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ORLANDO: BEYOND THE THEME PARKS
We could spend a weekend every month in Orlando and not just for the theme parks. There’s a lot to do in this vibrant and growing Central Florida city. Next time you visit, leave time to explore beyond the usual tourist sites.
Re the Theme Parks: If you think of Walt Disney World as just the Magic Kingdom, think again. There’s Hollywood Studios with its behind-the-scenes glimpse into movie making and its own version of American Idol. Epcot showcases different countries and their wonderful restaurants along with Spaceship Earth and other fantastic rides. My favorite place is in The Land pavilion where you ride a boat and see the wondrous fruits and veggies growing in their hydroponics labs. The Animal Kingdom is the best, especially in Spring and Fall when the weather is warm with low humidity. It’s a habitat friendly zoo and rainforest mixed together with lush tropical foliage. They do animal conservation projects making this an eco-friendly park. Aside from Disney, Universal Studios has two parks including the brand new Harry Potter attraction. Seaworld and Aquatica and Dolphin Cove invite water-oriented exploration. You can spend a whole week at the theme parks, but then you’re missing the real Orlando. So keep your walking shoes on and venture beyond the theme park gates.
DOWNTOWN DISNEY (shopping, dining, attractions, movies, free parking)
FARMER’S MARKETS: Winter Park (Sat.); Lake Eola (Sun.)
FLEA MARKETS: Osceola; International Drive
LAKE EOLA: Sunday Farmers Market, Swan Boats, Lakeside Walking Trail, Amphitheater
MUSEUMS: Morse Museum of American Art, Orlando Science Museum, Albin Polasek Museum and Sculpture Gardens, and more!
NATURE LOVERS: Henry P. Leu Gardens, Mead Garden, Lake Tibet Nature Preserve, Wekiva Springs State Park, Arboretum at UCF, and more.
PERFORMING ARTS : Regional Community Theatres, Orlando Ballet, Broadway shows, Cirque du Soleil, Dinner Theaters, and more.
SHOPPING: Prime Outlets, Premier Outlets, Millenia Mall, The Florida Mall, Pointe Orlando, Festival Bay Mall, Winter Garden Village, Park Avenue in Winter Park, Fashion Square Mall.
SPORTS: Orlando Magic, Disney’s Wide World of Sports, Golf, UCF Knights.
THORTON PARK: Downtown restaurants and clubs.
WINTER PARK: Park Avenue shopping & dining, Winter Park Village, Boat Ride, Saturday Farmer’s Market, Mead Garden, Henry P. Leu Gardens, Museums, Movies.
DAY TRIPS OUTSIDE OF ORLANDO
CASSADAGA (certified mediums give psychic readings)
DELEON SPRINGS STATE PARK and Old Sugar Mill Pancake House
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER and COCOA BEACH
ST. AUGUSTINE (Historical Sites, Museums, Shops, Restaurants and Beaches)