Orlando City Guide
Orlando could easily be called the theme park capital of the USA. Four Disney World parks, as well as numerous indoor and outdoor, kid-friendly amusements make Orlando a destination that's just about perfect for family holidays. Shopping offers, dining outlets and outdoor activities galore add to the allure of this city that boasts a never-ending summer. Whatever entertainment you are after, Orlando might be the best answer to your holiday prayers.
City of theme parks
Orlando has earned a reputation as one of the foremost family-friendly destinations in North America and given the abundance of theme parks, it's easy to see where that comes from. Walt Disney World, to the south-west of Orlando, is the most popular attraction in the area. It comprises the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom theme parks, which offer a diverse range of amusements for young visitors.
Some of the other theme parks in Orlando are also worth a visit if you are travelling with your little ones. Kids can build architectural wonders with tiny bricks at LEGOLAND Florida or they can admire colorful marine creatures at the SeaWorld aquarium. A slightly more educational experience awaits you at the WonderWorks center where children can don astronaut suits and learn about natural phenomena and technology by playing with all sorts of interactive displays.
For those whose cinematic interests stretch beyond Disney classics, there's the real cinema mecca of Universal Studios. The main allure here are the numerous film-related amusements and beside them there are also several malls with dining and shopping outlets. Kids might love theme parks but there are only so many you can see in a single visit before you get weary. Luckily, the Disney World area is densely packed with more “grown-up” amusements. Golf courses, lakeside retreats, and shopping and dining outlets all lie within a short drive from the Disney parks.
Culture and entertainment
The variety of museums is one of the many perks of Orlando. Art lovers will feel right at home in the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art and in the Cornell Fine Arts Museum. The former holds a treasure trove of objects designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany, while the latter boasts a far more diverse and ancient collection of 5000 art works from around the world. Science nerds won't be let down either. The Kennedy Space Center welcomes visitors all year round, allowing them to talk to astronauts, get inside a space capsule and even watch as rockets are launched into outer space. There are lots of funky activities for younger visitors, too.
Plenty of shopping, dining and live entertainment is available in downtown Orlando but International Drive is the area where it's at. In this quarter, hundreds of shops, restaurants, attractions and bars cater to a range of visitors with diverse tastes and desires. Travelers looking for high-end offers should head to elegant Park Avenue or to the Mall at Millenia, a chic venue with fountains and glass rooftops, which houses leading luxury brands and exclusive restaurants.
Those who enjoy being out in nature will feel right at home in Orlando. Natural springs, rivers and protected parks lie just on the outskirts of the city. The Wekiwa Springs State Park is a great place for paddling. For a chance to spot exotic birds, turtles and alligators grab a canoe or a paddle board and glide down the Wekiwa river.
The natural pools within the park are great for a leisurely swim – all are enclosed to keep the alligators at a safe distance. The water is clean, clear and refreshing, which makes the park very well suited for a day out with kids. The Ocala National Forest is just as good for family days out. The forest offers plenty of shallow swimming spots, as well as playgrounds and camping spots. Hiking, camping, canoeing and horseback riding are just some of the activities you can enjoy in the forest.
There are plenty of alligators in this subtropical part of the country and plenty of opportunities to learn about these lazy but fierce lizards at the Orlando Science Center. If you are feeling brave enough head to Gatorland park where you can throw chunks of meat at the alligators while the guide tells you more about their curious life.