This site contains affiliate links. Please see Disclosure Policies for more information.
Most people visit Orlando for the theme parks: Disney, Universal and SeaWorld, but there is more to the city than what these parks offer. You don’t have to visit a theme park to enjoy your time in Orlando, and you may just save a buck or two in the process. Part of being a Mom is saving money — it costs a lot to feed and clothe little people!
I’m an experienced Orlando travel writer and I’ve found that families need a break from the parks. While they are great, and the reason so many people visit Central Florida, there are several less expensive attractions that will entertain your family.
Here’s my list (abridged):
Gatorland — I have actually never been to Gatorland, but friends of mine always take kids there and say they love it. It’s a “low-key” kind of place, but looking at their Web site, it looks like the perfect place for an easy, but fun-filled day.
Downtown Disney — you can get a taste of Disney without the big ticket price. At downtown Disney, you can stroll through all of your favorite stores and kids can get play along the way. The Lego store is a favorite for all ages. There is a small playset for the little kids, and an area where all kids (and adults too) can wade through bins of Lego’s. There are larger-then-life Lego sculptures that circle the store and make great photos ops. There’s the possibility that you’ll still throw down a wad of cash, but you’ll skip the hefty admission price.
Splash grounds — The Orlando-area is full of splash grounds (flat fountains designed for kids to run around in.) There are some at Downtown Disney and at Universal CityWalk (again, admission if free for both of these locations), and there are some other spots around the city which have them too.
Central Florida Zoo — Located in Sanford, FL (about 40 minutes or so from Disney) the zoo is an affordable option at $10.00 per person.
Green Meadows Petting Farm — Nearly every city has some sort of petting farm and Central Florida is no different. The price is more expensive than the zoo, but I hear from a lot of parents who said their kids love Green Meadows. I plan on trying it out soon.
Lake Eola Park — Located in the heart of downtown Orlando, Lake Eola is a great place to take a family for an early morning or afternoon break. The lake hosts a large fountain in the center that has become a landmark to Orlando. The lake is about a mile in circumference with a wide sidewalk all the way around it. Bicycles, roller blades and skateboards are not allowed on the sidewalk portion of the lake — it’s reserved for walkers, Moms/Dads with strollers and joggers. There is also a new playground which has two sizes of playsets and swings. It’s a great area. As a security measure, you must be with a child to enter the playground area. There are plenty of lunch options within walking distance of the lake if hunger strikes.
Peabody hotel — Watch the ducks parade down the red carpet at this posh hotel. At 11:00 a.m. every morning, the Peabody ducks make their way, via a special elevator, down the red carpet to the atrium lobby fountain. Here they stay all day, until 5:00 p.m. when the procession is reversed and the ducks go “home” to their penthouse suite for the night. It’s an adorable sight and something that kids will love.