amotherworld had the pleasure of being invited to Orlando, Florida to visit fun family attractions, other than the theme parks! We sent Ariane Griffiths with her son, Ben. Read on about their travels and watch a video of their amazing trip:

by Ariane Griffiths

When most Canadians think of Orlando, Florida, they automatically think of the traditional theme parks. But, as I recently discovered when I traveled to Orlando with my seven-year-old son, Ben, Orlando is so much more and is filled with amazing sights that are not on the usual family vacation itinerary.

Lake Buena Vista Resort and Spa
Lake Buena Vista Resort and Spa

Our home base was the gorgeous Lake Buena Vista Resort and Spa and home it felt, indeed. The hotel offers a standard two bedroom, two bathroom suite complete with all the amenities of home such as a dishwasher, fridge, stove, microwave and even a stacked washer and dryer! All linens, utensils and even cleaning necessities could be found in this spacious suite which is so convenient for families on vacation. We unpacked our bags from the flight and headed straight for the big pirate boat pool located right on the hotel grounds.

Boggy Creek Airboat Rides
Boggy Creek Airboat Rides   Photo: Caryn Reed

The next day, we woke bright and early and made our way to the hidden shores of Boggy Creek Airboat Rides for our first adventure! We met Boggy Creek guides Chad and Leslie to board our own private airboat and set about searching for gators. These awesome boats had us careening through reeds, climbing mid-marsh islands and cutting through the wake with no effort at all. The fact that the propeller is above water level allows these boats to go almost anywhere and Ben and I saw a ton of beautiful flora and fauna, and wildlife — from birds to fish and even those elusive gators!

Gatorland Orlando
Ben zip-lining at Gatorland   Photo: Caryn Reed

Our next stop was Gatorland. Our guides whisked us to a small room where we were outfitted and trained to zip-line before we made our way to one of seven zip line towers and the long climb to the top. Our tour took us high above sights like a gator breeding marsh and even a little mini jungle where the gators roamed free. Initially, Ben and I weren’t sure about this adventure because neither of us had ever zip-lined before but the guides really made us feel safe and secure and we ended up having a fabulous time.

Gatorland Photo: Caryn Reed

We left from the towers and made our way through the jungle and saw the rest of Gatorland. With white alligators, baby alligators and big jumbo alligators mixed in with a large variety of birds, there were so many neat things to see and learn about. A quick stop to feed the alligators and we were on our way to the next location.

Twenty minutes away, we arrived at iFly Orlando for a crash course on indoor skydiving. We met with our instructor, Kaz, who took us through a 45-minute training on what to do, positions to learn and how to handle our bodies in the wind tunnel. We donned some fashionable jumpsuits and headed into an enclosed room just outside of the actual wind tunnel. Our group consisted of eight people whose ages ranged from seven to mid-forties…our instructor told us that someone aged 99 had recently flown and had a blast!

fun places to visit in orlando, indoor skydiving
Ben and Ariane at iFly Orlando

I took my first turn in the wind tunnel and have to admit that it was pretty freaky. You think you know what to expect but the power of the wind is overwhelming. I got my bearings and think I had good form, and then my turn was over. Ben took his turn next and flew like a champ! With our first tries under our belt, the second round was sure to be easy. For our second turn, Kaz actually held onto us and we did a tandem fly. He lifted us high up into the tunnel and it really felt like we were flying!

Our first day of finding hidden gems and unexpected places in Orlando was like no experience we’ve had before. Tired from all the fun my son and I had, we set back to the hotel for dinner and a swim in the Pirate pool.

Lake Buena Vista Resort and Spa
Ben in the Pirate Pool at the Lake Buena Vista Resort and Spa

With the first day as our intro to Orlando, Ben and I figured we couldn’t possibly find anything that would be just as exciting – boy, were we wrong!

The next day started out at Orlando HeliTours where we met Al the Pilot and jumped into a helicopter for a breathtaking flight over the city. Al narrated the trip, pointing out a wide variety of sights like golf courses, theme and water parks and even showed some of the Disney stops. It was a quick flight – nine minutes can cover a lot of area and before we knew it, we were back on the ground talking about all of the neat things we saw. Of course, Ben was really interested in the actual ground sights but he just loved the flight part!

