Family Fun in Orlando

Filed Under: Family, Orlando

Orlando is a no-brainer when it comes to family fun. Options include nonstop action at the quartet of Disney parks, the magic of Harry Potter and water park fun. But beyond the theme park gates, there is another side to Orlando. Kick back for a picnic at a downtown park, get up close to Florida’s gators and indulge in a high-speed zipline tour in a more natural setting. It’s time to explore Orlando’s natural wonders with the whole family.
Garden Tea Room Grand Floridian

Garden View Tea Room at the Grand Floridian

Even if your kids have outgrown the princess stage, they can still enjoy a taste of royalty at the Grand Floridian’s swanky Garden View Tea Room. This daily afternoon affair (tea runs from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.) shows off Disney’s elegant side. Afternoon tea is a fancy affair modeled after the great English tradition: scones, clotted cream, dainty sandwiches, the best stinky cheese and, of course, a spot of tea served on the finest china.

Insider’s Tip: Though it includes sweet treats and fruit, the menu is designed for a more sophisticated palette. If you’re visiting Orlando with younger kids, consider visiting the Garden Tea Room for a themed Princess Tea Party.Your princess-in-training can don her best dress-up gear and enjoy take-away treats (a doll and tea party accoutrements including a tiara, jewelry and rose) and a chance to meet Princess Aurora.

Boggy Creek Airboat Rides

Get a taste of the Everglades experience (the headwaters actually begin near Orlando) courtesy of Boggy Creek Airboat Rides. You might encounter much of the same Everglades wildlife, including gators, eagles, turtles and wading birds (like cranes and ibis), while speeding through the tall grass and swamplands on an airboat. No need to call ahead for the 30-minute scenic nature tour. Still, you will want to reserve a spot for the 1-hour night excursion or scenic nature tour; it offers more opportunities to see wildlife. During the hot summer months, the staff guarantees sightings of the nocturnal Florida alligator during the evening expedition -- and they have never failed to deliver on this promise! Kids of all ages are welcome, though younger kids may find the loud noises from the boat as well as the mandatory life vests uncomfortable.

Insider’s Tip: Boggy Creek has 2 locations in Kissimmee. One of them is just 5 minutes from Orlando International airport, making it a convenient activity on the first or last day of your trip.
Florida EcoSafaris at Forever Florida
Florida EcoSafaris at Forever Florida

Florida EcoSafaris at Forever Florida

The first of its kind in Orlando, Florida EcoSafaris at Forever Florida brings theme park thrills to a 4,700-acre eco-ranch and wildlife conservation area. You can purchase 1 ticket for unlimited access to the park’s 6 zipline adventures, including the zipline safari for 2.5 hours of flying over pine flatwoods and forested wetlands. Also enjoy the sensation of riding a reclined bicycle suspended from a cable up to 25-feet in the air on the Cypress canopy cycle. And scream through the trees as you take on the Rattlesnake, the first zipline roller coaster in the US. This wild ride reaches speeds of up to 20 mph while you swoop, swerve, dip and jump through the treetops. There’s no need for the family to split up for the day, either. While kids must be 10 for zipline activities (and 12 for the horseback tour), little ones can ride on a parent’s lap for the 2-hour coach safari tour through the wildlife conservation area’s 9 Florida ecosystems (and kids under 5 are free).

Insider’s Tip: For the best shot at animal sightings (such as exotic birds, bobcats, otters and, of course, gators), arrive when the gates open at 9 a.m. If you’re doing the package, knock the zipline safari off your checklist first; plan your other adventures around this activity.


Gatorland has a well-earned reputation as the alligator capital of the world. The 110-acre alligator theme park and wildlife preserve is home to thousands of gators and crocs, with plenty of thrills in between. Take in the classic battle of man versus beast at the Gator Wrestlin’ show: a wrangler catches a 6- to 8-foot alligator by hand. During Gator Jumparoo, gators leap almost 5 feet from the water to snatch chicken from a trainer’s hand. The newest thrill is the Screamin’ Gator, a series of 4 ziplines and a suspension bridge dangling above alligators and crocodiles. Kids must be 70 pounds to ride solo; younger children can ride tandem with an adult as long as the combined weight is under 275 pounds. Set aside about 2.5 hours for your zipline tour. Then, get a closer look at the gators after your ride; park admission is included free in the zipline price. Meanwhile, the park’s youngest guests will enjoy the Gator Gully Splash Park (with lockers nearby to stash wet towels) and the cheerful Very Merry Aviary where they can feed colorful lorikeets for a small fee.

Insider’s Tip: Ticket prices are reasonable; parking and shows are included for free. But bring along extra cash for extra expenses, including charges for the train ride and animal food.
Lake Eola

Lake Eola Park

Spend a lazy day at peaceful Lake Eola Park, worlds away from the busy theme parks in downtown Orlando. Bring along picnic supplies and enjoy a few hours in the park, admiring the flowers and enjoying the view of Orlando’s skyline behind Centennial Fountain. For more action, burn off some energy on the playground or cruise the lake in a swan-shaped paddle boat or electric gondola. Follow along on Twitter for updates on live music and family-friendly events around the park and at the Walt Disney Amphitheater.

Insider’s Tip: Stock up on fresh fruit and veggies to fill your rental’s fridge at the weekly Orlando farmers’ market, held Sundays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Fresh produce and prepared food is available to enjoy with a drink from the beer garden, plus fresh-squeezed OJ or a smoothie for the kids.