As we all know, Orlando is the theme park capital of the world; Disney World, Universal Studios, Sea World… However, did you know that Orlando is also home to so much more than that? It is a growing metropolis so there is a plethora of fun things to do in Orlando with kids of all ages, both indoors and out.
Plus, Orlando doesn’t just include Orlando— there is Kissimmee, Apopka, Winter Park, Maitland, Lake Mary, Sanford and many more small towns in the area.
Since Orlando is known for its family friendly atmosphere, let’s go over some of these inexpensive activities that the whole family can enjoy without setting foot in those famous theme parks!
Fun Things to do in Orlando with Kids: ICON PARK
ICON Park is right in the heart of Orlando’s theme parks. ICON Park includes fun dining experiences, live music, a small outdoor park space with cart vendors as well as an area where kids can play, and a few exciting indoor attractions.
The main attraction at ICON Park and certainly the one that you will notice first is a 400 foot tall Ferris wheel, aptly named The Wheel at ICON Park. In a 20 minute, air-conditioned, enclosed gondola ride, you’ll get stunning views of the north, south, east, west, and everything in between.
As beautiful as Orlando is during the day to see from that height, my favorite time to ride The Wheel is after the sun sets because you’ll usually be able to see Disney’s Magic Kingdom fireworks show.
You can buy tickets at the counter, but if you look online, there are various sites that carry discounted tickets for a ride on The Wheel.
Located to the right, directly next to the entrance to The Wheel is Sea Life Orlando Aquarium. This aquarium features a 360 degree ocean tunnel where you can get face to face with sharks, stingrays, sea turtles as well as many other sea life creatures.
By following the path through the aquarium, you’ll learn about ocean life on the east and west coasts of Florida while feeling like you are on your own ocean journey as one of the varying forms of sea life.
Finally, in the same building as both Sea Life Orlando Aquarium and the entrance to The Wheel, you’ll find Madame Tussauds Orlando.
Famous for having wax replicas of past leaders, including President Obama, President Trump, and the late Queen Elizabeth II of England, you’ll also be able to pose with singers like John Legend, actors like Ryan Reynolds, scientists like Albert Einstein, your favorite DC and Marvel heroes, and sports figures like Shaq.
Just Down the street from ICON Park on Orlando’s infamous International Drive (known to the locals as I-Drive) is Ripley’s Believe It or Not, as well as the Museum of Illusions, and Wonderworks. All three of these incredible locations have interactive exhibits which celebrate oddities from around the world and illusions that will surely play tricks on your eyes.
There are play passes available that offer discounts when two attraction tickets are purchased at the same time (The Wheel and the Museum of Illusions, for example).
Fun Things to do in Orlando with Kids: I-DRIVE, TITANIC EXHIBIT, DEZERLAND
If you drive about 10 minutes north on I-Drive past a few mini-golf places, a Titanic exhibit, and Universal Studios, you’ll find Dezerland.
Dezerland is an 800,000 square foot warehouse which houses everything from a trampoline park to a movie theater. Each activity is a separate cost, however, none of them are very expensive.
Dezerland attractions include:
- Axecelsior Axe Throwing for older kids and adults
- Karting Orlando with go karts for kids as young as 6
- Jump Start Trampoline Park for all ages
- The Pinball Palace (an hour costs $10 for all the pinball games you can play)
- An arcade area with prizes for tickets earned
- The owner’s personal, very extravagant car exhibit
- A candy store with sugary treats that even the Weasley twins would be excited about
- More exhibits and stores opening this coming year.
Chocolate Museum and Cafe
My favorite place on I-Drive is the Chocolate Museum and Cafe. Everyday from 12 noon until 6pm you can take a tour to learn about where chocolate comes from, see incredible chocolate sculptures of some famous landmarks, and end in the tasting room.
The tours are approximately 45 minutes and worth every second. Following the tour, you can also spend some time in the cafe with baked treats, cheese platters, and various beverages including coffees and hot chocolate. Their website has all the information to book a tour or just sit and relax in the cafe.
On the northside of downtown Orlando, you’ll find Leu Gardens. The 50 acre oasis was donated to the city of Orlando by Harry Leu and his wife Mary Jane in 1961.
The gardens bloom with a wide variety of tropical plants all year long. Depending on the season, Leu Gardens features dinosaur exhibits, enchanted fairy doors, holiday lights, and geocaching. They are open from 9am-5pm almost everyday of the year.
Less than 30 minutes from ICON Park is Winter Park; it is a beautiful town with shops, restaurants, ice cream parlors, a park which usually features live music, as well as the Winter Park Scenic Boat Tour.
In an hour long boat cruise that holds up to 18 passengers, you will sail through 3 different lakes, see some stunning views of lake front mansions, learn history about Rollins College (as well as one of its most famous graduates, Mr. Rogers), and snake through some beautiful canals and waterways connecting each of the lakes.
There’s a good chance of seeing some of Orlando’s wildlife including bald eagles, turtles, and ibis. The boat cruise is open from 10am-4pm everyday on a first come, first served basis (however, you can book ahead for large groups); the only day they close is Christmas Day.
Central Florida Zoo
About 35 minutes north of Orlando just off of I-4, in the town Sanford, is Central Florida Zoo and Botanical Gardens. This 23 acre property houses over 500 animals, including rare and endangered species, an insect and reptile house, a petting zoo, a splash playground, and a native garden. You can find discounted tickets on the Visit Orlando website.
Fun Things to do in Orlando with Kids: Old Town
Our family’s personal non-theme park favorite place to visit is Old Town. Old Town, in Kissimmee, just east of Disney World, is an 18 acre replica of a classic old Florida town. With brick paved and tree lined streets, Old Town is a throwback to simpler times.
There is free parking and admission and over 70 shops and restaurants including a western dress up shop where families can pose in Wild West getups and have pictures taken.
There is The Great Magic Hall which features 3 rooms for close up magic, big trick magic, and slight of hand magic. And if The Wheel at ICON park is a little intimidating, there is a smaller 86 foot Ferris wheel here in Old Town. Our family has been known to wander in and out of the stores and window shop for hours at a time.
This is just a small sampling of Orlando’s attractions and life outside of the theme parks. Our family has enjoyed each of these places when we’ve been looking for cool ideas to create memories together whether it’s for a birthday or just an afternoon outing.