Orlando
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Attractions in Orlando, Florida

Walt Disney World

The Walt Disney Resort complex south of Orlando is the size of a small country. It encompasses more than 40 square miles (100 square km.) with its own system of roads, lakes and waterways. It contains four large theme parks, three water parks, eight golf courses and over 25 hotel complexes. This is the largest family entertainment facility in the world. It is clean, safe and amazingly well managed, but not inexpensive. Adults and children of all ages can enjoy fantastic holidays at Disney World and you can spend lots of money. Mike says: Don't miss the Lion King show at Animal World.

Universal Studios

The Universal Studios entertainment complex is located closer to the southern suburbs of Orlando and is not as large as Walt Disney World. It contains two major theme parks, a luxury hotel, and a shopping, dining and entertainment center. Its new Islands of Adventure Theme Park is possibly the most technologically advanced theme park in the world. It also offers a Wet 'n Wild Water Park just across the road. Mike says: See the Blues Brother's show in the New York section of Universal Studios.

SeaWorld Orlando © Fred Hsu / Wikimedia Project
A major attraction at SeaWorld Orlando, the killer whale Kalina leaps out of the pool, soaking the audience with water.

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SeaWorld Orlando

This Anheiser-Busch marine theme park is similar to, but larger than the SeaWorld Parks in other parts of the USA. It contains a huge state-of-the-art roller coaster and several thrill rides, but the main attractions are the marine shows featuring seals, dolphins, killer whales and water skiing acrobatics. It is all very entertaining and educational. Children of all ages enjoy this park.

Theme Dinner Theaters

There are many themed dinner theaters in the Orlando area. Medieval Times in Kissimmee is typical of this type of family entertainment experience. You sit at long tables around a great central arena and feast on a medieval banquet while knights perform equestrian feats and joust in full armor. Similar shows are offered at King Henry's Feast, Arabian nights, Capone's Dinner Show, Pirates at Colossal Studios and at Wild Bill's West Dinner Extravaganza.

Drive a NASCAR Race Car

The Richard Petty Driving Experience at the Walt Disney World Speedway allows you to ride in a genuine NASCAR racecar. If you have the time, and the money, you can take a half-day driving school then pilot the racecar around the track yourself. Mike says: Wow, what a thrill riding at 146 MPH and playing catch with another racecar (with wife, Anny in the other racer).

Take a Ride in a Hot Air Balloon

Thompson Aire Balloon Rides offers hot-air balloon rides over the Orlando countryside. Flights depart from the Orlando-Kissimme area daily at sunrise.  The adventure last 3-4 hours and is capped off with a post-flight champagne celebration and breakfast.

Musical Entertainment

There are a lot of entertainment options in the Orlando area. The world's largest Hard Rock Cafe is located at Universal Studios City Walk and the giant globe shaped Planet Hollywood is at Disney's West End. There are all types of musical entertainment from dueling piano sing-alongs and dance clubs to rock and roll performances. Check out Church Street Station in downtown Orlando, CityWalk at Universal, Pleasure Island or West Side at Disney and various locations along International Blvd. Mike's favorite is House of Blues at West End for nightly funky blues music in the restaurant.

Florida Beaches

Orlando is in central Florida about half way between the Atlantic Ocean beaches and those on the Gulf of Mexico. There are plenty of swimming pools and man-made beaches on the lakes and in the water parks around Orlando, but for real ocean surf and sand you must drive a few hours. Cocoa Beach and Melbourne Beach are about two hours drive to the east and they provide some nice sand with ocean surf and not many tourists. Clearwater Beach is less than two hours to the west near Tampa. It offers great sand with warmer and calmer gulf waters plus a lot of tourist amenities but bigger crowds.

Gatorland

This is an authentic Florida attraction. Gatorland animal park with thousands of alligators and crocodiles features a variety of shows including "gator wrestling" and the "gator jumparoo". It is great fun for young and old.

Airboat Rides

These flat-bottomed, propeller-driven boats are an excellent means of transportation in the shallow wetlands that abound throughout Florida. There are several locations near Orlando where you can take an excursion in a typical airboat. The ride can be fast, exciting and noisy. You can see alligators and wetland wildlife up close.

Surf fishing © Ronnie Allen
The Atlantic Ocean is an hour east of Orlando and offers salt-water fishing opportunities from its many public piers, miles of sandy beaches and charter boat services.

Sports Fishing

Florida is famous for its sports fishing. Freshwater fishing, especially bass fishing, is available in many lakes and streams around Orlando. You can find fishing guides and charter boats at various locations near Orlando, but you must purchase a fresh-water fishing license. Salt-water fishing is available at Clearwater beach near Tampa. Large and small charter boats depart from the fishing basin for half-day and full day fishing excursions in the Gulf of Mexico.

Golf

Golf is very popular in Florida and can be played all months of the year. There are over 20 golf courses in the Orlando vicinity with eight courses located on the Walt Disney World property.

Museums

Orlando has an art museum, a science center and a historical society museum. It also has a Ripley's "Believe it or Not Museum" and an interactive Wonderworks.

Spectator Sports

The Orlando Magic NBA Basketball Team plays at the Orlando Arena. The minor league Orlando Rays baseball team plays at Tinker Field. If you are into wagering, Orlando offers a harness-racing track, a greyhound-racing track and a Jai Alai Fronton.

Written by: Mike Leco
Top Photo Credit: © Mike Leco / USATourist.com
Photo Description: Entrance to Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida