It’s been quite the year for our region and beyond. As businesses and local attractions stay shut down in March to combat the spread of COVID-19, there was plenty of uncertainty as to how it would all play out. Since then, the state of Florida has been on a rollercoaster throughout the reopening process, as numbers of cases have risen and dropped on a daily basis.
But if there’s one thing we know, it’s that our neighbors, our local officials and area business owners are resilient. All have been asked to adapt to the fluid situation surrounding healthy and safety standards, and they have met the task head on to quickly develop new protocols to keep their guests and employees safe.
As we all continue to do our part in following these safety measures, such as wearing masks in public settings, maintaining social distancing when possible, staying home when feeling sick and practicing proper hygiene and hand washing, we’re united against this virus. With this final part of our Stay & Play series, we hope to offer insight into how you can continue to support local and state tourism while keeping yourself and your family safe.
5 Ways to Beat the Heat in Orlando
These local attractions offer tons of fun while keep you cool this summer.
Andretti Indoor Karting & Games
Located next to Topgolf on Universal Boulevard, Andretti Indoor Karting & Games offers all types of safe family fun. While one of the main draws is the indoor go-karting, the facility also includes an arcade, a rope obstacle course, a Dark Ride Motion Theater and a bowling alley. You can even fuel up between activities without having to leave the building. The Andretti Grill serves a selection of tasty salads, sandwiches, burgers, pizza and other entrees.
The facility reopened in May and continues to follow the guidance of public health officials to keep both guests and employees safe. New safety standards include enhanced cleaning and mask and social distancing requirements. There are also touchless hand sanitizer stations located throughout the facility as well as the availability of contactless transactions through mobile waivers and purchase kiosks.
Since the end of May, Island H20 has been welcoming back visitors who are looking to cool off during these hot summer months. The water park, which is located at Sunset Walk in Kissimmee, offers an immersive and interactive experience for people of all ages. From water slides and splash zones to a lazy river and a private adult pool, there is something for all members of the family to enjoy during a visit.
The park reopened with new Safe-Splash Guidelines in place, such as verbal screenings and temperature checks for employees and guests, social distancing requirements and increased sanitation, among others. Face coverings are recommended for guests between rides and attractions; however, they aren’t permitted while in the water or on the rides. Guests are encouraged to review the full safety guidelines online prior to arriving and to purchase a ticket online to ensure entry, as the water park could reach capacity based on demand.
Orlando Science Center
This Orlando favorite reopened recently with new hours so local kids can learn and play in exhibit halls such as NatureWorks, DinoDigs and KidsTown. The museum will be open Monday-Tuesday and Thursday-Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday from 12-5 p.m., and it will be closed each Wednesday for deep cleaning. While all programming is currently still being offered, staff will be present in all exhibit halls to facilitate the experience and to sanitize between guests.
The Orlando Science Center encourages visitors to purchase tickets online, as limited capacity could lead to certain days to fill up. Additionally, masks are required and guests and employees are expected to follow social distancing guidelines.
One of the hottest spots in Orlando, TopGolf offers more than 100 climate-controlled hitting bays and full-service restaurants and bars. Whether you play their signature game or try a game like TopPressure or TopShot, you’re sure to have a ball while shooting your shot. And, while you’re there, try a signature snack like creamy and cheesy macaroni bites, the hot and spicy buffalo chicken dip or keep it sweet with the injectable donut holes, complete with chocolate sauce, raspberry jelly or Bavarian cream.
Health and safety measure include responsible social distancing, safely spaced hitting bays, a high standard of cleanliness, associate health and safety and facemask requirements. As a special thank you, healthcare workers, such as doctors, nurses, technicians, medical researchers and hospital workers, will receive a 10% discount on gameplay and 20% discount on monthly membership through Aug. 31.
Known as Orlando’s only upside down attraction, Wonderworks is an amusement park for the mind. With exhibits that combine education and entertainment, guests of all ages are encouraged to challenge their minds and use their imagination. The area is split into Wonder Zones. You can become a human lightning rod in the Natural Disasters zone, create 3D images of your body on a giant pin wall in the Physical Challenge zone or climb into a replica of a launch capsule in the Space Discovery zone. This indoor attraction also includes a three-story ropes challenge course, a 4D extreme motion ride, laser tag and even a nightly magic comedy dinner show.
Some experiences may be closed or limited during your visit, and new protocols such as social distancing and mask requirements will be in place. So be sure to plan your visit ahead to time to ensure you’re prepared.
Want to Get Away?
Whether you choose a staycation or a weekend getaway, there are plenty of fun places in Florida to cross off your bucket list.
Crystal River Outdoor Adventures
Travel Time: 1.5 to 2 hours
Crystal River is the perfect place to partake in the popular pastime of recreational scalloping. Scalloping season runs through September and is a safe and fun underwater opportunity for the whole family.
There is no shortage of tours available in the area, and most require you to bring only a swimsuit and a towel. However, check with your tour operator before you go to find out if you need to bring your own equipment. Additionally, some seaside restaurants will cook your catch when you get off the boat.
The warm water of the area’s springs draw manatees throughout the year. Tour companies offer guided manatee swim experiences to provide an up-close look at these gentle creatures in their natural environment. While you can see manatees all year-round, the cold winter months of December, January and February are ideal and provide the most opportunities for a manatee encounter.
Travel Time: 1.5 to 2 hours
Take a step back into prehistoric North America with a trip to Devil’s Den, an underground spring and dry cave right here in Florida. Devil’s Den, which dates back 33 million years, is home to many extinct animal fossils and ancient rock formations that will transport you to another time.
The spring’s clear waters are 72 degrees year-round – the perfect temperature to cool you off on your scuba diving or snorkeling adventure. A certification level of open water or above and a dive buddy are required for scuba diving admission. No certification is required to snorkel.
The Devil’s Den property has onsite lodging options, including cabins, an RV park and tent campgrounds. While you’re there, you can prepare a meal on one of the charcoal grills, swim in the onsite pool and play a selection of lawn games.
Travel Time: 1.5 to 2 hours
Just a short drive from Orlando, this West Coast beach town near St. Petersburg and Tampa is the perfect place to go for a relaxing getaway. While there are plenty of places to explore during your trip, many local resorts have so much to do on property that you’ll never have to leave.
The Bilmar Beach Resort, located on Gulf Boulevard, has 167 guest rooms in which 90% are beachfront. Not only will you have beautiful views from your room but you can also kick back and relax on 500 feet of Gulf of Mexico coastline and participate in a number of beach activities while you’re there.
Stroll along a mile-long beachfront walking trail, kayak or paddleboard in the clear-as-glass water or go on a parasailing adventure during the day then enjoy beach fire pit areas as the sun dips below the horizon. Even more, all guest rooms come with two beach chairs per day so you don’t need to wake up too early to claim your spot.