Family Fun: Things to do in Central Florida
By Lauren Tjaden
Central Florida offers theme parks galore—but that’s just the beginning of the fun. Discover mermaids, dinosaurs, pools that will blow your mind and much more.
Turn back the calendar with a few steps inside Medieval Times. Young and old alike will thrill at skillful performances on horseback with sword, axe and lance. Feast on roasted chicken and beef and cheer for your tournament knight. Stroll through a medieval village and look over artifacts hundreds of years old. It's a night out your friends and family will never forget — and you'll leave talking about how soon you can make it back.
Take a look at the new LEGOLAND Hotel at LEGOLAND Florida Resort. The Hotel features 152 guest rooms and suites across four themes: Pirate, Kingdom, Adventure, and LEGO Friends. Guests also enjoy early access to LEGOLAND Florida Resort, free full breakfast daily, interactive play areas, daily and nightly entertainment, disco elevator, resort pool and much more.
See more: A Child’s View of the Legoland Hotel
Everyone who has driven I-4 from Orlando to Tampa has driven past Dinosaur World in Plant City. You can spend all day here digging for fossils, mining for gems, and seeing lots and lots of dinosaurs. 150 Full scale models to be prcise. If your kids are into dinosaurs, this place is a must. But even if they aren’t you will find a ton of fun at this surprising mini theme park. No rides, but lots of things to explore and plenty of great photo opps.
Read more: Dinosaur World in Central Florida
Weeki Wachee Springs
What could possibly be more magical than real, live mermaids? Nothing. Since 1947 the Weeki Wachee mermaids have delighted audiences, and decades later the show is still just as mesmerizing. Sure, it’s about as kitschy as it gets, but it is filled with good old-fashion fun, too. The mermaids are magical and there is a mini water park to boot. Nowhere else can you enjoy wooden slides and take a plunge from a platform into a natural spring, after watching mermaids sing and dance 20 feet below the surface.
See more: Weeki Wachee Mermaids Show
Kennedy Space Center
For an out-of-this-world adventure, nothing beats Kennedy Space Center. A day at KSC is filled with discovery for both kids and adults. The Space Shuttle Atlantis attraction will take your breath away as you realize just how enormous the task of visiting space really is. And thrill seekers will love blasting off on the Shuttle Launch Experience. For a real "WOW," time your visit with a rocket launch and watch a launch up close. If you can’t make it for the real thing, don’t worry. Their Shuttle Launch Experience, massive IMAX theater, and other simulations will blow your socks off just the same.
Read more: Kennedy Space Center for the Family
Richard Petty Driving Experience
If you have a need for speed, the Richard Petty Driving Experience at the Daytona International Speedway is your ticket to ride. Whether you are ready to take the wheel or just want to ride along, you will experience NASCAR speeds. Not just for adults, kids ages 6-13 can enjoy the thrill of a Junior Ride-Along. The drivers will take you to speeds up to a whopping 165 miles per hour. All riders are equipped with full gear and safety equipment.
Although you can find gators in nearly every lake, pond, stream and river in Florida, you've never seen so many gators in one place until you visit Gatorland. It's another old Florida tradition that has been captivating visitors for more than 60 years. While gators are the main event, kids can also enjoy feeding the goats. For even more adventure try the Screamin' Gator Zip Line, get your photo taken while gator wrestling or take a back stage tour to feed the gators.
Eye in the Sky
Take a moment to escape, and discover the magic and natural wonder Orlando has to offer from above. Be effortlessly lifted away in a capsule of calm and serenity to see Orlando in a way you’ve never seen it before. The iconic 400-foot tall observation wheel provides breathtaking views of Central Florida in all directions, with sights of downtown Orlando’s skyline, theme parks, lakes and lush landscape, and on a clear day, views of Cape Canaveral on the east coast.
See more: Orlando Eye
Make a Splash
Never underestimate the importance of the pool area at a hotel when on a family trip. You may be booked from sunrise to sunset for your trip to Orlando. There are Disney princesses to get autographs from, roller coasters to brave and fireworks to stay up for. But if you’ve got children of any age with you, chances are they’re going to want to make a splash.
Read and see more: Cool Hotel Pools for Kids in Orlando
In a state filled with lakes and rivers there are plenty of places to put in a canoe or kayak. The most unusual kayaking experience may be to glide through the glowing bioluminescent waters of the Indian River Lagoon on a warm summer night. Truly magical. For younger kids kayaking is also available at Wekiva Springs and the Brevard Zoo.
Clearwater Marine Aquarium
At Clearwater Marine Aquarium families can meet Winter, the star of Dolphin Tale, and her fellow rescued marine animals. Although Winter is a permanent resident of the facility due to her injury, the aquarium's mission is to rescue, rehab and release local wildlife. A visit to the facility is more than just a fun afternoon; it is an opportunity for kids to learn about the protection and care of animals.
Here are some insider strategies for navigating the theme parks. With a little planning, theme parks can be that great family vacation you want them to be.
Read and see more: Theme Park Tips