Travel Orlando – Beyond Disney
If you are looking for things to do in Orlando besides Disney check out these cool family friendly attractions.
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Disclosure: Some of the services I received were provided at no cost so that I may write a review for this post. I am also a Verizon Ambassador.
We are big Disney fans and have taken our family many times but we have been hearing from many of our friends that live in Florida that there are a ton of other fun things to do, so we decided to plan a Spring Break trip to Orlando with our kids. When we started planning our trip I did a lot of google searching as well as checking out VisitOrlando.com. There were so many things to choose from that the following places that we visited are just a sampling of what Orlando has to offer. There are plenty of things to do in Orlando besides Disney.
Ready to Travel Orlando?
Planning Your Trip:
As we planned on things to do in Orlando besides Disney, our iPhone came in super handy on this trip. We used Google Maps to map out our route because we decided to make this a family road trip. We also downloaded the Murphy USA app which tells us the cheapest gas while we are driving and they also offer coupons for gas and snacks. This was super helpful and I loved the fact that most of the Murphy USA's we stopped at were connected to a Walmart so we were able to stop and get stuff to make sandwiches for lunch. ( sign up for their e-offers for discounts and coupons) We knew that we were going to stop at a hotel on they way down and on the way back as we had planned for two days travel so we also used the Hotels.com app to find and book a hotel stay right on the spot once we got tired of driving. We saved anywhere from $10-$20 per room using the app.
I also got this Satechi Universal Smartphone CD Mount for my husband because he does not like sticking anything on the dash that might mess up the car. He said it was the best thing ever and that he would be using it from now on. This is definitely something I would suggest getting if you are not using a GPS system. Since I am with Verizon I was able to use my iPhone as a mobile hotspot so I could work on the road while the kids slept and Verizon sent me updates to alert me of my data usage. Two mobile apps I would also recommend downloading is Mad Libs and Heads Up for some family fun in the car. We spent hours laughing.
We packed our lunches on the way down to Orlando using these stainless steel bento boxes by PlanetBox. They kept everything cold, just beside to use the glass container for any fruits that may have juices. Also if you are packing cold items don't put your chips in there as the condensation could make them soggy. pack them in baggy and keep them in the carrying case that comes with it. We posted this pic on Facebook and many of you went crazy over them, well now you know where to get them! For a treat we stopped at Sonic along the way for 1/2 price shakes after 8pm and this deal lass all summer long with 25 new hand-mixed shake flavors!
Where to Stay:
Orlando has so many places to stay depending on the size of your family, the length of your stay and what you plan on doing. Some of the attractions even offer their own hotels/resorts that you can stay at. On this particular trip we stayed at the Lake Buena Vista Resort and Spa. It had pretty much everything we needed. We had a nice king size bed with master bath that had a jacuzzi tub and large shower as well as a walk in closet. The kids also had their own bedroom with two full size beds and a bathroom. I love the fact that it has a full size kitchen because we were able to stop at the local Walmart down the street and pick up groceries to make some of our meals in our room which saved us a ton of money.
The resort has a pirate ship themed pool with slide as well as another pool and hot tub for adults. They also have a welcome party every Friday night with free appetizers, drinks and door prizes.
You will definitely want to check out the spa while you are there. I tried the 50 min. Tropical Massage and it was one of the best massages I have had in a while. You lay on a heated table and I love that she not only did the massage but she did some stretches with me to help with my lower back problems. I also love the cucumber melon hand scrub that they give you when you walk in to wash your hands with, my hands felt velvety smooth after using it. I also want to mention that they didn't try to pressure me into buying product after my massage which I absolutely love because I feel like it just stresses me out when I just came for a massage to leave feeling relaxed. If you love to shop there is also an outlet mall right outside the mall within walking distance.
Things to do in Orlando besides Disney:
Universal Orlando Resort – The first day we visited Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure . Both of these parks have something for all ages but I love the fact that my teenagers had such an amazing time. If you have never been on a 4-D ride then you are in for a treat my friends. Universal Orlando’s newest attraction The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley (opened July 2014 at Universal Studios) has several amazing experiences, Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts interactive magic wands and the Hogwarts Express. Just to name a few. This was something like nothing I have ever experienced.”
Matter of fact Meredith Bandy from Universal met with us to give us a personal ride on Escape from Gringotts and we got to celebrate her 100th ride with her. Universal was so detailed that you literally almost think you're in the movie when walking down Diagon Alley. Make sure you check out the Leaky Cauldron and try some Butter Beer (it's not alcohol, it's a butterscotch drink).Universal is all movie related rides such as Transformers, Despicable Me, The Amazing Spider Man, The Mummy and more. I love the fact that Universal offers you FREE lockers that you can secure your personal belongings at most of the rides. They also offer Child Pass/Swap, where if you have a child to small to ride, the parents can go to a room and switch off riding the ride while the other parent watches the child. What's even more amazing is when you switch off the other parent doesn't have to go to the back of the line and wait again, they get to go right up to the front!
