Award-winning guest blogger Katie Ellison shares her family's favorite experiences in Orlando (The Wheel at ICON Park® pictured).
Orlando is one of the most magical places in the world for children and adults alike — there really is something for everyone. There are so many wonderful and amazing things to do, and when you least expect it, something will happen that will forever be cemented in your memory as a special moment.
In fact, each time I visit with my family, we think nothing will top the magic of the previous trip, but something always does. In that spirit, here are nine of the most unique family experiences we've had in Orlando, and that you'll want to enjoy during your next visit!
Meeting Your Favorite Character
One of my favorite things is seeing the magic come alive in our children's faces when they meet characters at Walt Disney World® Resort. There is something so special about seeing your children meet their heroes.
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My little girl is obsessed with Winnie the Pooh — her favorite character by far — and when she met him on our recent trip, the delight on her face was plain to see. It made me tear up to see her so excited and happy. (Tip: If you want to get even more up-close and personal with characters, booking a character dining experience is definitely worthwhile.)
Casting Spells Like a Real Wizard
If you have a Harry Potter fan in your family, you have to cast some spells at Universal Orlando Resort, where The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™ is truly magical. The first time we visited, my children were still a bit young to take it all in, but now that we've read the first three books to them, it was the most incredible experience.
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The theming is amazing, and it actually feels like you are there. You can also buy an interactive wand and cast spells around Diagon Alley™ at Universal Studios Florida and Hogsmeade™ at Universal Islands of Adventure.
Going on a Crazy Zip Line
Being away from the daily grind has a way of making you become a daredevil. At least, that's the case for us, as we braved the Screamin' Gator Zip Line at Gatorland, which took us along 1,200 feet of high-flying zip lines over alligator-infested waters.
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Watching my 7- and 5-year-old do something so exciting, and seeing their faces as they soared along the zip line, was an unforgettable experience. The Screamin' Gator Zip Line has actually been voted "Best Zip Line in the U.S." by AOL Travel, and I would definitely agree.
Getting a Photo in Front of Cinderella Castle
The first time I went to Orlando and entered Main Street at Magic Kingdom® Park at Walt Disney World Resort, I got tears in my eyes. As a child, I didn't get the opportunity to visit Walt Disney World, so having waited all those years to experience it was a feeling I will never forget.
Each time I see Cinderella Castle, I get the same feeling of contentment, happiness and gratitude. Make sure you take lots of photos while you're there — you will want to remember that moment forever.
Swimming in the Rain
No two trips to Orlando are the same. Every time we visit, we fall more in love with the city, and we find new things that become our favorite. On our recent trip, we headed to De Leon Springs State Park, around 45 minutes from Orlando. It's worth the drive as the park offers lots to do, including hiking, cooking your own pancakes at the Sugar Mill restaurant, a kids' playground, and of course, swimming in the springs.
Discover: Orlando Natural Springs
Unfortunately, our visit coincided with heavy rain, so we were going to get pancakes and then head home. Then, we decided to swim anyway regardless of the weather — and it was probably the most fun we have ever had!
Watching a Sunset
Orlando has some of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen, and we always make a point of watching a couple when we visit. Watching the sunset with loved ones makes me feel emotional and grateful to be in such an amazing place.
Rubbing Shoulders With the Rich and Famous
In Orlando, there's a place where you can mingle with superstars: Madame Tussauds, located at ICON Park® on International Drive. We thought it would get us away from the craziness of the parks for a couple of hours, but we weren't expecting anything special. I was so wrong, as Madame Tussauds is so much fun!
Discover: ICON Park
You can wander around and "meet" your favorite celebrities — David Beckham, Barack Obama, Neil Armstrong, Beyoncé and Justine Bieber, to name a few. There's also a lot of interaction, such as funny little photo props for kids to try on, a basketball hoop for them to shoot a ball through, and a guitar for them to jam with. We had the best time, and it was a great experience for the family.
Soaring and Flying
If I could have any super-power, it would be the ability to fly — and in Orlando, you can do just that! At iFLY Orlando Indoor Skydiving on International Drive, you can fly through the air inside their indoor skydiving chambers. And children as young as 3 can have a go, meaning that it really is a fun, unique experience that the whole family will remember.
Taking Family Photos
While I have lots of photos of my children, I don't tend to take lots of photos of us as a family. But you will want to capture and treasure some special photos from your holiday in Orlando.
It's easy to get theme park employees to take your photo, but we find that there are always people offering to take photos of us throughout the destination. Take advantage of this generosity, as some of our favorite family photos are from our trips to Orlando!
All photos courtesy Katie Ellison unless otherwise noted. Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Winnie the Pooh and Cinderella Castle © Disney. HARRY POTTER characters, names and related indicia are ® & TM Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. Harry Potter Publishing Rights © JKR. (s19)
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