See why Orlando is the perfect travel destination for children and adults alike.
By Heide Palermo
Meet Helen Wright, a British travel and lifestyle journalist who has written for National Geographic Traveler, Daily Mail, Marie Claire and more — and proudly embraces the title of “theme park girl” for her love of Orlando! Wright recently visited the destination with her husband, Simon, and their toddler, Finn, where they captured excitement and hidden gems beyond our theme parks.
“It goes without saying there is a lot to do [in Orlando],” says Wright. “We couldn’t believe the variety of attractions and activities on offer for families and for adults without kids.”
Watch Wright’s video for her full report, and read on for details about why she found Orlando to be the perfect travel destinaton for all ages!
Orlando’s Natural Beauty
West Orange Trail
Orlando’s theme parks are world-famous for good reason, but as Wright and her family discovered, they’re not the only parks you’ll want to explore in Orlando. Dozens of state parks, natural springs and trails offer ample opportunities to enjoy Orlando’s native beauty.
Learn more: Eco-Friendly Activities
Wright & Co. began their journey to Orlando’s wild side by renting bicycles from West Orange Trail Bikes & Blades Co. for a ride down the West Orange Trail in Winter Garden, about 25 minutes from Walt Disney World® Resort. Bikes & Blades even offers child bike trailers, so toddlers and children can ride along with you. As to the 22-mile, paved trail, it’s loaded with kids’ play areas and other amenities that serve as a nice complement to the area’s natural beauty.
Winter Park Scenic Boat Tour
Per Wright, boats are another fun option for exploring Orlando’s scenery. You’ll find aquatic adventures throughout the destination, including Winter Park Scenic Boat Tour, about 20 minutes north of downtown Orlando. Wright describes it as “the best way to get a feel for the area.” For a faster experience with equally gorgeous views, look into Wild Florida and other airboat operators.
Stroll-Worthy Orlando Neighborhoods
Plant Street Market in Winter Garden
As Wright learned, visitors of all ages can enjoy spending an afternoon in historic Winter Garden. Its centerpiece is Plant Street Market, described by Wright as “a hipster food hall with independent stores, cool food and craft beer.” It’s a delicious reward after conquering the West Orange Trail!
“It’s definitely a young, modern Florida that you don’t automatically think of when you’re planning a trip to Orlando,” Wright says about Plant Street Market.
Learn more: Winter Garden
The City of Winter Park
In addition to hosting its eponymous Scenic Boat Tour, Winter Park is another local neighborhood with lots of appeal. Stroll the picturesque, tree-lined blocks on and around Park Avenue, which boast more than 140 boutiques and restaurants. The latter encompasses some of Central Florida’s most acclaimed dining, including The Ravenous Pig, Luma on Park and Prato, all of which are headed by James Beard-nominated chefs.
Learn more: Winter Park
Orlando has plenty of other walkable neighborhoods that will appeal to travelers of all ages. They include College Park, Ivanhoe Village and Thornton Park, all close to downtown Orlando — which is worth visiting in its own right!
Hands-On Orlando Attractions for Kids
Crayola Experience in Orlando
“For Finn, we wanted to go somewhere that kids would love and would keep him entertained,” says Wright. “This is Orlando, so there was no shortage of places to choose from.”
Indeed, numerous standalone attractions offer interactive fun for little ones beyond Orlando’s theme parks. For families looking to get in touch with their creative side, Crayola Experience features 26 hands-on activities, from naming crayons to bringing drawings to life. You’ll find it at The Florida Mall, minutes from International Drive.
WonderWorks in Orlando
Other notable attractions with a full slate of activities for young visitors include Orlando Science Center, with four floors of fun near downtown Orlando, and our only upside-down attraction, WonderWorks at Pointe Orlando, with more than 100 interactive exhibits.
SEA LIFE Orlando Aquarium
Or, stop by SEA LIFE Orlando Aquarium at ICON Park (formerly ICON Orlando 360) to explore more than 5,000 creatures, including sharks, jellyfish and seahorses, as well as hands-on rockpools with sea anemones, starfish and more.
Orlando Nightlife, Shopping & More for Adults
ICON Orlando Is Fun for Kids and Adults
Orlando is widely recognized as a must-see destination for families — but adults traveling without children might not know the adventures awaiting those still young at heart.
“It was great to see how much there is to do in Orlando if you don’t come with kids in tow,” says Wright. For instance, one of her favorite stops was a wine tasting at The Wine Room in Winter Park. Other places where you can swirl and sip to your heart’s content include Wine Bar George at Disney Springs™ and Quantum Leap Winery near downtown Orlando.
Learn more: Grown-Up’s Guide to Orlando
Wright and her husband also enjoyed an celebratory toast at The Wheel (formerly ICON Orlando), an observation wheel that stands 400 feet tall (122 meters) and offers sights of downtown Orlando’s skyline, nearby theme parks, beautiful lakes and lush landscapes. Shopping at The Florida Mall and our dining scene also provided delightful diversions.
But Wright’s favorite aspect of visiting Orlando? “Getting to come here and spend quality time with my family was perfect,” she says. “Orlando is just a place where thrills are guaranteed and memories are made.”