Who says fun can’t be educational? Orlando is packed with theme parks and attractions, but the kids might also learn something new before the end of their trip if you slot in some educational excursions.
Many of the Orlando theme parks have an educational component. For example, Epcot at Walt Disney World seamlessly blends learning and fun. For example, Sum of All Thrills in Innoventions lets kids create their own roller coaster before going on a virtual test ride. They might not realize it, but they use math and reasoning to create the perfect thrill machine.
Test Track at Epcot is also a learning experience. Kids design their own car, controlling elements like engine, body style and accessories, and each of their choices affects the vehicle’s overall performance. After the ride, their creation is rated against other cards.
SeaWorld Orlando is also a great park for educational excursions. Educators stationed near the animal habitats are always happy to answer questions about the dolphins, orcas, sea lions, and other creatures. Draw your kids into the learning experience by making it into a game. For example, challenge them to learn five fun facts about each type of animal they see. Not only do they learn about animals, but they also practice social skills by engaging the educators in conversation.
The ultimate educational tour at SeaWorld is the Marine Mammal Keeper Experience. It’s open to ages 13 and up, and participants literally learn what it’s like to work with the park’s animals as they arrive at dawn and take part in hands-on care and training. There are fun activities, like interacting with dolphins and sea lions, but you also see the less glamorous (and more smelly) side of things while doing tasks like chopping up fish of the animals’ dinner.
Before Walt Disney chose Central Florida as home to his new theme park, its main industries were cattle ranching and citrus growing. You can still get a flavor of the “Old Florida” and learn about cracker cows and orange groves by visiting some educational attractions that are far removed from the theme parks
You’ll find cattle right in Kissimmee, just a short distance from Walt Disney World, at Zip Orlando. As the name implies, the main attraction is zip lining, but the course is set on a massive cattle ranch that’s been in the same family for generations. Sign up for the ATV tour, with or without a round of zip lining, and ride out among a herd of cracker cows that come so close you might have to stop until they decide to get out of the way. Your guide will bring history to life as your family marvels at the natural wonders only half an hour away from the theme parks.
Airboats also make neat educational excursions. You’ll venture out into the swamps and see gators floating like logs in their natural habitat as you skim the water . Kids love this high-speed adventure with lots of stops to enjoy the wildlife. You don’t have to travel too far from Orlando, as places like Boggy Creek Airboats are within 30 minutes of the tourist hot spots, although you’ll feel like you’ve stepped into another world.
If you have older kids in your family, the Titantic: The Experience brings history to life with artifacts from the Titanic itself and other ships from the same era and tours given by costumed interpreters. Perhaps the most dramatic moment for young visitors is when they put their hands on the ice wall and realize just how cold the sea was on that fateful night.
Go from ocean to air with a trip to Fantasy of Flight, a great educational attraction just off I-4 between Orlando and Tampa. It’s devoted to the restoration and display of vintage aircraft, and it’s very family friendly, with lots of hands-on activities for the kids.
Dinosaur World is a little farther down I-4, near Plant City. Kids live dinos, and they won’t even realize they’re learning facts about the giant reptiles as they marvel at life-sized models. Bring a picnic lunch and let the youngsters enjoy the playground in between checking out the exhibits.
Here is a previous blog post which is very similar to this article which talks about fun attractions to do in Orlando that are not related to the big theme parks.
If you are planning a vacation down here with a school, Disney offers huge discounts on the YES Program. This stands for Youth Educational Series. Here is a link if you would like to check out the steep savings your school might be eligible for..