Fun, fun, fun: Fun City
Orlando is often called the Theme Park Capital of the world – and rightly so. Up to 48 million pleasure-seekers flock to it annually, mainly to visit Disney World, the Universal Orlando Resort and Sea World. But more and more of these theme-park tourists are now taking time for a trip to the city center, which they have tended to ignore in the past. Downtown Orlando with its unique museums, spacious parks, laid-back pedestrian-friendly areas and wide selection of restaurants and cafés is now pulling in the crowds too.
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Theme parks, rollercoasters and killer whales
The world’s biggest pleasure area with its four theme parks, two adventure water parks, over 20 hotels, several golf courses, plus a sports, shopping and nightclub complex that no visitor to Orlando can miss. The most popular current attractions include the Pirates of the Caribbean and Space, a simulation of the Mars mission. It’s best to plan your visit for a weekday, when the lines are a lot shorter than on weekends.
Walt Disney World, Lake Buena Vista, accessible from several exits on Interstate 4, Tel. +1-407/939 12 89, http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/. Admission US$82 per park for adults, US$74 per park for children (ages 3-9), reduced rates for tickets to more than one park.
The Universal Orlando Resort, Fun City’s second mega-park with hair-raising roller coasters and breathtaking 3-D animations – for example Revenge of the Mummy with attacks by horrifying Egyptian mummies. The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man catapults audiences through deep gorges, and a virtual free fall through 120 meters guarantees screaming attacks and weakening of even the most stalwart knees.
Universal Orlando Resort, Orlando, 6000 Universal Boulevard, Exits 75A/74B from Interstate 4, Tel. +1-407/363 80 00, www.universalorlando.com. Open daily from 9am. Closing times vary. Admission US$82 per park for adults, US$74 per park for children (ages 3-9), reduced rates for tickets to more than one park.
The Sea World water park specializes in spectacular orca and dolphin shows, but its penguins are also a big attraction. It has its own polar landscape with a daily snowfall of over 60 hundredweights of artificial snow. It gets a lot warmer down in the lagoons of Discovery Cove, where visitors with a reservation can spend a day relaxing on the artificial beach - and even take a swim with the dolphins.
Sea World, Orlando, 7007 Sea World Drive, Interstate intersection 4/SR 528, Tel. +1-888/800 54 47, www.seaworld.com. Open daily from 9am. Closing times vary. Admission US$71,99 (online price).
Discovery Cove, Orlando, 6000 Discovery Cove Way, Tel. +1-877/557 74 04, www.discoverycove.com. Open daily 9am-5:30pm. Admission starting from US$199.
Orlando is something different: Tiffany and nature
The Tiffany Collection at the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum is the only one of its kind in the world. Located in the up-market district of Winter Park to the north of the city center, it houses numerous works (including paintings, lamps and windows) by American art nouveau artist Louis Comfort Tiffany. One especially interesting exhibit is the complete interior decoration of a chapel designed by Tiffany.
Charles Hosmer Morse Museum, Winter Park, 445 Park Avenue, Tel. +1-407/645 53 11, www.morsemuseum.org. Open Tuesday through Saturday 9:30am-4pm, Sundays 1pm-4pm. Fridays in July and August also 4pm-6pm. Admission: US$5.
The large number of places featuring live music help make Universal CityWalk Orlando’s favorite entertainment quarter. It’s here where you find the world-famous Blue Man Group Show and the world’s biggest Hard Rock Cafe. On the culinary side, it’s a paradise for lovers of Creole and Jamaican cuisine - for example, at the restaurant called Bob Marley - A Tribute to Freedom.
Universal CityWalk. For address see Universal Orlando Resort. Open daily 11am-2am. Admission free, parking: starting from US$15. There may be a cover charge for some shows and at some music clubs.
For a little contrast: When you’ve had your fill of roller coasters and other hair-raising attractions, relax on the banks of Lake Rowena set in 50 acres of parkland to get your breath back. Or take a leisurely walk through the Harry P. Leu Gardens located right in downtown Orlando and admire the splendor of the azaleas, camellias, orchids and roses.
Harry P. Leu Gardens, Orlando, 1920 N. Forest Avenue, Tel. +1-407/246 26 20, www.leugardens.org. Open daily 9am-5pm. Admission: US$7 for adults, US$2 for children (ages 5-17).