Things to do in Orlando besides Disney Parks

The realization hit me that I really only have two Spring breaks left with my daughter before she graduates high school. Most of our latest vacations & getaways have been driven by sports. This year I wanted a non-sports related family vacation come hell or high water. And, since we’d just finished two crazy hockey schedules….high water, sunshine, and a whole lot of nothing sounded like the perfect way to disconnect to reconnect.

But, we only had 4 days.

I thought about scrapping the idea because, really, how relaxing could two full days be? But, “these are your last two Spring breaks” was on replay in my head.

things-to-do-in-orlandoSo, I needed HOT weather…less than a three hour flight…and airfare that wasn’t outrageous.

Orlando.

Even thought I didn’t want a “disney vacation,” we’re fortunate that we can use our timeshare properties at Disney World. Which meant we still had the convenience of using their Magical Express- free transport- from the airport to the hotel.

By 3:00 we were poolside, with snacks, and cocktails/mocktails. It was 85 degrees. Mama was happy. By 10:00 we’d walked around Disney Springs, grabbed a few tacos and a Cubano off their “food trucks” and couldn’t believe we’d only arrived that afternoon.

The next morning a short Uber ride brought us to Discovery Cove. The kids have wanted to go back since we first visited in 2011, and it was again their highlight as teenagers.

may-7-2017Like Disney, you feel isolated from the “real world.” It also helps that there is a 1000 guest maximum every day, so you aren’t vying for beach chairs or fighting crowds snorkeling.

It’s also all-inclusive.

In addition to breakfast and lunch (plenty of fresh fruit, grilled fish, and salads too), all-day snacks, drinks, and alcohol is included. Snorkeling gear, wet-suits/vests, towels, lockers, aquatic safe sunscreen (though we brought our own coral-safe sunscreen), shampoo/conditioner, even strollers & wheelchairs with over-sized beach wheel tires are also included.

From a sustainable view, I appreciated the paper (not plastic!) straws, cloth towels in the restrooms, real silverware, and recycling containers throughout facility.

Though some people (ok, me) may take a nap basking in much-needed sunshine and warm weather, you can also float through the tropical wind-away river and cool off under the waterfalls, hang out with exotic birds in the aviary, snorkel with stingrays and fish (hence the wetsuits- 76 degree water is cold), and swim alongside sharks (yes, they’re behind glass). We didn’t do it this trip, but you can also add-on a swim with dolphins excursion.

Your ticket also includes unlimited (within a two-week time period) entrance to Sea World and Aquatica- you can upgrade and include Busch Gardens if you’ve rented a car.

happy-birthdayDefinitely a relaxing, fabulous day, but my highlight was next. Another short Uber ride over to Cafe Tu Tu Tango…one of my all-time favorite restaurants.

I have been thinking about another meal here since visiting years ago and it didn’t disappoint.

While the small-plate, Cuban-flare food is fantastic, the decor is completely original. Cafe Tu Tu Tango is reflective of a Boho artist’s loft and the place is covered in artwork. Yes, it’s all for sale. Every night, though, you’ll also find artists working: drawing, making jewelry, even tarot readings.

The menu is extensive, but they have four kitchens each dedicated to a specialty.

I mentioned to our waiter that I was disappointed that my favorite item wasn’t on the menu this time. He explained that it’s now incorporated into another small-plate, but, no problem!, he’d bring me a big bowl of their Bang Bang Shrimp.

Yeah, mama was happy.

Since it’d been a few hours since we ate through Discovery Cove, we needed to try several new dishes. Similar to Hardware, we each picked a couple items for the table. While the menu does change, next time you’re there be sure to order the No Way Jose Sliders, Cuban Sliders, and Yuca Fries. Though we did have food envy watching the Vietnamese and fish tacos go buy but we were too full…

next time!

We did end up spending our last full-day at Disney World. As entertaining as Disney can be, it can definitely be exhausting with little kids…it’s a bit of a different story with teenagers.

After a semi-late start (still earlier than the kids wanted I’m sure), we finally made it to Epcot around 10:30. In the next 12 hours we hit 3 parks.

may-8-2017Without the stress of trying to “see it all,” we chose just our favorite rides, had a few snacks, and entered the Magic Kingdom for a few more rides at 9:30pm…just when tired toddlers were crashed-out in strollers or melting down from over-stimulation…

and the parents were bickering because their “magical” day was way more stressful than they anticipated

Whether it’s Disney or every day life we often end up in that boat of trying to do it all- to see it all- make EVERY moment count.

When really, sometimes we need to slow way down and just be.

My kids outgrew their engraved mouse ears long ago and I’m now the shortest in the family.

Life doesn’t get easier- or harder- as the kids get older…it just gets different. It’s easy to get caught up in day to day hectic schedules and by the time you take a quick breath another school year has passed.

So find a moment to take a longer breath. Even if it’s only for a couple days.

As frustrating as it can be to think…
-my kid will never sleep
-my kid will never wipe their own ass
-my kid will never stop clinging to my side

one day you will look up to take a breath and realize only two more Spring breaks before they graduate.

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