I’ve posted a lot on Instagram in the past month about our nearly two week long vacation in Florida, but wanted to give more succinct suggestions on my blog! We did a LOT and all of it was really special. We haven’t had a family vacation since the year before I was diagnosed with sarcoma, and it was super needed.
I wanted to break down our activities for you in case you’re planning a trip now or in the future and want to know what to do besides visit one of the bigger theme parks! We only spent one day at Disney (let’s be honest here: Disney is $$$$ when you have multiple kids) and we didn’t miss it at all! Central Florida has so much to offer outside of Disney and Universal and it’s a shame that people often don’t venture outside of those parks!
We also didn’t stay at a hotel but at a rental home which is a great (and more affordable) option than many of the resorts, especially if you are going for a longer vacation. Our house was about 20 minutes from Disney Springs!
Places to Eat
Hamilton’s Kitchen at The Alfond Inn*
If you’re looking for a five star meal in or around the Winter Park area of Orlando, look no further! Hamilton’s Kitchen offers a true taste of Central Florida, infusing traditional Southern cuisine with modern techniques and flairs. When I say that it was the best meal we had in our two weeks there I am not exaggerating! Get the shrimp and grits, you can thank me later.
Boxi Park at Lake Nona*
When I found out about Boxi Park it was immediately added to my go-to list! Designed with the community in mind and constructed entirely out of repurposed shipping containers, Boxi Park is a free outdoor gathering spot with multiple food vendors and live music, among other things!
I love a good food pop-up and Boxi Park delivered on so many amazing options!
Market Street Diner
This quaint little restaurant located in Celebration, Florida has all the retro vibes and serves up classic diner fare at an amazing price! I went with my sisters and daughters for brunch and we were left very satisfied and very full.
The Friar Tuck
This restaurant is tucked into the town center at Cagan’s Crossing. Unassuming from the outside, it’s pretty much a portal into a casual English restaurant, serving up everything from Scotch Eggs (strongly recommend) to Cottage Pie (!!) to Sticky Toffee Pudding (so much better than the one you can get at a certain theme park, btw). On top of that, there’s a little market filled with imported English goods on one side of the restaurant, so you can take home products like Clotted Cream and real English tea. Lucas went back the same day that we went to listen to some live Irish music that evening and had a blast!
Places to Visit
This place is really – not to be cliché – awesome. While it’s a little bit of a drive from Orlando, Legoland is totally worth it! Especially if you have younger kids. Unlike other theme parks that tend to be geared towards older kids, Legoland had tons of rides and areas just for little kids or that were fine for them to ride with an adult! Plus there are LEGO statues everywhere and my kids thought they were the coolest thing ever.
One thing that definitely made Legoland a must-visit for us was the water park! It is HOT in Florida in August and my kids spent hours playing in the water at the park and we pretty much had to force them to leave when the park was closing.
Ok, it may come as a surprise that I’m writing about Disney Springs and not actual Disney World. Here’s the thing. We all know that Disney World is worth going to…if it’s in your budget! Both Disney and Universal are super fun and… ~expensive~ . Especially when you’re paying for multiple kids! And Orlando has plenty of places to go without visiting Theme Parks every day!
We loved Disney Springs so much that we went back a few times! There’s shopping, food, statues of your kids’ favorite characters and free parking!! It is a great place to walk around for several hours with or without kids. They also have a carousel which my kids begged to go on and enjoyed just as much as any of the rides we went to at Epcot.
This little town was designed and built by Disney and is such a worthwhile place to visit! There are a bunch of quaint little shops, spectacular Ice Cream, a gorgeous view and several cafes to choose from. Plus, the place really is *instaworthy* and totally a perfect place to take photos!
Like Legoland, this is a little bit of a drive from Orlando, but totally worth going to! Chances are that you do not live on the Gulf Coast which is, quite frankly, the best place to go to the beach in the United States. I feel pretty qualified to make that statement as someone who has visited nearly every major beach on the East Coast and a dozen or so on the West Coast… and it’s really true. The Gulf Coast beaches have gorgeous, powdery white sand and pristine, warm, calm water that isn’t going to knock your kids over or make you want to run and find a sweatshirt to put on cause you half froze to death just by sticking your feet in the water.
Clearwater Beach has pretty much everything: gorgeous hotels, great restaurants and a mix of both large and small surf shops! Parking isn’t free but it’s well worth the money. Clearwater Beach was one of the highlights of our visit and not just because one of my best friends lives in St. Pete!
That’s all for now! I hope this serves as a good guide for those of you looking for less-than-standard things to do in and around Orlando!
*all locations starred were collaborations with Visit Orlando – thank you so much for hosting us!