Would you stay in Orlando for a NO theme park vacation?

Hemlock

DIS Veteran
Joined
Feb 27, 2009
My extended family will be travelling to Florida for 2 weeks. We are Disney lovers, but the rest of our family are not. They have humoured us and “done the Disney thing” several times, so I’m totally fine with NO THEME PARKS. This year we would like to explore Florida and visit a few beaches (likely Daytona and Cocoa), we will also be making a day trip to visit some friends who live in Largo. One of the purposes of this trip is to potentially find a place that my dad might want to visit for the winter once he retires (however he is also considering Arizona). Anyway, would it be crazy to use Orlando as our home base? I was thinking since I know the area, it is somewhat central and has TONS of home rentals that it would make sense to stay in Orlando. I’m not at all familiar with any areas outside of Orlando, so I’m open to consider other areas for a rental. I would also LOVE any recommendations for non-theme park things to see/do. My dad loves old cars, flea markets.. but we have 8 other people on the trip too (adults, 2 teens and a 6 year old).
 

HopperFan

"It's a bug-eat-bug world out there, princess."
Joined
Sep 6, 2003
So you are looking to book ONE place for the duration of your trip and do day trips .... you won't be hotel hopping?

With you looking at both coasts and for snowbird sites over two weeks, why don't you book a week on one coast, then a week on the other coast. This cuts out LOTS of travel and time on your day explorations, and allows you to see more.


If Dad is also looking at Arizona is he wanting heat/hot weather (or is it not hot there in winter :scratchin ) ... then I think you'll need to look more to South Florida for that so consider it when booking a rental. Orlando traffic is awful so you want to be located where your day trips won't be impacted by sitting in it.


Look at Old Town and see when they do their car "shows", I think it's weekly. Any age could find some entertainment at Old Town and you have Fun Spot there. On Tuesday we saw an old car show in downtown Orlando so I'm sure there are plenty. Flea Markets might take you farther out, maybe locals can chime in where there might be one.


One trip we opted out of Disney we did two days at Busch Gardens and had a great time.
 
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  • disneysteve

    DIS meet junkie
    Joined
    Sep 29, 2002
    Would I do a non-theme park vacation in Orlando? Sure. There is tons to do around there.

    Do I think you should use Orlando as your base? Probably not based on what you've said. Unless the Orlando area is where your dad is thinking about wintering, Orlando is too far from the places you mentioned like Daytona and Cocoa Beach. It's easily an hour or more each way. You'll spend a ton of time driving back and forth. Of course, Largo is on the opposite coast by Clearwater so if you do stay on the east coast, you'll have a longer drive to Largo.

    I think you need to get a better idea of the areas he is interested in, if they are on the Atlantic or Gulf coast, and decide from there. Staying in the middle might make sense if you want to check out both coasts but you will do a lot of driving.
     

    bankr63

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Aug 3, 2010
    If your trip is exploratory, then Orlando can be a good base and is a pretty good idea. Puts you in striking distance of some popular coastal destinations on both the left and right coasts. Your suggested beaches are both on the Atlantic side, but Largo is Gulf side, and there are some very popular snow bird destinations on that side as well (Sarasota, Siesta Key, Clearwater). There are plenty of fun things to do without hitting any amusement parks - everglades airboat tours, orchards, botanical gardens, museums, water parks, and more golf or mini-golf than you can do in a lifetime. Plenty to keep a crowd busy without ever stepping into a park.

    ETA: I do agree with @HopperFan that some of the very best wintering destinations are further south than you could easily visit from Orlando. To @disneysteve's point, it is an hour to either coast - if you are from a large metro area, that's just a morning commute, but if you aren't used to that much driving, it will get pretty old after a couple of weeks of day trips.
     

    Hemlock

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Feb 27, 2009
    So you are looking to book ONE place for the duration of your trip and do day trips .... you won't be hotel hopping?

    With you looking at both coasts and for snowbird sites over two weeks, why don't you book a week on one coast, then a week on the other coast. This cuts out LOTS of travel and time on your day explorations, and allows you to see more.


    If Dad is also looking at Arizona is he wanting heat/hot weather (or is it not hot there in winter :scratchin ) ... then I think you'll need to look more to South Florida for that so consider it when booking a rental. Orlando traffic is awful so you want to be located where your day trips won't be impacted by sitting in it.


