What else besides theme parks?


DIS Veteran
Sep 7, 2000
We are planning to go to Orlando the begining of March. DH is tired of the theme parks and I want DS to learn something while we are there. (we homeschool, so he won't miss any school if we learn) What else is there to do within an hour or so drive from orlando? I've seen posts about the science museum, but I know there has to be more. I was thinking of "Aligatorland" for the information they give during the demonstrations. (I might have the name wrong, but you get the point, right? LOL) I might be able to sneak a day at Epcot to learn about the countries, but I'm not holding my breath. Any other ideas?

This is a vacation we are taking on the "cheap". We were supposed to go to AZ, but medical bills came up and it is way past our budget for this spring. Maybe this fall or next fall. (I think DS would learn more there, but I can't squeeze $2000 out of $1300 no matter how much I try. The rental car alone would be $300.....but I guess I'm rambling. ;)) Can anyone help make this non-disney vacation a learning experience?
You can get more info on other orlando attractions at www.go2orlando.com

Also, a great book you can purchase or get from the library is called "The Other Side of Orlando" by K. Monoghan. It is a very userful book for exploring Orlando.

I would also suggest the Kennedy space center for an educational experience. www.ksc.com
However, ksc is now charging $25 per adult. Cost for kids should be on their website as well as other info.
Holy-Moly! $25 for KSC? That's an awful lot considering it's been free for years. Thanks for the heads up. Luckily we went there 2 years ago. I've see the book you mentioned at the library. Guess I should check it out the next library day we have. Thanks for the suggestions!
If you want a great deal, get a Florida Aquarium membership. It costs around $50-$60 for a 1 year membership. Their SHARE program gives a lot of free admission to many Florida attractions. I think in May, you can get into Cypress Gardens for $5 a person. The normal cost for the attraction is $30+. You can also get free admission to the Central Florida Zoological Park. The Florida Aquarium is in Tampa. Go to www.flaquarium.net for the 411. :)
We've always wanted to try Silver Springs but can never seem to get there. They call it "Nature's Theme Park". It was supposedly where the glass-bottom boat originated. I know its about 90 miles from Orlando (south of Ocala). I don't know the regular price but lots of those travel coupon books you can pick in Denny's or IHOP, etc. usually have discounted admission for around $12-15 I believe. It looks pretty cool.

Here's their web address:

I know you said CHEAP but Sea World is so cool & you can usually find discount admissions. Also my DH & I went to Busch Gardens in 2000 & absolutely LOVED it! Theme park & huge zoo rolled all into one. SW & BG are both owned by Anheuser-Busch so you can get 2 day/2 park admission. That's what we did but I don't remember the cost off hand. BG is only about an hour from Orlando. Just a thought...:)
I've been to Silver Springs and it is pretty nice. There's a glass-bottom boat trip, a jeep safari, and another boat trip further down the river. They also have several animal exhibits. I went in November before Thanksgiving and the place was very quiet. If you become a Florida Aquarium member, you can get up to 6 people 50% off admission. I saw a coupon a while back for $15.95 admission on Silver Spring's website.

Also, for a moving educational experience, try the Holocaust Museum in Maitland. Best of all, admission is free! I'm sure they accept donations.
Great ideas. Thanks! I've seen all sorts of ads for Silver Springs, but didn't know about the annual pass for the aquarium. Sounds like a good deal. I'm not sure about the holocost museum. I had a terrible time last night explaining slavery. We've read on the subject and are just getting to the civil war in school. DS wanted to watch Blazin' Saddles and I hadn't figured out the speach to go along with it. All thru the movie I kept saying "See, that man is ignorant....." and so on trying to explain why the movie is funny. (laughing at the white people that were/are sooooo wrong for how they acted. And then finally coming to terms with it) I think maybe if we were farther alone in our studies it would be a VERY learning experience. Maybe the next time we go to Fl that is something we could do. (is it a permanent exhibit?)
The Holocaust Museum is pretty much a permanent thing. As for Sea World, although tickets are around $50, you can do their 2nd day fun deal. You can get a 2nd day free with a valid one day ticket. You have to use your ticket within 7 days of your first visit. I know what some of you are thinking and you cannot give the ticket to a friend or relative. A rather pixelized photo of you is put on the ticket. It's not a Kodak moment, but it's enough to tell you apart from Uncle Joe. :)
If you go to Gatorland (not Alligatorland), send your son on the guided tour. It costs $6 extra but the young weoman who leads it is an expert in animal behavior, especially gators, and really dedicated. I'm sure your son would learn a lot. He'll also get to handle a baby gator!
In Orlando: The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of Art (technically, this is in Winter Park, on the northern "local" side of Orlando.) The Morse houses the largest collection of Tiffany stained glass in the US. Here is their website:
(Also an art thing; the Salvador Dali Museum is in downtown St. Petersburg.)

In Clearwater (n. of St. Petersburg, about 80 minutes from WDW), one place we try never to miss is the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. My son LOVES this place, which is a marine life rescue and treatment center. Not at all fancy, but this is the real thing. They did have one dolphin that performed, Sunset Sam, who spent 17 years at CMA because he was partly blind; unfortunately he died last month. You never know what animals you will find in residence; they were working with a rare leatherback turtle on our last visit. Tours are inexpensive, and the volunteers are endlessly patient with kids' questions. Where they really shine is their daycamps and excursions; they will take you out on expeditions to do things like re-seed mangroves, for instance. Here is their website: http://www.cmaquarium.org/

Another wonderful place is Homosassa Springs State Wildlife Park, which is THE manatee habitat on the Gulf Coast; it is about 75 miles north of Clearwater.
Website: http://www.hsswp.com/main.html
It isn't cheap but my kids enjoy WonderWorks on International Drive. It's the huge building that's turned upside down.

Inside are lots of exhibits that encourage the kids to experiment and use deductive logic to figure out puzzles.

The day we were there, as we were leaving a couple of busses of school kids showed up so it must be a popular field trip location as well.

As a warning, if it's busy, prepare to be frustrated. My kids were very good waiting their turn to try each exhibit but as we all know, there are many kids that aren't. Since there are no defined lines to wait for turns, often the smaller kids lose their chance as others simply step in front of them.


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