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Orlando for Families

Aerial Thrills
Orlando for Families
In Orlando, theme parks and resorts are just the beginning of the fun available to families. Explore natural preserves and parks, try adrenaline-pumping outdoor activities, and learn together at the Kennedy Space Center.
By Jack Barr, AFAR Local Expert
Photo courtesy of Visit Orlando
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    Aerial Thrills
    Aerial Thrills
    Orlando offers a diverse array of activities for thrill seekers. Located on International Drive, the Sling Shot provides an extreme adrenaline rush—riders get strapped into a reclined position and slung 390 feet into the air with the force of 3 to 5 g’s. You can also get your heart racing with indoor skydiving at iFly, or laser tag at Hard Knocks. There are even helicopter and hot-air balloon tours of the area if you’re seeking a new perspective.
    Photo courtesy of Visit Orlando
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    Splashing around the Water Parks
    Splashing around the Water Parks
    If you’re looking to splash around in the sun, you’ve come to the right place. Wet ’n Wild on International Drive features vertical drops, while SeaWorld’s Aquatica offers underwater tubes. Even Legoland has a water park where families can bond by designing a Lego raft and drifting together down the lazy river. At Discovery Cove, water is the main inspiration, with immersive experiences ranging from snorkeling with tropical fish to swimming with stingrays and smooching with dolphins. Remember to bring sunscreen, a beach towel, and a change of clothes.
    Photo by Maria Claudia Anjel/age fotostock
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    Theme Parks for Everyone
    Theme Parks for Everyone
    While Orlando’s famous mouse and his magical friends are still a big draw, they’re not the only game in town. Head to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter to wander the village of Hogsmeade, drink Butterbeer, and tour Hogwarts Castle. Then, hold on to your broom while dodging dragons and spiders on the Forbidden Journey roller coaster. Also worth a visit is SeaWorld Orlando, especially for its TurtleTrek—a 3-D, 360-degree peek at the life of a sea turtle, from hatching on the beach to surviving the hazards of life underwater. The latest and greatest attraction, however, is Legoland Florida, which brings out the kid in everyone.
    Photo by Oscar Garces/age fotostock
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    Unleash Your Inner Astronaut
    Unleash Your Inner Astronaut
    When visiting Orlando, take time to visit the impressive display of technological innovation along the Space Coast. Just an hour from downtown, Cape Canaveral is home to an Air Force station, while the Kennedy Space Center offers museums, tours, and activities, all of which will spark your kids’ interest in science and engineering. At Kennedy, teens and adults can even lift off in a rocket simulator with the Astronaut Training Experience. Be sure to check the space center’s website for the schedule of live rocket launches—they’re more frequent than you may 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
    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. In the summer months, locals love to swim in the crystal-clear waters of Wekiwa Springs, tube along the swift waters of Rock Springs Run, or float downstream at Kelly Park. Come winter, Blue Spring is one of the few places to find manatees seeking warmer waters. A leisurely paddle through the run will also lead to herons, ibis, and sunning turtles.
    Photo by age fotostock
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    Family-Friendly Hotels
    Family-Friendly Hotels
    Orlando offers a variety of family-friendly accommodations, from kid-centric hotels to luxury resorts that cater to children while also pampering adults. Gaylord Palms Resort features an Everglades-inspired water park and child-care services, while the swanky Waldorf Astoria Orlando offers gaming equipment, golf lessons, and scavenger hunts.
    Photo by Kelly Redinger/age fotostock
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    Family Entertainment and Shows
    Family Entertainment and Shows
    In Orlando, you can find family-friendly entertainment everywhere, from local venues to theme parks and even restaurants. Head to Universal CityWalk for live music at the Hard Rock Live and Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville, or go to International Drive, where you’ll find malls, buffet-style restaurants, and attractions such as WonderWorks, which features laser tag and an obstacle course with suspended ropes. For a fun night out, have dinner at a restaurant like Texas de Brazil Churrascaria or Ming Court, where dramatic presentations are only half the experience.
    Photo by Oscar Garces/age fotostock
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    Peaceful Wildlife Havens
    Peaceful Wildlife Havens
    In Orlando, you can easily complement your beach time with a memorable nature experience. Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, the Black Point Wildlife Drive, and St. Sebastian River Preserve all offer beautiful landscapes, complete with salt marshes, mangrove forests, grasslands, and freshwater creeks and rivers. The wildlife havens are peaceful settings for canoeing, kayaking, hiking, fishing, and birding, but if you’re seeking more action-packed activities, check out Forever Florida in St. Cloud, where you can indulge in horseback rides and zip-line safaris.
    Photo by Turi Galbraith
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    Garden Getaways and Scenic Boat Tours
    Garden Getaways and Scenic Boat Tours
    After a tiring day at the theme park, a garden escape can provide the serenity you need to recharge. Experience old Florida with a visit to the Harry P. Leu Gardens, whose nearly 50 acres include butterfly, rose, and subtropical gardens as well as an impressive bamboo collection. Depending on the season, the grounds are awash in everything from camellia and azalea blooms to stunning magnolia trees. Also worth checking out is the Kraft Azalea Garden, where moss-draped oaks surround peaceful gardens. Winter Park's Scenic Boat Tours offers leisurely pontoon rides around the neighborhood’s lakes and canals, while the Mead Botanical Garden features shady pavilions that are perfect for picnics.
    Photo courtesy of Leu Gardens