    Look at Old Town and see when they do their car "shows", I think it's weekly. Any age could find some entertainment at Old Town and you have Fun Spot there. On Tuesday we saw an old car show in downtown Orlando so I'm sure there are plenty. Flea Markets might take you farther out, maybe locals can chime in where there might be one.


    One trip we opted out of Disney we did two days at Busch Gardens and had a great time.

    Hmm, I hadn’t really considered renting in 2 different locations. Might be something to consider. I did some very cursory searching in Daytona, St. Pete’s..., but the options were MUCH more limited than Orlando. We are definitely looking to rent a 4-5 bedroom house rather than a hotel or timeshare. I would also like to find a rental community with nicer amenities because we might be leaving the teens behind for some of our day trips. If we do decide on Orlando area, do you have suggestions for areas with less traffic?

    Honestly I think my dad is leaning toward wintering in Arizona over Florida (only because he has a few acquaintances who own there), however Arizona didn’t have a lot to offer in terms of entertainment for the entire family for this trip. So he decided to check Florida out this year and maybe Arizona next year before making a commitment to a location.

    Thanks for the tip about Old Town and my hubby has Busch Gardens on his radar (although that does fall squarely into the theme park category )
     
  • DVC California

    Good Old DVC
    Joined
    Dec 22, 1999
    I could do the water parks all week in July.
    We did exactly this on a July trip 10-15 years ago. We stayed offsite (maybe Sheraton Vistana?) and purchased a Water Park/Disney Quest annual pass. We went to the water parks every day and Disney Quest almost every night. Ate at all our favorite restaurants onsite and off. Our girls had the best time without getting overheated and we weren't stressed out in the theme parks worrying about FastPass reservations and wait times.
     

    Hemlock

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Feb 27, 2009
    Would I do a non-theme park vacation in Orlando? Sure. There is tons to do around there.

    Do I think you should use Orlando as your base? Probably not based on what you've said. Unless the Orlando area is where your dad is thinking about wintering, Orlando is too far from the places you mentioned like Daytona and Cocoa Beach. It's easily an hour or more each way. You'll spend a ton of time driving back and forth. Of course, Largo is on the opposite coast by Clearwater so if you do stay on the east coast, you'll have a longer drive to Largo.

    I think you need to get a better idea of the areas he is interested in, if they are on the Atlantic or Gulf coast, and decide from there. Staying in the middle might make sense if you want to check out both coasts but you will do a lot of driving.

    My dad is definitely not thinking of wintering in the Orlando area. He has no interest in theme parks and would hate the traffic. Orlando was my suggestions only due to the vast amount of rental homes (plus the rental prices are very reasonable compared to other areas). We are definitely going to the Largo area, with Daytona being a “maybe”. So much to think about...
     

    Hemlock

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Feb 27, 2009
    If your trip is exploratory, then Orlando can be a good base and is a pretty good idea. Puts you in striking distance of some popular coastal destinations on both the left and right coasts. Your suggested beaches are both on the Atlantic side, but Largo is Gulf side, and there are some very popular snow bird destinations on that side as well (Sarasota, Siesta Key, Clearwater). There are plenty of fun things to do without hitting any amusement parks - everglades airboat tours, orchards, botanical gardens, museums, water parks, and more golf or mini-golf than you can do in a lifetime. Plenty to keep a crowd busy without ever stepping into a park.

    ETA: I do agree with @HopperFan that some of the very best wintering destinations are further south than you could easily visit from Orlando. To @disneysteve's point, it is an hour to either coast - if you are from a large metro area, that's just a morning commute, but if you aren't used to that much driving, it will get pretty old after a couple of weeks of day trips.
    I would definitely consider this trip ‘exploratory’. My sister and I are trying to help him find a SAFE location to spend a few months to escape the Canadian Winter, but at the same time we would like to make a nice holiday out of this trip. We need to satisfy my dad’s need to explore, but maintain some fun activities for the kid/teens. Traffic is definitely not something that we are accustomed to dealing at home, so I was thinking maybe Davenport? (no clue about traffic patterns in the area). I’m definitely putting Everglades tour on the list!
     

    hiroMYhero

    I'm satisfied with my care...
    Moderator
    Joined
    Dec 20, 2014
    so I was thinking maybe Davenport?
    The traffic on I4 between Davenport and Orlando can be horrendous at times. But, it isn’t bad when using I4 to the Tampa-Busch Gardens area.

