Orlando, Florida has to be the theme park capitol of the world but spending your entire vacation at a theme park can be utterly exhausting not to mention outrageously expensive. So what is the trick to taking an Orlando vacation without needing a vacation from your vacation? Or a better trick might be, how to take an Orlando vacation without having to take out a loan when you get home!! Well read on, we have some suggestions for you.
John and I have spent a lot of time in the Orlando area, John himself lived and worked there for many years and me, having lived in Florida all my life, I have spent countless vacation days there. Together John and I have put together this list of other things to do in Orlando besides the theme parks. Some of these attractions are even free or near free, some come at a cost a lot less than a day at a theme park and all a lot less exhausting than walking a hundred miles a day in that theme park. In addition, we would also like to share our thoughts and ideas on how to better plan a spectacular fun filled Orlando vacation that you and your family will remember and talk about for years to come.
Where you stay is Key – Spend More to Spend Less
Spend more to spend less? No, it’s not a typo and where you choose to stay will make all the difference in the world. There are like a gazillion hotels and resorts in Orlando and the competition for your dollar is fierce. Some hotels that have little more to offer than just a place to sleep, compete with budget pricing. Great right? Not necessarily, and let me tell you why. There are many hotels and resorts in Orlando that compete by offering so many amenities that the hotel/resort could be a vacation in itself. Yes, they may cost more than the budget hotels, however in the budget hotels you are in a small room with little to no hotel amenities to keep your family entertained. So the concept I am getting at here is simple, spend more on a hotel that has so much fun stuff that your family will enjoy, that it will be hard to drag them out of it. By doing this you will actually spend less in the long run, meaning more time playing at the hotel means less time spending your hard earned vacation money on expensive attractions to keep yourself and your family entertained.
Let me give you an example ( Keep in mind this is just one example of the many fun filled Orlando hotels and resorts that would fit the bill of the spend more to spend less concept). John and I are very familiar with Hilton’s Orlando Buena Vista Palace at Disney Springs as we have stayed there quite often with the grand kids. It is within walking distance to the Disney Springs Complex and it’s main attraction to us is the swimming pool with the lazy river. No need to leave the hotel to keep the kids entertained as they can have all day fun right there at the hotel.
I am not suggesting you spend your entire vacation at the hotel, but a day or two here and there of relaxing your body and wallet by a great pool and by doing so, still providing your family with a fun filled memorable day, how could you go wrong? Like I said this is just one of a great many, so do your research and pick one that fits your budget and family’s interests.
Also as a side note to our spend more to spend less concept: most of the budget hotels do not have free shuttle service to and from the theme parks or airport, while a lot of the 4 and 5 star resorts do. Something to check on and consider before booking your stay.
Beyond the Theme Parks – Other Great Attractions – International Drive
An attraction venue with restaurants, arcade, bars, music, shopping and free parking. For best value, purchase The Wheel ticket discount combo and bundle with one or more of Icon Park’s other great family fun attractions.
Icon park has other attractions than just the 3 mentioned above and Icon park also has several great restaurant options for either a quick bite or a full sit down meal. I would highly suggest Yard House for a great dinner, prices are within reason and the food is phenomenal.
Next Door to Icon Park
Ripley’s Believe It or Not!! Is adjacent to Icon park and is another great family-friendly and quirky fun attraction.
There are dozens of family fun attractions all along International drive in Orlando. From small amusement parks, to fighting zombies to escape rooms and solving mysteries, but my personal favorite is the Titanic Artifact Exhibition.
Pointe Orlando & Wonder Works
Also located on International drive, Pointe Orlando is an entertainment complex with restaurants, shops, movie theater, comedy club and Wonder Works, an indoor amusement park fun for the whole family.
Stay on Budget with these must Do’s
A hidden gem in Orlando is it’s downtown area and is usually off the vacationing family’s radar. There is plenty to do in this downtown area and it is a good alternative for a day away from the more expensive theme parks or International Drive attractions. You can find a whole days worth of sightseeing and adventure in this bustling downtown area, and in the center of it all is a beautiful and free Park. Lake Eola Park is a must do for any family that enjoys being outdoors and oh those swans!! Not just a few either!!
Less than 3 miles away from Downtown Orlando is the breathtakingly beautiful Leu Gardens. A 50 acre lush tropical oasis, just minutes from Downtown. You can spend a good part of your day here exploring the beauty of the gardens, walking the tropical lake side path and viewing turtles, birds and perhaps even an alligator, all for only a $10 adult and $5 for children 4-17.
Universal’s City Walk at the entrance to the theme parks of Universal Studios, and the Disney Springs Complex at the Walt Disney World Resort both have free admission. There is no charge to park at Disney Springs and at City Walk, parking is free in the evenings. Both complex’s offer shopping, dinning, movie theater and entertainment and are a great way to spend some of your vacation time without the pricey admission. Please keep in mind though, if you plan to dine at either of these entertainment venues, that some of the restaurants at both complexes are by world renowned chefs and can be quite pricey. In addition some have long wait times, so plan your dinning accordingly.
There is a lot of road improvements and construction going on in Orlando and that combined with the already heavy traffic of the area, can lead to stressful driving for visitors. Of course Uber, Lyft or Taxi are always an option if you don’t want the stress of driving but there are also some other alternatives to getting around here.
The I Ride Trolley The I-RIDE Trolley is a convenient and affordable means of transportation to hundreds of exciting destinations within the International Drive Resort Area. Ride stress free and let the trolley deal with the sometimes very heavy, tourist traffic.
- One Day Pass:$5.00 per person
- Three Day Pass:$7.00 per person
- Five Day Pass:$9.00 per person
- Seven Day Pass:$12.00 per person
Check before booking your hotel stay, to see if the hotel offers free shuttle rides to the theme parks or other area attractions. By taking advantage of the hotel shuttle you can save yourself the aggravation of the busy local traffic and can also save some serious cash, as each of the theme parks charges at least $20.00 or more dollars for parking.
Other means of public transportation in Orlando.
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