Attractions 

Everybody knows Orlando is the Theme Park Capital of the World – thanks to Walt Disney World and Universal Studios, we now have a themed diversion for every age, budget and taste – but the big parks aren’t the only game in town. Check out the listings for more info on Orlando’s parks, gardens, museums, airboats, wildlife and oddities.

THEME PARKS

Walt Disney World
Includes four theme parks – Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Disney’s Animal Kingdom – and two water parks, Disney’s Blizzard Beach and Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon.
The various parks are located along Buena Vista Drive and Epcot Center Drive in Lake Buena Vista; 407-939-7211; disneyworld.disney.go.com
Price of one-day ticket: $99 for Magic Kingdom; $94 for Epcot, Hollywood Studios or Animal Kingdom; $53 for Blizzard Beach or Typhoon Lagoon

Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure
Includes both Universal Studios, where the new Simpsons-themed Springfield land is now open, and Islands of Adventure, where the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is located.
6000 Universal Blvd.; 407-363-8000; universalorlando.com
Price of one-day ticket: $96 for each park

SeaWorld Orlando
Includes SeaWorld, as well as the Aquatica water park.
7007 SeaWorld Drive; 407-363-2200; seaworldparks.com
Price of one-day ticket: $82 for SeaWorld, $46 for Aquatica

LegoLand
Includes LegoLand, as well as the LegoLand water park.
1 Legoland Way, Winter Haven; 863-318-5346; florida.legoland.com
Price of one-day ticket: $84, plus $14 for parking or $5 for shuttle

Formal Gardens

Bok Tower Gardens
1151 Tower Blvd., Lake Wales
863-676-1408
boktowergardens.org
A botanical and historical masterpiece designed by Frederick Law Olmsted Jr., crowned with a neo-Gothic/art deco 205-foot bell tower. Open daily 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. $12 for adults, $3 for children.

Harry P. Leu Gardens
1920 N. Forest Ave.
407-246-2620
leugardens.org
Three miles of paved paths wind through truly gorgeous botanical displays, including the largest formal rose garden in Florida, a bamboo forest and a butterfly garden. You can also visit the historic on-site house museum. Open daily 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. $10 for adults, $3 children.

Mead Botanical Garden
1300 S. Denning Drive, Winter Park
407-599-2800
meadgarden.org
This green oasis features bike paths, boardwalks and picnic areas full of native plants and wildlife. The park also features restored wetlands and riparian forests. This unique ecological oasis is a hidden gem in Winter Park. Open daily, 8 a.m. to dusk, free.

Nehrling Gardens
2267 Hempel Ave., Gotha
407-445-9977
nehrlinggardens.org
This unique garden was once the home of pioneering horticulturist Henry Nehrling, who liked to experiment with tropical and subtropical plants – he tested more than 3,000 types of plants here for the USDA. The gardens and Nehrling’s historic home are currently being restored, but private tours are available by appointment.

Museums

Central Florida Railroad Museum
101 S. Boyd St., Winter Garden
407-656-0559
wghf.org/cfrailroad
A cool little museum located in adorable, walkable downtown Winter Garden. This museum features the finest collection of Florida railroad memorabilia in the state, housed in the former Tavares and Gulf railroad depot. Free, but donations are appreciated.

Fort Christmas Historical Park and Museum
1300 Fort Christmas Road, Christmas
407-254-9310
nbbd.com/godo/fortchristmas
An interesting little regional history museum that showcases pioneer life in Florida, housed in a replica Seminole War-era log structure. You’ll also find seven restored Florida cracker-style homes, as well as picnic pavilions, playgrounds and basketball courts. Free.

Florida Air Museum
4175 Medula Road, Lakeland
863-644-2431
sun-n-fun.org
This museum, adjacent to the Lakeland Regional Airport, isn’t too far from Dinosaur World, so you can combine a visit to both and make a day of it. Check out the collection of Howard Hughes memorabilia on permanent display, including leather flying suits, scrapbooks and personal artifacts that once belonged to the world’s most notorious recluse. Admission: $10.

Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex
State Road 405 east of Titusville
321-449-4444
kennedyspacecenter.com
You really can’t get a feel for how massive a Saturn V rocket is until you take a stroll under one suspended just a few feet above your head, and this is the only place in the world to do that. Take guided tours of launch areas, see historic rockets, ride the Shuttle Launch Experience and see the Astronaut Hall of Fame. Admission: $50 gets you a ticket, plus admission to the Astronaut Hall of Fame.

Kissimmee Air Museum and Warbird Adventures
233 N. Hoagland Blvd., Kissimmee
407-870-7366
warbirdadventures.com
See classic planes from the early days of flight to the height of the Cold War. Then fly a real World War II-era trainer plane, with an instructor in the rear seat. Admission: $7 to the museum, $250 for a 15-minute plane ride.

Orange County Regional History Center
65 E. Central Blvd.
407-836-8500
thehistorycenter.org
The 1927 county courthouse includes permanent exhibits from natural Florida through Disney’s coming. Traveling exhibits broaden its appeal, and a local history archive awaits scholars. Admission: $15.

Orlando Science Center
777 E. Princeton St.
407-514-2000
osc.org
How can you not love a museum that’s home to SimMan, a life-sized simulated sick person whose vital signs you can follow until he flatlines? The science center also has Florida’s largest refractor telescope and all sorts of hands-on learning experiences that’ll appeal to kids and adults alike. Admission: $19.

Ripley’s Believe It or Not!
8201 International Drive
407-354-0501
orlando.ripleys.com
You’ve probably seen Ripley’s “odditoriums” at pretty much every tourist trap you’ve ever visited; this one is home to a full-sized car made out of matchsticks, a portrait of Beyoncé made out of candy and an actual human shrunken head, all housed inside a building that looks like it’s falling into a sinkhole. Admission: $16.99.

Titanic the Experience
7324 International Drive
407-248-1166
titanictheexperience.com
The 20,000-square-foot interactive museum offers a guided tour of authentic artifacts by costumed actors portraying the famous passengers and crew of the “unsinkable” ship. Admission: $21.95.

Rides and Adventures

Air Florida Helicopter Charters
8990 International Drive
407-354-1400
airfloridahelicopter.com
You’ll be surprised how exhilarating it is to go up in a ’copter right off I-4. Tours give you a bird’s-eye view of the theme parks, the malls, downtown Orlando and more. A variety of tours are available starting at $20.

Fun Spot America
5700 Fun Spot Way
407-363-3867
funspotattractions.com
Go-karts, bumper boats, carousels, slides, an arcade and more make this park worth taking the kids to check it out – there’s no admission fee here, either. Pay by the ride or buy an armband for unlimited riding fun.

iFly Orlando
6805 Visitors Circle, Orlando
407-903-1150
iflyorlando.com
Skydive without a plane: Fly in the vertical wind tunnel. Training session and use of flight gear included. Reservations are suggested. Admission: $59.95.

International HeliTours
12651 International Drive
407-239-8687
internationalhelitours.com
Tours run 9 a.m. to sunset daily, ranging from $26.99 to $269.99.

Old Town
5770 W. Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway, Kissimmee
407-396-4888
old-town.com
A pay-as-you-ride amusement park set in an Old Florida-style downtown setting. From bumper cars to roller coasters to Ferris wheels, Old Town has rides suitable for all ages. There’s shopping, dining, music and special events, too. Open Monday-Friday, 2-11 p.m.; Saturday-Sunday 10 a.m.-11 p.m.

Orlando HeliTours
5519 W. Highway 192, Kissimmee
407-397-0226
orlandohelitours.com
Tours run from 9 a.m. to sunset daily, starting at $26.99.

Orlando Speed World Dragway
19442 E. Colonial Drive
407-568-5522
orlandospeedworld.org
If you’re into drag racing, this is the place to be. Check out street dragsters, motorcycles, old hot rods and even school buses as they go flat-out. Street drags every Friday and Saturday, and drifting events, too. If you’re into Nascar, you’ll want to check this place out. Check the schedule online for ev

Wet ’n Wild water park
6200 International Drive
407-351-1800
wetnwild.com
The water-park person’s water park: Experience thrill rides with vertical drops, multi-person tubing rides, toboggan slides and more. If you like your water rides on the milder side, float along the lazy river or splash in the wave pool. Admission: $48.99 (half price after 2 p.m. on specified days).

