By Eileen Ogintz
The Space Shuttle Atlantis, baby alligators, endangered manatees and even classes for budding artists: there’s a lot more to see and do around Orlando than visit the theme parks. Just ask kids and their parents who live here.
May is an especially good time to visit — great weather, deals and less people. Here’s just a sampling of what your family can do outside the theme parks:
- The Orlando Museum of Art
Kid-friendly guides interpret the exhibits and hold drop-in classes for kids. There are also tours for those with special challenges.
- Green Meadows Petting Farm
This is where the kids can milk a cow, cuddle a chick, go on a hayride and get up close to piglets, goats, sheep and more.
- Orlando Science Center
Kids won’t want to leave when they can watch baby alligators, turtles and snakes at NatureWorks; unearth dinosaur fossils and replicas at DinoDigs; and farm faux oranges and fix cars in the pint-sized KidsTown.
- Blue Spring State Park
Every winter, endangered Florida manatees flock to the Blue Spring waters, and this 2,600-acre state park is the place to learn all about them from park rangers, have a picnic, go on a hike, fish, canoe or take a River boat tour.
Here’s your chance to put yourself in a giant bubble, play with an oversized version of lite brite, play a keyboard with your feet or leave your shadow behind. Kids and parents love the “Outta Control Magic Comedy Dinner Show” with all-you-can-eat pizza and salad.
- Boggy Creek Airboat Rides
Board an airboat to race through swamps and across lakes, past turtles, native birds and even alligators.
- Kennedy Space Center
Now home to the Space Shuttle Atlantis and a new $100 million exhibit, this is the place where kids can operate the Astronaut Training Simulator, meet an astronaut, stand beneath the 36-story Saturn V moon rocket and walk through re-creations of modules used as part of the International Space Station.
Eileen is the author of the syndicated column Taking the Kids and the “Kid’s Guide to Orlando,” part of the Kid’s Guide Series from Globe Pequot Press. This post was sponsored by Taking the Kids.