Get guest blogger Carrie Bradley's advice on enjoying a relaxing holiday in Orlando while traveling with children.
Inevitably, a family holiday or vacation to Orlando will mean a visit to at least one theme park, but with all of the dazzling thrills, rides and attractions, is it possible to have a relaxing holiday in Orlando — the most visited destination in the USA? After a last-minute February visit, that's exactly how we found it to be!
More by Carrie Bradley: Tips for Planning the Perfect Family Getaway to Orlando
Please note: Depending on the timing of your visit, some experiences may be temporarily modified. Learn more about healthy travel in Orlando, and check with your favorite attractions and other businesses for their current status.
Top 3 Tips for a Relaxing Orlando Holiday
Clearly, you can be as active as you like and pack lots in, but we wanted to return to the U.K. after not only seeing some of Orlando's attractions, but feeling rejuvenated too. I have three top tips for accomplishing that.
Learn more: Orlando With Kids
- First, don't over-plan. Have an idea of what your absolute must-dos are and, depending on the length of your stay, slot them in.
- Second, be flexible and have days off between theme park visits. Your feet will thank you for it. Plus, a lazy day by the pool is always rejuvenating.
- Last but not least, consider alternative attractions to the big theme parks — including some of our favourite things to do as seen below:
We ventured out to ICON Park, the dining, entertainment and shopping complex on International Drive, early one evening. Strolling around the attractions (including SEA LIFE Orlando Aquarium and The Wheel, formerly ICON Orlando) and sitting on the green enjoying an ice cream after dinner at Outback Steakhouse was the perfect tonic to a busy previous day.
Learn more: ICON Park
We enjoyed a fabulous time at Crayola Experience, located at The Florida Mall®. It's a colourful, fun-filled place where the girls could burn off some steam, be protected from the heat of the day and be creative at the same time. If you want to pop out and visit the mall while your partner monitors the kids and then swap over, everyone is a winner.
Save on discount tickets: Crayola Experience
Any kid who adores dolls will also revel in the American Girl store at The Florida Mall. Little ones can roleplay with various dolls, toy strollers, changing stations, play houses, etc. All of the dolls and accessories are also available to buy. Not only can you purchase little girls' outfits that match the dolls, but also visit the bistro and dine with your doll! If you haven't brought a doll, don't fret — the store will lend you one.
Headwaters of the Florida Everglades
From team mascots to warning signs near every stretch of water, you can't miss the presence of alligators in Florida. We were keen to see them in their natural habitat and headed to Boggy Creek Airboat Adventures for a trip through the headwaters of the Florida Everglades. During the completely thrilling ride, we saw eagles, herons and — of course — gators.
Save on discount tickets: Boggy Creek Airboat Adventures
If you have a really tiny baby, it is probably not suitable, as you need to wear ear defenders, but our 3-year old and 6-year-old loved it! Also, there can be lots of insects in these tropical wetlands, so wear long sleeves ... unlike us, who didn't prepare! It was thankfully just a mild annoyance, though, and we didn't get bitten.
Boggy Creek also has a gemstone/fossil prospector attraction for $6, where you can sift through a large bucket and discover "treasure." Ours included a huge chunk of amethyst and shark teeth! There is also a Native American display.
Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex
The hour-or-so drive to Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex on Florida's east coast is completely worth it, as you can easily spend a few hours here. Plus, between interactive displays (we landed a pod on the moon by using thrust power alone); a 3D and IMAX experience; a tour of the spectacular launch site; an outdoor, covered play area; and a watery splash area to cool down, there is something for all ages.
Learn more: Orlando STEM Attractions
Universal CityWalk at Universal Orlando Resort
After a quiet day by the pool, head to Universal CityWalk after 6 p.m. for free parking, and soak up the atmosphere as the kids burn off some steam. With plenty of restaurant choices, we opted for the Hard Rock Cafe® — where they serve kids' food on a guitar-shaped plate. On a related note, if you are visiting one of Universal Orlando Resort's theme parks during the day, CityWalk can offer you a greater variety of meal options and a break from the park.
Learn more: Universal CityWalk
There were so many other wonderful places we didn't get to see. However, we left Orlando feeling content and enthralled with what we had experienced, and relaxed after essentially only six days there. Now that we have had a taste, we can't wait to return!
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