Other things to do Besides the big theme parks

Discussion in 'Orlando Hotels and Attractions' started by Pinkos, Jan 11, 2018.

  1. Pinkos

    Pinkos Mouseketeer

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    We are headed to Florida in May for 2 weeks. We will have 4 day park-park passes for US and IOA and one day at MK (bc i cannot fathom NOT seeing the castle). This trip is supposed to be less Disney as we have done a lot of Disney in the past ... but I know my kids will go crazy if we don't have some other plans. We can "relax/swim" for half a day, maybe 3/4 of a day ... but we like to "do" things as well. So even having some short excursions up our sleeve for when we need to get out of the rental house / take a break from 'relaxing' would be helpful.

    What are some things that you and your family have done in Orlando that you absolutely loved? or absolutely hated (so I know what to avoid .. LOL). Kids ages are 9&6 at time of trip.

    So far, this is what is on my list

    1. Beach Day (any recommendations on closest/best beach would be great)
    2. FunSpot (Advice here .... )
    3. Space Centre (So far, I'm not sold .... if it blew you away, please enlighten me)
    4. Medieval Times (My parents took me here when I was a little girl and I really enjoyed it)
    5. Disney Springs (I haven't been since this was downtown disney, would love to hear about it)

    What are some other options?

    Obviously I won't do everything, but I'd love to have a bunch of options and then sit down with everyone and choose 2-3.

    TIA
     
  2. wdw&sonny

    wdw&sonny DIS Veteran

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    My wife and I (50's) just returned from a NON-Disney trip (LOL). We have done WDW a lot. I love it. She tolerates it (me).

    We went to SeaWorld...it was just ok for us. I don't really care to look at animals, though.
    We went to IKEA, Outlet malls and the Mall of Millenia...I am a guy. I don't shop. I go buy stuff I need.
    We bought a 3-attraction ticket to Madame Tussaud's, Orlando EYE and SeaLife Aquarium. Total time spent to do all 3 of these was about 2 hours. It was nice to do something different. But that's about the most positive thing I can say about those 3 attractions.
    We also drove to Celebration to see that city....most underwhelming of all. Nothing to see or do there. Boring.
    We ended up at Epcot for one morning and HS for the evening...so I could get my WDW fix and cleanse my self of the boredom of the other attractions.
    I survived, but it wasn't easy.
    We are going back in March for a traditional, all WDW trip.
     
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  4. Dynamoliz

    Dynamoliz Mouseketeer

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    Gatorland. Airboat ride (we enjoyed Boggy Creek.).
     
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  5. mjhtvchick

    mjhtvchick DIS Veteran

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    As you can see by my signature below, we like to spend at least half of our Orlando vacation time doing that! And on our upcoming trip, we will spend 6 nights at Universal and then a week doing "non-park" activities. We have planned:

    1. A Disney Day - but not in the parks!! Eat late breakfast at Kona Cafe, play minigolf at Fantasia Gardens, walk around the Boardwalk, end the day at Disney Springs - I particularly enjoy it here at night - we like to have some dinner, do some light shopping, get a drink and check out the "streetmosphere".
    2. I-Drive Day - as pp said we are going to go to the I-Drive 360 (Orlando Eye, Wax Museum & Aquarium) then maybe check out TopGolf.
    3. Science Center Day - My daughter really wants to check out the Orlando Science Center after seeing Tim & Jenn Tracker do a video on it, also my dad really wants to go to the Cheesecake Factory so we will do that on this day since it is nearby. :laughing:
    4. Shopping Day - we will likely head to one of the outlets, most likely the Lake Buena Vista Factory Stores, at least one day.
    5. Water park - We may cave in and visit a water park one day, depending on the resort facilities at Windsor at Westside (they look good, but you can never tell until you get there) - this will most likely be Aquatica due to the cost.

    Other than that, we will putter around, sleep late, enjoy the resort and each other's company

    Other things we have considered doing or have done in the past include:
    1. A Dinner Show - Medieval Times (my family really enjoyed it - can get good prices on tickets online); Spirit of Aloha Show at the Polynesian (the only Disney show that appeals to me at all); there are also several others around Orlando.
    2. Other "Disney" touches - On one trip, we ate at the Contemporary and then went out on the terrace to watch Wishes (not sure how this works now with the new show); could also do this subbing in the Polynesian or Grand Floridian.
    3. We really enjoyed the Kennedy Space Center - we spent the whole day there and still never did "everything"
    4. Our favorite "non-park" thing to do is Discovery Cove - this is a bit of a cheat since it is technically a theme park, but it is so unlike any other theme park, I am going to say it counts!! :rotfl:But it is quite expensive, especially if you want the dolphin swim and do not use the "included" SeaWorld and Aquatica access.

    My friends do a few beach days every trip - they drive over to St. Pete's and stay at the Alden for 1-2 nights. They love it! They also spent a fair bit of time at Fun Spot (the one closest to Universal) on their last trip. They have an autistic son and have a lot of difficulty with Magic Kingdom - particularly getting out of there (when he wants to leave, they need to LEAVE!). With Fun Spot, they found there was less pressure to spend the whole day there - it was easy to go in, do a few rides and leave when he was ready...then they could go back another day for a bit more.

    We really enjoy the relaxing part of a vacation - we are definitely not "commando" types! LOL!! And while I have a special love for Disney, I do not miss the craziness of the parks when I am not there! I am sure we will go back some day but for now, this works for us!
     
