My girls are at a great age for travelling. They can manage their own baggage, entertain themselves – and each other – and they eat varied enough foods now that the stress of “what to eat” is almost gone. So we thought we’d visit Orlando with tweens, before they are both over 10 and full price at the attractions!
Two years ago we went to Disney. That was great and fun and really really busy. This time our main attraction was Universal Studios, and we made three days of it there.
We didn’t want to fill our week with theme parks, so I reached out to the people at Visit Orlando. (Visit their website if you’re thinking about planning a visit – there is tons of great info there!)
They graciously provided me with Media Credentials and contacts for various attractions. All attractions outlined here provided free or discounted admission for us, and all opinions are mine, or those of my husband and tween daughters.
There were so many more options to explore than we had time for, but here are the attractions we visited, and what we thought:
Fun things to do in Orlando with Tweens
We booked our flight and hotel on Black Friday. The rest worked it’s way out much closer to our travel dates. We purposely under-planned so we had some flexibility to see what we were in the mood for. Visiting Orlando with tweens can mean changing our minds a few times over the week!
The weather was cool while we were there, and it felt perfect for exploring the outdoor attractions. We made the choice to not visit any water parks as we were lucky if the weather got warmer than 20 ° C, but there were many water parks to choose from had we been there during a warmer week.
If you find yourself in the International Drive area of Orlando without transportation, look for the smiling trolleys! We did not end up using the trolley (we rented a car for the duration) but they run daily 8am to 10:30pm.
I-Ride Trolleys take you past a lot of fun attractions (many of which we visited – see below), including SeaWorld and the Orlando Premium Outlets, and run on 20 minute service. Visit their website for more information.
Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! Orlando Odditorium
Did you know that there was a sinkhole in this area of Florida? To play on that weird piece of news, Ripley’s Odditorium is built as a sinking building.
Full of wild, weird and odd facts and items, Ripley’s is a great way to spend an hour out of the hot Florida sun. My girls were totally weirded out by some of the exhibits – like the shrunken head, and the video that shows how they do it!
You can have a wax replica created of your own hand. This costs extra, but it looked really neat. We didn’t think we could fit them into our luggage, or we would have probably splurged for some.
Learn more about Ripley’s Orlando Odditorium on their website.
Pirate’s Cove Adventure Golf
My girls love mini golf. And this course does not disappoint. Pirate’s Cove has a great layout, and two courses available to play. We chose the easier course and it was great.
The courses have waterfalls, lush plants and flowers, and multi level holes. The more beginner course still held a few challenges for us. Luckily we didn’t lose our balls, and they let us bring along a few extra in case we did!
Our round took about 40 minutes and then we spent a little time checking out the decor around the outside of the course. It was a fun morning’s activity.
Read more about Pirate’s Cove Adventure Golf Orlando on their website.
Icon Park is an open air mall. Coupled with a few attractions, restaurants, a Sky Wheel, and a miniature train, the cobbled pathways allow you to enjoy this downtown park by foot.
This tall attraction is basically a swing that takes you high in the sky. Sitting in pairs, you can take in the Orlando cityscape while swinging almost 450 feet above the street. (The ride boasts it’s 450 feet tall, but the swing doesn’t quite go to the very top, so we likely were not the full 450 feet above the street.)
Both my girls thought this was amazing, and my husband and I thought it was very high up and breezy. Rose immediately asked to do it again. And you can get on again, at a discount for your second ride.
Learn more about the Starflyer on ICON Park’s website.
If you have visited any Madame Tussauds location you know what to expect. But if you have not, expect to see life-sized replicas of your favourite celebrities that you can pose next to for some fun photo ops!
Madame Tussaud herself is featured here as well. You can learn more about how the wax figures are created, and about just how much work goes into the making of them. You can also have a wax hand created here, not included in admission.
The girls had a blast checking out all the famous people. I think Will Smith and Sheldon (Jim Parsons) were the favourites – which surprised me. I thought Katy Perry or even Shrek and Fiona would be a big hit.
