A few weeks ago Mimi, Addy, and I caught a flight from California to Orlando, Florida and had the BEST vacation you could imagine. 4 nights, 5 days of pure fun. We jammed packed every minute of every day and literally explored Orlando top and bottom.
If you are planning a trip to Orlando outside of Walt Disney World then this is the blog for you! And if you are new around here and shocked that we took a stress-free trip with a 2 year old, then you need to check out my previous blog: 10 Tips for Flying With A Toddler.
Where To Stay: Wyndham Grand Orlando Resort Bonnet Creek
We are HUGE Disney fans so even if we didn’t have plans to go to Walt Disney World, we wanted to be close to the magic. Honestly, Disney or not- the hotel we stayed in was AMAZING. We stayed at the Wyndham Grand Orlando Resort Bonnet Creek and it was the hotel of a lifetime. And PERFECT for families, romantic getaways, and everything in between, it is THAT good.
We had a late check-in (around midnight) and the check-in stay was INCREDIBLE. Other late check-ins we’ve had at other hotels we’re usually greeted by a sleepy staff that doesn’t want to have much of a conversation and gets us on our way. That was not the experience we had. The valet, even at midnight, was hustling. Full of smiles, energy, and made for the perfect greeting (plus we were stoked that valet was still open at midnight). The front desk staff was just as friendly. Asking us questions about our flight, what plans we have, and really spending time to tell us about the resort.
When we checked in our room we were even more blown away. I mean the lobby and hotel was already a grand entrance but our room stole the show. We were on the 12th floor I believe and had an incredible view of the resort’s 5 pools, 2 spa tubs, and a lazy river. Not only that, but we were welcomed by the goodnight firework show at Magic Kingdom. From the warmth of our room we got front row seats to Magic Kingdom’s and Epcot’s firework shows EVERY SINGLE NIGHT. It was so awesome.
So besides the beauty of the hotel, the cleanliness, and the friendly staff- why should YOU pick this hotel as your home base for your trip to Orlando?? Well if the Starbucks room service delivery doesn’t convince you I don’t know what will. Kidding! But in all reality, starting our morning with a quick call to room service and we quickly had our favorite Starbucks drink brought to our room while we got ready was pretty awesome. Isn’t that the life?!
Okay in all seriousness Wyndham Grand Orlando Resort Bonnet Creek is in the perfect location for exploring Walt Disney World AND all of Orlando. Let’s start with the proximity to Walt Disney World. Disney Springs is a quick 2 minute drive up the road. You can either drive and utilize the free parking garage or you can catch one of the many busses from Wyndham Grand Orlando Resort Bonnet Creek that takes you to all Disney Parks and Disney Springs. We did end up exploring Disney Springs and Magic Kingdom during our trip because we couldn’t resist! When we ate at Disney Springs (more on that later) we decided to drive instead of take the bus and it was super easy. However when we went to Magic Kingdom, I wish we would have taken Wyndham Grand Orlando Resort Bonnet Creek Disney busses. Although it was less than a 10 minute drive, the hoops you have to jump through to get into Magic Kingdom was way more complicated than hoping on a bus and being dropped at the front gate. I believe their busses run every hour and when you check in they give you a full schedule and information for catching the bus there and back.
Now if you’re not planning any Disney time, don’t worry! The freeway entrance is literally right down the street from the entrance of the hotel but you would NEVER know it! We couldn’t see the freeway from our room and for sure heard NO freeway noise at all. But the second we pulled out of the hotel and went down the little drive of Bonnet Creek, the freeway entrance was RIGHT there. It made it sooo easy to hop on and explore all of Orlando getting everywhere in 20 minutes or less. I’m not kidding (and you will soon see) we explored EVERY bit of Orlando and surrounding areas. But no matter where we were, it felt like we were never more than 20 minutes from our hotel. I will be writing a whole blog on Wyndham Grand Orlando Resort Bonnet Creek so make sure to check back here or follow @pickingdaisiesblog so you don’t miss it.
Now that you have the foundation for your trip and know where you are going to stay 😉 let’s chat about things to do!
For reference, Addy is 2 years old so we try to find things that she likes to do that is also fun for Mom and Mimi. I have a bunch of clients that live in or travel to Orlando and I have seen so many share about Icon Park. I wasn’t sure what to expect but I have to say, my expectations were blown away. Icon Park is a central place full of fun things to do. From Sea Life Orlando, Madame Tussauds, The Museum of Illusions, The Wheel, Sugar Factory, and SO MUCH MORE!
We arrived around noon and didn’t realize we would be here all day long, there was SO much to do! I suggest carving out at least 3 hours here if you’re not planning to eat or 5 hours if you are planning to eat here. And I mean, how can you pass up lunch or dinner at Sugar Factory?! Let’s just go ahead and plan for 5 hours with dinner.