WonderWorks
9067 International Drive
407-351-8800
wonderworksonline.com
Housed in an upside-down building, this attraction has high-tech effects that simulate earthquakes, hurricanes and a hang-gliding experience. Plus indoor zip lines, a 4D theater ride and more.
Open 9 a.m. to midnight. Admission is $24.99.

Outdoor Encounters

Boggy Creek Airboat Rides
2001 E. Southport Road, Kissimmee
407-344-9550
bcairboats.com
This airboat company offers scenic nature tours, night time rides and more. Thirty-minute tours start at $26.95.

Air Boat Rides at MidWay
28501 E. Colonial Drive,
Christmas
407-568-6790
airboatridesatmidway.com
You are almost guaranteed to see gators – lots of them – on this popular airboat tour. It’s the one we always take visitors from out of town to experience. Open 9:30 a.m. daily, night tours available. Tours start at $40 for one hour.

Audubon Center for Birds of Prey
1101 Audubon Way, Maitland
407-644-0190
audubon.org
This rehab center for these cool birds, located in a 1920s bungalow set on Lake Sybelia, is where you get up close and personal with the awesome raptors. There’s a walking trail and aviaries housing injured birds that can’t be released back into the wild. Admission: $5.

Black Hammock Adventures
2356 Black Hammock Fish Camp Road, Oviedo
407-365-1244
theblackhammock.com
Airboat tours of gator-choked Lake Jessup start at $26.95. There’s a fish restaurant on premises that serves mean fried seafood, the Lazy Gator bar where you can have a beer and catch live music. There are even a few caged gators for tourists to gawk at, too.

Central Florida Zoo and Botanical Gardens
3755 N.W. Highway 17-92, Sanford
407-323-4450
centralfloridazoo.org
Home to more than 400 animals, not counting the Insect Zoo. They also have a couple of really cool ziplines (check the sports and recreation section for details). Admission: $14.95.

Discovery Cove
6000 Discovery Cove Way
407-370-1280
discoverycove.com
If SeaWorld doesn’t get you close enough, try across the road where you can actually swim with fish and dolphins. Prices vary, but start at $219. Reservations are required.

Forever Florida
4755 N. Kenansville Road, St. Cloud
407-957-9794
foreverflorida.com
Eco-safaris of a 4,700-acre Florida nature preserve by horseback, open-air coach or zipline offer views of a traditional Cracker-style ranch, gators, black bears and other wildlife. Overnight horseback tours available. Safaris start at $32 (open-air coach) to $85 (zipline).

Gatorland
14501 S. Orange Blossom Trail
407-855-5496
gatorland.com
Gatorland is a roadside attraction turned eco-preserve. The flesh-eating monsters roam (almost) free, along with many more scary things. Watch them swim, eat, sleep, wrestle and jump. Learn about them. Embrace them. Well, not literally. You know what we mean. Admission: $23.99.

Jungle Adventures Nature Park
26205 State Road 50, Christmas
407-568-2885
jungleadventures.com
Kind of like Gatorland, but smaller and more intimate, this roadside attraction takes in injured and abandoned wildlife for rehab. Enter through the mouth of the “largest gator in Florida,” a 200-footer that used to double as the home of the park’s original owner. Inside, you’ll see rarities such as a Florida panther and gray wolves. Admission: $23.95.

Kissimmee Swamp Tours
4500 Joe Overstreet Road, Kenansville
407-436-1059
kissimmeeswamptours.com
Day and evening times are flexible. Sixty- to 90-minute tours on Lake Kissimmee start at $47.

Old Fashioned Airboat Rides
Christmas (directions provided after reservation is made)
407-568-4307
airboatrides.com
Look for gators and otters and spoonbills on this 90-minute ride through the marshes of the St. John’s River in a six-person airboat. Reservations only. Admission: $50.

