Warming up from the cold weather, we jet down to Orlando to spend a week doing fun family activities. Ok, we’re not really going anywhere, but if you already live in Orlando (or plan to visit), you can thank SuZ and her daughter (who’s almost the same age as Milo!) from NotYourTypicalMommy Blog for the great ideas.
Wondering what to do with a baby in Florida? She tells us:
A week in Orlando may have you thinking of a giant mouse and theme parks, but there’s more to Central Florida than over-priced recreational areas of animated rodents, over-salted food and animatronics rides.
Discover museums rich with culture, historical parks with towering trees and farms with friendly horses to take your young family.
Monday: Garden stroll
What parent doesn’t love a free and fun activity? And what babies and toddlers do not love butterflies and flowers? Orlando’s Leu Gardens is free on Monday mornings between the hours of 9am-12pm.
Leu Gardens offers visitors 50 acres of manicured gardens, including an active butterfly garden. The whole gardens are gorgeous and if you don’t bring your camera to snap shots of your kids playing in the rose garden or frolicking by the giant clock, you’ll regret it.
Afterward, you will find the best darn hot dog place in Florida: Hot Dog Heaven. Making the best hot dogs in Orlando since 1987, Hot Dog Heaven will ruin you for all other hot dog stands. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Tuesday — Wekiva Springs State Park
For older children and preschoolers, visit the Wekiva Springs State Park to be amazed and refreshed by over 7000 acres of Florida’s natural beauty surrounds you and a winding river, which pumps out over 42 million gallons of fresh water a day.
The Wekiva Springs State Park offers families tons of activities to do. There are picnic pavilions to dine at, canoes and kayaks to navigate the river, horseback riding and trails to hike to scout out native animals like raccoons, opossums and black bears. The main event at the Wekiva Springs State park is swimming. Hundred of people descend upon the springs to cool off in the hot Florida sun. Crisp water temperature of 72 degrees dominates the area which ranges from a few inches to over 5 feet.
Wednesday — Horses?!
Midweek finds you horseback riding at Springdale Farms. Located in Longwood, a mere 15 minute drive from Downtown Orlando, Springdale Farms is a horse stable that has been a family tradition since 1978. Welcoming horses greet you as you take a riding lesson; both English and Western classes are offered. If you want something less structured, you can take advantage of the riding trails and pretend your John Wayne.
[Heather note: New mamas, I can't see you riding any horses, so feel free to wander around and just visit. Once you get your mojo back, go sign up for lessons!]
Planning ahead, you can bring a picnic lunch to enjoy down by the pond or head into town to taste some of the local fanfare. The historic downtown district of Longwood boasts charming shops and kid-friendly parks that you will not be able to resist.
Maybe viewing a 3,500 year old tree will delight your kids more than shopping? On the outskirts of the city of Longwood, you can visit Big Tree Park. Eleven acres of native Floridian plants and marshes that are unique only to Central Florida and no where else in the world. With trails for kids to run wild on and a newly-renovated park with swings, kids truly get to enjoy being outside here. You may want to bring bug spray with you; Florida has a huge mosquito population and love nothing more than the blood of tourists.
Thursday — Orlando Museum of Art, Creation Station
The smart people of the Orlando Museum of Art opened the Creation Station as a drop in art program for kids on Thursday afternoons from 2-3:30pm, for $1 per little one. Educational as well as tons of fun, its great for kids who don’t dig staring at portraits for hours on end. With the Creation Station, children can participate in an art project and take their masterpieces with them. Museum admission is free to residents on Thursdays (see the website for details).
Still have energy after touring 12 exhibits of art? Loch Haven Park surrounds the Orlando Art Museum with over 45 acres of lush green grass enabling children to run wild and burn off all their built up steam and work up an appetite.
Head over to P.F. Chang’s, located in the Winter Park village, for delicious Chinese dishes. Or if you need a break from junk food, try the deli at Chamberlin’s Food Market. A huge selection of fresh, organic food will cleanse your palate.
Friday — Uptown Altamonte
Complete with unique shops, tasty restaurants and free entertainment, Uptown Altamonte has become the newest place to be on Friday nights. Start your night off right by hitting 5 Guys Burgers and Fries, which should be outlawed they are so good. It’s a tasty place to refuel your tanks. If you’re not distracted by all the shops and their pretty wares, you can burn off all those calories you ingested, by chasing your kids around Cranes Roost Park. The fountain has a choreographed show that will leave your children in awe (and you as well) and provides great entertainment before you venture over to the Amphitheater for the scheduled music concerts.
Saturday — Farmer’s Market
Join the tradition on Saturday mornings and hit the Winter Park’s Farmer’s Market. Loaded with vendors that sell fresh produce, flowers, arts and sugary treats, the Winter Park Farmer’s Market revolves around a historic train depot. Treat yourself to homemade cookies, fresh flowers and hand squeezed, while you wait, orange juice.
After you make your way through the maze of vendors, check out the newly renovated Hannibal Square. Boasting some of the most unique shops in town, Hannibal Square allows you and your family to indulge.
Amongst the great shops, you’ll find the Hannibal Square Heritage Center. Partnering with Crealde Art School, the Heritage Center displays the Visiting Exhibition Series. Plus, you can view historic photographs of the city of Winter Park and check out the Family History Research Library.
Kids tired of culture? Nearby Shady Park provides over three acres of comfy benches for parents. Children can take advantage of the spray play area to cool down from all that educational learning.
For toddlers and preschoolers, wind down your week with a trip to the Central Florida Zoo. Located in Sanford, Florida, the Central Florida Zoo and Botanical Gardens is packed full of animalistic fun. Don’t tell your children, but visiting the zoo is an educational encounter as well as an enjoyable one.
With a weekend showing of the elephant encounters (at 11:00am and 2:00pm), a tour of the venomous snakes and exotic bird demonstrations, the zoo offers exhibits for the whole family.
During the summer months, make sure you bring along your swimsuit and towels. Admission to the zoo includes access to the Wharton-Smith Tropical Splash Ground.
Once your visit to the zoo is complete, its a short drive to Historic Downtown Sanford for great antique shops and unique restaurants. Riverwalk Pizzeria offers a menu of steaming, fresh pizza made while you watch. Feeling full after all that pizza, stroll down the Riverwalk and watch the boats sail in and out of port or stick around to catch an amazing sunset.
All and all, life in Central Florida can be much more than over-priced tourist attractions. If you want a real taste of Florida, slip into the slower pace of life and find some of the true gems of the Sunshine State.
Thanks again SuZ. My brother and his wife (rookie parents-to-be) live in Florida and so we may give your ideas a test run very soon!