Kennedy Space Center
Space Commerce Way, Orlando
An hour east of Orlando, the Kennedy Space Center is, forgive us, out of this world. The place has justifiable widespread appeal—exhibits are as thronged with first-graders and tweens as they are with senior citizens. On the center’s grounds you’ll find the space shuttle Atlantis, the Saturn V rocket, simulated lift-off experiences, and rocks from the moon that you can touch. Set aside a full day to explore the fascinating exhibits, which chart all the historical moments of the race to space, up to the developments of today. Book in a lunch with one of the astronauts on-site—the enquiring minds of your mini explorers will thank you.
Ritz-Carlton Grande Lakes
4012 Central Florida Pkwy., Orlando
“Less than twenty minutes from Harry Potter World” isn’t our typical opener for a hotel, but in Orlando, every minute in the car is a minute wasted. The city’s Ritz-Carlton is a classic, splashy, sophisticated resort done well. Really well. Within the fourteen floors and 500 acres that make up the property are a pond for fly-fishing, vegetable gardens (much of which ends up on your plate at dinner in one of the eleven restaurants), tennis courts, a golf course, and a 40,000-square-foot spa. There are also activities especially for kids, like arts and crafts and nature walks (free for each child for the first two hours). Service across the board is flawless, and guest rooms are airy and relaxing in quiet creams and pastel blues.
Black Rooster Taqueria
1323 N. Mills Ave., Orlando
You’ll work up an appetite at Universal Studios. An appetite for hearty, flavorful, slightly spicy food specifically. Black Rooster is—in our humble opinion—the best taqueria in Orlando. Slow-cooked chicken tinga, crispy fish, and marinated carne asada piled into handmade tortillas taste incomparably bright and fresh, speckled with a dollop of salsa for some kick. For those looking to up their greens, the kale salad, loaded with vegetables and a (small) handful of cheese, is excellent. If you’re with hungry kids, order extra.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
6000 Universal Blvd., Orlando
You can’t visit Orlando with kids and not hit up Universal Studios. Specifically, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. A few tips: Buy the Universal Express Unlimited Pass and allocate a solid two days to see everything. (Hogwarts and Hogsmeade are in one park, while Diagon Alley and its rides are short bus trip away—if you don’t get these references, you might want to hit the bookstore first.) While the kids will stare at every magical detail in open-mouthed, wide-eyed wonder, skipping the lines is a godsend for the adults. Arrive early and try to avoid bringing a backpack (they’re not permitted on many of the rides). Highlights include having your wand choose you at Ollivander’s (just like Harry’s did), slurping goblets of impossibly sweet butterbeer, and the Forbidden Journey ride. This ride is the equivalent of flying across the pages of the books, through Dumbledore’s office, into the Room of Requirement, and hanging out in every child’s fantasy—the Gryffindor common room.