There’s so much more to Orlando than Disney. Read on for seven excellent activities for the whole family.
You have your choice of two major malls: the upscale Mall at Millennia with its roster of luxury brands (including Burberry, Gucci, Jimmy Choo) and The Florida Mall (home to 250 other stores and restaurants). Or you can join the hordes of tour buses and bargain hunters that decsend on the two outlet centers: Orlando Vineland Premium Outlets and Orlando International Premium Outlets, each packed with brand-name fashions and home goods at discounted prices.
2. Hang with Wizards
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter has been enchanting muggles (that’s non-magical folk) since 2010 with the impeccably-themed Hogsmeade at Universal’s Islands of Adventure, and then Diagon Alley came about in 2014 along with a new extension accessible only by the Hogwarts Express (arriving on Platform 9¾, of course). Among the highlights of the two lands, Diagon Alley’s Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts is a flagship attraction, taking riders on a 3-D steel coaster through detailed sets, physical effects, and stunning video sequences.
6000 Universal Blvd, Orlando; 407-363-8000
3. Get a Pint
Orlando is now home to dozens of breweries some of which have handsome tap rooms for tastings. Head to Orlando Brewing for tastes of Blonde Ale and Chocolate Girl Stout along with almost 20 ales, lagers, and seasonal microbrews on tap—and all the beer is organic! Taproom hours are Monday through Thursday 3 – 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday 1 p.m – midnight and Sunday 1 – 9 p.m.
1301 Atlanta Ave, Orlando; 407-872-1117
4. Party at Legoland
The brick-tastic LEGOLAND is a bona fide hit as is the LEGOLAND Hotel, where activities include the chance to learn from a LEGO Master Builder in a special workshop, nightly LEGO building competitions, as well as nightly visits from LEGO characters, a pajama party, and movie screenings. And now LEGOLAND Night Lights lets kids party past their bedtime with extended park hours that includes a fireworks spectacular featuring LEGO NINJAGO at 9:00 p.m., a new LEGO Friends show, Minifigure mural build, LEGO scavenger hunt and DJ glow dance party.
1 Legoland Way, Winter Haven; 877-350-5346
5. The Orlando Eye
This 400-foot Ferris wheel anchors I-Drive 360, Orlando’s new $250-million family entertainment destination. The wheel’s thirty high-tech capsules complete a rotation every thirty minutes. Apple iPad Air tablets on board help to locate points of interest throughout the trip which include the nearby theme parks, scenic landscapes, and visibility of more than fifty miles east to Cape Canaveral and the coast of the Atlantic.
8401 International Dr #100, Orlando; 866-228-6438
6. Crayola Experience
The Crayola Experience is tactile, colorful and artsy. And best of all, you get to color on the walls (cue those childhood dreams!). Activities at this 70,000 square-foot attraction range from simple, artsy-craftsy ones to augmented reality. Watch the crayon process from wax to paper and don’t miss the younger set’s favorite: You Design, a virtual studio for coloring and digitally accessorizing a car or fashion wardrobe before watching the personal design make its debut on a large projected screen.
The Florida Mall, 8001 Orange Blossom Trail, Orlando; 407-757-1700
7. Get Lazy
The Four Seasons Orlando (pictured at top) has been a game changer since they opened nearly two years ago. With five-star service, luxurious touches and an intimate feel this property has quickly garnered a loyal following. So if you’re going to stick to the hotel and avoid the mega-theme park this is the place to do it. There’s the 5-acre Explorer’s Island pool complex which is divided into four main areas: a zero-entry main pool with poolside cabanas and a tiny waterslide appropriate for preschoolers, two water slides, a Splash Zone, offering children’s cabanas in the form of white canvas tepees and a water park of various squirting fountains, a lazy river that snakes through the property and finally a tranquil adults-only pool where things are quieter. There’s also the attractive Kids For All Seasons kids’ club, which is complimentary for hotel guests and is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day.
10100 Dream Tree Blvd, Lake Buena Vista; 407-313-7777