Ask any 10-year-old and they will assure you that Walt Disney World is the capital of Florida. For most families with kids or teens, this attraction is the No. 1 priority when visiting Florida. But it will take more than a weekend (or even a week) to cover Disney’s 47-square-mile kingdom. To make the most of your time, Disney has a free DVD vacation planner to help you map out the perfect trip.
“Most people don’t realize that Disney World is more than just the Magic Kingdom, says Dave Herbst, Walt Disney media spokesperson. “We actually have four theme parks the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom two water parks Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon and Disney’s Downtown West End, Marketplace and Pleasure Island.
If you do plan to spend the majority of your vacation at Disney World, you will save time and money by staying at one of the 25 onsite hotels, which range in price and style from affordable to luxurious. Staying onsite offers several advantages: customized ticket packages, meal plans, hassle-free transportation between hotels and parks, and extended hours at the parks.
For a unique vacation experience, try Disneys Animal Kingdom Lodge. This luxury accommodation is surrounded by a 33-acre savannah with more than 30 species of African wildlife that can be viewed from your private balcony.
Some of the fun educational activities offered at the Lodge include animal tracking and safaris, African crafts and games, and folktales told nightly around the outdoor Arusha Rock fire pit. At Bomo Flavors of Africa, a family-friendly buffet offering breakfast and dinner, happy vacationers can experience cuisine from 50 African countries. Adults will enjoy the AAA Four-Diamond Jiko, The Cooking Place, which boasts the worlds largest selection of South African wines, as well as excellent multicultural cuisine.
Although Orlando is known for its great theme parks Disney, Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, Sea World and Cypress Gardens (Orlandos very first theme park) the area offers a wealth of other fun and educational opportunities. Downtown Orlando is home to the Orlando Science Center with multiple floors of hands-on exhibits for kids, giant-screen films and the largest refractor telescope in Florida. And if you happen to be in town during basketball season, get tickets to see the NBAs Orlando Magic.
Interested in Biblical history? Orlando has a very unique theme park that will take you back in time 2,000 years. The Holy Land Experience explores the ancient city of Jerusalem through biblical exhibits, models and performances.
While Orlando boasts 52 million square feet of retail shopping and nine world-class malls, for kid-friendly shopping that will earn you a parent-of-the-year award, visit the 4,400-square-foot, free-standing LEGO Imagination Center and the largest Disney character store on earth, both located at Downtown Disney. Grab lunch at Bahama Breeze Island Grill and enjoy a tropical setting with an outstanding menu of fresh Caribbean-inspired dishes for adults and kids. Since you are in Florida, be sure to order their famous Rebeccas Key Lime Pie.
Several of Floridas state parks (161 in total) are within easy driving distance of Orlando and offer a variety of activities for outdoor enthusiasts. Blue Spring State Park, with the largest spring on St. Johns River, is a designated Manatee Refuge and winter home (mid-November to March) for a growing number of West Indian Manatees. Bring a picnic lunch and cool off in the 72-degree spring where you can swim, snorkel or scuba dive. Cabins are also available for overnight stays.
You don’t have to go all the way to the Everglades to experience Floridas wetlands and wildlife. Several locations in and around Orlando offer airboat rides as well as full and half-day fishing trips. Orlando is one of the most popular places in the world to go bass fishing, the home of the BASS Masters Classic and just got to visit place for any fishermen in the family is fun for the whole family.
Heres a wave of grown-up-style fun redefining the Orlando experience,” says Amy Scott, relations representative for the Orlando Visitors Bureau. “From trendy restaurants and couture shopping to brand-name luxury hotels and spas and a growing cultural arts scene, adults have a variety of sophisticated new experiences to indulge in.”
The Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress is one of those luxury hotel resorts that aims to be for adults what Disney World is for children. This 1,500-acre resort includes an equestrian center, racquet club, fitness center, lake, pitch and putt golf course, and a one-half-acre pool with several waterfalls and a swim-through grotto and bar. With 45 acres of natural Florida terrain, including a nature area and Audubon Walk with elevated boardwalk, you will find it hard to believe you are almost next door to Disneys Downtown area. While at the resort, dont miss the superb seven-course wine-pairing dinner at La Coquina Chefs Table a perfect spot for a romantic celebration.
Want an adult vacation that will allow you to bring your extended family? The Ginn Reunion Resort, located just six miles south of Disney World, is the perfect spot to satisfy everyones vacation itineraries. Accommodations include a choice of condominiums, villas and multi-family homes. The resort is within easy reach of the theme parks, yet miles away from the hustle and bustle. Guests enjoy three signature golf courses, a fitness center, tennis courts, a rooftop pool and lounge, a full-service spa and excellent food at Forte, a contemporary chophouse. Relax or play at the resort or spend the day away.
If your’e still a kid at heart and would like to enjoy some of the theme parks at a more leisurely pace, visit Epcot in the evening and take the 1.3-mile walk around the 11 countries in World Showcase. Stop for dinner in Germany to enjoy folk dancing and an oompah band, belly dancers in Morocco, or singing waiters in Italy. Be sure to stay for the IllumiNations nightly outdoor show of fireworks, music and laser lights.
Another option is Disneys Hollywood Studios and Universal Studios, both of which offer sights and activities for those who would rather skip the zero-gravity thrill rides. At Disney’s Hollywood Studios, stop in the Brown Derby Restaurant to view sketches of famous Hollywood stars and sample their famous Cobb Salad and Grapefruit Cake.
If you enjoy the nightclub scene, both Universal City Walk and Downtown Disneys Pleasure Island offer a variety of musical and comedy clubs. Two shows you wont want to miss are the famous Cirque du Soleil, La Nouba, with its mesmerizing acrobatics and stunning costumes (Disneys West End), and the Blue Man Group offering a unique evening of music, comedy and multimedia theatrics (Universal Studios).
Enjoy a traveling Broadway show or Orlandos own ballet, opera or Philharmonic orchestra at the Bob Carr Performing Arts Centre in downtown Orlando. The downtown area is also home to several museums, including the Orlando Museum of Art the Mennello Museum of American Art and the Orange County Regional History Center, a Smithsonian affiliate. Dont miss the Harry P. Leu Gardens, a 50-acre botanical park featuring the largest documented collection of camellias in the nation.
Take a day to get off the beaten path with a trip to the quaint, brick-lined town of Winter Park. Stroll down Park Avenue with its upscale boutiques and restaurants, and be sure to sample the famous chocolate popcorn at Peterbrook Chocolatier. Have lunch at Caf de France, a favorite with locals who appreciate its authentic French food and excellent service.
After lunch, visit The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art, which is home to the worlds most comprehensive collection of works by Louis Comfort Tiffany, including an elaborate chapel interior. End your relaxing day with a scenic one-hour boat tour on Lake Osceola.
Whether you plan to ride every theme park ride, explore the cultured side of the city or simply cocoon yourself at a luxury resort or enjoy a day of bass fishing on of the lakes, Orlando has it all!
Till next time tight lines and good fishing….
From Staff and Wire Reports