Along with the celebrities, there are bits of dress up to put you into their world. In the sport area you can shoot some hoops, or put on some football gear, and there was a replica Bazinga! shirt to wear when sitting next to Sheldon.
I think we took pictures next to almost every figure there. It was a lot of fun, and it didn’t take too long, so we were able to also visit the SEA LIFE aquarium on the same day. (More about that below.)
Plan your own trip to Madame Tussauds Orlando on their website.
SEA LIFE Orlando
SEA LIFE Orlando is an aquarium. It’s located across the SkyWheel atrium from Madame Tussauds and you can buy multi attraction tickets to see both in the same day.
The aquarium showcases species from all the ocean areas of the world. And there are tons of photo ops – where the kids crawl in and pop up “inside” the fish tanks. My girls loved getting in there, and it wasn’t too busy so we rarely had to wait our turn.
Every great aquarium has a 360° tunnel walkthrough. Seeing the fish, sharks and rays swimming overhead is always an amazing experience. At the end there is a touch tank where you can feel the sea stars and crabs.
Visit the SEA LIFE Orlando website for more information and to book your tickets!
If you have kids who are into art and colouring, you have to check out the Crayola Experience. You can design your own crayon wrapper, “paint” with melted crayon, create spun art, and colour pages and then have them animated, it’s amazing.
When you arrive, each person is given a bag with two tokens and a Scribble Scrubbie. There’s an area with markers and sinks where you can colour your Scrubbie and then wash it clean. The tokens are used to make the crayon labels, or to get a clay to create your own robot (or other design) with the play-doh tools provided.
There are also climbers, snack bars, other pay-extra things to do, and you can pay for more tokens as well. My girls had a great time trying everything. They were definitely on the upper age range for spending hours there, but they had a lot of fun.
Visit the Crayola Experience website for more information, hours, and upcoming events.
The Crayola Experience is located in the Florida Mall. This mall is HUGE! And it had an American Girl store which we HAD to see. Of course it was at the entire other end of the mall so that was a trek, but the girls loved that too. And no, we didn’t buy anything there.
Blue Man Group at Universal
This was so great it has it’s own post: Blue Man Group at Universal Orlando Resort. And we weren’t allowed to take photos during the show, so you’ll have to jump over to my other post to see some images they gave me to use!
Have you seen a Blue Man Group Show? I’d love to know what your favourite part was. This was my second time seeing them and it was just as great the second time!
If you go to an evening show, the parking at Universal Orlando Resort is free (after 6pm.) And CityWalk is pretty overwhelming – full of shops and restaurants to explore without paying to get into the park itself.
Medieval Times Orlando Castle
Despite there being a Medieval Times castle in Toronto, it took us travelling all the way to Orlando for our first visit to Medieval Times.
To be honest, I’m glad this was our first experience. Orlando Castle is the first Medieval Times location, and it has a whole village to explore. It’s set up like a museum with medieval artifacts and a whole torture section. The girls weren’t as keen on that as they were on the cloth making area and the kitchen set up.
Eating the dinner with our hands was interesting. Rose, who rarely uses utensils at home, had the most trouble getting past eating with her hands. Go figure! But cheering on our knight, and seeing the jousting and the beautiful horses really makes the experience.
Read my full post on our experience at Medieval Times Orlando Castle.
Emma was “chosen” during the knighting ceremony. Then they roped us into buying the basic Knighting package, which was a photo and a scroll with her name on it. Very cool – she loved the idea of the Queen making her a Princess.
Read more, and book your tickets, at the Medieval Times Website.
Who rests on vacation?
It seems like we had a whirlwind visit to all parts of Orlando, doesn’t it? It feels a bit like we did, but it was so much fun. We also did a few days at Universal Orlando Resort, and we hit up Disney Springs (which is free) and managed to have one “quiet” day at the hotel.
If we go again, I want to check out more “natural” Florida, like air boats and maybe a beach. Driving on the I-4 every days means you don’t see any Florida scenery besides traffic and hotels.
Have you been to Orlando with tweens? What did you do? And what did your kids enjoy exploring? Share in the comments and I’ll take note for our next trip!
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