The first place we started at was Sea Life Orlando. At Sea Life Orlando, you come face-to-fin with thousands of fish, sharks, stingrays, sea turtles, and many more. We were blown away by how BIG Sea Life Orlando is and the incredible work that they do. We decided to take the Behind-The-Scenes tour which was AWESOME. We learned that they make their own salt water, got to see their extensive filtration system, explored their kitchen & even got to see the top of the shark/fish tank! It was such a cool experience and we learned that they hold an AZA Accreditation. AZA has been the primary accrediting body for zoos and aquariums for over 40 years. U.S. agencies such as OSHA and the USDA consider AZA standards as the “national” standard, and they refer to AZA standards when evaluating institutions. AZA’s rigorous, scientifically based and publicly-available standards examine the zoo or aquarium’s entire operation, including animal welfare, veterinary care, conservation, education, guest services, physical facilities, safety, staffing, finance, and governing body. AZA standards are performance-based to allow them to be applied to a variety of different situations and cases. AZA is continuously raising its standards as science continues to learn more and more about the species in our care. Accreditation is rescinded if AZA standards are not maintained. How cool is that?!
Once we finished at Sea Life Orlando, we grabbed a drink and some food at the food court right outside the entrance. I highly suggest doing this before heading over to Madame Tussauds because it makes a fun museum even MORE fun. Okay honestly, we almost skipped Madame Tussauds. I wasn’t really sure to expect and we had so much to do I wasn’t sure if it was worth it. Oh boy was I WRONG. This was one of our funnest stops in Orlando. My mom and I laughed the ENTIRE time and did not want to leave!! This is the only place to get up-close and personal with the hottest celebrities and enjoy the glitz and glamour of Hollywood life. I didn’t tell Chad that we were going so when I sent him a picture of me and Neil Patrick Harris he FREAKED OUT. He seriously thought it was him for a good minute!! Madame Tussauds is so interactive and has so many displays and celebrities. Stopping here for a fun and interactive museum is a MUST when you are in Orlando. You will not regret it and you will laugh the entire time.
After exploring Sea Life and Madame Tussauds we walked over to The Museum of Illusions. With locations in over 20 countries around the world, the Museum of Illusions is internationally acclaimed for bringing optical magic to life through jaw-dropping, walkthrough exhibits that invite you to step outside the laws of nature. This is a fun and interactive museum with the friendliest staff! The staff is present and available throughout the entire museum to help you fully utilize the illusions and get the best pictures ever! This is really at your own pace and you can go as fast or slow as you want to. There were so many fun illusions and we had a blast having our mind blown!
To wrap up our Icon Park tour we had dinner reservations for Sugar Factory. Upscale dining classics are served from brunch to late-night ranging from flavorful milkshakes, gourmet burgers, ice cream sandwiches and more. Signature treats include a number of celebrity-endorsed Couture Pops, smoking Goblet Drinks, candy infused cocktails, and the one-and-only King Kong Sundae with 16 scoops of ice cream, tasty toppings, and even sparklers! After dinner, guests will want to stay long into the night to enjoy the innovative smoking goblet drinks, top hits dance music, and lively social scene. The atmosphere is perfect for a girls’ night out, birthday and bachelorette parties, and so much more! We had so so much fun trying all of the delicious food, Addy LOVED her cotton candy drink and her colorful sliders. The whole dinner was an entire experience. It was so fun watching the servers dance for birthdays and the fun music playing. 10/10 recommend having a dinner at Sugar Factory at ANY of their 20 locations but FOR SURE when you are in Orlando.
Wow, can you believe that was just day one?? Orlando is such a jammed pack city full of SO MANY THINGS TO DO that we didn’t even really scratch the surface of things to do. We tried to find things for me and my mom to do as well as fun things for Addy (my 2 year old) and I feel that our trip was the perfect balance of that.
On our 2nd day there we headed over to Disney Springs which was just a few minutes up the road from our hotel. Disney Springs is GINORMOUS and so different than the Downtown Disney we are used to in California. We spent so much time here throughout the week because it was so close to our hotel and we still didn’t get to see it all. It is MASSIVE. We had reservations at Planet Hollywood Disney Springs at noon and shopped a little bit before our reservation. When we checked in for our reservation, we entered a fully interactive, entertaining dining experience. When you are waiting for your table they had a pop up photo-op area where you or your kids can take Christmas pictures. Their set up was so cute and we actually told our hostess “one minute” while we snagged all the pictures we could. They made waiting for our table feel like we didn’t have enough time to do everything before our table was ready- what a cool concept!!
Walking through Planet Hollywood there is movie and music nostalgia at every turn. Then when you walk into the 3 story dinning room you are greeted with a MASSIVE screen playing fun music videos and interactive sing-alongs. You enter a realm where innovative American cuisine, live entertainment and rare Hollywood memorabilia create a dazzling scene.
