Orlando Family Fun

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Orlando Family Fun
Theme parks and resorts are just the beginning; don’t let your family fun stop there. Explore natural preserves and parks, try adrenaline-pumping sports and outdoor activities, and have a blast while learning at Kennedy Space Center.
By Jack Barr, AFAR Local Expert
Photo courtesy of Visit Orlando
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    Aerial Thrills
    Orlando offers a diverse array of options for thrill seekers. The Sling Shot is an International Drive attraction that provides an extreme adrenaline rush, strapping two people into a reclined position and slinging them 390 feet into the air with the force of 3–5Gs. Get your heart racing with indoor skydiving at iFLY or laser tag combat at Hard Knocks. Helicopter and hot-air balloon tours of the area can give you a little perspective—not only of the parks, but the city itself.
    Photo courtesy of Visit Orlando
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    Splashing around the Waterparks
    Orlando has plenty of places to splash. There are vertical drops at Wet ’n Wild on International Drive and underwater tubes at SeaWorld's Aquatica. Even LEGOLAND has a water park, where families can bond by designing a LEGO raft and then drifting together down the lazy river. Discovery Cove is a theme park that takes water as its main inspiration. The immersive experiences include snorkeling with tropical fish, swimming with stingrays, feeding exotic birds, and smooching with dolphins. Don’t forget the sunscreen, a beach towel, and a change of clothes.
    Photo by Maria Claudia Anjel/age fotostock
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    Theme Parks for Everyone
    Orlando is the destination for theme park junkies of all ages. The world-famous mouse and his magical friends are still a big draw, but that's not the only game in town. Universal Orlando Resort is continually opening new attractions and rides. At Wizarding World of Harry Potter, wander the village of Hogsmead, drink Butterbeer, and tour Hogwarts Castle. Hold onto your broom while swerving around dragons and spiders on the Forbidden Journey roller coaster. SeaWorld Orlando has TurtleTrek: a 3D, 360-degree peek at the life of a sea turtle, from hatching on the beach to surviving the hazards of life underwater. Finally, the latest and greatest newcomer on the block is LEGOLAND Florida in Winter Haven, which brings out the kid in everyone.
    Photo by Oscar Garces/age fotostock
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    Unleash Your Inner Astronaut
    Take time to visit the impressive display of technological inspiration at the Space Coast. Cape Canaveral is about an hour away from downtown Orlando. The Kennedy Space Center offers museums, tours, and activities—all of which will pique the little ones' interest in science and engineering. Want a truly far out experience? Teens and adults can lift off in a rocket simulator at the Astronaut Training Experience. Check the website for live rocket launch schedules. Launches are more frequent than you might think, with Atlas and Delta rockets blasting off as often as a few times a month. It’s an experience you’ll remember for a lifetime.
    Photo courtesy of Visit Orlando
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    Swimming and Tubing in Freshwater Springs
    Florida has one of the highest concentrations of freshwater springs in the world, all fed by a large aquifer—one of the most productive freshwater systems on earth. Though locals know about the freshwater springs, many visitors do not. In the summer months two favorite local pastimes are swimming in the crystal-clear Wekiwa Springs and tubing down Rock Springs Run State Reserve. Let locals carrying inner tubes lead the way to a float downstream at Kelly Park. In winter months, Blue Springs is one of the few places to view manatees seeking warmer waters. Paddle leisurely through the run to spot herons, ibis, and sunning turtles.
    Photo by age fotostock
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    Family-Friendly Hotels
    Orlando offers a variety of family-friendly accommodations, from kid-centric hotels to luxury resorts that pamper adults while also catering to their kids. Swanky Waldorf-Astoria Orlando is a good kid-friendly option, with gaming equipment, golf lessons, and scavenger hunts. Nickelodeon All Suites Resort’s cartoon-themed suites come with kitchenettes. Kids can splash at the water park and get slimed under a 400-gallon tank. Gaylord Palms Resort provides an Everglades-inspired water park and child-care services for parents who want a little break.
    Photo by Kelly Redinger/age fotostock
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    Family Entertainment and Shows
    Orlando has a seemingly endless number of family-friendly shows which are staged at theme parks, local venues, and even restaurants. Universal CityWalk features live music at The Hard Rock Live and Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville, and holiday parties at Pat O’Brien's. On International Drive you’ll find attractions like WonderWorks, featuring laser tag and a suspended ropes obstacle course, as well as malls and buffet-style restaurants. Even eating is entertainment at restaurants like Texas de Brazil Churrascaria and Ming Court, where dramatic presentation is half of the experience.
    Photo by Oscar Garces/age fotostock
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    Peaceful Wildlife Havens
    There are many pleasant nature experiences to complement the beaches. Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, Black Point Wildlife Drive Park, and St. Sebastian River Preserve offer beautiful landscapes such as salt marshes, mangrove forests, grasslands, and freshwater creeks and rivers. These wildlife havens are peaceful settings for such activities as canoeing, kayaking, hiking, fishing, and birding. If you're seeking more action-packed activities, check out EcoSafaris at Forever Florida in St. Cloud. Outdoor adventures offered include horseback riding and zip-line safaris.
    Photo by Turi Galbraith
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    Garden Getaways and Scenic Boat Tours
    A garden escape may provide the serenity you need to recharge. Enjoy old Florida by visiting Harry P. Leu Gardens. The nearly 50 acres include butterfly, subtropical, and rose gardens; the bamboo collection features some 50 varieties of bamboo. Depending on the season, the grounds are awash with camellia, azalea, and magnolia blooms. Another option is Kraft Azalea Gardens, tucked away in a residential corridor in Winter Park; the peaceful gardens are surrounded by moss-draped oak trees. Winter Park Scenic Boat Tours offers a leisurely pontoon ride around the neighborhood's chain of lakes and canals. For a hidden retreat, visit Mead Botanical Garden and pack a picnic to enjoy under the shade of the pavilion.
    Photo by Thuy Vi Gates