Plan my Orlando trip for me please.
March 5, 2012 6:26 PM   Subscribe

Orlando itinerary with a 3.5 year old. Help please.

I have a conference in Orlando in mid May. SO has vacation to burn, so we're all going to go.

This is where we're staying.

We're flying in at 2pm on Monday. We're all free Tuesday and Wednesday. I have to do conference stuff Thursday-Sunday. (But this isn't my major conference, so it is entirely possible that I can skip out 1/2 days. But I won't know for another few weeks what the schedule is.) We're flying out Sunday early afternoon.

We're renting a car.

The hotel has a "Kids Club" if Dad wants a break or if Mom/Dad might escape for a dinner on one of the non-conference-dinner nights.

We did Disneyland last summer to some success and based on my 2-decade-old memories, I think Disney will be a hit for 3.5 year old.

So what to do?

1. Is Legoland good for a 3.5 year old (who likes Legos of course)? Adult tickets are $70, kids are $60. But it is closed on Tuesday and Wednesday when we're there, so if it is worth doing, that might be a Dad-only day.

2. Or would it be most economical to just focus on Disney? (It appears that more days are cheaper...
days adult kid
1 $90.53 $84.14
2 $178.92 $165.08
3 $247.08 $227.91
4 $258.80 $238.56)

3. How many days are Disney become too many days at Disney? Hypothetically they could do 5 full days.

4. Other stuff worth seeing with a 3.5 year old in Orlando? And how to balance that with Disney?

(Also: I'm not a huge fan of SeaWorld and the animal stuff. I hear that Universal has a Dr. Seuss thing, but I don't think that our kid would be interested in the rest. AND I have another conference in Orlando in November, so it is entirely possible that we could spend Thanksgiving there together if it is so great.)

Oh wise MeFites, please tell me what to do.
posted by k8t to Travel & Transportation around Orlando, FL (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Looks like conference has cheaper rates for Disney.
posted by k8t at 6:48 PM on March 5, 2012

If you plan to do Disney, do it this trip, not in November. This is off-season, so you'll probably be able to see everything you want to at any park you choose to visit.

If zoos aren't your thing (which is what Animal Kingdom is), I'd suggest sticking to just Magic Kingdom. Epcot is mostly shopping (and best experienced as a kind of pub crawl during Food and Wine celebration), but if you get a park-hopper, I think has a few rides friendly to very young-uns. But nothing really to maintain their interest, imo.
posted by Wossname at 6:49 PM on March 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Also, we're having an unseasonably warm winter this year. "Too many days at Disney" is largely going to be determined by your tolerance for temperatures in the 80s/90s in winter (though, hell, you may then want to consider a water park).
posted by Wossname at 6:54 PM on March 5, 2012

Disney in March and it's not spring break time yet? Do as much there as you possibly can. The lines will be practically negligible (relatively speaking). Magic Kingdom for sure and Hollywood Studios if your kid is into Disney TV/movies (lots of great attractions and shows).

3.5 is SUCH a great age for DisneyWorld. I'm so envious that you're going to get to experience it with your kid! Mine are 15 and almost 12 and we've been going since the 15-year-old was 3; they still love it because of all the memories from when they were little.
posted by cooker girl at 7:09 PM on March 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh, as for LegoLand, that's a good question. If you don't want to do the park itself, there's a great Lego store at Downtown Disney that I'm sure your kid would love.
posted by cooker girl at 7:11 PM on March 5, 2012

Response by poster: To be clear, the conference is mid-May.
posted by k8t at 7:22 PM on March 5, 2012

EPCOT has been my favorite park since I was 2.5. You can easily spend two entire days there.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:35 PM on March 5, 2012

My sister took her two kids to LegoLand - the 5yr old girl was not into it but the 10 yr old boy was Over The Moon. I'm thinking that it might be a bit more enjoyable for Dad than for the kiddo.

If I was going with my 3yr old, I'd grab a multi-day Magic Kingdom pass. The goal is not to 'do' the whole park, but to have several enjoyable days exploring. Go in the morning, have lunch, go back to hotel for a good nap/rest and then prepare for an evening visit back at the park - the parade and fireworks will wow the offspring. Rinse and repeat.

Assuming you're flying - Earplanes rock!
posted by PorcineWithMe at 8:07 PM on March 5, 2012

Response by poster: For future readers - here's an article on what little kids can do at Legoland.
posted by k8t at 8:21 PM on March 5, 2012

Epcot and Hollywood Studios are probably too old for a 3.5-year-old. I think you'd want to spend 1 day at Animal Kingdom and 2 days at Magic Kingdom, maybe 3. But get a park-hopper pass so you can go from park to park on a whim. If your kid is capable of staying up somewhat late, on most nights the Magic Kingdom does a light parade followed by fireworks. You can usually find the schedule online.

