10 unmissable things to do in Orlando with kids

Last updated on October 20, 2023

We haven’t yet been to Orlando, so here’s a guest post from Micah Buffington, a working mum of three who blogs about family travel at Work. Play. Mommy. Micah visits Orlando often, so here are all her top tips for the best things to do in Orlando with kids

Micah and her daughter at Disney World

Our family loves visiting Orlando, Florida for the food, fun and family-friendly vibes. The city is ever-evolving, and each time we return, we find something new to love about it.

Our family visits 1-2 times per year while visiting family in the area, so we love experiencing new attractions each time we go.

With its warm climate, sunny skies, and world class things to do, it’s no wonder it makes it to the top of family vacation lists worldwide.

Orlando is known as the theme park capital of the world, and has plenty more to do on top of that. It’s a destination that offers endless fun and excitement for kids of all ages.

Here is our pick of the top ten places to visit in Orlando, Florida with kids

And if you’re heading to the west coast, see our guides to things to do with kids in Los Angeles, plus specific guides to visiting Disneyland with toddlers, or Universal Studios Hollywood.

Florida attractions and restaurants map

10 unmissable Florida attractions for families and kids

1. Walt Disney World

Christmas Castle at Magic Kingdom

No visit to Orlando would be complete without a trip to Walt Disney World, the most popular of all the Orlando activities for kids. With four theme parks, two water parks, and countless other attractions, there is something for everyone at the most magical place on earth.

Walt Disney World is the most popular theme park in Orlando for good reason. It’s home to Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios. There are rides and attractions for all ages, from toddlers to adults.

My kids love meeting their favorite Disney characters, watching parades, and seeing fireworks shows at night. With a little bit of Pixie Dust, our whole family always feels the magic in the resorts, the parks, and the restaurants.

Our family’s favorite memories are usually made under the fireworks near closing time. Something about the lights, the music, the visuals, the drones, and Tinkerbell (you will understand when you see her!), make the whole show magical for us!

If you’re looking to save on your Disney vacation, try these Disney Vacation Club tips. Or, if you want some simple mom hacks to save you time, money, and sanity at Disney, then try my mom hacks for visiting Disney. By using some of these Disney tips, our family was able to spend seven days at the park for the average cost of a 4-day trip.

2. Universal Studios Florida

Minions at Universal Studios Florida

Another popular thing for kids to do in Orlando is Universal Studios Florida, home to some of the most thrilling rides and attractions in Orlando. From the Wizarding World of Harry Potter – a must-see for any Harry Potter fan – to the Jurassic Park River Adventure, Universal Studios is sure to keep the whole family entertained.

Universal Studios Florida has two themed parks with plenty of thrilling rides and attractions, like roller coasters, 3D simulators, and water rides. Plus, kids can meet their favorite Universal characters, including Minions, Transformers, and Spider-Man.

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If you are coming with a Harry Potter-loving family like ours, be sure to add wands to your budget. Your family will love not only choosing their wand but interacting with them throughout the Wizarding World.

Like Disney, Universal also boasts its own unique resorts, themed attractions, and restaurants where you can easily spend 4-7 days. It’s an amazing family attraction in Orlando.

3. SeaWorld Orlando

sea lion at Seaworld Orlando

Yes, Orlando has more than just theme parks. For a more aquatic experience, SeaWorld Orlando offers up-close encounters with marine life, thrilling rides, and world-class entertainment. Don’t miss the opportunity to see killer whales, dolphins, and sea lions up close.

The park offers a mix of entertainment, education, and animal encounters. However, you will also find lots of rides and attractions for all ages, including roller coasters and water rides.

To see manatees and other Gulf Coast marine life for free, check out the free Manatee Viewing Center in nearby Tampa.

[Editor note: Do familiarise yourself with SeaWorld’s ethical record before visiting. It’s a personal choice, but good to be informed]

4. Kennedy Space Center

A sign of the Kennedy Space Center

Though not technically located in Orlando, but at Cape Canaveral, a short drive or shuttle away, Kennedy Space Center (KSC) is a great family-friendly destination and a brilliant family activity in Orlando, FL. At KSC your children can learn about the history of space exploration, both the good and the bad.

Kids can get up close and personal with real spacecraft, exploration equipment, gear, and more. They can even meet astronauts, train like an astronaut, or learn about Science and STEM from astronauts and scientists on site.

