Last week I spoke of some of the cool things to do in Orlando that aren’t the main theme parks of Disney World and Universal. Here is the next part of my list…
OK so I realise I am ever so slightly cheating here by including Disney Springs, as technically it is part of Disney World. But I feel that Disney Springs needs a little bit of love in its own right. Disney Springs is Disney’s entertainment area, housing a huge number of shops, restaurants, entertainment and fun attractions in its own right. Better still you don’t need a ticket to go there so it is a great way of dipping your toe into Disney without going the whole hog and going to one of the four main parks.
There is so much to do there and they have recently opened a lovely new shopping area which houses big names such as Anthropologie, Sephora, Kate Spade, Superdry and H and M. There’s so many great places to eat, grab a snack and there’s lots of outdoor entertainment as well. While we were there we ate at T-Rex, a dinosaur themed restaurant which our girls absolutely loved (more on restaurants in a later post!), and we watched the sun set over the water. One unmissable thing to do is go for a cupcake at Sprinkles and use the ATM, basically a cash machine that dispenses delicious cupcakes. It was a great treat for all the family. Disney Springs really is a lovely place to spend an afternoon and evening.
I absolutely love this photo of my boys.
Winter Park is such a lovely place, I almost want to keep it to myself. When we go away we try and find places that are off the beaten track a little and Winter Park certainly seems to have escaped a huge influx of tourists, at least for now. It’s basically a little town just on the outskirts of Orlando and it is beautiful. It is a town surrounded by lakes and green spaces, perfect for escaping the madness of the theme parks for an afternoon. There are upmarket restaurants and shops all down the main street and during the weekend it gets full of local residents enjoying a drink at tables lining the street.
Another nice thing to do if you have a car is head to look at all the big, gorgeous family homes, there are some stunning properties that you can’t quite believe people live in. Or head down to the lake and take a boat tour which is organised by the older residents where they will give you all the gossip on the aforementioned homes.
We had lunch at a great burger place called Burgerfi which we hadn’t heard of before, but it was really similar to Five Guys. Then as a treat we headed to this amazing huge candy shop where our American candy mad girls got to pick a few things to take home with them. (Unwrapping sweet videos on you tube have a lot to answer for!)
Celebration is a beautiful town only a few miles away from Disney World, yet at the same time it is a crazy place. Originally the master mind of Disney, it was purpose built in the late 1990’s, where people scrambled to become residents and live the Disney dream. Indeed walking around Celebration, it certainly does feel a little like a dream town- the houses are huge and all varying styles of pastel with beautiful large porches housing love seats. Disney sold the town in 2004 but there is definitely still an air of Disney charm about the town. Driving past the houses you will see that they all look the same but different. Apparently they can only put up white curtains on windows facing the street. It’s a little bit like walking round in the Truman Show, yet at the same time it is irresistible charming and also slightly surreal.
There’s a lovely lake with a kids wet play area and a few restaurants, shops and cafe bars dotted about too. When we visited at Halloween, our girls loved checking out the decorated houses where the owners had gone to town on halloween bits and pieces. It’s definitely worth a visit for an afternoon.
Aquatica is a huge waterpark right in the heart of Orlando. This one-of-a-kind water park is home to some of the world’s most thrilling water rides, including 36 slides, six rivers, lagoons, exhilarating wave pools and more than 80,000 square feet of sparkling white, sandy beaches. Newest to the park is Orlando’s tallest and steepest free-fall waterslide, Ihu’s Breakway Falls – Orlando’s only multi-drop tower slide of its kind.
When we arrived we were shocked at the sheer size of Aquatica, it is like a theme park in itself and it took us a while to find our bearings, it was huge. We soon found our way to our cabana for the day. For an extra fee you can hire a cabana, situated in various locations around the park. This genuinely made our stay, especially with young children who get tired. You get bottled water in your own private fridge, a locker and towels, plus shade which is a must for little people, and when you consider that you would pay for locker hire and perhaps towels anyway it doesn’t work out that much more. You also can get food service delivered to you, the two men who were looking after us were so incredibly chatty and friendly, although we didn’t use the food service.
We had such a great day at Aquatica, the girls loved the river rapids, we went around them approximately 56 times! And they also loved the huge kids splash park, which was so much fun, we spent hours there splashing around and having fun. We were there the whole day but we didn’t even begin to scratch the surface of all that we could have done at Aquatica, there was so much to do and we would like to go back one day. There was loads to do for little children, even though of course a lot of the thrill rides were catered for adults and older children. They also loved the wave machine as well. One thing that I thought was great was that they enforced a strict compulsory life jacket policy for all children under a certain height and there were lots of stations around the park where you could pick one up.
Our children are utter water babies and it was wonderful to see them enjoying the water so much, Mads still often talks about her day at Aquatica as she was so proud of the fact that she could go down some of the ‘big slides’. It’s amazing to see how much they gain confidence in the water even after just a morning at Aquatica. We would definitely recommend going there if you are visiting Orlando, it’s such a fun place.
We only visited Aquatica but if you want to do more, the best value ticket for visiting SeaWorld Parks in Florida is the 3-Park SeaWorld, Aquatica and Busch Gardens Ticket or the Discovery Cove Ultimate Package.
The 3-Park SeaWorld, Aquatica and Busch Gardens Ticket offers 14 days unlimited entry to three parks for the price of two – SeaWorld Orlando, Aquatica Orlando AND Busch Gardens Tampa – when guests book and visit before 31 December 2017. Prices start from £107 per adult and £102 per child. You also get free parking too at all the parks which is a bonus. Head over to the main website to find out more.
Relaxing in our private Cabana.
Before we went to the Crayola Experience, I couldn’t imagine that it would be one of the highlights of our trip, I saw it as more of a place to spend a couple of hours after we had been shopping in the adjacent Florida Mall. How completely wrong I was- the Crayola Experience is a wonderful attraction in it’s own right. The Crayola Experience is all about discovering the magic of color with 25 hands-on attractions. There are more than 70,000 square feet of wonderful, whimsical adventures all housed in a large air conditioned building (perfect for escaping the Florida heat for a while).
I was brought up using Crayola pens and I love that my children use them now still. Both of them are at an age where they are really learning to express themselves with art, Mads especially who is rarely seen at the moment without some crayons or pens and a note pad in her hand, and both of them absolutely loved their time at the Crayola Experience. There is so much for children to do, including really cute ideas such as making your own personalised crayon to take home, making a picture of your face to colour in, a huge chalkboard area full of you to chalk on whatever takes your fancy, and a place for you to melt crayons to make a wax masterpiece. Then after you have done all that, there is also a large soft play area too, plus a huge Crayola shop. We picked the girls up some pens to take home as a souvenir and they were so excited.
We absolutely loved the Crayola Experience. It definitely wouldn’t take up a whole day of your stay, yet at the same time you want to take at least a few hours out of your schedule so you can really enjoy it. It is also a perfect place to visit if you are planning on doing some shopping as it is really near quite a few of the main shopping areas.
Here is the first part of our videos I have made of our amazing trip to Orlando…
NB: Thanks to Visit Orlando for working with us on planning our holiday to Orlando, we have a great relationship with them from over the years. All words, photos, videos and opinions are entirely my own and they haven’t asked me to write about anything- all content has been decided by me. For one of the attractions (Crayola Experience) we were kindly given press tickets. You can follow Visit Orlando over on twitter, instagram and Facebook, plus download their amazing app to help you plan your trip here.4