Why Orlando {But Not Disney} Should Be Your Next Family Vacation

If you are looking for road trip ideas from Baton Rouge, there are dozens of family-friendly road trip suggestions here. If you are interested in camping near Baton Rouge, Louisiana has several kid-friendly campsites listed here (many do offer cabins). Ideas for weekend travel within Louisiana are included here.

Why Orlando {But Not Disney} Should Be Your Next Family Vacation

Chances are if you have traveled to Orlando, it was to visit the magical world of Disney.  When at Disney World, one most likely does not leave the grounds. I have recently discovered that Orlando has a lot to offer outside the gates of Disney. On two separate occasions, I have tagged along with my husband for business conferences in Orlando. Outside of Disney is another world of excitement and fun. Below you will find a list of a few of those options. These activities would be perfect for anyone wanting to stay off Disney property, split up Disney days with other adventures, or visit Orlando without any Disney at all. I know the last one is quite impossible to imagine…definitely not for everyone. Passing by the gates of Disney many times, without kids in tow, I felt a pang of guilt for leaving the kids at home while visiting Orlando.

For Families Seeking Adventure in Orlando

Bioluminescence Kayak Tours

A little over an hour drive East you will find several options for kayaking and paddleboarding. Florida’s coast offers a view of bioluminescence. Bioluminescence is a rare phenomenon of light production by tiny organisms in the water. Only occurring in a handful of places in the USA, Florida is a great place to witness this. 

To see bioluminescence, you must take a nighttime tour. The organisms glow when the water is stirred up by the paddle. If nighttime kayaking is not for you, a wide range of kayaking tours are available. Florida also has a large population of birds and manatees. These animals are best seen in the morning. Perhaps a morning kayak would better fit families with young children. My husband and I took the sunset kayak, which I learned was not the best choice. Although the sunset was beautiful, it was too late in the day for the manatee but not late enough for bioluminescence. We had the opportunity to swim in bioluminescent water in Puerto Rico which I highly recommend if ever given the opportunity!

A simple google search of Orlando kayak tours will give you many options. Below are just a couple I found to have excellent reviews: 

BK Adventure

Adventures in Florida

Orlando Watersports

This is a very unique watersports complex offering both boat and cable watersport activities. This is perfect for families that love to be on the water. My family loves to waterski and I am hopeful to return to Orlando to do this! The park offers watersports for those just beginning, all the way to the most advanced. Activities available include wakeboarding, waterskiing, wakeskating, kneeboarding, tubing, and a huge aqua park for those who do not want to ski.

Orlando water sports offers several different pricing options depending on what you are looking for. If not interested in the watersports aspect, the waterpark looks amazing.

Fun Spot

Seeking the thrill of the rides, without the magic of Disney? Orlando Fun Spot is the place for you and your family. From kiddie rides to the freedom flyer inverted roller coaster, the Fun Spot has a ride to please all levels of thrill-seekers. This theme park also houses multi-level Go-Kart tracks, a wooden roller coaster, a splash pad, and a 110-acre Gator Spot exhibit showcasing thousands of alligators and crocodiles.

For Families Seeking Fun in Orlando

The Crayola Experience 

A large indoor activity center centered around the magic of color, The Crayola Experience offers hands-on activities, experiences and kid-friendly attractions. This one is designed to be a full-day experience. Although I did not visit, I definitely plan to next time we are in Orlando with our daughters! 

ICON Park

When driving around Orlando, you can not help but notice the huge wheel that lights up at night. Known as the Orlando eye or the wheel at Icon Park, it offers the best views of the city. Icon Park also has over 40 restaurants, shops, amusement park rides, and games. Included in the restaurants is Wheelhouse Market which offers internationally inspired foods. ICON Park would be a great evening activity for families.

Kennedy Space Center

This one is for families who love science and space; Kennedy Space Center offers multiple exhibits and attractions. You will learn about the beginning of space exploration all the way to current missions and explorations. Race to the Moon: Apollo/Saturn V Center houses the Saturn V rocket and gives an up-close and personal experience of putting humans on the moon.

*BONUS*
Here are a few hotel/restaurant recommendations. Searching for things online can be overwhelming. I have visited each of these places and highly recommend them all!

Family-Friendly Hotels in Orlando

Hyatt Grand Cypress

Some families choose resorts based on the swimming pool. Sound familiar? Then the Hyatt Grand Cypress is for you. The over 800,000-gallon swimming pool offers multiple waterfalls, swim through caves, and a water slide. Beyond the swimming pool is a small beach area with kayaks, paddleboards and water bikes available to resort guests. The resort is family-friendly with poolside movie nights, fire pits for s’mores, a full-service spa, and a golf course for dad.

Omni Orlando Resort at Championsgate

Looking for an excellent family-friendly resort while having golf at the top of the priority list? The Omni Orlando is for you. This resort offers 36 holes of championship golf, as well as multiple pools and a lazy river.

Orlando Restaurants

In my opinion, Louisiana offers amazing food. When traveling to other cities outside of Louisiana, it is often difficult to find food that compares. Our experience at the restaurants listed below was phenomenal. From great food to excellent service, these restaurants had it all. I would not describe them as family-friendly necessarily, as we were in Orlando for work. However, they would be perfect for an adults-only or couples dinner.

Eddy V’s Prime Seafood

Just as the name states, Eddy V’s offers delicious seafood and steak dinners. I vote the bananas foster, hands down, the best I ever had. Positioned on Sand Lake, this restaurant offers a beautiful view, cozy atmosphere, and exceptional service. Sand Lake Drive is home to many fantastic restaurants. Searching for a place to dine, you should start your search here.

Christini’s

Here they proudly lived up to being the one and only! Opened in 1984 by Chris Christini, the restaurant remains under his ownership having only one location offering fine dining and Italian cuisine. This place really rolls out the red carpet with outstanding service and attention to detail. We dined here with a large party. Our 2-hour dining experience included a table side accordion player, roses for the ladies, complete history of the restaurant and an explanation of every dish, and a visit from Mr. Christini’s daughter who currently manages the restaurant. Small aside, you must try the meatball. They are hand-rolled by a worker who boasts 22 years of meatball rolling experience!

Next time you travel to Orlando, will you consider taking the road less traveled?

Ashley is originally from Thibodaux, La. She moved to Baton Rouge in 2005 to attend graduate school at LSU where she received a master’s degree in social work. She has been married to her wonderful husband, Taylor, for 15 years and they have 3 daughters Raegan (14), Julia (8) and Sadie (2 going on 20). Ashley worked as a social worker in the medical field for 10 years before taking a break to be a stay at home mom. Life took a very unexpected turn when her husband was diagnosed with a rare cancer in 2019 which fueled her passion for rare disease awareness. She is co-founder of the non-profit Garage 10 which provides financial assistance to individuals with rare diseases. Ashley loves family, faith, friends, date nights, coffee creamer, exercising and quiet moments amongst the business of life.

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