PLAYguide: PlayTime

2016 Family Favorite Winners: Play

Orlando Science Center

Orlando Science Center

Entertainment Center

ORLANDO SCIENCE CENTER
777 E. Princeton St., Orlando
407-514-2000
osc.org
Entertaining and educational … That was the winning combination for families to vote the Orlando Science Center as their fave place to play. The newly renovated KidsTown is even bigger and better than before, putting this science mecca at the top of our list of the best places to play. You could go 100 times and still learn something new during each visit, making annual family memberships one of the best values around.

Bowling Alley

SPLITSVILLE
1494 East Buena Vista Dr., Lake Buena Vista
407-938-PINS
splitsvillelanes.com
Does bowling strike your fancy? At Splitsville, it sure will! Located right in Disney Springs, you can enjoy an afternoon of touristy sightseeing, shopping, eating and bowling. This Disney-themed bowling alley has live entertainment and a food and beverage menu that surpasses any bowling alley food you’ve ever had.

Petting Zoo

GREEN MEADOWS FARM
1368 S. Poinciana Blvd., Kissimmee4
07-846-0770
greenmeadowsfarm.com
Channel your inner farmer at Green Meadows Farm, which is home to an array of farm animals for you and your little one to meet up close. Green Meadows Farm offers small rides and attractions, special events, festivals and holiday-themed attractions. Ride the train, sit on the antique tractor, ride a pony or even milk a cow!

Splash Pad and Park Playground

FT. MELLON SPLASH PAD
600 E. 1st St., Sanford
407-688-5103
sanfordfl.gov
Fort Mellon Park is a playground with a view. Overlooking Lake Monroe, families enjoy basketball and tennis courts, grilling out and modern playground equipment. Feeling hot from running around? Let your little ones cool off in the splash pad.

Skating Center

SEMORAN SKATEWAY
2670 Cassel Creek Blvd., Casselberry
407-834-9106
semoranskateway.com
Roll on over to this groovy roller-skating rink for public skate sessions, public learn-to-skate classes, beginners learn-to-skate classes, birthday parties and even adult skate night! Admission is just $9 for public skate sessions, which occur every Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Adrenaline Rush for Kids

ZOOMAIR ADVENTURE COURSE AT CENTRAL FLORIDA ZOO
3755 NW Hwy. 17-92, Sanford
407-330-0767
zoomair.us/orlando/index.html
Climb along this eco-adventure ropes course in the treetops above the Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens. There are two courses for kids over 54 inches tall, and there’s also a special kid’s course built closer to the ground for the little ones. ZOOmAir is perfect for family bonding, light exercise, team building and a fun day outdoors.

Family Resort

GAYLORD PALMS RESORT
6000 W. Osceola Pkwy., Kissimmee
407-586-0000
marriott.com
This is the local family-fave place to staycation and feel like VIP celebrities! The Gaylord Palms Resort celebrates Florida’s history, culture and natural beauty and includes a larger-than-life pool and water park for kids, an arcade, luxury spa and more.

Free Storytime

BARNES & NOBLE MUSICAL STORYTIME WITH MR. RICHARD
2418 E. Colonial Dr., Orlando
407-894-6024
Mrrichard.net
Let your little ones grow their imaginations at Mr. Richard’s Musical Sing-Along Storytime at the Colonial Towne Center Barnes & Noble. Listen to Mr. Richard read and sing-along to a children’s classic. Clap your hands and stomp your feet; you won’t want to miss these beats! These storytimes are offered on select Fridays at 10 a.m.

Indoor Play Lounge

AMAYA PAPAYA
3385 U.S. Hwy. 17-92, Ste. 269, Casselberry
407-339-7529
amayapapaya.com
Amaya Papaya is Central Florida’s original indoor open play center (for children) and lounge (for parents). Amaya Papaya is a hub for parents with young kids to come together and enjoy the humor of parenthood while their children play and learn together during hands-on activities and special events.

Botanical Gardens

HARRY P. LEU GARDENS
1920 North Forest Ave., Orlando
407-246-2620
leugardens.org
Families love to escape to this enchanting oasis hidden minutes away from Downtown Orlando. This historic place brings natural beauty to life to inspire visitors to appreciate and understand our botanical world. The gardens also offers monthly movie nights on the lawn and a free monthly story time for kids presented by the Orlando Public Library.

Mall Playground

ALTAMONTE MALL
451 E. Altamonte Dr., Altamonte Springs
407-830-4422
altamontemall.com
Kids (and parents) love the Altamonte Mall play area. Equipped with a treehouse jungle gym, your child is transported from dreary shopping trip with mom to a land of play and imagination. Your child can climb on top of platforms and through logs and tree trunks. Altamonte Mall ensures that this play area is clean and hygienic for your little climbers.

