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We’ve been to Orlando several times now, all because of Dave’s work conferences. Milana and I tagged along and had a blast! We went in January 2016, January 2017 and most recently April 2017.
We flew United from SNA with a layover in Houston. It was Milana’s first time in first class, and she enjoyed her tv, paella and chocolate chip cookies!
January 2016, we stayed at the Swan on Disney property and it was ok, nothing spectacular. January 2017, we stayed at the Orlando World Center Marriott, which is apparently the largest Marriott in the world! The hotel was fantastic, with an awesome pool area with several slides, tons of things and activities for kids, and great dining options. Our balcony faced the pool area and we saw Disney World fireworks from it every night. I highly recommend this hotel if you don’t want to stay on Disney property!
On our April 2017 trip, we stayed at the Hilton Orlando Buena Vista Palace, which is right across the street from Disney Springs. They also have character breakfasts on the weekends here, making it a great option if you’re going to Disney but don’t want to stay at one of their properties. The hotel has a great pool area, with a huge pool, a zero entry pool for little ones, and a lazy river.
And of course, the obligatory pina colada by the pool!
Of course, no trip to Orlando is complete without visiting the theme parks! Living near Disneyland, we aren’t fans of the Magic Kingdom at all so we skipped it on this trip and instead went to Epcot and Animal Kingdom, our favorites! We did Magic Kingdom on our trip last year:
We love Tusker House in Animal Kingdom, so we made sure to have lunch there again this time. The characters are awesome and interactive and the food is actually decent for a buffet.
Another really good restaurant on Disney property is Sanaa at the Animal Kingdom lodge. We had a table by the window, and got to see zebras, giraffes and other animals while we ate.
If you dine here, you must get the bread service. It was so good!
The food was really good too. Milana loved the butter chicken! And Dave had the vegetables with cilantro sauce.
In Epcot, we did the character lunch at the Garden Grill and it was a fun experience. The restaurant rotates slowly while you dine, and everything is brought out family style so you don’t have to keep getting up to get refills. I like that much better than buffets!
There are lots of other things to do in Orlando besides Disney World. One of Milana’s favorites is the Crayola Experience. I grew up around the original one in Easton, PA and now there are 3 in the US. If you have a little artist, I highly recommend you visit this place! It’s close to the airport, so a good thing to do before your flight home.
This was such a cool exhibit. Kids draw on little computers, and their artwork appears on the giant screen.
Another place we visited was Wonderworks. It was ok, not sure we’d go back. It had a lot of educational exhibits, but I think they’re best geared for older kids.
The Orlando Science Center is also a great place to visit. Keep in mind, they are closed on Wednesdays during the school year for school groups. Because most people come to Orlando for theme parks, this place was pretty much deserted on the Tuesday we went, so Milana had lots of space to explore. Last year, they added KidsTown, which is 11,000 square feet of space with different exhibits aimed at kids 7 and under. It’s similar to what you would see at children museums around the country. The admission was worth it for this alone!
What’s a trip without some good food? One day for lunch, Milana and I went to Market on South. It’s a vegetarian restaurant with some really good food and desserts! I had the Heirloom TLT which had heirloom tomatoes, arugula and smoked tempeh bacon on Texas toast. Milana had the mac and cheese.
For dessert, Milana chose a donut. All their items are free of dairy and eggs and taste pretty good!
Another place we went to is Shula’s Steakhouse. Now this place isn’t exactly kid-friendly, but Milana is used to dining at places like this so we made a reservation and took her with us. The food here is great! We started with the ahi tuna, french onion soup and tomato and mozzarella salad. For dinner, we all shared the 48 oz. porterhouse and it was great! Excuse the photos, they were taken with a cell phone in a very dark room!
Another restaurant we went to was Johnnie’s Hideaway. The main reason we came here is because we’ve been wanting to try stone crabs and they had it. For appetizers, we had calamari, ahi tuna, oysters rockefeller and we had to try the buffalo frog leg, which really did taste like chicken!
For dinner, we ordered stone crabs and king crab as well. I have to say, we did not like the stone crabs at all and ended up not eating any of it! The king crab was delicious, as always.
For dessert, we had carrot cake and creme brûlée, which was really good.
Before heading to the airport, we took Milana to Sugar Factory for some fun desserts and lunch. She saw the milkshake menu and immediately asked for the nutella-banana one. It came in a huge glass covered in chocolate and sprinkles, and had a unicorn lollipop and candy necklace on the side. Needless to say, after just a few sips, she was done!
I ordered the Lollipop Passion, which was really good! I got it without alcohol so that Milana can try it too. All their drinks are available with or without alcohol. These are 60 oz. goblets and prices (with alcohol) start at $30 for each one. Without alcohol, it’s $8 less.
The food here is nothing spectacular, but they do have grass-fed burgers!
And because the milkshake and giant drink wasn’t enough, we ordered peanut butter fondue for dessert. Your kids will love this place! It’s next to the aquarium, Orlando Eye and some other attractions, so perfect for an afternoon out.
There is a ton to do in Orlando, with or without the theme parks. They have some amazing resorts with great pools for days you feel like doing nothing. I’m sure we will be back soon!