Discover Family-Friendly Orlando Theme Parks
Getting an early start:
Disney's Magic Kingdom is a must-see for any first time or even repeated visitors. Get an early starts by booking a breakfast character at the Crystal Palace that will allow you to enter the park before everyone else.
After enjoying your character breakfast, you can start your day. Head toward the back of the park to start your journey in order to avoid a big crowd. And don't forget to strategically use Fast-Pass for the popular ride...
Disney's Animal Kingdom:
Another family favorite park from Walt Disney World. The Disney's Animal Kingdom is big and involves a lot of walking. So make sure you have a stroller for little one even for preschoolers who can walk. You don't want to carry them at the end of the day.
With the size and the heat that can take a toll on the little ones, it's best to go in with a plan. Kids will love the ride on Kilimanjaro Safari. Then hop on the Wildlife Express...
hide detailA planned "small town" community, designed by Disney
- +1-407 - 566 - 4007
- visit website
- 605 Market Street
Pleasantville literally came to life in 1996 with the creation of the Town of Celebration. As eerie as this might sound, this quaint little town is tucked just far back enough from Disney and its related tourist hot spots to make it a quiet place to spend an afternoon or evening. Start your visit by heading down to Market Street, where you'll find lots of parking on the adjacent streets. If you plan to stay for dinner, you can make a reservation at one of the many great restaurants. Columbia is my favorite,
but there is also Seito Sushi, Cafe D'Antonio, Market Street Café, as well as a few other great restaurants. Then you can spend a couple of hours prior to your reservation exploring the town.
One option for exploring Celebration is renting a NEV – Neighborhood Electronic Vehicle – from Wheelz of Celebration. Much like a golf cart, you can drive around at a pretty good speed. So many of Celebration's residents own NEVs that the town created NEV parking spaces around Market and Front Street. From the comfort of your NEV you can check out the hundreds of beautiful houses, stunningly decorated during the holiday season. Make sure you head over to Eastlawn Drive where you'll see some spectacular multimillion-dollar homes.
Another option for exploring is by foot. Celebration is a very walk-able community, with sidewalks on every street and wooden boardwalks throughout. Boardwalks lead through wetland areas where you might catch a glimpse of the many forms of wildlife that also make their home here. There have been many sightings of deer, turkey, and even alligators. Your last option, and my personal favorite, is to take a horse-drawn carriage ride from Front Street and around the main village. For a nominal fee, you can take a romantic, 20-minute ride while you admire the manicured lawns and traditional architecture.
For those interested in a little window-shopping, there are lots of interesting shops throughout the Market Street area. You'll also find the AMC Theater, designed by Cesar Pelli and inspired by the Cathay Circle Cinema in LA, where Walt Disney premiered Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1937.
After dinner, head over to one of the many cafes and listen to jazz or grab a latte from Starbucks and relax in a rocking chair next to Lake Celebration. You may also want to visit Celebration Hotel. Their beautiful lobby bar is the perfect setting to enjoy a cocktail. This boutique hotel sits just on the edge of downtown and is decorated brilliantly with original art and interesting furniture. Not a bad idea for an overnight if you're looking for a romantic getaway.
There are many events throughout the year to be aware of, including The Taste of Celebration (November), The Celebration Spring Art Festival (April), and The Celebration 4th of July Festival. Visit www.celebrationfl.com to learn more about these and other great events. No detail was overlooked when this community was designed. The intention was to create a cozy, safe, hometown feel and this is exactly what you'll find. Even if this community is not somewhere you'd like to live, you'll still admire the amount of thought and planning that has gone into every aspect of Celebration.
Universal Studios & Islands of Adventure:
For family with school-age kids, Universal Studio and Islands of Adventure might satisfy them more than Disney World. With the announcing of highly anticipated new Wizarding World of Harry Potter, my kids (and myself) are very excited and are looking forward to visiting soon.
Enjoy the evening after a long day at the park at the Downtown Disney Market. You can stroll along the boardwalk and...
1 hide detailDive into movie land with spectacular rides, shows, and real-life sets.
Our Local Expert Says:
Fabulous seasonal events like Mardi Gras, Halloween Horror Nights, and the Holiday Concert Series
The world's favorite films and film stars come to life here, and 40 amazing and amusing rides, shows and attractions await. A virtual interactive Terminator 2:3-D adventure has its own set of thrills, as does an encounter with Jaws, a trip Back to the Future, and a voyage beyond the stars in an E.T. Adventure. Special VIP tours are available by pre-arrangement.
2 hide detailUnbelievable roller coasters and character encounters
This trill-a-minute innovative theme park is every adventure lover's fantasy come alive. Fasten your seat belts and be ready to plunge from heights, experience a shark attack or set your adrenaline pumping with action-packed earthquakes and tornadoes. To savor the once-in-a-lifetime experience, try their pulse pounding roller coasters, psychological thrill rides or nerve-wrecking challenges where you get to attempt stunts. Greet your favorite comic characters, legends and super heroes in the motion based 3-D action rides or try your luck in the fun-filled video arcade. Watch dinosaurs in their natural habitat and Spider man in action, when he takes on his enemies in the ultimate battle. This far from average theme park is certainly not for the weak-hearted!