One other thing to consider - while Epcot may not be the best park for a small child, it is the park with the best restaurant options, so it might be worth stopping by for dinner one night. (This only makes sense if you get the park hopper option.) If that's your plan, you want to make dinner reservations ASAP. Seriously, these places book ridiculously far in advance.
posted by Guernsey Halleck at 8:46 PM on March 5, 2012

If being economical is important, then 2 days at Disney should be enough. At 3.5, parts of the Magic Kingdom and Epcot will be insanely worth, it but most of it won't, and it's hard work to be an adult there with a young child because of how much patience it takes to deal with the crowds and the lines. Haven't been to Legoland yet, but skip Universal - even the Seuss rides are a bit much for that age. Seaworld's aquarium is awesome, but the one at Epcot is as well and I think Seaworld doesn't have many (any?) rides for little ones, so yeah, skip that one.

There are tons of other fun things to do with young kids - Gatorland is seriously goofy and hands-on, the Orlando Children's Museum is one of the best I've been to, and Grandpa's Bounce House costs next to nothing and is run by the sweetest guy (plus it's right around the corner from an aviation museum). This past year we took our 3 year old to glow in the dark mini golf at one of the malls, and he's still talking about it (so what if he doesn't really know what the point of golf is). At 3.5, kids aren't jaded by branded entertainment yet - take advantage of that and save now. In a few more years you won't be so lucky.
posted by Mchelly at 10:09 PM on March 5, 2012

Two days at Disney may be sufficient. However, look at the possibility of getting a ten-day Disney pass with park hopper and no expiration. You'll be able to use the tickets at any later time, and you have no limits. This is the most economical way to visit Disney, though it requires the big up-front payment. This gives you ultimate flexibility during your visit, as you can decide at a certain point that you are "Disneyed out". That'll happen quickly if you're sticking largely to the Magic Kingdom, as you can only ride "It's a Small World" about twice before it drives you insane. Make sure - repeat, make sure - you are taking advantage of their fast pass system for the key rides. Do some research on it to find out how the system works BEFORE visiting the park. Their system is one of the fairest in the industry, but if you don't take advantage of it, you lose out. Fortunately, at Disney, even losing out means walking around a meticulously maintained, very well done park...

There are lots of fun things to do in the Orlando area, and not all of them are tourist-y. For a rainy day, there's a science museum on the south side that is very nice. If you don't like animal stuff like SeaWorld because it is too theme-parked, you might also want to consider any of the other absolutely fantastic things within driving distance of Orlando, including the Clearwater Marine Aquarium with Winter the Dolphin, Cape Canaveral, the Everglades and a swamp boat ride, etc.

Mid-may? Strikes me as a less-than-comfortable time of year to do Disney. February is pretty nice. May will be hot and sunny, with high probability of afternoon showers - but you'll quickly dry off after most of it.
posted by jgreco at 5:49 AM on March 6, 2012

I don't know jack-all about non-Disney Orlando, so this is just advice about whether 5 days of Disney are too many. In my opinion, no. We took our guy just before he turned 3. We did 5 days: two at Magic Kingdom, one each at the other parks. He loved something at all of them. Where we might think of the 'international' part of Epcot, for example, as adult, a 3-year-old might go into one of those buildings near the entrance that wouldn't do much for us and just play in the fake house for two hours. My kid probably could have done five days just at the Animal Kingdom, just between the safari, the parade, the pettnig 'zoo,' and the dinosaur area. So if money is a significant consideration, I don't think you should worry about boredom. At worst, buy the five-day and if a break seems appropriate, maybe your hotel has enough pool/other stuff to spend most of a day there?
posted by troywestfield at 6:01 AM on March 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

How into the Disney characters is your little one? Epcot has some very fun things for children, Journey Into Imagination with Figment, for a start plus there are some interactive hands-on style things after the ride that would probably be a ton of fun for a toddler.

The Living Seas with Nemo & Friends would probably be a big hit with kids that age as well.

Gran Fiesta Tour in the Mexico pavilion is a ride featuring Donald Duck.

If your little one is a fan of dinosaurs, you can't miss Ellen's Energy Adventure, a slow-moving dark ride that features Ellen Degeneres, Bill Nye the Science Guy and some massively large, lifelike dinosaurs that you ride past at a distance. I don't remember it being intense, but there's no telling what might spook a child that age.
posted by BrianJ at 9:41 AM on March 6, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks all.

My son likes Toy Story enough to prefer Toy Story underwear, but isn't really into any of the other Disney stuff. He knows who the Princesses are and has seen Cars and the non-scary parts of the Lion King, but doesn't really LOVE them.
posted by k8t at 11:28 AM on March 6, 2012

Well, that's good, because for the most part the Magic Kingdom is a little dated, but can be enjoyed without familiarity with the characters involved...
posted by jgreco at 1:52 PM on March 6, 2012

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