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Best Things to do in Orlando in January

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Orlando Florida in January has warm sunny days paired with pleasant, chilly evenings which makes the city the perfect place to kick start the year with a family vacation! Whether you have a toddler or a teenager, our list of things to do in Orlando in January will have something in store for you. It includes everything from epic theme parks and water worlds to hidden treasure quests and festivals to celebrate! 

January’s off-season charm hits the sweet spot of ultimate deals if you like lesser crowds, cheap flight tickets, and lower accommodation rates in Orlando. However, you should still expect to see a steady stream of visitors like yourself during the Epcot Annual Festival of the Arts and on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Unity day. Read on to find out more about the events in Orlando in January!

EPCOT
EPCOT

Epcot Annual Festival of the Arts 

Epcot International Festival of the Arts is an annual celebration of Culinary, Visual and Performing arts at the Walt Disney World Resort that will definitely quench your thirst for artistic inspiration! Beginning in mid-January and continuing on for 6 straight weeks, this fun, exciting event is the perfect chance for kids to witness different kinds of artists practicing their crafts. The event features artists from different disciplines spread throughout the park, along with different interactive activities to participate in. When with the kids, you can expect a different experience that is just as exciting every time you visit! Here are some highlights at the festival to keep an eye out for:

Food Studios

The Food Studios are located all over the park and each one specializes in a specific international cuisine. Presenting the dishes as fine art is the main driving principle of these festival-exclusive food studios, and they take this rather seriously. So be ready to taste these masterpieces with your eyes and camera before you even get to picking up your fork! The beverage selection is equally exciting, especially for grown-ups. It is carefully crafted to suit the out-of-the-box dishes from all over the world! Food Studios’ opening and closing times match that of the park unless mentioned otherwise.  There are of course plenty of options at the family friendly restaurants too!

Art Attack

Another thrilling experience you won’t want to miss is watching Disney’s favorite talented artists create incredible art right before your eyes! The festival is populated with booths selling beautiful paintings and live art performances where you can interact with the artists and also try your hand at co-creating some of the masterpieces. Watch the humble piece of chalk transform the pavements into carpets of imagination and hop onto the magic bicycle for a Spin Art Experience and create your own little spin painting with the kids! 

Every member of your family will enjoy grabbing their own paintbrush to help create the popular Paint by Number Mural with the Expression Section, open every day between 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Another crowd favorite is the “Visual Art in Performance” show. It features Trevor Carlton, an incredible artist who brings Disney characters to life in all but a few minutes, as high-energy music pumps up his audience. Find out the timings and availability of these performances and more at the information center on the day of your visit.

Disney on Broadway

If you have theater-loving members in your troop, head to the America Gardens Theater to experience the Disney Broadway Concert Series which runs all days of the week! Prepare to witness energetic and powerful vocal performance renditions of Disney classics by brilliant Broadway stars at no additional cost. Just make sure to arrive at least 30 minutes in advance so you can grab those prime seats!

Kids Night at the Museum at the Orlando Science Center

This award-winning Editor’s Choice event showcases the Orlando Science Center’s exhibits for kids after dark, and is particularly known for no two nights ever being alike! Offering experience-enhancing programs and age-appropriate pizza-dinner tables for kids aged between 5 and 12, the event boasts loads of interactive activities that promote both fun and learning. The Interactive Live Science Show is one such experience you don’t want to miss! 

Parents can drop their kids off at the Science Center and enjoy an evening to themselves while the kids get busy exploring the science world of their dreams. Check-in time is between 5:30 and 6:30 p.m., and check-out times are staggered according to last names between 9:30 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. Be sure to register and save your kid a spot as this event is notorious for selling out super quickly! It is definitely one of the best things to do in Orlando with kids in January. 

RunDisney Marathon Weekend 

Catch the ultimate family-friendly sporting event by grabbing a front-row seat at Walt Disney World Resort to cheer the runners on, or by participating in it yourself! The weekend highlights four different race events, including the Walt Disney World 5k and 10k runs as well as the Walt Disney World Full and Half Marathons.

Don’t miss Goofy’s Race and Half Challenge plus the Dopey Challenge, where you and the kids will be able to let your goofy and dopey sides shine through! Participants are only eligible to apply either for all 4 races or just the Marathons on the weekend. The challenges award winners with finisher medals and spectators with a goofy-golly good time! 

Elmo’s Birthday Weekend at SeaWorld 

Head to SeaWorld Orlando at the end of January to celebrate the beloved Elmo’s birthday for an entire weekend! This event has everything from meet-and-greets and fun photo ops to a family-friendly DJ dishing out groovy tunes. Stop by Sesame Street Land at SeaWorld while there to catch even more surprises at some handpicked locations! 

Keep an eye out for Elmo’s float and listen to Elmo’s special Birthday Storytime. Kids will have a lot of fun participating in the Scavenger Hunt and hiding Dorothy in the nooks and crannies of Sesame Street. Last but definitely not least, watch the famous Sesame Street Party Parade! Trust me, when it comes to visiting Orlando in January with kids, nothing beats celebrating with Elmo and all his furry friends.

Florida Storytelling Festival

Are you and your family a fan of storytelling (really, who isn’t)? Then head to the Lakeside Inn at Mt. Dora to support and celebrate it through creating a shared connection with the community! This incredible live and in-person experience is known for its one-of-a-kind lineup of workshops, concerts, and platforms designed to help kids bring their imaginations to life. The event usually takes place in the last week of January for 3 days and offers a great way for the family to feel like a part of a warm, supportive community.

