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Parenting Guide: Family Fun

Whether it’s a beautiful, sunny afternoon or a cloudy, rainy day, there is always something fun to do in the Orlando area.

While out-of-towners may be hitting up all of the major theme parks that Central Florida has to offer, locals know that some of the best things to do and see in the area are often right around the corner or a short drive away. Here are a few of the many area attractions to check out this summer.

Old Town

Since 1986, Old Town has served as a popular, family-fun destination for both tourists and locals alike. The 18-acre shopping and entertainment district features over 70 unique knick-knack and specialty shops. There are also numerous restaurants and bars along the tree-lined brick street. The district offers plenty of attractions and rides for all ages to enjoy, including Old Town’s iconic Ferris Wheel and weekly classic car show.

Funtastic Depot

This brand-new entertainment center is set to open soon. The 30,000-square-foot indoor facility will offer activities for the whole family to enjoy. The center will feature live music, an FX show, karaoke, ninja warrior courses, massive inflatables, climbing walls, an arcade, a playground and a special area just for toddlers. In addition, there will also be a Funtastic food bar.

McKee Botanical Garden

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this Florida landmark is a serene place of natural beauty. The 18-acre nonprofit includes one of Florida’s largest collections of water lilies and over 10,000 native and tropical plants. The Children’s Garden features a Fairy Forest and Waterlily Fountain. A captivating and relaxing experience for visitors of all ages, it is well worth the hour and a half drive from Orlando.


Whether celebrating a child’s birthday or just a fun day out, this climate-controlled indoor playground and gym, geared toward kids up to age 12, is an ideal destination. From a three-level jungle gym, climbing walls, a toddler play area, an interactive games room and a ninja warrior course to a high-tech iWall—a gaming platform that transforms the player’s body into a game controller—there is truly something for every activity level.

International Drive Resort Area

Considered a “must-see” destination, this 11.1-mile thoroughfare is bustling with uniquely fun activities. With over 300 restaurants, four entertainment and nightclub hubs and more than 40 attractions, visitors can easily spend days exploring all there is to see and do on I-Drive. Key hot spots include ICON Park, Pointe Orlando, Ripley’s Believe It or Not! and WonderWorks, Orlando’s only upside down attraction. All are easily accessed using the convenient I-Ride Trolley.

The Importance of Traveling for Kids

For many families with young children, traveling outside of the state may seem a bit daunting. However, experts say family vacations often help build stronger bonds and create lasting memories. In addition to the opportunity that vacations allow for families to step out of their normal routine and enjoy each other’s company, there are many other benefits to traveling with children.

“Travel not only opens kids up to different cultures, but it brings people around the world closer together by exposing them to citizens with similar hopes and dreams,” says Ken Shapiro, board president of Family Travel Association, a nonprofit that aims to increase the quality of family trips. “Travel also makes the kids themselves more confident and better global citizens who then grow up to appreciate the inherent value of people and our natural world.”

Visits to historic sites and destinations offer a fun and memorable way for children to learn about history and the world around them. Shapiro says that foreign travel provides benefits for even the youngest of kids but notes that the ideal age for an overseas trip really depends on the child.

“Our advice is to check in with a travel advisor or other expert to find out what the best age is for the particular trip you’re interested in,” he says. “Some family vacations—a safari, for instance—really are ideal for slightly older kids, while cruise ships and beach resorts may be great options for families with young kids. In any case, it’s best to get some advice on this before going.”

Regardless of where your travels may take you, experts agree that the benefits of a family vacation far outweigh the challenges involved. “These benefits are evident whether families take long international trips or shorter domestic trips,” Shapiro says. “The family bonding potential is there either way, and there is always something new to discover, whether around the corner or around the world. All types of travel provide new opportunities to widen a child’s world view.”

Allowing children to participate in the planning of the trip helps build confidence and independence and is a great introduction to both time and money management as well as problem-solving skills. Some people avoid vacations altogether due to costs; however, family travel does not have to be a budget-busting experience. In fact, flexibility and preparation can make for both an affordable and enjoyable excursion.

“With a little research you can always find the perfect trip for your family,” Shapiro says. “Just get out there and do it!