Eventually the lines, the Florida humidity and the cost of Orlando area theme parks like Disney World and Universal Studios can be draining on even the most dedicated Mickey fan. Luckily for Central Florida families and vacationers, there’s a place to see Nemo, land a fighter jet in a simulator, pick oranges from a grove and see live gators — all under one air-conditioned roof.
You’ll find it all at the Orlando Science Center. Located in Orlando’s Loch Haven Park, it’s the perfect destination that has something for everyone, and one that sneaks in a bit of learning for the kids under the guise of fun.
Much like a theme park, the fun actually starts before you even get there. That’s because the entrance to the science center is a covered walkway from the parking garage directly to the second floor that allows you to look down at the street below. On the way in, you’ll learn a few fun facts courtesy of a few posters overhead in the walkway that share kid-friendly factoids.
After you get there, let the kids see Nemo first hand, or his likeness anyway, at the NatureWorks exhibit on the first floor. At its aquarium, you’ll find a number of fish, including clown fish, as well as stingrays. Visitors can view stingray feedings as well. The science center also has live gators, who live in harmony with turtles in fish in a cypress swamp enclosure.
Once they’ve had their fill of Nemo and gators, the take the little ones over to KidTown. Here, they can prepare and serve meals in the play kitchen, collect oranges from a grove and explore what’s under the street. They can play with water too, by constructing dams and floating boats down waterfalls. Plastic aprons are provided so that the kiddos don’t leave the area completely soaked.
Future pilots and mechanics will be at home at All Aboard, which features model planes, trains, and a garage where kids can fix a flat or change out the battery in a car.
Up for a movie? Catch a flick in the CineDome for an amazing viewing experience, where the audience is literally surrounded by the imagery on the 8,000 sq. ft. screen.
Go star gazing in the Crosby Observatory. Visitors can even gaze upon the heavens in the daytime with the powerful refractor telescope to safely get a closer view of the sun.
At the DinoDigs exhibit, unearth fossil remains at the excavation site, using the provided brushes to gently brush away the “soil” and expose the dinosaur bones.
At Science Park, located on the second floor, you’ll find a plethora of interactive exhibits. Visitors can race cars, fly jet planes, discover how sound travels through a tube, create electricity and more.
Ready to ditch the theme parks for a day? Admission to the Orlando Science Center is $17 for adults, $12 for children ages 3 to 11, and $16 for seniors. It’s open every day except for Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The parking fee for the garage is $5.