SeaWorld Orlando or Discovery Cove:
For marine animal lovers, the SeaWorld Orlando will be a perfect fit for the whole family. There are various marine live shows throughout the day. So start your day with a good plan to make sure you don't miss out on your must-see live shows.
And if you have kids who always dream about swimming with a dolphin, Discovery Cove will be the answer for them.
Lake Eola Park & Downtown Orlando:
In the evening, head up...
3 hide detailSwim in tranquil waters among dolphins, tropical fish, and rays
Our Local Expert Says:
Best close encounters with dolphins and marine life
In July of 2000, Discovery Cove opened its gates and began providing a unique theme park experience that is nothing short of extraordinary. With a maximum of 1,000 guests per day, the park has managed to create an intimate feel – more like you're visiting a swanky resort in the Caribbean than visiting a theme park in the middle of Orlando. The admission price, though hefty, includes all of your needs…
towels, wet suits, lockers, snorkels, masks, sun tan lotion, souvenir photos and parking.
Meals and snacks are included as well (and not just hot dogs and hamburgers either). You'll start the day with a continental breakfast (pastries, muffins, fresh fruit, juices and coffee). You can have a hamburger for lunch if you'd like, but Discovery Cove also offers such items as grilled salmon and pasta primavera. Unlimited snacks such as chips, pretzels, nachos, ice cream and smoothies are available all day. You can also enjoy as much bottled water, soda, beer, and cappuccinos as you like.
If you've booked yourselves into the Dolphin Encounter, the friendly concierge will schedule your time in the Dolphin Lagoon when you arrive. During the 30-minute encounter, you and 5-7 other guests will wade into shallow water and get up close and personal with a very sociable and playful Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin. Your trainer will guide the dolphin through a series of activities, allowing you to touch and instruct the dolphin. You'll also be able to experience a dorsal tow ride. For dolphin lovers, the extra admission price to include this encounter is definitely worth it.
When you arrive, you'll also want to check on the feeding times at Ray Lagoon so you can make sure to schedule that into your day. You can interact with dozens of rays of all sizes, some up to four feet in diameter. It's an amazing experience to be amongst these gentle and graceful creatures. The Coral Reef is where you'll really get to test your snorkeling skills as you float along amongst the hundreds of brilliantly colored tropical fish and rays. Make sure you find the shark encounter. Don't worry… they're behind thick glass.
You'll want to make several trips down the warm Tropical River, drifting in the slight current, under waterfalls, and through an underwater cave. The river also takes you through the Aviary, where you can hop out of the water and interact with over 250 exotic birds, none of which are caged. Having a toucan land on your arm is an interesting experience. Discovery Cove's beach is a great feature as well. Along
the huge expanse of white, sugary sand, you'll find hammocks, umbrellas, and cabanas for your use. When all the swimming and snorkeling leaves you exhausted, grab a beach lounger and have a nap.
To avoid disappointment, reservations are a must!
4 hide detailDolphin shows, sea lions, and rides at Shamu's theme park
Our Local Expert Says:
Awesome animal shows and roller coasters
One of the first theme parks to open in Orlando, SeaWorld has been operating here for more than 30 years. The 200 acres of attractions and animal shows make this a perennial favorite with Florida visitors. Many new attractions and rides have been added to the original fun including a laser-fireworks-water extravaganza and high-tech thrill rides.
5 hide detailSwans, strolling and a Sunday farmer's market
Our Local Expert Says:
Best downtown outdoor space!
A couple of hours can easily and peacefully drift away while strolling around Lake Eola Park, taking in the floating fountain and watching the white and black swans peacefully paddling across the lake. Established in 1888, the park's 43 acres of land are continuously enhanced with vibrant flowers, perfectly manicured grounds, and charming gazebos. The walking path circling the lake is 0.9 miles in length, perfect for enjoying a healthy stroll or vigorous jog. Shop at the Sunday Eola Market featuring fresh produce, artisan items, and a beer garden with live music. Swan rides are available for rent most days, and there is a restaurant tucked right inside the park called Eric's on Eola. There are about a dozen more restaurants within a short walking distance.
Disney's Hollywood Studios:
If you have the Hopper Park pass (which is highly recommended), then a quick visit at Disney's Hollywood Studios will make little ones very happy.
They will meet their favorite friends from their favorite Playhouse Disney shows. My school-age kids will enjoy the Star Tour based on Star Wars movie and the Jedi Academy.
Epcot is big, no scratch that, it's HUGE. So for the visit that will be only for half a day, it's best...