beautiful sight. The waves crashing on the shore. We had a hard time leaving. For us, there is just something about the ocean waves, the noise, the smell, that is such a comfort, almost calming, and just what we needed after 2 full days in the parks :-)
But with how you are driving, it makes sense to do the gorgeous Gulf
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Old 02-11-2013, 02:01 PM   #13
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You just made my day! I haven't planned the driving route yet, but I'm sure we'll be jumping on I-75 in Chattanooga and driving down from there. When we told the kids we were going to Disney World the first thing my 5-year-old said was "Daddy, can you PLEASE take me to see the ocean???".....I mean, how can you say no to that??

Not being familiar with the area I didn't think about whether there are any beaches along the route, but if there's something not too far out of our way that would be perfect. I know it takes about 10 hours to get to Orlando from where I am now, so getting out and spending an hour or so at the beach around the half-way point might just be the perfect way to break up the drive. You rock!
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I just have to say, while we thought the Gulf was beautiful, we were hoping for the ocean waves. We live in Montana and travel to the Oregon and Washington coasts. But the Pacific is so cold that the kids have never been able to truly enjoy it. So on day 2 of our trip we went to Siesta Beach (the Gulf), that was packed so we traveled a little further. The kids loved it but were wondering where the big waves were.
So on day 5, we did the hour drive to Cocoa Beach. We walked over a dune, and we all stopped and took in the beautiful sight. The waves crashing on the shore. We had a hard time leaving. For us, there is just something about the ocean waves, the noise, the smell, that is such a comfort, almost calming, and just what we needed after 2 full days in the parks :-)
But with how you are driving, it makes sense to do the gorgeous Gulf
There is a difference between the Atlantic Coast and the Gulf Coasts to be sure.... so it does depend upon what you are looking for.

Another option, depending upon any limitations you have in how long you can take for the drive, Would be to hit the Atlantic Coast at then use 95 to I-10 to cut back towards I75.... or maybe go up a bit futher and use I-16 up by Savannah to head back inland to 75.

If you did that, Rather than hitting Cocoa Beach, you could likely hit I-4 towards Daytona Beach.... Then you'd have your choice of Daytona Beach, or maybe St. Augustine a bit north of Daytona? Savannah might also be a cool place to stop and do some sightseeing.
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Old 02-11-2013, 03:27 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by kalimom6 View Post
I just have to say, while we thought the Gulf was beautiful, we were hoping for the ocean waves. We live in Montana and travel to the Oregon and Washington coasts. But the Pacific is so cold that the kids have never been able to truly enjoy it. So on day 2 of our trip we went to Siesta Beach (the Gulf), that was packed so we traveled a little further. The kids loved it but were wondering where the big waves were.
So on day 5, we did the hour drive to Cocoa Beach. We walked over a dune, and we all stopped and took in the beautiful sight. The waves crashing on the shore. We had a hard time leaving. For us, there is just something about the ocean waves, the noise, the smell, that is such a comfort, almost calming, and just what we needed after 2 full days in the parks :-)
But with how you are driving, it makes sense to do the gorgeous Gulf
That's so funny since I much prefer the Gulf side. The pure blue water, and soft white sand are things you just can't find on the Atlantic side. Those are the things that I find relaxing.

OP, I'd go with whichever is more convenient for your trip.
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Old 02-11-2013, 04:38 PM   #15
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Other suggestions, particularly if you have a rainy day where you don't want to be outside would be Wonderworks and the Ripley's museum, both on I-Drive.

My 8 year old son loved Wonderworks last year. You could hit both of those museums plus take in some shopping on I-Drive all on the same day.

I would also second the Disney mini-golf courses. We like to get our Disney park time in at the beginning of the trip and then hit other things for the rest of the trip like Seaworld. But we also leave some evening room to hit up Winter Summerland or Fantasia Gardens. It injects a little extra Disney time even after we are done with the major parks.
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