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Monday, June 27, 2022

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Family Fun Day Trip to ICON Park Orlando

Popular tourist spots may not always be so appealing to us locals. But, once in a while, it can be fun to visit the places the vacationers go, just to get a taste of what draws tourists here. ICON Park Orlando is one of my favorite touristy places to visit every so often. There are lots of fun things to do, especially for kids.

ICON Park Orlando Attractions for Kids

Being at the heart of the attractions area, ICON Park Orlando has multiple attractions. Some of these things to do may seem geared toward families, but couples will find their own fun here too.

  • The Orlando Sea Life Aquarium
  • The Wheel (formerly The Orlando Eye)
  • NEW Carousel on The Promenade
  • Madame Tussaud’s Orlando (best for tweens and teens)
  • Museum of Illusions (best for tweens and teens)

I have visited some of these attractions on my own dollar, like The Wheel at ICON Park and Sea Life Orlando Aquarium. I did receive complimentary admission to the Museum of Illusions when it first opened and was recently invited to Sea Life Orlando and Madame Tussaud’s to visit complimentary.

There is also a small “mining station” to mine for pretend gems near The Wheelhouse (the entrance to The Wheel, Sea Life, and Madame Tussaud’s). Your kids won’t miss it because there is a small train parked out front. If you have little ones they will undoubtedly ask you to go for a train ride, which takes you on a five-minute ride all through ICON Park.

The Orlando Sea Life Aquarium for kids

Orlando has a number of ways for you to experience the aquatic world from SeaWorld Orlando to EPCOT’s Living Seas Pavilion. Sea Life Orlando Aquarium is a great option if you want to venture under the sea. It is relatively affordable and has multiple exhibits. Each room is themed to a different part of the world, and the aquatic animals of each region are shown in beautiful ways, including Florida’s only 360° Ocean Tunnel and a small touch pool at the end of the experience.

SeaLife Aquarium Orlando - Touch Tank
Sea Life Aquarium Orlando – Touch Tank

The walk through ocean tunnel is definitely a highlight. Sea Life Orlando is one of my top picks for things to do at ICON Park for families. It takes about 45 minutes to an hour to experience the entire attraction, but you can take as much time as you want.

SeaLife Aquarium Orlando - Indian Ocean Tank
Sea Life Aquarium Orlando – Indian Ocean Tank

Some of the rooms get a little cramped so if this is a concern, try to visit on a weekday, and as early in the day as possible. You may feel rushed as throngs of guests come and go through each room, but it is totally okay to take your time.

Orlando Sea Life Aquarium Behind the Scenes Tour

To really wow your family, book the Behind the Scenes Tour which is a 30-minute experience. You’ll get to see a day in the life of an aquarist. It is just $10 and you’ll get to visit multiple areas that are not part of the normal Sea Life experience. My husband and I were invited to do this tour with our son, and it exceeded our expectations. Get a birds-eye-view of the ocean tanks by walking above the surface at the Ocean Overlook. And wrap up the tour by feeding some fish.

The Behind the Scenes Tour takes place near the center of the aquarium experience. It is recommended that you book your tour at least one hour after your aquarium entrance time so you have enough time to explore the entire aquarium, then you can backtrack to the Behind the Scenes tour desk near the Pacific Ocean exhibit.

SeaLife Aquarium Orlando - Behind the Scenes Tour
Sea Life Aquarium Orlando – Behind the Scenes Tour

For a unique experience together, it is worth the $10.

The Wheel (formerly The Orlando Eye)

Although it has had many names over the years, The Wheel at ICON Park is a must-do. Truly an icon of Orlando, The Wheel is a towering observation wheel that offers a 25-30 minute ride. On a clear day you can see all Orlando has to offer, and even out towards the Space Coast.

Theme Park fans should flock to The Wheel because you get a bird’s eye view of Walt Disney World from all four parks and Disney Springs to nightly fireworks! Universal fans can catch a glimpse of Hogwarts, Universal’s roller coasters, and Volcano Bay. And SeaWorld Orlando is just down the road and has Ignite 360 fireworks.

If you have valid theme park tickets to any of Orlando’s theme parks or you’re an active annual passholder, you’ll receive 40% off your ticket to The Wheel at ICON Park. Proof of theme park ticket required at time of redemption.

Madame Tussaud’s Orlando for tweens and teens

I admit, that my skepticism about Madame Tussaud’s Orlando kept me at bay for many years. I’m not a big celebrity fan or someone who keeps up with the latest Hollywood news, and so I assumed that this “wax museum” wouldn’t interest me.

However, because my husband, son, and I are all goofballs, especially in front of camera, we had a great time. The first few rooms revolve around historical figures, which may be fun for any kids who enjoy learning about American history.