Indoor Bounce

MONKEY JOE’S
9101 International Dr., Orlando
407-352-84845
471 Lake Howell Rd.
407-478-4000
monkeyjoes.com/locations/pointe-orlando
Bouncing, sliding and climbing, oh my! Monkey Joe’s is the center for all things fun. This infl atable play center offers more than just blow-ups and bounce houses. It also offers arcade games, prizes and concessions. The playground is designed for kids ages 12 and under and includes a Mini Monkey Zone for toddlers under 3 to play safely. Host your birthday party here, or just come for a day of fun.

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2014 Family Favorite Award Winners: Play Time

Best Mall Play Area

Altamonte Mall
Take a buying break, and let your pint-sized bargain hunter blow off some energy climbing, sliding and running as you strategize your next shopping spree. 407-830-4422, www.altamontemall.com

Best Indoor Playground

Amaya Papaya
Adults play free. That’s right, admission for your lil’ papaya includes entrance for two adults, and you can bring in outside food—that is, if you’ll want to take a break from the unending fun of the fix-it area, sensory sandbox, creativity corner, paint wall and neighborhood square. 407-339-7529, www.amayapapaya.com

SemoranSkateway

Semoran Skateway

Best Skating Rink

Semoran Skateway
Disco fever, anyone? Take the family for a spin at Semoran Skateway. Tiny tot times, adult night (must be 16 or older) and preteen skate times are but a few options at this stellar skating rink. 407-834-9095, www.semoranskateway.com

Guests Strike Up Fun at Splitsville Luxury Lanes

Guests Strike Up Fun at Splitsville Luxury Lanes

Best Bowling Alley

Splitsville
Automatic bumpers, alley-side food services, and kids getting to crash a ball into 10 pins—BOOM! Nothing says family fun like a night of bowling at Downtown Disney’s Splitsville. For the sophisticated bowlers, it even has a bar and prepared-to-order sushi. 407-938-7467, www.splitsvillelanes.com

Best Arcade

Dave and Buster’s
Here adults and kids play together in arcade heaven. With deals like eat-and-play combos, Taco Tuesdays and half-price games on Wednesdays, you’ll hit the high score with your kids. 407-541-3300, www.daveandbusters.com

Best Movie Theater

Aloma Cinema Grill
Family night out is ultra-efficient at Aloma Cinema Grill. Enjoy an adult beverage, fresh appetizers, quality entrees and yummy dessert—all served to your table. There’s no dining and dashing as you enjoy the movie while you eat. 407-678-8214, www.alomacinemagrille.com

Best Active Indoor Activity

My Gym
You’ve got your gym; they’ve got theirs. My Gym offers activities for every child from 6 weeks to 13 years old. Art enthusiasts refine motor skills with hands-on activities and physical fitness while little bundles work on audial and special exploration through music and movement. 407-644-2595, www.mygym.com

Photo by Roberto Gonzalez

Photo by Roberto Gonzalez

Best Educational Activity

Orlando Science Center
Orlando Science Center offers fun, discovery and education around every corner. Touch animal bones, learn how an orange grove functions, and brave some tough winds. These are but a few of the fabulous finds lurking around the Science Center. 407-514-2000, www.osc.org

Best Free Activity

Downtown Disney
Kiddos can dig for dino bones at T-Rex Café, build at the Lego Store and try on their fave princess dresses at the virtual dress-up mirror in World of Disney. Be sure to stop by for a taste of Ghirardelli chocolate, and cool off at the splash pad during the summer months. http://www.disneyworld.com

Hidden Gem

The Winter Garden Heritage Foundation invites kids and adults to hop aboard for a completely hands-on, self-guided tour of a retired train car. Kids love turning the steering wheel, climbing up on a passenger seat and exploring. Afterward, they’ll enjoy exploring old tractors and a fire truck, located just a stone’s throw away. www.wghf.org

Best Splash Pad

Dr. P. Phillips Community Park
It’s cheap, and it’s fenced in—need we say more? Activities for the bigger and little ones in your group, such as water cannons, padded sprinkler areas and shaded picnic tables (for mom and dad), make DP’s splash pad perfect for everyone. 407-254-9045, www.drphillips.org

Best Park/Playground

Lake Eola
We know it’s impossible to get all of your kiddos’ energy out, but Lake Eola’s playground offers a good opportunity to take on the task. Divided for itty-bitties as well as not-bitty-anymores, this playground is the perfect pick. www.cityoforlando.net

