Orlando is home to seven of the top theme parks in the world and is a major destination for families, especially during holidays, spring break and summer. However, May is actually an optimal time for families with preschoolers to beat the summer rush and enjoy a vacation in Orlando’s sunny weather.
While school-age kids are still in the classroom, parents and grandparents have the opportunity to get a head start on Orlando’s must-see attractions, with seasonal benefits and great deals during the month of May.
Legoland Florida brings the Duplo line of preschool building toys to life for the youngest visitors with the opening of Duplo Valley. This new area opens in May with a train and mini tractor to ride, and a water play area. Several other rides at Legoland are geared to toddlers ages 2 to 5, and like all of the rides encourage kids to use their own muscles to make things go. Youngsters can also pretend to be knights as they ride horses made of Legos through a medieval village.
But what would Legoland be without a place to build with the colorful blocks? There are numerous opportunities for kids and adults to play with Legos and Duplos, after being inspired by seeing famous landmarks depicted in Legos.
The new Fantasyland at Disney’s Magic Kingdom invites little princesses and princes to meet their favorite Disney royalty. At Princess Fairytale Hall, kids come face to face with Cinderella, Rapunzel, the Little Mermaid and other characters. Kids can cross a stone bridge to a charming French village and tell stories alongside Belle from Beauty and the Beast.
High up on the hillside is the Castle of the Beast, but the beast isn’t home, so it’s a great place to enjoy lunch or dinner at the Be Our Guest restaurant. Rides like Under the Sea: Journey of the Little Mermaid, and The Barnstormer family-style coaster provide mild thrills perfect for the little ones’ first coaster experience.
The Magic Kingdom has a new daily Festival of Fantasy Parade, featuring characters from animated features like Frozen and Brave, along with more than 100 performers and seven floats. Also don’t miss the Electric Parade, on the water nightly in front of the Magic Kingdom and at various other locations throughout Disney World.
Sea World Orlando opened Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin in 2013. Young animal lovers will enjoy the ride to Antarctica as they follow and mimic a young penguin’s adventures, and then have a face-to-face encounter with a colony of penguins. But be sure to take a sweater or jacket, because Antarctica is the coldest theme park attraction in the world.
Of course a visit with Shamu is a must, and kids will enjoy Shamu’s Happy Harbor, a four-story play area, along with the kid-friendly Shamu Express train, Swishy Fishies mild teacup ride and the beautiful Sea Carousel.
At Universal’s Islands of Adventure, the pages of Dr. Seuss’ stories come to life with rides like The Cat in the Hat, and One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish. Plan to spend several hours here.
During a visit to Universal Studios Florida, kids will meet TV characters Barney, Dora the Explorer and SpongeBob SquarePants. Here the streets are transformed into a theme-park-wide performance stage and kids are invited to sing and dance along with characters from Despicable Me and Hop.
A growing number of Orlando resorts offer family suite options, giving parents more space to relax and offering amenities like kitchenettes so parents can prepare favorite foods after a day of park snacks. One of the Universal hotels even offers Despicable Me suites. Also, be sure to check out Universal’s new Cabana Bay Beach Resort with 900 family suite options, a zero-entry pool and interactive kids’ play area, ideal for families with preschoolers.
At Disney’s Art of Animation Resort, families can immerse themselves in the world of The Lion King, Finding Nemo, Cars or The Little Mermaid and move right in to a favorite story.
The Art of Animation Resort features family suites that sleep six, so there’s room enough to bring along a grandparent or two. Crush the turtle and a giant blue ray stand guard at the 310,000-gallon Little Mermaid pool, the largest pool at Disney World, and the characters can even be heard conversing under the water. Look for Bruce the Shark to swim by, and Lightning McQueen and Mater will greet you at the Cars section of the resort.
Orlando was recently named one of the 10 Best Budget Destinations for 2014 by Arthur Frommer’s Budget Travel. Kids are admitted free with a paying adult at Legoland Florida, and Sea World in Orlando offers a free vacation package for kids.
Visitors will find a number of special deals and travel packages during the month of May. For more information or to order a vacation planning kit with an Official Visitors Guide and Orlando Magicard, or to purchase discount attraction tickets, see www.VisitOrlando.com/May or call 800-551-0181.