Our kids’ favorite part of KSC was that all of the exhibits were interactive. They didn’t simply listen to presentations, read information, or even watch videos. They were able to put their hands on throttle controls, touch outer space, experiment with moon rocks, and even perform experiments.

KSC can be an overwhelming place, so don’t miss my top 10 tips for visiting Kennedy Space Center with kids.

5. Gatorland

Flamingos at Gatorland

Though you won’t find me at Gatorland (I’m terrified!), Gatorland is a hugely popular local attraction for kids, families, and adults alike. This wildlife park is home to thousands of alligators and crocodiles, as well as other animals like birds, snakes, and panthers.

Kids will love seeing ancient creatures up close, as well as watching them jump and feed during daily shows. If you’re lucky, you might even have the chance to touch, hold, or feed one of the native Florida alligators protected in this reserve.

However, you can also find gators lurking in the many ponds and sunny perches around central Florida if you don’t want to pay the cover charge!

I don’t see a lot of gators in my own backyard, so watching them sunbathe in front of local stores was a bit of a shock for our family! It’s one of the most unique picks for what to do in Orlando with kids.

6. LEGOLAND

Kids in a roller coaster at Legoland

LEGO fans will love LEGOLAND Florida, where they can see LEGO creations come to life and still enjoy the thrill rides that Orlando, Florida is famous for.

Legoland Florida is a theme park that is specifically designed for kids aged 2 to 12. The park is filled with Lego-themed attractions, including rides, shows, and play areas. Kids can build and race their own Lego cars, explore Lego cities, and see amazing Lego sculptures. There are also several water rides and attractions that are perfect for cooling off on a hot Florida day. It’s one of the most fun things to do in Orlando for kids.

Legoland also has its own themed lodging and restaurants but is rarely as crowded or overwhelming as a day at Disney or Universal. The change of pace might be a welcome respite for both the kids and the parents.

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Plus, the girls in my family loved that there were entire displays dedicated to Lego Friends where they felt more inclined to exercise their engineering and creative skills.

7. Orlando Science Center

For a more educational experience, head to the Orlando Science Center. Kids can learn about science, technology, engineering, and math through interactive exhibits, live shows, and hands-on activities.

Your children can experience exhibits that teach about food production and sustainability, new discoveries, and even create 3d art.

Plus, the Orlando Science Center doesn’t forget about the littles. There are even interactive and educational exhibits for children ages 0-7, including space to explore with their active feet. With options for all ages, it’s a great thing to do in Orlando with family

Your younger children can be overwhelmed by so many of the large theme parks and rides, so it is nice that they can feel freer and calmer in the Orlando Science Center.

8. Crayola Experience

Kids can unleash their creativity at the Crayola Experience. This interactive attraction offers dozens of colorful activities like making your own crayons, painting with melted wax, and creating digital art.

Located inside the Florida Mall, the Crayola Experience is a great way to have a break from theme parks and characters while letting kids embrace their creativity.

Crayola Experience also has an enormous indoor play center where kids can run free without worrying about the Florida heat or rain. It’s a perfect all-weather thing to do with kids in Orlando.

General admission for the Crayola Experience starts at $28.99. However, if you purchase your entry pass online, you can save an additional $3.00 per person. Plus, if your child, like mine, is a huge fan of Crayola Scribble Scrubbies, at the time of writing this article, each entrant is eligible to receive one free Scrubbie!

9. Disney Springs

Kids looking at the Christmas tree in Disney Springs

Disney Springs is part of the Disney World complex, but it bears little resemblance to the parks in that the entire venue is free. Free parking, free admission, and loads of free entertainment.

Disney Springs is a popular shopping, dining, and entertainment destination in Orlando. Frankly, it’s one of our family’s favorite ways to spend a low-cost day in Orlando with kids.

Visitors can experience a wide variety of attractions, including Cirque du Soleil, hot air balloon rides, and even amphibious vehicle rides. But our family really loves just strolling around the complex, visiting the enormous Lego store, and, of course, eating.

Some of our favorite food stops include Gideon’s cookies, the Ganachery, Everglazed Donuts, and Joffrey’s coffee. For a full meal, you can’t go wrong with the T-Rex restaurant and a stop at the dinosaur-themed Build-A-Bear.

