Orlando-area attractions keep teens from being bored this summer
As parents, we know it can be a very short trip to a cruel, cruel summer when you have some unhappy teens on your hands who think they are too old for theme parks. If you can drag them (and we parents too) away from texting and iStuff for a minute, there are a ton of great activities in the Orlando area to make even the most emo teens happy.
To experience five floors of interactive, air-conditioned fun, head over to Downtown Disney's West Side Disney Quest. The virtual Pirates of the Caribbean ride and Cyber Space Mountain are popular choices here. Mom and Dad can show that they got game with arcade classics too. Open Sunday to Thursday from 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m., Friday and Saturday until 11:30 p.m. One-day tickets are $43.67 for ages 10 and up. Annual passes are also available and include both Disney Quest and the Disney water parks.
Speaking of water parks, way back in the 1980s, I'd spend pretty much the entire summer at Wild Waters at Silver Springs when my family lived nearby. I know firsthand that if you give a teen a water park, they will be happy. Disney has two water parks, both with their own exciting rides like the wedgie-inducing Summit Plummet at Blizzard Beach or the water-coaster Crusher Gusher at Typhoon Lagoon. Parents can join in and cause embarrassment, or chill out in the lazy rivers at each park. Disney isn't alone in the water park arena. Sea World's Aquatica is the newest on the scene (and has even added a new ride, the Omaka Rocka), along with the classic Wet 'n Wild (which has several deals going on now). For a smaller experience, check out CoCo Key Water Park Resort where day guests can use the pools and water slides for about half the price of full-sized water parks.
Don't forget the all-natural water parks surrounding our fair state. For a change of pace from the gulf beaches, head over to the east coast and explore Daytona or New Smyrna. Or head north to St. Augustine for a history lesson in disguise. And don't forget all the cool springs the Times' Terry Tomalin recently wrote about. Of course staying home by our west coast beaches will provide plenty of opportunities for teens who may be concerned by the Gulf oil spill and looking for ways to help out.
Now, there are no shortage of scream-inducing rides in Orlando. At Walt Disney World, teens head straight for the mountains of Magic Kingdom -- Space Mountain (which recently was refurbished), Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Splash Mountain. In Epcot, Mission Space and Test Track are the most fast-and-furious, while Disney's Hollywood Studios boasts the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror (with an all-new ride sequence and effects for Summer Nightastic!) and Rock 'n' Roller Coaster starring Aerosmith. Don't forget Animal Kingdom with Expedition Everest where you'll come face to face with a Yeti before heading backwards down the ride. Universal Orlando also has more than its fair share of teen thrills from the Incredible Hulk Coaster to Rip Ride Rockit to the all-new Wizarding World of Harry Potter attraction in Islands of Adventure.
If you have a teen who is into animals or science (or if you want to sneak some of that learning in over the summer) head over to Discovery Cove at Sea World. Swim with the dolphins and explore freshwater and reef environments. Some packages include admission to Sea World or Busch Gardens as well. Epcot also has a few undersea tours at the Seas With Nemo & Friends Pavilion: Divequest for certified scuba divers, Dolphins in Depth and the Epcot Seas Aqua Tour.
When all else fails, go shopping. There are now some really cool stores at Downtown Disney aimed at teen style -- Tren-D in the Marketplace and D-Street and Ridemakerz on the West Side. City Walk at Universal has an endless array of shopping and dining but take note of the parking fees -- $14 even if you're only shopping but reduced to $3 after 6 p.m. If a mall is more your scene, the Mall at Millenia will make everyone happy. And don't forget the Prime and Premium outlet malls in the area.
No matter what your teens' interests there is simply no reason to hear them utter those dreaded words, "I'm bored" this summer with all the action waiting for them in central Florida.
~ Suzannah DiMarzio, zannaland.com