When it comes to thrills, spills and mouse ears, Orlando delivers big time. This city in central Florida is the amusement park capital of the world, attracting over 68 million visitors per year. Most come to experience Disney World, to test their wand skills at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter or to meet the minions at Universal Studios. But, contrary to what you might think, there’s more to Orlando than Mickey and magic, which is why I was delighted to partner with Dealchecker to discover some of the best off the beaten path attractions in Orlando.
Orlando for Art
Orlando’s art scene is flourishing with exciting galleries celebrating local and international artists. For families, the Mennello Museum of American Art is a great option. Housed in what was once a private home, the space features American art of all genres. Every second Sunday is Family Day with free admission, kid-friendly activities and tours just for children. Downtown is the Orange County Regional History Centre which features regular rotating exhibits, many that are perfect for kids; on show now is the very kid-friendly Things Come Apart exhibition. In nearby St Petersburg is the Dali Museum, the largest collection of Salvador Dali paintings outside of Europe. The museum features over 2,000 works from every moment and medium of the Spanish artist’s career including plenty of his signature surrealist pieces that will have kids saying, “what?!”.
Orlando for Animals
Some people might get their kicks hurtling down a rollercoaster at 60mph but there are other ways to get an adrenaline rush in Orlando. At Gatorland, visitors can roll up their sleeves and and wrestle an alligator! If that sounds like one daredevil step too far, try their Trainer For A Day program where you can hold and feed baby alligators. For encounters with animals of a different kind there’s the Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens. Home to more than 400 animals, this is a fabulous day out for families. Little kids in particular will love the pygmy goats and llamas at the Barnyard Buddies Children’s Zoo and all children will enjoy the splash park and talks by the zoo keepers.
Orlando for Adventure
For a journey to another dimension, visit the Kennedy Space Center. Located around an hour’s drive from downtown Orlando, the complex offers visitors the chance to experience life as an astronaut – without blasting off into space. For more adventures, visit the Orlando Science Center where kids – and their parents – can learn through exciting, interactive exhibits. At the time of writing, the Hall of Heroes exhibit was about to open combining science, science fiction and your own super strengths. If you do feel the need for speed then a ride on an airboat through the Everglades is sure to delight; twist and turn through the mangrove tunnels and keep an eye out for alligators!
Orlando for the Great Outdoors
There are lots of ways to make the most of the Florida sunshine. Orlando boasts plenty of family-friendly beaches, including the sandy white beaches and stunning sunsets of Clearwater Beach and the surfing scene at Cocoa Beach. Another option for a day on the water is a cruise along Clearwater Harbour where you may just spot dolphins swimming alongside you. In downtown Orlando itself, there’s Lake Eola, home to swan-shaped paddle boats, plenty of green spaces and amazing views of the city skyline.
Of course, there are also the parks and if you’re visiting Orlando with kids, it’s unlikely that you won’t visit at least one of the city’s most famous sights – whether that’s the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Animal Kingdom or one of the myriad other amusement parks. But if rollercoasters and rides are not your thing, know that Orlando also delivers families a lot more.
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This post was written in partnership with Dealchecker.co.uk. All opinions are, as always, entirely my own.