    High Grove on the 27 near 192 is a nice place to be based. The houses have 4 or more bedrooms, game rooms, and pools. And you can use the 27 to get to I4 to head south.
     
  • BrinkofSunshine

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Apr 3, 2010
    There’s plenty to do here that isn’t theme park related. You could check out some of the small towns in central FL, there may be a festival or farmer’s market going on during a weekend. Look at Winter Park, Winter Garden, and Mt. Dora. Mt. Dora also has a huge antique/flea market called Renninger’s. There’s a huge weekly flea market on Mondays in a town called Webster.

    Other things to do: Explore one of the natural springs (Rock Springs, Wekiva Springs, Blue Springs, DeLeon Springs), Kennedy Space Center, Orlando Science Center, Orlando Museum of Art, Morse Museum of Art, see a performance at the Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center, Sunday farmer’s market at Lake Eola in downtown Orlando, Winter Park Scenic Boat Tour.
     

    Klayfish

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    May 19, 2016
    Without the water parks, no I would not.

    We're doing a two week non-theme park vacation at Disney, however it's in the summer. We're getting APs to the water parks. We'll then spend other days going to Daytona, Tampa, Disney Springs, etc....
     

    palm01

    Earning My Ears
    Joined
    Oct 21, 2013
    If you end up staying in Orlando, you should look at Wyndham Bonnet Creek Resort. They have 4 bedroom units at a very reasonable price. It is right next door to Epcot, and you can view the nightly fireworks from both Epcot and Magic Kingdom from your balcony (we stayed in building 6). We stayed there in June of 2017, and there is plenty to do for kids. It is also easily accessible to nearby roads/interstates without a lot of traffic.
     

    DaisyDuck001

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    May 5, 2006
    It's not likely that I'd go to the theme park capital of the world without doing at least a couple of theme park days. That would just be frustrating for a theme park enthusiast.

    But there are other things to do for recreation, such as the Space Center, beaches, airboat rides, mini-golf, etc.

    our trip is at the beginning of March.
    Honestly I think my dad is leaning toward wintering in Arizona over Florida (only because he has a few acquaintances who own there), however Arizona didn’t have a lot to offer in terms of entertainment for the entire family for this trip.
    It looks like your destination is set for this time, but if any of you are baseball fans, March is in a sense the best time to visit Arizona, as you could go to some spring training games.
     

    kathy884

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Sep 26, 2009
    OP -- You are right that there are so many home rental and timeshare rentals that are such a great deal in Orlando compared to elsewhere in Florida. Accommodations in Orlando offsite (not Disney or Universal) are a really good value, better than recreational areas elsewhere in Florida for quality of accommodations for price (at least for other places in Florida where I have stayed). I don't think the day trip to Coco or Daytona is bad.

    Personally because I like theme parks I don't think I would come to Orlando and not do any theme parks at all. I have on two different trips FYI just done one theme park day, a day at SeaWorld. In the summer too, it's actually easy for me to pass up theme parks and stick to water based activities. I also when not doing Disney, have gone to the Polynesian to eat or shop, parked my car there, walked around the grounds and taken the monorail to check out the Contemporary and Grand Floridian.

    There are quite a few smaller attractions and recreational activities that are kind of fun to do. These cost wise can add up though, sometimes making a theme park day seem like a decent value (e.g. a day at SeaWorld advanced purchase is $80), and they sometimes have a second day offered free or for a really low price. If you go to the Titanic attraction, rent a little speed boat at let's say the Contemporary, and then play mini golf all in the same day, you have spent as much as a one day ticket to SeaWorld. I like all these other activities, though, too for a change of pace. I also have relatives in both Tampa and Orlando, so family visiting is an activity for me also. When we have stayed at a nice timeshare resort, our kids have enjoyed resort days and that includes pool time, hot tub time, tennis, time at the playground, and some timeshare resorts like the Vistana Resort and Orange Lake even have organized activities. For a home rental, you would have pool and hot tub time and maybe even tennis and a community pool to check out too.

    Enjoy.
     

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