Thrills, spills, excitement, laughter, fun and fantasy all await you in Florida. Orlando is now the epicentre of most Florida holidays with its seemingly infinite array of theme parks and experiences.
Orlando may be the epicentre of Florida, but it is only the beginning of an extraordinary adventure that can include beaches, forests, lakes and rivers, State parks and even a National park within a few hours drive. From Florida one can cruise to the Bahamas, the Caribbean or beyond trough the Panama Canal to California, transatlantic to, or from Europe, South America or even cruise to Miami from Canada taking in the fall colours of New England. We can be inventive with various flight routes; fly to Orlando then home from the southernmost outreach of Key West, include a city stopover at New York or Boston or even twin centre with a Caribbean Island or Las Vegas. The permutations are as limitless as your imagination and our expertise.
Little did I know, when I landed in Miami, way back in 1975 that it would be the start of a relationship that would still be ongoing almost half a century later. Of my 194 visits to the USA over half have been to the state of Florida including escorting tour groups for some 20 years.
Orlando is now the epicentre of most Florida holidays with its seemingly infinite array of theme parks and experiences. Coupled with the limited amount of time UK visitors have (at Delmar World the average stay is 17 nights) the potential to make wrong choices, and waste time and money, is high. There is no “one-size-fits-all” solution. Couples, families with young children, grandparents, first-time visitors and even seasoned travellers will each have different objectives, limitations and therefore individual recommendations.
Whether you are simply looking to spend 2 weeks at Walt Disney World or explore the possibilities of a multi-arrangement package they are all, to me, holidays of a lifetime.
Beyond the theme parks the state of Florida waits to be discovered
Open year round but at it’s best from late October through early April when manatees migrate the short distance from the adjacent St John river. The spring maintains 22 degrees year round temperature ideal for these “sea cows” who graze on the underwater vegetation. The park, which has a nominal entry fee, gives visitors access to walking trails, picnic and bbq areas and plenty of open spaces for recreation. Kayaking is available for a fee as is the boat trip down river to Hontoon Landing wher you can actually rent fully equipped river boats for a few days. The river is home to a varied habitat of wildlife including alligators!
Blue Springs is just north of Orlando-Sanford airport (1 1/2 hours from the main resort areas) and can be easily combines with a stop-off at the quaint Victorian style town of Mount Dora, complete with its own railroad (yes, you can ride the train! – http://www.orangeblossomcannonball.com/), boating, Skegway tour, boutique shops and one-of-a-kind eateries.
There is an ever increasing of airboat operators throughout the Kissimmee area. Boggy Creek airboats are probably the best known and have been tried, tested and are still recommended by me. However, if you are looking for an even more back-to-nature experience it’s worth taking the hour-or-so drive south and do this one. They offer 60 minute tours for around $50/adult, $35/child and 90 minutes for $64 and $44 respectively ($4 discount if you say that you saw it advertised on their website http://kissimmeeswamptours.com/) and you should get to see an abundance of wildlife. It is out in the sticks (the sat nav ran out of directions 2 miles short down the unpaved road!) and you feel a million miles away from the commercialised feel of Orlando’s theme parks. Their airboats are smaller than average, taking just 6 passengers each equipped with two-way radio headsets that not only ensures you can clearly hear the captain’s narrative but also enables you to ask questions. Advance bookings are strongly advised.
America’s oldest city established in 1513 by the Spanish. Just around 100 miles north of the Orlando area this is an ideal one-day, or overnight, trip. Head out towards Daytona on Interstate 4 and join the coast road A1A northbound. In parts this drive hugs the relatively unspoiled beach-line through small communities.A stop-off at Fort Matanzas is a lovely little stop off and includes a short boat ride (free) up the inlet to the small fort that once protected the southern approaches to St. Augustine.
The Old Town Trolley offers an excellent narrated trip around town and the contrasting sights of the old fort, Flagler College and the shops in the historic section. There is ample parking close to the visitor centre and St Augustine features an array of dining opportunities. If you plan to stay overnight there are a number of (mainly) budget hotels within a stroll of the main centre as well as some (fairly expensive!) B&B’s. Check out the St Augustine Amphiteater http://www.staugamphitheatre.com/ – a great venue featuring the best in live music.
Shopping in Orlando is often referred to as “The second most popular attraction” although many UK visitors would argue that it’s number one! Either way there is little doubt that, compared to UK prices, Florida provides excellent values particularly for top label clothing. This brief introduction is designed to help you establish where is the best places for you to target to do your bargain hunting and also how to maximise the savings that can be made.
Contains all the main department stores including Macy’s, Dillards (Florida Mall only). Bloomingdales (Millennia only) and J C Penneys (Florida Mall only). Both have a decent food court although the one at Millennia is better – plus Millennia has some really good restaurants including PF Changs, Brios and the Cheesecake Factory. If you are a wine lover you must visit TOTAL WINE – located just north of Millennia off Conroy Road. The biggest selection of wines anywhere! There is also a good range of mid to high end stores in the ever expanding Disney Springs along with a decent array of very busy restaurants.
Two slightly different shopping centres with mainly the same stores. Nike, Polo Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfigger, Timberland, Osh Kosh, Levi’s and much more. A discount booklet costing $5 is available from the Visitor Center at each Mall. Reasonable, but busy food courts. These are particularly convenient for visitors staying on International Drive as the I-Ride trolley serves both.
TIP: Go online to www.premiumoutlets.com and sign up for the “VIP Club”. It’s free of charge and will enable you to download the app plus discount coupons for both malls including one for a free copy of the booklet noted above.
Are you looking to book your Orlando holiday more than 12 months in advance?
Orlando is now available to book for travel up to 2022 through our destination specialists on 01978 853 886 (calls charged at local rate) open Mon-Fri 10.00-16.00hrs
All our holiday packages are ATOL protected, plus you can secure yours with a deposit from as little as £125pp, with the balance due just 14 weeks before your holiday begins.