Feb 9 2011

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Beyond Disney World: 3 top Orlando attractions

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Residence Inn's pool and playground make perfect pit stops before bedtime.

By Maria Mora

As an Orlando-area resident, I’m lucky to live only have an hour from Walt Disney World. But here’s a little secret: When I take my family on vacation, we don’t always visit the Magic Kingdom. Florida vacation spots like Orlando and Kissimmee have dozens of other attractions, whether you’re in the mood to torpedo down a water slide or catch a sea lion show. Here are our three of my brood’s favorites and Orlando hotels convenient to each attraction.

SeaWorld Orlando
I started bringing my kids to SeaWorld long before I took them to Walt Disney World. Because most of the animal attractions can be enjoyed by all ages, it’s the perfect place to bring little kids and babies. Just bring a sturdy stroller and good walking shoes—this park is massive. My husband and I love riding the Kraken and Manta coasters thanks to the convenient “child swap” option. My kids love the silly Clyde and Seamore sea lion show.

Tip: During the summer, snag late afternoon tickets for less than $40 for an adult.
Hotel: The Residence Inn by Marriott is right down the street from SeaWorld. My kids loved the heated outdoor pool. I loved the playground that kept them busy before bedtime.

Wet ‘n Wild
When I was a little girl, the highlight of each summer was my family’s trip to this expansive water park. Wet n’ Wild tempts with more than 30 acres of thrilling slides and splash areas. You can even ski around a giant lake. Now that I’m a mom, I appreciate the Kids Park area, with miniature versions of the big kid and adult attractions. This park is also a great option for tweens and teens.

Tip: Wear sunblock clothing to avoid having to reapply sunscreen to your shoulders throughout the day.
Hotel: Universal Loews Royal Pacific Resort is on the Universal Resort property—just down the street from Wet N’ Wild. Walk from the hotel to City Walk for more entertainment after your day at the water park.

Universal Orlando Resort
Thanks to the newly opened Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Islands of Adventure, this is a must-see Orlando destination. When you visit, check out both Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios. Each park has unique attractions. My husband’s pick: the Spider Man ride, a 3-D and special effects thrill ride. I prefer the Revenge of the Mummy roller coaster at Universal Studios, where scarab beetles, warrior mummies and fireballs surprise thrill seekers along the rocky adventure.

Tip: Don’t miss the specialty beer formulated specifically for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Kids can enjoy frosted Butterbeer.
Hotel: The Hard Rock Hotel is like a mini theme park. Luxurious yet fun, it features a huge pool with a slide and beach. We spent a whole day simply lounging and enjoying the music.

Related resources

Maria Mora is a memoir blogger and wannabe photographer. She travels extensively throughout Florida and the Caribbean with her two young sons.

http://www.orbitz.com/hotels/United_States–FL/Tampa/

More About: Nina Kokotas Hahn

Nina Kokotas Hahn is a travel writer and Chicago journalist whose work appears in Chicago magazine, HuffPost Travel and Condé Nast’s HotelChatter. Globetrotting since infancy, she’s the daughter of a travel agent and considers thrill seeking part of the DNA. Find her on Twitter at @ninakhahn.
View More Posts By Nina Kokotas Hahn
Posted on: February 9, 2011 | Tags: | Category: Family timeCategory: Florida VacationCategory: Hotels

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