Find More Than Theme Parks in Orlando

Posted March 31, 2008

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— Mega theme parks like Disney World and Universal Studios have helped Orlando become the family-oriented vacation destination it is today. However, Orlando and nearby areas offer other lesser-known attractions, restaurants and area hotels.

Discovery Cove offers a unique experience with dolphins, thousands of fish, rays and birds. A one-day, all-inclusive ticket features a 30-minute dolphin swim session, snorkeling with tropical fish in the Coral Reef, hand-feeding birds in the free flight aviary and wading with rays in a special lagoon. Breakfast, lunch and snacks are offered.

Check out the Orlando Science Center, which gives you a glimpse of the human body from the perspective of a red blood cell.

Another outing is Gatorland, a 110-acre theme park and wildlife preserve. Witness some of the largest alligators in the world jump 4 to 5 feet out of the water during the Gator Jumparoo Show. Kids will also enjoy the Upclose Animal Encounters Show, where creatures from around the world, including some of the most dangerous snakes, are within touching distance.

Kissimmee, Fla., is home to the Green Meadows Petting Zoo. A two-hour guided tour features more than 300 farm animals. Kids can milk a cow, take a pony ride or a tractor-drawn hayride or just pet livestock.

Arabian Nights Dinner Show has a prime rib dinner enhanced by the roman­tic and magical story that unfolds in front of you. You’ll meet a handsome prince, a beautiful princess and a genie and be entranced by stunts with an array of stunning horses, charioteers and unicorns.

The Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament is set within a huge European-style castle and features tournament games of skill, jousting and sword fights.

One restaurant you can count on kids loving is McDonald’s, especially with the World’s Largest PlayPlace. McDonald’s is found on International Drive. Kids can zoom down a 60-foot super slide, play some of the 60 arcade games or run around the play area.

If your stay in Orlando lasts more than a day, the following accommodations are worth considering:

  • Nickelodeon Family Suites by Holiday Inn boasts brightly hued, non-stop action that can make you feel like your favorite Nickelodeon characters.
  • Nick Hotel’s Lagoon Pool boasts a four-story interactive water tower with several slides, water jets, climbing nets and a 400-gallon dump tank. Daily poolside interactive games hosted by the energetic recreation team add another level of fun.
  • The Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center includes a 4,000-square-foot La­Petite Academy Kids Station. Older guests will appreciate the Coquina Dunes golf course, the Canyon Ranch SpaClub and the shopping and dining options.

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