Turkey Lake Park

Turkey Lake Park

Top 5 Playgrounds in Central Florida

  1. “Castle park” (aka Community Playground) in Winter Park is completely wooden and completely fun for everyone. www.cityofwinterpark.org
  2. Chapin Stationin Winter Garden features two sections: one for younger kids and another for older kids. High climbing areas, swings and a large sandbox are but a few of the fun elements offered. Don’t forget to explore the secret butterfly garden, located near the park office. www.cwgdn.com
  3. Bill Frederick Park at Turkey Lake, in the MetroWest area, offers many playgrounds for all ages. A game of tag on the high playground is the perfect way for adults to take some playtime with the kids and grab a belly full of laughs. www.cityoforlando.net
  4. Central Winds Park on Lake Jesup. One playground structure, three stories tall. Need we say more? www.winterspringsfl.org
  5. Fort Mellon Park in Sanford offers separate areas for various ages, basketball courts and a splash area.

Best Bike Trail

West Orange Trail
Whether your pedaling legs are prepared for five or 20 miles, the West Orange Trail is a great place for your entire team. Ample shade, beautiful scenery, the occasional playground and water locations to wet your whistle are what earned this trail the Best Bike Trail in Central Florida. www.bikeflorida.net

“Our family uses the West Orange Trail several times a week. The wide, paved, tree-lined and naturally landscaped path provides a peaceful escape for our family. It’s perfect for everyone from our 7-year-old son to grandparents. We enjoy family challenges on the trail, which include a yummy steak dinner after completing a certain number of accumulated miles. Our son Luke (9) has completed 950 miles in the last 2.5 years, and Jacob (7) has biked 250 miles in the last year and a half.” ~Kimberly Fulmer of Winter Garden

Best Hiking Trail

Wekiwa Springs State Park
Reachable wilderness is the name of the game at Wekiwa Springs. Families love sampling nature through scenic, carved-out pathways. Trail lengths vary, making some paths traversable for even your teenier tots. www.floridahikes.com

Best Mini Golf

Congo River Golf
There is no better idea than giving your child a metal club and telling him he can swing it in proximity to his siblings. Of course, we’re talking about mini golf. This is the place to be, with eight locations in Florida and scenery that puts you right in the middle of the Congo on a family adventure full of fun … and hopefully with no injuries. 407-248-9191, www.congoriver.com

Best Spot to Pick Fruit

Pappy’s Patch
Pappy’s Patch lets families waltz right into the middle of the farm and pick their own fruit. When you think you’ve got enough fruit to make pies, smoothies and afternoon snacks, Pappy’s crew will weigh it, and you pay for it. Partake of something from the concessions, such as a strawberry milkshake (when in season), and let the kids play on the playground and zip down the free (kid-sized) zip line. 407-366-8512, www.pickyourown.org

IMG_4786Best Petting Zoo

Green Meadows Petting Farm
Imagine any farm animal. You’ll find it at Green Meadows Petting Farm. Want to milk a cow? You can do that. Want to hold baby ducks? You can do that. Want to catch a chicken? Yep, you can do that too. Complete with a train ride, Green Meadows farm is the perfect place to get your petting on. 407-846-0770, www.greenmeadowsfarm.com

Best Farmers Market

Winter Park Farmers’ Market
Enjoy some outdoor time at this family-friendly market every Saturday from 7 a.m. until 1 p.m. You’ll find yummy produce and plants that are grown in Central Florida. Why not gather the kiddos and grab a bite of baked goods for breakfast next Saturday? 407-599-3397, www.cityofwinterpark.org

Zoom!

Zoom!

Best Zip Line for Kids

Zoom Air Adventure Park
Zoom Air offers a treetop zip line and ropes course outside the front entrance of the Central Florida Zoo and Botanical Gardens that is perfect for the big and small adventurer. Zoom through the tree canopy, traverse rope bridges and suspended decks, and soar on zip lines. There are several different shaded courses for all adventure levels. This is one place kids (and parents) can actually act like monkeys. 407-330-0767, www.zoomair.us/orlando

Best Family-Friendly Beach

New Smyrna
Hate making the mile-long trek from the car to the beach, loaded down with toys, chairs and umbrellas? New Smyrna Beach allows guests to drive right on the sand for fun in the sun without playing the part of pack mule. 386-736-2700, www.cityofnsb.com

Words by Jenny Fauser

Jenny Fauser, a Winter Garden mom of three, enjoys getting her family out to play around town as often as she can. Jenny’s a freelance writer and marketing consultant who loves to share her love of Central Florida fun. Reach her at jenny@ttcmedia.com, and share what you love to do in the area.

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