We all love Orlando's theme parks, but if you are visiting Orlando for a week or longer, you may want to get away from roller coasters for a day or more. If you are visiting Orlando for a week or longer, you may want to get away from roller coasters and lines for a day or more. You and your kids might learn something new too! Here are eight places local families love:
The Green Meadows Petting Farm is a people-friendly animal farm where piglets, chicks, ponies and other critters share their scenic, sprawling home with all who enter. Here's your chance to milk a cow, cuddle a chick or go on a hay ride. A guided tour includes fun in the pigpen; a chance to milk a cow; pony rides, hay rides and train rides; chick cuddling and more one-on-one with farm animals.
Kids won't want to leave when they can watch baby alligators, turtles and snakes at NatureWorks, unearth dinosaur fossils and replicas at DinoDigs and farming faux oranges and fix cars in the pint-sized KidsTown. A new StarWars exhibit opened and will run until April 7, 2013.
Every winter, endangered Florida manatees flock to the warm Blue Spring waters and park rangers keep track of them so well they can tell children who's who. Here's the place to learn all about the endangered manatees, have a picnic and go on a hike.
Here's your chance to see what it feels like to be in an earthquake, ride a (virtual) glider about the Grand Canyon and play a keyboard with your feet. LazerWorks on the third floor offers super-sized laser-tag fun. Kids will also love the he all-you-can eat pizza at the The Outta Control Magic Comedy Dinner Show, which is presented twice each evening (separate ticket required).
They're loud, fast and race you through swamps and across lakes, past turtles, native birds and even alligators. Kids and parents love jet-engine powered airboat rides.
Ready to go horseback riding? You can also opt for a swamp buggy through this nature preserve's nine ecosystems. You might even spy an endangered Florida panther. The Zipline Experience (height req. 55'/140 cm), Florida's first zipline, takes guests on a treetop nature tour reaching heights of 55 feet (16.8 meters) and speeds up to 20 mph (32.2 kph). Check out the Cypress Canopy Cycle-- reclining bicycles suspended from a network of high-tension cables, 25 feet (7.6 meters) above the ground and over the spectacular ecosystem.
Ready to go to outer space? The Shuttle Launch Experience lets kids experience what it's really like. Stand beneath the 36-story Saturn V moon rocket and walk through re-creations of modules used as part of the International Space Station. IMAX films offer in-your-face, outer-space experiences; and astronauts who have completed missions make daily appearances to answer visitor questions.
Orlando Grand Prix offers teens the experience of kart racing in a fully air conditioned indoor environment with electric Italian pro-karts that reach speeds of up to 50 mph (80km/h).
This special post was written by syndicated travel writer and mom, Eileen Ogintz. To read more family travel tips from Eileen, visit takingthekids.com.