Educational Travel for kids: Orlando beyond the theme parks

When most families think of Orlando, two words come to mind: theme parks. We understand; after all, we offer Disney World tips for families and reviews of Disney attractions. However, families looking for educational travel ideas,  whether as pit stops en route elsewhere on Florida vacations, or during an Orlando vacation, will find much to engage kids’ minds. At the following Orlando attractions, Mickey may be absent, but fun is present and accounted for.


Orlando Wonderworks:

The building of the Orlando location for the Wonderworks chain of kid zones is upside-down…a sure sign that kids rule at this indoor play-and-imagination-mecca. Kids will immediately think Wonderworks is all about fun, but with over 100 interactive exhibits on science, perspective, and technology, they’re learning more than is let on. When they do catch on that lessons are being imparted, there’s always laser tag for ‘recess’. Admission is $24 ($19 for kids) but is not all-inclusive…be prepared to spend more. Located centrally on International Drive.

Orlando Science Center:

It’s tough being a science center in the theme park capital of the world…Orlando Science Center has steep competition for kids’ attention. However, once here, yours will most likely not want to leave. With an interactive Sesame Street exhibit for toddlers and preschoolers and science labs and a science ‘park’ for older kids, everyone will be occupied. Located on 777 E. Princeton Street, admission is $19 for adults and $13 for kids…a tad lower than your standard theme park admission costs. Read reviews of the Orlando Science Center.

Orange Country Regional History Center:

Need a new perspective on Orlando after too much stimulation, creative landscaping, and ‘experiences’? The History Center shows kids what Orlando looked like before Disney, starting with natural history and native plants and animals, then progressing through First People, First Contact, and pioneering history. And yes, there’s a permanent exhibit on Walt, too. The building is big and bright, and families get the feeling of being out-of-doors while still enjoying the A/C. Located at 65 East Central Blvd, the museum does close at 5 pm daily. General admission is $12 for adults and $9 for kids.



Orlando’s Gatorland is more than just a thrill for families who like to get up-close and personal with huge reptiles. Kids learn about swamps, alligator breeding programs, and alligator habits. Their Adventure Hour takes kids even closer to the action, and is only $10 per person more. Yes, there are also zip lines, making Gatorland more like a theme park than a zoo, but families spending a half-day here will come away with a decent education. Admission is $27 for adults (13 and up) and $19 for kids, and the park closes at 5 pm. Parking is free. Read reviews of Gatorland.

Not staying on theme park property? Find Orlando accommodations at

Photo credit: Brian Marshall and Jim Moore