Madame Tussaud's Orlando - Albert Einstein Figure
Madame Tussaud’s Orlando – Albert Einstein Figure

Then the onslaught of celebrities began, yet each room created an exciting atmosphere. Audio, lighting, and decor match a cohesive theme for each room to highlight groups of celebrities from current pop music stars to some of Hollywood’s best and brightest.

The photo opportunities are endless. Tweens and teens are sure to find plenty of celebrities and famous figures for the perfect selfie.

Museum of Illusions for tweens and teens

If you’re a photogenic family, this one’s for you. With over 50 exhibits, Museum of Illusions Orlando offers a plethora of photo opportunities. And if your teenager is looking for some cool photos to share with friends back in Tampa, this is the place to do it.

Museum of Illusions Orlando Icon Park
Museum of Illusions Orlando Icon Park

Best Restaurants for Kids at ICON Park

There are over 15 different restaurants at ICON Park, plus multiple spots for snacks and treats.

These are my picks for ICON Park restaurants for families:

  • Sloppy Joe’s Orlando
  • Uncle Julio’s Mexican
  • Sugar Factory
  • Shake Shack

If you’re on a budget, fear not. The entrances to The Wheel, Sea Life, and Madame Tussaud’s are all in the same building, known as The Wheelhouse. There is a small food hall and a small arcade. The Wheelhouse Market includes local favorites Tin and Taco as well as Brick and Fire Pizza.

Sloppy Joe’s Orlando

One of the newest restaurants at ICON Park Orlando is one that has a long history. Sloppy Joe’s Orlando is the latest outpost of this Key West Tradition. With a dining room that is full of vintage Key West and Orlando photos, and an outdoor patio with tropical vibes, this is a great place to soak up that vacation feeling.

Dining room of Sloppy Joe's at ICON Park Orlando
Sloppy Joe’s at ICON Park Orlando

We were invited to try out Sloppy Joe’s Orlando, and dined complimentary. Our server recommended the Firecracker Shrimp to start, and he did not steer us wrong. My husband could not resist ordering the 1 lb. BLT Sandwich. It is true to its name. A massive mound of bacon piled high on a bun with lettuce, tomato, and mayo made his eyes go wide.

I opted for something more refreshing, the North Palm Beach Salad with crab, shrimp, avocado, diced tomato, corn, mixed greens, and other delicious freshness. We both ate every last bite on our plates.

1lb BLT and North Palm Beach Salad at Sloppy Joe's Orlando
1lb BLT and North Palm Beach Salad at Sloppy Joe’s Orlando

The menu at Sloppy Joe’s Orlando is a great balance of casual American classics like burgers and sandwiches, as well as beach-inspired tastes.

How Much Does ICON Park Orlando Cost?

There are Florida Resident discounts for most attractions, particularly when you buy online. There are some blackout dates. The best deal is the Florida Resident Combination Ticket which combines three attractions into one discount.

Madame Tussaud’s Orlando, The Orlando Sea Life Aquarium, and The Wheel can be purchased together. If you’re not a Florida Resident, this combo ticket is a good deal at $54.99. And if you are a Florida Resident it is $49.99 to visit all three.

The Museum of Illusions operates separately from the other attractions but does have combo tickets available with The Wheel as well as Wonderworks just down the road. Single admission to just the Museum of Illusions is $25.

When to visit ICON Park Orlando

Weekends are much busier than weekdays. So if you can visit ICON Park during a weekday, do so. Summer time and major holiday weekends like 4th of July, Easter, and so on will be busy no matter the day of the week. If the attractions are your focus, early in the day is best to avoid crowds.

Parking and What to Bring

One of the things I love most about ICON Park is that the parking is free! With so much going on along International Drive it is a treat to have a place that has free parking. Just be cautious in the parking garage because drivers sometimes get distracted by their excitement.

Practically every restaurant and shop accepts credit cards, so cash is not really a necessity here. There is a currency exchange for those traveling from abroad. That’s one of the fun things about this place (depending on your perspective, I suppose) is mingling with the folks who’ve traveled far and wide to come to this iconic destination.

ICON Park Orlando is easy to walk and is essentially T-shaped, with one central promenade and two sections on either side with additional restaurants and a few small shops. Comfortable shoes will make a big difference as you will be standing and walking quite a bit.

Enjoy some family time in one of the most exciting places in Orlando’s attractions area.

ICON Park Orlando
8375 International Drive
Orlando, FL 32819

Dani Meyering
Born and raised in the land of sunshine and dreams come true, Dani is a proud Orlando native. She loves sharing her hometown with others from the theme parks to Florida's natural beauty. With work experience in Orlando's theme parks, and hotels, she uses this expertise to help Central Florida couples and parents enjoy quality time together throughout Central Florida. Follow her adventures on Twitter and Instagram @thisfloridalife.

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