I realized we frequented Disney Parks an absurd number of times when a cast member at Chapeau Hat Shop in Magic Kingdom recognized our kids and knew 3 out of 5 by name. Yes, we’re Disney fanatics but hey, there are worse things to be obsessed with, right? Lately, with the kids getting older, we’ve been venturing out and have discovered more to experience in Orlando than the typical theme park circuit. I’d like to share a few of the newer Orlando attractions worth checking out. Pretty much anything and everything you want to do in Orlando outside Walt Disney World is going to be on or near International Drive. The I-Drive Trolley is a good way to travel if you don’t want the headache of dealing with traffic.
Opened in May of this year, I-Drive 360 is Orlando’s new $200 million dollar entertainment extravaganza. It was worth every penny spent, believe me. As entertainment destinations go, this one is spectacular. The new, but quickly becoming iconic, giant Ferris wheel known as the Orlando Eye gives visitors magnificent 360º views of the city. Other spectacular attractions include Madame Tussaud’s wax figure celebrities showcasing red carpet superstars. Selfies with your favorites will be great as they are always smiling. One place the whole family loved was SEA LIFE Orlando Aquarium. Without going in the water, this is as close to creatures of the SEA you can be, including coming face to face with sharks in the 360º ocean tunnel.
While this section of Islands of Adventure opened some time ago, there are new things being added annually and the buzz about it continues to be loud so definitely worth checking out. Visit Hogwart’s Castle and explore Hogsmeade Village while enjoying Butter-beer flavored ice cream, which is suspiciously root beer scented and delicious. Newer though, is Diagon Alley at Universal Studios which includes the thrilling Escape from Gringotts™ ride and famous shops such as Ollivanders™. When you get hungry, and you will, the Leaky Cauldron™, as well as other dining establishments await to satisfy your hunger and thirst.
Come on, you didn’t think we could go to Orlando and not do anything Disney, did you? If you still have a member of your party that isn’t frozen over at the mere thought the movie Frozen, then the musical sing-along celebration is a must experience. Join Anna, Elsa, Kristoff and Olaf for a meet-and-greet, fireworks and dance party. Just “Let it goooo, let it gooo!” and have some fun!
WHERE TO STAY
After all this excitement, you may need a place to stay that is centrally located, family friendly and relaxing all at once. There are so many but we’ve tried different ones and a few come to mind as better than average depending on what you’re looking for.
staySky Suites I-Drive Orlando – This hotel near Universal is perfect for it’s central location and spacious but not outrageously priced rooms. Families love the large suites and the full kitchen. There is a free shuttle to all of the theme parks, plus complimentary breakfast as well.
Lake Buena Vista Resort Village & Spa – There is something for everybody here starting with the Pirate Plunge Pool that kids can’t get enough of. Honestly for younger kids, if you did nothing but hang out at this particular pool, their vacation would be complete. Meanwhile, Mom enjoys a facial , mani-pedi and massage at the spa while Dad watches the kids! Dad will appreciate that considering the upscale amenities, the prices aren’t a wallet flattener. Now that’s a vacation we can all enjoy, right?
Basically Orlando, or City Beautiful as it’s known, has a lot going on and you don’t have to be stuck in one theme park conglomerate the entire time. Venture out and see what else is happening. You might just find some new and exciting adventures to add to your memory books.
As a homemaker and Mother of 5, Michelle Rise has become a family travel enthusiast. While trekking through Disney parks with her Family for over 10 years, Michelle has become an expert on navigating families through Disney. When she’s not writing about her experiences or teaching her children to drive, Michelle can be found chasing the family dog up rainbow mountain with her husband of over 25 years, Ben. You can follow Michelle on Twitter, @Rise7Up, for all of her latest writings.