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Plan Your Orlando Vacation

Most Orlando locals look at the theme parks as they would an unruly neighbor: it's big and loud, but it keeps a nice lawn (and they secretly love them). Central Florida's many theme parks can become overpowering for even the most enthusiastic visitor, and that's when an excursion into the "other" Orlando—the one the locals know and love—is in order.

There are ample opportunities for day trips. If the outdoors is your thing, you can swim or canoe at Wekiwa Springs State Park or one of the area's many other sparkling springs, where the water remains a refreshing 72°F no matter how hot the day. Alternatively, you can hike, horseback ride, canoe, and camp in the Ocala National Forest.

If museums are your thing, charming Winter Park has the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art with its huge collection of Tiffany glass. While in Winter Park, you can indulge in some high-end shopping and dining on Park Avenue or take a leisurely boat tour of the lakefront homes.

Got kids to educate and entertain? Check out WonderWorks or the Orlando Science Center, where you can view live gators and turtles. Even more live gators (some as long as 14 feet) can be viewed or fed (or even eaten) at Gatorland, just south of Orlando.

Do the kids prefer rockets and astronauts? Don't miss a day trip to Kennedy Space Center, where you can tour a rocket forest, sit in a space capsule, or see a space shuttle up close.

Kissimmee is a 19th-century cattle town south of Orlando that proudly hangs on to its roots with a twice-yearly rodeo where real cowboys ride bulls and rope cattle. The town sits on Lake Tohopekaliga, a favorite spot for airboat rides or fishing trips.

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Top Reasons To Go

  1. Magic and fantasy Unleash your inner child, in the glow of Cinderella Castle, at WDW’s Magic Kingdom. Fireworks transform the night skies—and you—at this park and at Epcot. And, over at Universal Orlando we have just, two words Harry Potter.
  2. Around the world Visit Epcot’s 11 countries, complete with perfect replicas of foreign monuments, unique crafts, and traditional cuisine.
  3. Amazing animals Safari through Africa in Disney’s Animal Kingdom, get splashed by Shamu at SeaWorld, kiss a dolphin at Discovery Cove, and watch gators wrestle at Gatorland.
  4. Shopping ops Hit the national chains at Orlando’s upscale malls, or browse Winter Park’s unique Park Avenue boutiques. Don’t forget the mouse ears Main Street U.S.A. and Downtown Disney are filled with the best classic souvenirs and some quirkier items as well.

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