Islands of Adventure is different themed Islands. Some of my favorite rides here are Jurassic Park, The Incredible Hulk, and The Harry Potter Forbidden Journey rides that I mentioned above. You can also ride the Hogwarts Express that will take you between both parks. Universal also offers what they call Express Passes and this is highly recommended in my book as it let's you skip a lot of the long lines and well worth the extra money. Make sure you plan 1 full day for EACH park as we only planned for 1 day and didn't get to ride everything.
Blue Man Group – The Blue Man Group show is also part of the Universal City Walk experience. The show is full of comedy and awesome music. The Blue Man Group is highly interactive with the crowd and let's just say you are going to be in for one BIG Party. The only negative comment I have about The Blue Man Group was you could tell that the people they picked for the audience participation was staged which I think took away from that part of the show but all in all it was a ton of fun and I would definitely see it again.
Antojitos – If you plan on hitting Universal City Walk for Blue man Group or shopping I highly recommend trying Antojitos Mexican Restaurant. The food is amazing and so is the atmosphere. I had the Tinga Chicken Enchiladas with Salsa Verde and the chicken was so tender and the Salsa verde topping was so good and nothing I have had before. I also paired this with a Mexican Coke and fresh homemade guacamole that they make right at your table.
Boggy Creek Airboats – I highly recommend taking your family on a Boggy Creek Airboat ride. You will be zooming along the Florida Everglades looking for alligators and get a chance to see some native birds.
On our trip we saw a Bald Eagle, 3 alligators and several other bird species. We choose the more private swamp tour which was a lot of fun.
Now if you are sitting on the front you might get a few bugs flying at you as you skim across the water but that is normal and doesn't take away from the experience. Just wear sunglasses and maybe bring a jacket to put up over your face as you go through just the grassier spots. I promise it's worth the chance to get to see those alligators.
After your ride you get to hold a small alligator and get your picture taken for a small donation that is used for the wildlife conservation. Meet Carl! You can can also see a small reptile show.
Bring your camera because there are tons of great spots to take photos just among the grounds as well.
Sea World – I have now had the chance to visit all three Sea Worlds. Sea World San Antonio, Sea World San Diego and now Sea World Orlando. All of them have been great but I have to say Sea World Sand Diego is my favorite. At Sea World Orlando we started our day with a behind the scenes tour that you can book at the front desk. We got the chance to pet a small shark as well as a penguin.
One of the kids favorite rides was the Manta, I swear they must had ridden this ride like 5 times. ( note they do charge you $1 for a locker that you have to put your stuff in at every ride) Sea World offers a couple of different touch pools such as the Dolphins and the Stingrays. If you are patient enough you will get the chance to pet both of these beautiful creatures as well as getting a chance to feed some of them. There are several different aquariums as well that offer you the chance to go underneath along tunnels where sea creatures are swimming above you and all around you. Definitely take a look at all the shows that Sea World has to offer. I would say that you could spend 1 full day at this park.
I would also like to mention that I would not recommend going on Wild Arctic (the ride). I don't have any special conditions that would prevent me from riding but this ride was so rough that I actually came out of the ride hurting, where I felt like the seatbelt was being thrusted into me. My teenagers also mentioned that they didn't like this ride and that it was too rough and these are my 2 who LOVE roller coasters.
Sanibel Island – When I was a little girl my mom took me to Disney and I remember that we stayed on Sanibel Island which has beautiful beaches with tons of seashells. Matter of fact it's the #3 shelling spot in the U.S. It's about a 4 hour drive from Orlando but so worth it. If you can I recommend spending 2 days on the island if you can find a hotel to stay in. There is a toll that is around $7 or $8 I think to cross over to the island.
Sanibel Island has several different beaches to choose from but there is a charge of $3 an hour for parking but it's free parking for Disabled Parking spots. There are so many shells that you are literally walking on them and if you're lucky you might find some big treasures.
Next time we go we will plan on staying a few days on the island so we can go shelling at low tide. If you plan on going during a holiday, I recommend planning ahead and claiming your spot on the beach early as it can get crowded. You will also want to get there early and leave around 1pm to stay away from the traffic that can occur.
What to bring:
- Beach Towels
- Sand Buckets for shell collecting. We found these collapsible beach pails called Packable Pails that are perfect for traveling. Everyone kept asking us where we got them. ( you can see the pink one n the pic above)
- Small Fishing Nets for scooping up shells off the bottom of the ocean
- Large Umbrella – there is no shade so you will want to bring an umbrella or pop up tent.
- Beach Chairs
- Pack a Lunch
- Lots of Sunscreen and re-apply every few hours to keep from getting burned.
Dog friendly Orlando is packed full of places for your furry friend. Check out some of our favorite places to visit for a dog friendly vacation.
So glad y’all had a great vacation! It was super fun following along with your social posts while there 😀 Can’t wait to take my family in September…so close, yet so far LOL
You guys will love it! there is so much to do there that we didn’t get to even write about!
Great Post and am going to get that Murphy USA Map App that I did not know about. Thanks 🙂 ~ Kathleen
You are welcome!