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  6. Pinkos

    Pinkos Mouseketeer

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    Lots of great tips/suggestions!! Thanks so much!! I am 100% commando style so this will be out of the norm for me. But my husband has tolerated that the last few trips so I’m trying his way this time.

    We’ve done sea world/bush last trip as an add on to Disney. So we will
    Skip those this time around. I’m excited to try some new things though ... I have to go through them all and see what appeals to us. I’ll def cheat with a Disney springs day ... I’ve never walked the boardwalk - worth it?
     
  7. mjhtvchick

    mjhtvchick DIS Veteran

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    Our first couple of trips were Disney-centric and VERY busy and we were burnt out when we got home - my husband BEGGED me to try it a different way - and we haven't gone back! I still get my park fix at Universal but at a much more relaxed and low stress pace than Disney - no dining or ride reservations needed! :)

    The Boardwalk will be a first for me on this trip - I am pretty sure that it won't fill a day - that's why we figured we would golf at Fantasia Gardens and then stroll over to the Boardwalk for a walk and maybe snack or drink. I would really like to stay at a Boardwalk resort some day (SOOO close to Epcot!!) so this will give me a chance to check out the area.
     
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  8. Pinkos

    Pinkos Mouseketeer

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    Agreed!! I’m dying to stay at boardwalk and do food and wine festival. Adult trip in the future ... one of these days!!

    I’m
    Looking fed to the slower pace of universal but I’m not used to it at All. I’m trying to research but bc planning is not needed, it’s a lot harder to find the info im after. Lol. I’m not used to this method at all ... but I think I will like it
     
  9. DaisyDuck001

    DaisyDuck001 DIS Veteran

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    The Boardwalk area is nice for a relaxed, scenic walk. If all you do is walk around it, half an hour is plenty, but you might want to stop for ice cream or a meal somewhere.
     
  10. mdmbfly

    mdmbfly Mouseketeer

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    Leaving for FL tomorrow. :love: We are doing Universal, 2 days at St. Pete Beach and thinking about Orange Grove tour, airboat tour, Blue Springs State Park to watch the Manatees and anything else I can work out.
     
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  11. AllthingsDisMom

    AllthingsDisMom These moments you can never get back...

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  12. powellrj

    powellrj DIS Veteran

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    We enjoy Disney Springs, BUT, we don’t have high end shopping where we live so it’s something different for us. Kennedy Space is nice, but pricey. We like Cocoa Beach. We enjoyed going to see the manatees at Blue Springs. Dh and DS went to gator land and it’s a nice 1/2 day park. Capone’s is very cheesy fun for not much since a meal is included. I know people enjoy the outa control magic show, but we have never been. My kids enjoyed wonder works.
     
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  13. AllthingsDisMom

    AllthingsDisMom These moments you can never get back...

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    Love Wonder Works!
     
  14. Bete

    Bete DIS Veteran

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    There are botanical gardens like BokTok.

    Holy Land
     
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  15. Ametista

    Ametista DIS Veteran

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    Bok Tower gardens was nice, but I don't know how much kids would like it. You do drive by a big candy store (homemade) so that might make it worth it, it did for my son. It is very peaceful.

    For the first few times we went to Orlando we just got the 14-day SeaWorld/Busch Gardens/Aquatica pass. But honestly, after doing Discovery Cove I would always choose that instead, because you automatically get 14 days at SW and Aquatica with it. Busch G on top is $25. It's really not expensive at all compared to Disney passes, you get to eat and drink all day (even alcohol) and it's the most relaxing day on Earth. I always get so sad when my Discovery Cove day is over. We don't even do the dolphin swim, just swim around in the warm water areas and eat and lay in the sun. You said you will skip the SW parks but I didn't know if you had done DC, because then the other parks are free. And Mako is so fun. We rode it 18 or 19 times in one day last trip.

    Also, if you haven't been to Canaveral National Seashore it's really cool but there are no lifeguards there. We saw some lemon sharks there a couple years ago. And manatees, dolphins, etc.
     
  16. katyjeka

    katyjeka DIS Veteran

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    Love Honeymoon Island which is a easy drive from Busch Gardens. It may seem a little "cheesy" but Gatorland was a lot of fun.
     
  17. Penguinempress

    Penguinempress Mouseketeer

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    You might want to look into Wild Florida. They've got air boat rides and an animal park, it was a really fun way to spend a day.
     
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  18. Miumiu4me

    Miumiu4me DIS Veteran

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    The Leu Gardens are actually in Orlando and they’re very nice.
     
  19. jenrose66

    jenrose66 DIS Veteran

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    Great Thread! My family made the switch to Universal a few years ago and love the onsite hotels and express pass. This year we wanna try some new things. My 9 year old wants to do Legoland and my 11 year old wants to see Winter the dolphin. I think we are gonna do a couple days st the beach. It’s fun learning about everything you can do!
     
  20. sk8jdgca

    sk8jdgca DIS Veteran

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    We've done several mini golfs, chocolate museum, character flight ( balloon ride is Disney Springs), showcase of citrus. For all those we found deals on groupon or living social. Basically what ever was there and looked good.

    We did Siesta Key and loved it. Our next trip we are going to kayak in crystal river to see the manatees.

    Check out a Gina-bo-bina's trip reports here. She love to do different things in Orlando
     
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