What do you do in Orlando when not visiting the Mouse?

After 45 years of never visiting Walt Disney World, I have now been there twice in 2013 and we are getting ready for our third trip in a year.  On our next Orlando vacay, we will check out some of the non-Disney attractions while still hitting up our favorite mouse-related theme parks.

Our first visit last spring was awesome.  We spent day one at Magic Kingdom, a rain shortened day two at Animal Kingdom and day three back at Magic Kingdom.  We picked those parks because we thought they would be the best for our little ones. 

On our most recent visit, we had gorgeous weather our first day while at Magic Kingdom and our last day at Downtown Disney, but the two days in between, we had to put up with a lot of rain.  A LOT OF RAIN!

For those who have lived in the Sunshine State for awhile, you know that during the rainy season, anything from a sprinkle to a storm can pop up out of the blue and it happens nearly every day.  Usually it lasts for a matter of minutes, but for those two days, it rained the majority of the time we were at the parks.  We closed Epcot and Animal Kingdom down because Aileen's mom was with us and we didn't want to waste the money she spent on a full-price ticket.  The rain started in the afternoon while at Epcot (see how pretty it was in the morning?) and then the whole next day while at Animal Kingdom.  It nearly ruined our day at Epcot, but it made the start of our Animal Kingdom visit a blessing, but more on that later. 

As I said, our day at Epcot wasn't completely rained out, but it wasn't great.  Since we had such great weather the day before at Magic, we weren't totally prepared for what was to come that afternoon.  I wasn't impressed with Epcot anyway expecting more roller coasters, so the rainy weather was just icing on the cake to me.  

When we got there, Lil Tank was grumpy and fell asleep, so I stayed with her while Aileen, her mom and Monkey went on the Spaceship Earth ride.  Lil Tank snoozed for nearly two hours, so we checked out some of the educational exhibits near the front of the park.  Monkey really had a great time with the fire safety and money-saving hands-on activities.  I don't think there are many rides at Epcot so it seemed really boring to me.  

As we headed towards the lagoon to check out the different "countries", it began to rain so we spent most of the afternoon dodging raindrops and trying to find something to eat.  With all of those restaurants, we had trouble locating one that would appeal to the kiddos that didn't require a reservation.  Finally, we found one in Mexico and ate lunch (cheese quesadillas for the girls) at 3 p.m.  Since it was still raining we thought about leaving, but we stuck it out and decided again to take the water taxi across the lagoon to "Japan" and work our way through "France".

It finally cleared up and we enjoyed our walk from that side of the park.  As it got dark, we decided to stay to watch the fireworks.  That turned out to be the best part of the day.

Now to our visit to Animal Kingdom and why I think it was better than Epcot.  We first checked out AK in the spring when friends from Texas were on their magical Disney trip.  Our first stop was the safari to see the animals.  Because we got their first thing in the morning when it wasn't so hot, we saw lots of animals.  We heard that they are harder to spot if you go in the late morning or early afternoon.

Since we had such great luck the first time, we decided to go on the safari again as soon as we got through the gate.  Because it was drizzling at the time, the animals were out roaming.  They like the cooler, wetter weather. 

But I don't. Because of the rain, sometimes coming down in sheets, it made it pretty miserable running from building to building.  We spent a lot of our time in the various stores, just to get out of the wicked weather.  Other than the safari, we only managed to see two shows, the Lion King and Finding Nemo.  I thought Lion KIng would be hard to beat, but Nemo was pretty awesome and the girls loved it.

WDW Sept 2013 AK Nemo.jpg

Now back to our upcoming trip.  We are only going to the Disney parks for a couple of days, so we are looking for something to do on the other days.  There is an awesome water park at our hotel, so we will definitely enjoy that, but I'm interested in knowing what other options we have while in town.  It doesn't have to be a different theme park, although I know there are plenty of others.

So what do you do with your family in Orlando when you're not going to a Disney park?