Orlando HeliTours
Orlando HeliTours

We then headed to the Orlando Premium Outlets where we stopped for some lunch and did a bit of shopping. I picked up a few things for Christmas because the deals were so great. We couldn’t stay too long – Ben was getting anxious to move onto our next adventure but not before stopping to get some ice-cream!

The final stop on our trip turned out to be the biggest highlight: the interactive Pirates Dinner Adventure. Ben wants to be a pirate so it was only natural that he had packed a bandana and some pirate clothing in his luggage – he got all dressed up for the occasion!

We arrived in time for the pre-show, which set the stage for the rest of the night. We were told a story about how the Princess was kidnapped and taken aboard the pirate ship and were then led into another room where a full-size ship was waiting. I couldn’t believe that an entire ship was in this room!

Pirates Dinner Adventure Orlando
Ben at the Pirates Dinner Adventure

Ben and I were some of the lucky audience members chosen to take part in the action-filled show as part of the cast! Ben was recruited to be the next generation of Pirate on the Captain’s team and I was a villager who had to hand over the treasure to the Captain as a payment for keeping our village safe.  Guides told us what to do and we didn’t have to memorize any lines but the hands-on interactivity of this show was phenomenal; I truly thought Ben was going to explode with excitement! After the show we were treated to a wonderful meet and greet with the Captain and his wife, Treasure and, because it was the last show of the night, there was an after-show dance party!

Our time in Orlando, Florida was fabulous, I cannot wait to go back and do them again! If you’re looking for fun, family-friendly alternatives or additions to the theme parks, these activities are absolutely perfect. More importantly, my son had the best time – he loved every minute and is already asking, “Mom, when can we go back?”

Enter to win!

One lucky Canadian reader is going to win a 5 day/4 night trip for 4 to Orlando, Florida! This prize package includes round trip airfare & hotel accommodations and is valued at $4,128.

Enter over at Simply Stacie and good luck!

 

 

The trip (flight, hotel, etc.) to Orlando was covered by Visit Orlando, however, the opinions herein are completely my own.

Author

Maria Lianos-Carbone is the author of “Oh Baby! A Mom’s Self-Care Survival Guide for the First Year”, and publisher of amotherworld.com, a leading lifestyle blog for women.

63 Comments

  1. A dream! A vacation for my family just isn’t in the cards for us. A little something for my 3Princes and oooh a little something for me. For the older boys the zip-lining, the swimming, the adventure, for my younger one the games, the imagination. For me, how about not having to cook, to make beds, to relax poolside. A dream!

  2. That was amazing 🙂 I loved, not liked, the wind tunnel and hopefully one day we can try that too!! Awesome family fun guys!! Loved your adventure 🙂

  3. I would never have thought to consider anything but Disneyworld when thinking about Orlando. This is amazing! Looks like you had a fantastic time with your family.

  4. Sounds like you had an amazing time! The indoor skydiving looks very exciting and I would love to try it out. Glad you enjoyed your trip!

  5. Great post. Reminds me of my childhood visit to Florida. Would love to win this for my family. My daughter often reminds me that “EVERYONE” in her class has already been to Florida except her. Pulls on my heartstrings everytime but not my purse strings. Florida isn’t in the budget yet. Hopefully this is OUR Year! Thanks for the chance!

  6. LAUREL KEATING Reply

    since I have never been here before it just makes me want to go like yesterday thanks for the chance, looks fun, but you had a gas,

  7. I would love for my family to vacation in Orlando.I love the idea of going into the wind tunnel and watch the kids feel like they are flying. LOL Sounds like a great trip for everyone!

  8. I’ve been on a tour of the everglades, but gatorland with its zipline sounds amazing. And iFly sounds pretty awesome too. So much more than theme parks!

  9. That sounds just awesome! I would love to go to the pirate show!! Sounds amazing!!! My kids would love it!

  10. Tammy Burke Reply

    Your trip sounds so amazing, I would love to tour the everglades and see the gaters up close and personall!!

  11. Heather Gilfillan Reply

    I love the zip lining, not sure if I could do it, I would probably be so scared.

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