Well, yes, I may be a little mad. But it is entirely possible to visit the State of Florida, and stay in the Orlando area, and NOT visit any theme parks.
Not everyone has the budget or the inclination to visit theme parks. Think of the millions of people who live there who don’t visit the parks. I personally love the place, and even though I would love to go to Disney World and Universal Studios on every trip, it’s just not practical from a time and money perspective. Plus there is SO MUCH to do when you’re there, it would be silly not to venture away from the parks and see what else is around.
What you choose to do will be purely down to what interests you. My personal choice is to try to get a little bit of Disney and Universal in my trip, without forking out on the park tickets.
To do this, I usually check whether there are any event tickets I can buy (if the budget will stretch to it) for one evening in a park. I tend to visit during the Halloween period, so there’s Halloween Horror Nights if you can stomach it, at Universal Studios (I tried it and hated it, despite being a huge horror fan. Let’s keep the peril on the screen and not in my face, thank you very much), and there’s Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party at Disney’s Magic Kingdom (much more my style). Both offer you entry and the run of the parks for a dedicated number of hours on one evening.
You also have the option of the park’s leisure areas, so City Walk for Universal and Disney Springs for Disney. You don’t need a park ticket for either of these. City Walk has restaurants, bars, shopping and I believe there’s a cinema there too. Disney Springs is bigger and offers shopping (both Disney Parks merchandise and other branded stores) restaurants, bars, bowling, cinema, and other activities.
I personally LOVE Disney Springs, because there’s so much to do. The shopping is great, the restaurants are excellent and there’s a lot to do and see. Plus parking is free there, unlike at City Walk.
From Disney Springs you can also take a free bus to any of the Disney resorts so you can have a nosey around the hotels, partake in their activities and eat in their restaurants. I love visiting the resorts even if I’m not staying in one.
But if you’re not at all interested in exploring Disney or Universal property, you can still have tons of fun. The little all-American towns in the Orlando area are well worth an explore. Places like Celebration and Kissimmee are lovely and one of my favourites is Winter Park with it’s shopping, restaurants and little train track that runs right through it.
It’s also home to the head office and flagship store of one of my favourite brands Rifle Paper Co.
As you’re probably aware, I’m back off to Florida in a few weeks, and we had loads of things planned. As well as going back to pretty much all of the places above, we intend to pack in a lot more. Our trip is double the length we stayed last year and I still feel like we won’t have enough time to fit everything in!
Included in our trip is an NFL game at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers stadium, a trip to the Kennedy Space Centre (a bucket list item!), Wonderworks (a hands-on science exhibit) and possibly a visit to adventure golf and an epic looking escape room!
Of course I plan on visiting the shops, and the list I have is getting as long as my arm! Have you been to Orlando and had a non-park holiday? I’d love to hear about the places you’ve visited and the activities you’ve done! Maybe something you suggest will make my list for this year’s trip!