Marsh Landing Adventures
4275 Neptune Road, St. Cloud
407-572-3561
orlandoairboattours.com
Times are flexible. Lake Toho tours start at $49.95 for one hour.

Reptile World Serpentarium
5705 E. Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway, St. Cloud
407-892-6905
reptileworldserpentarium.com
Founded in 1972 as a research facility for the production of venom, this working snake farm opened to tourists in 1976. If you like watching deadly snakes get milked, this is really your only option in Central Florida. Admission: $8.75.

St. John’s Rivership Co.
433 N. Palmetto Ave., Sanford
stjohnsrivershipco.com
Cruise on Lake Monroe and the St. Johns River. Lunch cruises start at $43.39 most days, and a 7:30 p.m. Saturday moonlight dining and dancing cruise starts at $60.19.

Winter Park Scenic Boat Tour
312 E. Morse Blvd., Winter Park
407-644-4056
scenicboattours.com
Take a 12-mile pontoon boat tour on three lakes and two canals winding through the city. You’ll skim by Rollins College and several mansions to see how the other half lives. Tours leave hourly. Admission: $12 adults.

Family

Dinosaur World
5145 Harvey Tew Road, Plant City
813-717-9865
dinosaurworld.com
More than 150 life-size outdoor models of dinosaurs rule over a fossil dig, museum and lots of paleontological-themed activities. Admission: $14.95 adults.

Downtown Disney
Walt Disney World Resort

1490 E. Lake Buena Vista Drive, Lake
Buena Vista
407-939-6244
disneyworld.disney.go
Parents, Downtown Disney is on the Walt Disney World campus, it’s got Disney-related decor that changes with the seasons and it’s got fun stuff for kids to look at, including cool stores and restaurants that’ll make them think they’re actually at Disney. Best part: Admission to Downtown Disney is completely free.

Green Meadows Petting Farm
1368 S. Poinciana Blvd., Kissimmee
407-846-0770
greenmeadowsfarm.com
Get your shoes dirty with 300 farm animals. Kids can ride ponies, go on a hayride and pet donkeys, geese, chickens and even an Asian water bufallo. They’ll even get to learn a little bit about how a farm works.

Holy Land Experience
4655 Vineland Road
407-872-2272
holylandexperience.com
Stories from the Bible re-enacted in a high-tech mockup of ancient Jerusalem. Admission: $45 for adults.

Pinocchio’s Marionette Theater
Altamonte Mall
451 E. Altamonte Drive, Altamonte Springs
407-834-8757
pinocchios.net
A full-time marionette theater offering daily shows great for kids ages 3 through 10, but still good, clean fun for kids of all ages. Showtimes vary. Call or visit the website for more information. Admission: $6.

Parking tips

Some suggestions for making the most of your theme-park experience
_________________________

Do your research before you go
You probably won’t be able to make it to every attraction, so think about which attractions in each park interest you the most and plan your visit accordingly. There are tons of useful apps for iPhone and iPad that can help – we like Disney Mobile Magic, My Disney Experience, Disney World Wait Times and Universal Orlando Wait Times, all of which are free.

Get the best deal possible
You should also get online and compare the prices for multi-day tickets versus single-day tickets – you’ll almost always get more bang for your buck if you buy a multi-day pass.

Pack light
Trust us, you don’t want to be lugging around any extra crap on a sweaty afternoon at a crowded park. If there’s anything you really need that you didn’t remember to bring, you can probably buy it at the park.

Make restaurant reservations in advance
Way in advance. Unless you’re cool with the cafeteria-style fare offered at the food pavilions at the parks. Some of the better restaurants at the parks have insanely long waiting lists – as in six months long.

Don’t expect a discount just because you live here
Gone are the days when the parks courted locals. With the exception of Universal, which offers an annual pass to Florida residents for $174.99 (regular price is $199.99), none of the parks offer Florida resident discounts anymore.

Have fun
That’s the goal of going to the parks, right? So many people seem to forget that and allow themselves to get stressed out by the lines, crowds and frustrations of being out of their element. It’s supposed to be a good time, you guys. Don’t let it get to you.

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