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The cooler weather is here, school’s in session, and Fall Break is just around the corner. Sounds like the perfect excuse for a quick 3-day vacation!
As a family of five, we love to pack up the kids and take quick trips as often as we can considering time and budget restraints. We usually partake in attractions within driving distance but for Fall Break, it’s the perfect excuse to explore another city. And somewhere fun, budget-friendly, and where we can easily pack up the kids and go is at the top of the list.
After scrolling the ‘gram for local destinations in the Southeast, photos from the Visit Orlando page frequently caught my eye. With further researching and breathtaking imagery of the myriad of attractions in the Orlando area, we couldn’t resist setting up a trip!
The funny thing about it, though, is we all think about the standard parks everyone goes to in Orlando.
Well let me tell you—think outside the “mouse house” box because Orlando is chock full of exciting parks, attractions, restaurants, and eco tourism sites in and around the city!
Check out VisitOrlando.com to learn about how amazing this destination is for families and discover the “off the beaten path” gems in the city. And read along as I showcase the places that we visited and that you should add to your itinerary!
Just like any family trip, budgeting beforehand for an Orlando vacation can help ease the burden of unexpected expenses, thus creating a more pleasant trip experience. Of course, there are many ways to save money as well as ways to splurge.
Depending upon when your school has its fall break dates, it may be considered the low season for certain resorts and activities. There may be discounts available! Be sure to check out websites like Visit Orlando as well as sites for each resort or activity.
Personally, when we visited, we saved by lodging with friends/family for part of the stay and splurging on the LEGOLAND resort for half of the trip. This method, for us, was definitely a WIN–WIN!
Living on the Gulf Coast is a gem in that our local Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport is small enough to feel safe, clean, and efficient. And yet, this local airport boasts some of the most amazing flight deals. And we are a stone’s throw from New Orleans and have access to amazing flight deals from there as well.
We are always researching quick (and cheap) flights and we realized that Gulfport has a low-priced direct flight into Sanford, FL (which is less than 30 minutes from Orlando). We found an incredible deal for a flight (family of 5 for under $300 one way) and couldn’t resist! Let me be honest, we were stoked that we wouldn’t have to drive the 10 hour trip (with small kids).
See us SURPRISING our kids with the flight HERE!
To get the best deal on flights, be flexible with your arrival/departure cities and dates. Consider flying from New Orleans and back into Gulfport if it’s feasible for you (which was our course of action.) Full transparency, our departure and return flights cost us around $600 for a family of 5! Score!
Also, don’t be scared to fly with small children! Again, we’re a family of 5 with three under 6 and they all really enjoyed the flight (and it wasn’t bad at all for mama!) Getting there quicker with much less “are we there yet’s” made the trip so much more tolerable and flying was extremely exciting for them! I actually don’t know if I’ll be able to talk them into a road trip ever again!
Pack plenty of snacks, have activities (tablets, books, activity pads, crayons, etc) on hand, and you’re all set for flying with kids.
Customize an itinerary that fits your family best. Plan a mix of indoor activities and relaxing pool days or down time. Below is our itinerary that worked well for our family.
1. CRAYOLA EXPERIENCE
The kids really loved the hands-on activities at Crayola Experience! They learned how crayons were made and had a chance to make their own! They even designed their very own coloring page! The fact that Crayola is indoors was a welcome refrain from the Florida heat. Climate control FTW!
My kids enjoyed the play areas (there are two separate age appropriate spaces). And their favorite exhibit was the area featuring Scribble Scrubbie Pets.
They were each given a Scribble Scrubbie and were allowed to doodle on them and then treat the washable figurines to a bath!
For moms like me who love the instagrammable moments too, there are plenty at the Crayola Experience!
My fondest childhood memories include a family trip to SeaWorld Orlando! I recall watching Shamu leap and power through the water. I’m so thankful I was able to share this same experience with my little ones.
A really cool feature that was especially nice for us with smaller kids is the new Sesame Street Land. It’s an interactive play area for little ones to explore the Sesame Street neighborhood and meet their favorite characters.
There were age appropriate rides for the younger bunch (I’d say it’s best for those 10 and under). There’s a splash pad, covered play space, and cool, interactive “Sesame Street moments” throughout. Can you tell me how to get to Sesame Street? We sure can HERE!
We were even impressed that there was a (not so scary) roller coaster (that we rode TWICE!)
