October 20, 2017

Central Florida: 3 Magical Experiences that Don’t Require Mouse Ears

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I like Walt Disney World as much as the next person (well, maybe not as much as my dear friend, Katie). We took the kids two years ago and we’re excited to go back again in November. But I also know that there’s more to Central Florida than princesses and talking toys.

We stayed at the Animal Kingdom Lodge in 2009 but this year we’re staying off-property since my in-laws are coming with us and it was just more economical to stay two miles away in a single-family house. So then I started to think about what else we could do on our one week vacation besides going to the Walt Disney World resorts. What else could we do that would provide extra educational value? Here’s what I found:

Kennedy Space Center: My oldest daughter, Clare, turns eight this summer and just finished up a book report on John Glenn, so taking a side trip to Kennedy Space Center is a natural. It’s just an hour from Orlando and we’ll be able to visit the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame, check out a 3D IMAX space film and sit in on a Q&A session with a real-life astronaut.

Space shuttle and rocket launches take place throughout the year that require advance tickets, or you can watch live launches from several spots along Florida’s Space Coast. The Lunch with an Astronaut program is another great way to give your kids a one-of-a-kind experience and learn more about space travel. We can’t wait!

Orlando Science Center: There’s an incredible amount to see and do at the Orlando Science Center. Little ones will enjoy the touring Curious George exhibit, learning how to use machines to move construction materials and exploring the galaxy by hopping on George’s rocket ship.

Kids can also uncover fossils in the DinoDigs gallery, learn about the human body in the touring Your Healer Within exhibit, and enjoy daily Science Live! programs that bring the exhibits to life. Check out what’s showing in the theatre, like Jane Goodall’s Wild Chimpanzees and Forces of Nature. Look out for planetarium shows too on the first and third Saturdays of each month.

Gatorland: Located between Orlando and Kissimmee, you’ll find so much more than alligators and crocodiles. Check out the breeding marsh, reptile shows, an aviary and petting zoo. Shows run every 45 to 60 minutes, so get ready for alligators that jump four to five feet out of the water as you learn about the incredible powers of these reptiles.

Check out White Gator Swamp for the largest collection of giant white alligators. The Trainer for a Day program, while expensive at $125 per person, received rave reviews on Trip Advisor. Designed for children and adults ages 12 years and up, you’ll get a glimpse into what it takes to work with and around dangerous animals. Little ones can enjoy feeding sea turtles and splashing in a water play area.

A few other places within an hour’s drive of Walt Disney World include Dinosaur World, Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge and Fantasy of Flight. It’s amazing just how much Central Florida our kids. If you venture “off property” on your visits to the Magic Kingdom, where do you like to go? I’d love to hear from you.

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