Planet Hollywood was Addy’s favorite restaurant because she could sing and dance while we waited for our food. To start our meal we had the Ferris Wheel Appetizer which was a little bit of everything. Oh my goodness it was SO fun being able to try it all and it was so so yummy. The dipping sauces for the wings and shrimp stole the show and were full of so much flavor. Not only was the food amazing but they had some of the best Bloody Mary’s we have ever had. Full of spice and the perfect garnish, we couldn’t drink them fast enough!! The staff here was incredible and they really make you feel at home. Our server was so kind and on top of it. Everywhere you turned you saw families smiling and not only enjoying their meal, but enjoying their time together. Isn’t that what meals are for? Family time? Here they succeed in bringing you together, getting you off your phones (there is so much to look at) and really having a great time with your loved ones!
I also have to say there was not a bad thing we had. Addy scarfed down her spaghetti and meatballs, my mom and I split a massive penne pasta and a Cobb salad. We left stuffed, fulfilled and with huge smiles on our faces!
Pictures with Santa
After we had lunch at Disney Springs we hopped on the freeway to make our reservation for Santa Pictures at The Mall at Millenia. WOW!!! If you told me this Santa was the real deal I would have believed you 100%. Their Santa set up is BREATHTAKING! What really hit home was when it came to the actual photos. Santa spent so much time with Addy making her feel comfortable. This was such a breakthrough moment for her because since then she has become OBSESSED with all things Santa and Christmas. It makes me tear up that he left that big of an impact on her and really evoked her love for Christmas at such a young age. Since then she has begged to see Santa and wants to do all things Christmas. Once we were done with our Santa photos, it was time for my mom and I to play. WOW this Mall is so amazing we came back twice! We were on such a tight schedule the first day we came that we ended up coming back the next night for more shopping and dinner.
We had an incredible experience at Louis Vuitton and Sevens for All Mankind. Every employee and sales associate we came into contact with throughout the entire mall was helpful and so friendly. Maybe it’s just how people in Florida are or the way the mall trains their employees but it left a memorable impression on us. There are so many shops to explore here from luxury such as Louis Vuitton, Tiffany & Co, Gucci, and Chanel to fast fashion like H&M, Amazon Store, and more! Once we were done shopping and splurging on us the second time we came, we walked to the outside of the mall and had dinner at PF Changs. The Mall at Millenia is an adult playground with fun things for kids to do like pictures with Santa. If you are visiting Orlando you HAVE to stop here and #treatyoself. It will be an unforgettable and fun experience for all.
The reason we were on such a tight schedule during our first visit at The Mall at Millenia, was because we had reservations to Medieval Times!!! I grew up going to @medieval_times in Anaheim so when we heard there was a @medievaltimesflorida in Orlando we HAD to go!
Let me say it did not disappoint. Addy has the time of her life. She literally had more fun here then she did at Disney!! From the food to the horsies & incredible entertainment @medieval_times is still one of my favorite places ever. When we walked in we were instantly transported back to the 11th Century and we felt like royalty. We were the Red & Yellow’s Knight cheerleaders and had incredible seats to the jousting and duels. Addy was on cloud 9 the entire time. It is such a fun experience being able to honor your inner child, eat with your hands, and cheer on your knight in shinning honor.
Medieval Times in Orlando did an incredible job with the show, the service was top notch, and all around it was an unforgettable experience. Once you are sat in the arena there are employees walking around taking your drink orders and have various light up toys you can purchase from your table. Of course Mimi spoiled Addy with a light up wand and she loved booing the other knights and waving her wand for the red and yellow knight! If you are hesitant bringing your toddler to the show, don’t be! It is such a loud, fun, and rumbustious environment that even if they through a tantrum or are a little wild, they will fit right in. Do note though that those under 3 who do not need a ticket do not get a meal. However our server was very accommodating and brought out extra corn, bread, and potatoes so it was no issue whatsoever!
Have a Free Day?
Our last day there we had a free day where we didn’t have somewhere to be for once. Of course we spent it in Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World but there are so many other amazing things to do. You could explore the many theme parks from Walt Disney World, SeaWorld, Universal Studios, or Legoland. You can go shopping at The Mall at Millenia or any of their various Outlet Malls. Or you can do a foodie tour and try out all the yummy restaurants.
Whatever you do in Orlando you can’t go wrong and there is fun for all ages around every corner.
Head over to my Instagram at @pickingdaisiesblog for an up-close look at our time in Orlando and some fun BTS footage found in my Orlando highlight!
If there was anything I missed on this for fun things to do in Orlando, Florida- drop a comment below so we can check it out next time we visit!
Until then, Happy Travels!