Manatee-orlando
Manatees

Florida Manatee Festival

The Florida Manatee Festival is held in Crystal River, Florida, which is only about 100 miles from Orlando’s city center. It’s one of the only places in the world where you can experience swimming alongside our floating friends, the manatees! Between manatee boat tours and four live music venues, you will see that the Florida Manatee Festival has something for every member of the family. It also boasts of sand art, face painting, inflatables for rent, and much more for kids to experience. Their newest addition is an interactive, guided kayak tour of Kings Bay, which is sure to put the festival on your can’t-miss list!

Martin Luther King Jr. Unity day Celebration 

The City of Kissimmee celebrates diversity, unity, and community on Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday on January 15th! Live performances by Gospel, R&B, and Soul artists are part of this energetic festival, which also features food trucks and craft vendors, as well as the KUA Kids Zone. The event takes place from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at Kissimmee Lakefront Park and also features an annual parade that runs along Broadway and Dakin Ave. in downtown Kissimmee. It is the perfect way to get kids interested in the nation’s history and culture, without putting a damper on their fun times! 

Central Florida Scottish Highland Games 

Highland games have a history and culture that spans back over centuries, and the Central Florida Scottish Highland Games are proud to present this heritage to you and your family to experience firsthand! Awaken your inner Gaelic spirit by getting involved in traditional highland athletics along with arts, music, culture, and food in Orlando this January. 

This Floridian, non-competitive version of the Scottish popular games is an event that is sure to leave a lasting impression on the kids. The best part about the Orlando activities at this event is how inclusive they are for the enjoyment of the entire family. They have an exclusive section dedicated to kids’ games that is not only fun but also a great learning opportunity. Be sure to give Arts & Crafts, Caber Toss, Haggis Hurl, Sheaf Toss, and Tug o’ War events and games a go for the ultimate strength-test and fun times with the family!

Plant at Leu Gardens
Enjoy exotic displays at Leu Gardens and Dragons and Fairies quests!

Leu Gardens

Located just minutes from Downtown Orlando lies an amazing semi-tropical botanical garden oasis that is waiting to be explored; Leu Gardens! The location features different types of gardens and a museum that showcases exotic plants from terrains all over the world. In January, the Garden hosts two adventurous events for kids and adults who love fantasy and mythical creatures.

Dragons: Hidden Treasure Quest 

In this exciting daytime, mythical journey through the 50-acre botanical gardens, participants become “seekers” of the dragons’ hidden treasures that are located all over the park. You don’t need to worry because you won’t be required to walk through the entire 50 acres. Seekers receive a special map that provides them with the information they need to find the clues. The clues, once deciphered, help the seeker hunt for the hidden artifacts. Of course, while on the quest, parents and kids will need to keep their eyes peeled for the legendary protectors of treasures, the fierce dragons of the gardens! 

This event is included with the daytime admission ticket to the Leu Gardens, so put on your seeker hats and get ready for some adventure.

Dragons and Fairies

Unlike the Hidden Quest event, Dragons and Fairies is a night-time event, which in our opinion makes it even more exciting and thrilling! Leu Gardens, transformed into a fantastical, adventure-filled world by Creative City Project, makes for the perfect setting for encountering magical beings and beasts. Among forest creatures and massive dragons, you and your family will follow a mystical fairy on a quarter-mile theatrical journey. There are lots of surprises, huge lighting installations, and nine animated dragons along the way, as you experience a story about an adolescent fairy and her dragon friend.

Florida Tree Trek 

For the nature-loving earthlings in your family, head to the Spring Hammock Preserve to celebrate Florida’s Arbor Day. With the help of a Natural Lands guide, you will take a memorable hike through beautiful hardwood trees like oaks, pines, and cypress. Along the way, you will learn to identify them and broaden your knowledge about their impact on our ecosystem. 

The hike’s difficulty level is even rated easy, adding to its appeal among families with little ones. Note that kids need to be at least 7 years old and accompanied by an adult to be able to register for this experience. Due to spots being limited, you’ll want to get pre-registration done well in advance!

Free things to do in Orlando in January

The expensive holiday season doesn’t need to throw a wet blanket on your January plans in Orlando! At least not with these pocket-friendly things to do with the family. Head to the parks and plazas to immerse yourself in some post-holiday budget outings like watching some movies outdoors and attending some street food festivals.  

The Wineart Marketplace at Downtown Lake Mary puts together Live Entertainment, Arts and Craft vendors, as well as some lip-smacking street food served by food trucks and Beer and Wine Gardens to relax at! Friday evenings see “Fridays on the Plaza” at the Downtown Winter Garden where visitors get to enjoy patriotic, country, and jazz music. Another Friday evening entertainment option is dropping by the Waterford Lakes Town Center for your kid’s favorite pet-themed movies that play next to the Children’s Play area behind the porch. Avalon Park also arranges for a family-friendly movie under the stars on the 4th Friday of January where guests are welcome to treat themselves to free popcorn and snacks by a local vendor! 

If you would much rather prefer the comfort of your own car and enjoy a pleasant drive on the weekends instead, turn your wheels towards the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive for an 11-mile drive-thru trip! This sanctuary is open to the public and has several stops along the way to pull over and pause at picnic spots. Known as one of the top three birding areas in the state, this drive offers an incredible opportunity to spot sunbathing alligators, otters, and bobcats too. Make sure you carry your birding and butterfly checklists from the LAWD Website. The drive lasts for about 2 hours and the sanctuary closes at 5 p.m. so make sure you start early when the sun is still shining on!

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