The kids also loved watching the orca show, feeding the sharks, and entering the Antarctica exhibit (which was a reprive from the heat as it’s indoors and chilly).
3. HARRY P. LEAU GARDENS
We love to take our kids on walks around the neighborhood to let out the wiggles. So for a rest day, we decided to stroll through to the Leu Gardens. It boasts over 50 acres of beautiful gardens and open space for kids to run and play.
It’s really important to expose my children to art and culture, and to instill a sense of appreciation for nature. Visiting the Leu Gardens did just that and more!
During our visit, the Enchanted Fairy Doors exhibit was live and the search for fairies was game on! We let the kiddos utilize the map to search for the fairy doors, and it was the most precious experience! Upon finding each door, the kids lit up like Christmas morning! It was truly a unique experience!
I’d suggest visiting the gardens for families, single people wanting a zen and aesthetic moment, and especially for couples for a romantic stroll through the flora.
Another great benefit of visiting Leu Gardens is that it provides an activity that’s relaxing and without the traditional hustle and bustle of theme parks. A mix of beauty and nature—Leu Gardens tops our list for a return visit to see the amazing plants that bloom in each specific season.
Check out Leu Gardens’ website to plan a visit during one of their planned activities. From September 10 until October 31 they host the Alphabet Plant Hunt, and there are also multiple Movie Nights and a Blues Concert.
4. ORLANDO SCIENCE CENTER
The Orlando Science Center is one of America’s top hands-on science centers! They truly make learning fun! Y’all, this place is huge and sure to keep the kids busy for hours!
They offer hundreds of exhibits, planetarium shows, climbing structure, giant water table, an air tube system, toddler area, dinosaur skeletons, a fossil dig area, tornado machine, earthquake bridge and more to explore and experiment.
You can also take a break and partake in the theatre that features a fun (educational) movie. It keeps kids intrigued and entertained.
Our kids favorite exhibit was the dinosaur room complete with a massive dino replica and fossil dig.
We booked a two night stay at LEGOLAND’s Pirate Island Resort which included entry into the themepark and waterpark for both days. The stay also included family-style breakfast at the on-site restaurants for two days as well, which was an added plus!
“Everything is AWESOMMMMMEEEEEE at LEGOLAND! I repeat, it’s an AWESOME resort that is fun for all.” -Kerri Paul
Can I tell y’all that LEGOLAND provided the perfect, most magical experience for my son and daughters? First off, the Pirate’s Island hotel is decorated from floor to ceiling to resemble a pirate’s quest at sea, including a daily free scavenger hunt in the rooms, daily and nightly family fun activities on property, and tons of interactive areas for kids to play throughout the hotel.
The theme park is appropriate for small to big kids with rides that everyone can enjoy. I especially loved that LEGOLAND is equipped with tons of rides for smaller kids to access, which made it the perfect spot for our 6 year old twins and 4 year old to enjoy. The rides included trains, roller coasters, boat rides, and indoor virtual reality style rides to name a few. There are also plenty of play spaces, both indoors and out like the Schoolhouse and the Forestman’s Hideout that kids can explore as well.
On our first day, we explored the LEGOLAND theme park and on the second day, we enjoyed the Water Park. The park was a welcome treat for the kids to splash around in the heat. As a parent, I loved that they provided optional life jackets throughout the park for the kids to wear, as well as there were many shallow pool areas and slides for them to enjoy.
The live characters walking around with music and dancing and the shows were a hit as well. The kids enjoyed watching the live ninjas compete and the girls were enamored with the LEGO Friends who stopped to chat and interact with them.
In the Fall, LEGOLAND is a perfect bet for a family trip with kiddos! The park is a nice size—not too large and intimidating—for a family with small kids to traverse. I’d say that LEGOLAND’s sweet spot is for kids ages 4-12, but everyone will definitely enjoy the sights and attractions on hand.
As you can see there are so many things to do in Orlando!
It’s a quick and easy trip to take from the Mississippi Gulf Coast, and it’s the perfect option for a Fall Break getaway. If you‘re looking for a mix of activities and outdoor play, Orlando is a great place to visit. And during the Fall, the temps are cooler which is single-handedly a reason for anyone to get out with the kids and enjoy the breeze!
When we visited this summer, it didn’t break the bank and we truly made some of the best memories!