Spring for affordable things to do in Orlando during kids' vacation


Lake Eola paddle boats cost just $15 an hour to rent.

VIERA VOICE Courtesy of Meg White

Spring Break is a perfect time to unwind with the family by taking day trips.

While Orlando is a popular destination for Disney World regulars, there are many other family-friendly places to visit in the Orlando vicinity.

Culture, boat rides, nature areas and miniature golf offer something for every family member to remember long after the visit is over.

The Coca-Cola Orlando Eye is the tallest observation wheel on the east coast of North American. Panoramic views of Orlando and surrounding areas, extending to the East Coast and Cape Canaveral, are reported on clear days. The current price is $17.50 for Florida children, a $5 savings.

The Orlando Science Center is fun way for children of all ages to learn more about the wonders of science with hands-on activities. There are 3D shows, interactive exhibits and science demonstrations at the Science Center. Prices range from $14.95 to $20.95.

Visitors can explore oceans of the world while sea life swim around, above and below them at the Sea Life Center. The Sea Life Center features an underwater, 360-degree ocean tunnel, with fish, sharks, turtles and other ocean creatures. Buy tickets online to save on the $22.50 price.

Take an old-Florida, history-guided pontoon boat ride through Winter Park’s chain of lakes. The lakes, connected by narrow canals, offer views of Spanish colonial-style mansions, azalea gardens, towering cypress trees and Rollins College’s campus. Scenic Boat Tours offer hourly cruises led by guides, ranging from $7 for children to $14 for adults.

Bike ride or walk around Lake Eola park in downtown Orlando to take in the breezy lakeside plants and birds. A leisurely ride in a paddleboat also is a fun way to enjoy the scenery. The Juice Bike Share program offers bike rentals ($8 an hour).

Leu Gardens Nature Connects, through April 22, features larger-than-life sculptures built with LEGO bricks. More than 450,000 bricks were used to create 16 Lego sculptures throughout the gardens. Exhibits include a 6-foot hummingbird hovering above a trumpet flower and a family of deer grazing on the grassy vista. The Vegetable and butterfly gardens and museum tour are included in the price of $5 for children and $15 for adults.

The Orange County Regional History Center takes visitors into the past, with pre-Disney stories about how the area transformed through the years. Housed in the old Orange County building, student tickets are just $7.

Skeletons: Museum of Osteology has exhibits of more than 450 skeletons from all around the world. It has a fascinating study of skeletons ranging from tiny mice and giant whales to two-headed calves. Prices start at $12.99 for children.

The Orlando Museum of Art is a very affordable cultural family outing. Children, ages 4 to 17, are charged $5 for admission and adults are charged $15. The museum includes American art, with paintings by Thomas Moran, Georgia O’Keeffe as well as contemporary galleries featuring digital artworks. “State of Excellence: Treasures from Florida Private Collections” runs through April 29. It features European and American art.

Cornell Fine Arts Museum Winter Park has free admission, with 5,500 works ranging from antiquity to contemporary. The Cornell Fine Arts Museum at Rollins College is suitable for all ages, with innovative exhibitions featuring works from the Renaissance to contemporary.

Congo River Adventure Golf is an African-themed mini-golf course that is fun and engaging for children of all ages. The course can take up to several hours, with a scavenger hunt included in the winding, lushly landscaped paths. Congo River Golf also features gemstone mining. The 18-hole Congo River Golf offers slight discounts off the $11.99 to $13.49 prices if you reserve online.

Pirates Cove Golf is another highly rated mini-golf experience that is surprisingly affordable. Two 18-hole courses meander through pirate-themed, shady grounds. Waterfalls, a pirate ship and wacky holes are full of unexpected surprises. Admission is only $12.50 per adult and $11.50 per child.

Tibet-Butler Nature Preserve, Orlando, is a free 440-acre preserve with six short trails amid natural Florida flatwoods and wetlands. Visitors might see gopher tortoises, bobcats and bald eagles.

Check Groupon and websites for coupons and discounts. All prices are subject to change without notice. Contact vendors directly for rates.