Stop by the customer service center for interactive activities for the kids like the Christmas Tree Stroll, Easter Egg hunting, or other free scavenger activities. If your children complete the task, they might even earn a small prize.

10. Universal CityWalk

Universal CityWalk in Orlando, Florida is a vibrant entertainment hub that features numerous attractions for families and kids to enjoy. Some of the top attractions at City Walk include the Universal Cinemark movie theater, where you can catch the latest blockbuster films on the big screen.

You can also rock and eat at the Hard Rock Cafe Orlando featuring American fare and rock ‘n’ roll memorabilia. Then the whole family will love playing mini-golf, listening to live music, or snacking around Universal CityWalk.

Other notable attractions include the famous Voodoo Doughnut, and the Toothsome Chocolate Emporium. Finally, don’t leave without merchandise from your favorite Universal movies and TV shows from the Universal Store.

One of our past family favorites of Universal City Walk was the Pez store, which sadly is no longer open. However, we still love a dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe for some American nostalgia.

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Where to stay in Orlando, Florida with Kids

If you’re visiting any one of the theme parks, I’m a firm believer that the on-property experience is well worth the money. What better way to be immersed in the magic than to see princesses descend the gilded staircase of your lobby or watch giraffes stroll along your patio overlooking the savannah?

So, if you’re planning a trip to Disney World, Universal Studios, or Legoland, stay on-site for a more magical, fun-filled experience tailored to your vacation.

However, for other unique stays, turn to Airbnb. Orlando is an area covered in Airbnbs. It’s our family’s preference in most of the world because we can have separate bedrooms, a kitchen, and laundry facilities.

But in Orlando, Airbnbs go to a new level! Many Orlando vacation rentals are themed to characters, destinations, stories, books, movies, games, and more.

Some even provide limited local transportation, pools or additional amenities for the whole family.

Where to eat in Orlando, Florida with Kids

Everglazed donuts at Disney Springs

Some of the best restaurants and most prominent chefs in the region and even in the world are found at Disney and Universal. If you don’t want to pay the cost of admission, book a reservation at one of the awesome restaurants in Universal CityWalk or Disney Springs.

Did you know multiple Disney restaurants are listed in the Michelin guide? Our personal favorite is Toledo, a tapas restaurant located at the top of Gran Destino tower at Riviera Resort. While you won’t need a ticket to the parks, you will need a reservation. Book a late dinner and enjoy park fireworks from Toledo’s balcony.

If you’re looking for treats, don’t skip a heart-healthy breakfast of donuts at Everglazed, a midday snack at the famous Gideon’s Bakehouse, or beignets at Port Orleans. Again, no park tickets required.

For a truly unique experience away from the characters, visit the world-famous Cherry Pocket Steakhouse.

This dilapidated looking shack overlooking a beautiful central Florida lake is actually a foodie destination popular with locals, tourists, and foodpreneurs alike. Beware, Cherry Pocket takes no reservations, and the dirt packed parking lot fills early!

When to visit, what to know about, and how to get around Orlando, Florida with Kids

Orlando, Florida has a comfortable, mild winter, and a sweltering summer. If possible, try to visit Orlando from October through May when the weather won’t send you running for shade and A/C.

If you’re visiting the theme parks, make your visit more manageable with an all-terrain stroller that you can rent from the airport and have delivered to your accommodation. 

Finally, book airport transportation direct to your accommodation to avoid having to deal with Orlando traffic and parking. Most theme parks offer shuttle, bus, train, ferry, or other transportation around the entire resorts and the greater Orlando area.

Many people rely solely on Uber, Lyft, or other ride services to get around the city or visit the nearby attractions like Cape Canaveral, Cocoa Beach, Tampa, Port Canaveral, or Kennedy Space Center.

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Accommodation guides: Glamping in New England | New England family resorts | Maine family resorts | Vermont family resorts

The photos of the Minions ride and sea lion are credited to Universal Studios Florida and SeaWorld Orlando.

1 thought on “10 unmissable things to do in Orlando with kids”

  1. You are probably not aware of the new Immersive Wizard of Oz Museum in Cape Canaveral. It is ranked as #1 Children’s Museum in Florida on TripAdvisor and #1 in the USA on TripAdvisor by Travelers ranking out of 522 Children’s museums

    Reply

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