Walt Disney World is a classic family vacation destination, and kids love the other theme parks, like SeaWorld, Universal Studios Florida, and Islands of Adventure, too. However, the glitz and glamor of the theme parks can get a little overwhelming, especially during the busy season. Luckily, there are plenty of places where grandparents can take their grandchildren for a little break and still have a fun time. Here are some suggestions:
Air boat rides
There’s another side of Florida that visitors to Walt Disney World rarely get to see if they never venture beyond the theme parks. You can show your grandchildren the wild side of the Sunshine State by taking them on an air boat ride. There are many air boat companies within half an hour of Disney. They offer journeys out onto the swampland where your family will see critters like gators, deer, and even bald eagles in their natural habitat.
If your grandkids would rather see gators up close, Gatorland is a fun Old Florida attraction on Orange Blossom Trail, just minutes away from Disney property. The youngsters can watch gator wrestling and a gator jumparoo show in which the creatures show off their agility as they jump for their chicken dinner. You can let the kids feed the gators, too, by buying a packet a hot dogs and letting them toss the goodies into the waiting, gaping jaws.
Many grandparents don’t realize that there are actually several smaller parks in the shadow of Disney and the other major players. For example, Fun Spot has two locations with smaller scale rides that appeal to younger and more timid children. One is just off International Drive, near Universal Orlando Resort, while the other is minutes away from Walt Disney World, on Highway 192.
The Fun Spot parks are rarely crowded, and they have a laid-back pace that appeals to exhausted grandparents who’ve been rushing around the massive Disney complex for a few days. You can sit on a bench while the grandkids ride the carnival-style rides to their hearts’ content, or give them a few dollars and let them try their hands at winning enough tickets for a prize in the arcade.
The Orlando/Kissimmee area has several dinner shows that grandparents and grandchildren can enjoy together. If your grandchildren are at an age when they love corny humor, Disney has the Hoop-Dee-Doo Revue at Fort Wilderness. It’s packed with silly jokes and songs, and fidgety kids will love the fact that they’re encouraged to hoop and holler. They even get to join in a musical number by playing the washboard, and they might just get called up on stage to join the show.
If you want to get away from Mickey and his friends, head over to the Medieval Times castle on 192 for a show that pleases both boys and girls. If you have a typical granddaughter, she probably loves horses, so she’ll go gaga over the gorgeous stallions. Your grandson will be dazzled by the epic battles between the knights. All kids go crazy for the opportunity to eat with their hands, since there’s no silverware involved in the four course feast.
The Pirates Dinner Adventure on International Drive is another fun family dinner show. It’s a little loud for some grandparents, but that’s outweighed by the fact that it’s packed with audience interaction and chances for the kids to participate in the show and meet the pirates up close.
These are just a few of the many attractions that lie beyond the theme parks. Take some time to explore the Orlando/Kissimmee area with your grandchildren and you’ll make some great memories at places beyond the beaten path.