Florida families know a thing or two about fun in the sun! Far beyond the theme parks, Orlando is magically packed full of sites that boast outdoorsy fun – both day and night. Well, we’re shining light on the latter: nighttime experiences. Here’s a list of outdoorsy family adventures that are best enjoyed in the evening hours or after dark.
If your kid is just as obsessed with the film Moana as my youngest son is, then you’ve likely seen the scene (like a million times!) when Moana tricks Tamatoa, the villainous giant crab, using a bioluminescent particle. Bioluminescence is the production and emission of light by a living organism. Well, you don’t need to travel on Moana’s boat to catch a glimpse of neon green creatures; rather, just book a bioluminescent kayaking session with Get Up and Go Kayaking. Departing from Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, these tours are best enjoyed during summer and early fall. Get Up and Go Kayaking uses tandem clear-bottom kayaks, so you literally may see pops of glowing fish, jellyfish, bacteria and other marine life while on this 1.5 hour eco-tour.
Cost: $74 per adult (18 or older); $59 per child (ages 3-17)
Gator Night Shine Experience
Gatorland states that it is the “Alligator Capital of the World.” As if that destination wasn’t daunting enough, gutsy gator fans can snag tickets to Gator Night Shine. This ticket will allow you to wander about the wooden walkways of Gatorland’s Alligator Breeding Marsh and even dare to feed the green giants. And all with just the flicker of a flashlight – yikes! Tours kickoff around dusk.
Night Climb at Orlando Tree Trek Adventure Park
Orlando Tree Trek Adventure Park in Kissimmee invites families to take the fun factor to new heights by soaring through the sky on a zip line! This is your chance brave ropes challenges, swinging bridges and more. Headlamp aside, this moonlight-only adventure will leave you star stuck. With departure times set for 6, 6:30 and 7 pm on Fridays and Saturdays through July, this wild experience is available for kiddos age 9 and older.
Night Hike at the Zoo
Since many animals are nocturnal, your little monkeys (age 5+) will surely love exploring the Central Florida Zoo and Botanical Gardens in Sanford after the sun goes down. Held several times a year, zoo experts with flashlights in had lead curious animal lovers past intriguing habitats. This can be your time to encourage your little explorers to tap into all of their senses, as the sights and sounds of zoo critters are vastly different at night.
Cost: $20 ages 5–12; $25 for ages 13 and up; annual pass holders receive $5 discount
Nighttime Air Boat Tour
If you’d feel a bit more comfortable viewing Florida wildlife in a secure water vessel, climb aboard an airboat. The Black Hammock offers several speedy tour options on Lake Jesup, which is home to thousands of alligators, as well as a preserve for birds during migration. If early bedtime for littles is a factor, the 45-minute sunset ride is your best bet. But brave bigs will find the 1-hour night ride especially exhilarating. Plan to grab dinner at Black Hammock’s onsite restaurant too. Pssst… gator is on the menu here (as are frog legs).
Cost: sunset price: $60.95 per adult; $50.95 per child and night price: $67.95 per adult; $57.95 per child
Orlando Critical Mass
Do you think Orlando is a bike-friendly city? One group is trying to make it safely so. Critical Mass is Orlando’s largest monthly bike ride. Tons of cyclists pedal through our downtown region in an effort to promote the importance of road sharing and alternative transportation options. It’s not a time for wheelie shenanigans and, of course, safety should be prioritized during these rides. This experience also may not exactly be trike friendly but it definitely could pave the way to outdoorsy bonding time with your teenager. The ride meets at the whimsical Loch Haven Park on the last Friday of the month at 6:30 pm and leaves at 7 pm.
Outdoor Movie Nights
With Florida temperatures so enjoyable in the evening, fresh air sounds so much better than indoor air conditioning to me. For a picture-perfect movie night with your family, check out a local screening held under the stars. For example, “reel” good times can be had at Crescent Cinema in Lake Nona (quarterly), Movie Monday at À La Cart Orlando (weekly), Old Town Kissimmee Family Movie Night in Kissimmee (weekly), Movieola at Lake Eola Park (seasonally) and Popcorn Flicks in the Park (monthly).
Wanna space out with your aspiring astronaut? Rocket launches can really be a blast by the Space Coast! Launches are slated about once monthly and, while times vary, my eldest son especially loves the night launches. For an out-of-this-world, up-close experience, take a short road trip out to Titusville. Or, just stay home with your cute homies and grab the binoculars. Oh, also check out Skyview – Explore the Universe which is a great stargazing app. Just point your phone up toward the night sky to identify and magnify stars, constellations, planets and satellites.
App cost: $2.99
Sunset Plane Ride
Planes, trains and automobiles… my boys are obsessed with all kinds of vehicles and the likes. For an extra special twilight experience with your crew, take to the skies for a sunset seaplane adventure with Jones Brothers & Co. Air and Sea Adventures. Talk about kicking nighttime adventures into high gear! As the sun melts away, you’ll coast across the Harris Chain of Lakes on the way to the wilderness of the Ocklawaha River and Ocala National Forest. This is something your little partner-in-crime co-pilots will never forget!
The Wheel at Icon Park
For a bird’s eye view of Orlando’s landscape, head to ICON Park on I-Drive to take a spin on The Wheel. Riders are safely encapsulated on this ginormous Ferris wheel which glides 400 feet into the sky and, so, The Wheel grants the most magnificent panoramic views of The City Beautiful. For unparalleled sights of the night’s sky line, circle around at sunset; or, to gaze an array of city lights, opt for later on in the night. Then, once you’ve had your fill of the picturesque scenery, pop inside the main building at ICON Park next to The Wheel to marvel ocean wonders at Sea Life Orlando. Family fun will go swimmingly with this two-fold adventure.
Cost: $14.99 and up
The kids always want to push bedtime and, on occasion, maybe that’s OK. Especially since this list proves that staying out later can help families stay connected through unforgettable experiences!