When you are planning a trip to Florida, everyone always assumes that you are going to be doing ‘the Disney thing.’ While that can be the case for many, it doesn’t have to be. There are still plenty of things to do in Florida (Orlando area in particular), that aren’t Disney related at all.
We went to Orlando back in 2013, and met up with my sister and brother-in-law when we were there. They were living in Nevada at the time, but my brother-in-law grew up in the Satellite Beach area of Florida (just south of Cocoa Beach), so he knew some hidden gems for us to visit. We only did one Disney thing on that trip. So it is quite possible!
Here are some top things to do that aren’t Disney:
OK, it is still a theme park. But for me, I have enjoyed Universal Orlando more than Disney. It is so much more up to date and modern. Plus, it features a lot of my favourite films, and there are lots of different things for all ages. There rides are lots of fun and the new Harry Potter part that connects both parks is brilliant. The Universal Walk, before you get to the parks is great for shopping and restaurants too. You can read my top tips for making a day of it here.
Blue springs is about 45 minutes north of Orlando, and is well worth a visit if you don’t want to go theme parks. The place itself is a national park, and there are lots of hidden treasures to find. You can walk in the area, and swim in the river. We hired out an inflatable boat for the kids to sit in, and then we all swam around it. And we had the amazing experience of manatees swimming along side us. We did also see this sign… eeek!
It is a stunning area and I’d recommend it as something else to do in Florida. I’ve never been anywhere like it before!
Of course, there are a lot of beaches in Florida itself. But a lot of them will be quite far out to get to (we did attempt a trip to St. Pete beach that did nearly end up as a three hour round trip). So Cocoa Beach is a fail safe beach to go to. East of Orlando, it takes about forty minutes to get to it. You do go on some toll roads, so make sure you have some cash with you. The sand is clear and it is such a large beach, so you never feel crowded. There is always plenty of parking nearby, at least the times that I have been there (parking is right by the Ron Jon Surf shop – also a must visit).
The sea is the atlantic, so can be a little wavy, especially on a windy day. So just bear that in mind with little ones.
The Cheesecake Factory
If you’re a visitor in the US and don’t go to the Cheesecake Factory at least once, are you even holiday? This is literally my dream restaurant so it is always a must when we’re in the US. Crazily, there is only one Cheesecake Factory on Orlando, in the Mall of Millennia. It is about a fifteen minute drive from the International Drive area. Most likely you won’t have room for dessert, but make sure you order one to take away with you and eat later – they’re the dream!
For my husband, this was one of his favourite parts that we visited, as the rides were really good and have come a long way. I for one was really impressed by the changes that SeaWorld have been making for the better (which I have written about here). If you love animals, as well as large rollercoasters, then this is a really good option for you when staying in Orlando.
Have you been to any of these places? Are there any others that you would recommend?