Orlando: Family-friendly fun and much more

April 1, 2014

The AUA returns to Orlando-one of the nation’s most family-friendly, fun cities-for its 2014 annual meeting, May 16-21. Although this central Florida town is most frequently associated with a certain beloved mouse-and Disney’s many parks are well worth a visit, regardless of your age-there are plenty of other activities to make all ages smile.

The AUA returns to Orlando-one of the nation’s most family-friendly, fun cities-for its 2014 annual meeting, May 16-21. Although this central Florida town is most frequently associated with a certain beloved mouse-and Disney’s many parks are well worth a visit, regardless of your age-there are plenty of other activities to make all ages smile.

In addition to long-time favorites like SeaWorld, the magical Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando Resort opened in June 2010, and in October 2011, LEGOLAND Florida made its debut.

Orlando offers a lot more than just theme parks, however. Its many activities also include shopping, dining, unique attractions, and outdoor fun.

Shopping

One popular shopping spot is the Southeast’s largest outlet destination, Orlando Premium Outlets. The outlet chain has two locations, at opposite ends of International Drive, with more than 300 stores combined.

A fun stop for mall lovers is The Mall at Millenia, which has the area’s only Bloomingdale’s and Neiman Marcus (although the latter has a Neiman Marcus–Last Call outlet location at Orlando Premium Outlets). Another popular spot is The Florida Mall, the area’s largest, with more than 250 stores and an on-site hotel.

Outdoor shopping can be found in many places, including the tree-lined Park Avenue, Winter Park, which offers several cobblestoned blocks filled with boutiques, outdoor cafes, and art galleries. Antique lovers can peruse Orlando’s antiques row on Orange Avenue near downtown or the famous Renninger’s Twin Markets (Antique Center and Farmer’s & Flea Market), two weekend markets with more than 180 shops in Mount Dora.

Continue to next page for more of the Orlando guide.

 

Dining/nightlife

When you are hungry, Restaurant Row is a 1-mile stretch of dozens of dining options on Sand Lake Road, a couple miles north of the Orange County Convention Center. It offers everything from family-friendly eateries to fine-dining restaurants.

Large groups will find lots to choose from at Orlando’s many entertainment complexes. Universal CityWalk at Universal Orlando Resort,Downtown Disney at Walt Disney World Resort,and Pointe Orlando on International Drive all offer dining, entertainment, and nightlife in one location.

Orlando also has many options for live music, including House of Blues Orlando at Downtown Disney,Hard Rock Live Orlando at Universal Orlando Resort, and BB King’s Blues Club at Pointe Orlando. Venture downtown and find big-name acts at the Amway Center (Cher is performing May 16 at 8 pm) or discover a new band at indie venues like Backbooth.

Families looking for special entertainment at mealtime can choose from dinner shows including Pirate’s Dinner Adventure,Sleuths Mystery Dinner Shows, and Medieval Times, as well as luaus at SeaWorld Orlando, Disney’s Polynesian Resort,and Loews Royal Pacific Resort at Universal Orlando Resort.

Adults can find a big laugh at one of the city’s comedy clubs, including the Orlando Improv Comedy Club & Dinner Theater at Pointe Orlando, Sak Comedy Lab in downtown, and Bonkerz Comedy Club at various locations around the city.

Attractions

Orlando has many unique experiences outside of the theme parks. For example, you can get close to wildlife at Gatorland, take a ride on a zip-line, drive go-karts, try indoor skydiving, or explore a winery. You can also catch shows by artists such as Cirque de Soleil or Blue Man Group, or visit one of Orlando’s many dinner theaters.

Here are a few other activities you might not always think of when you consider visiting Orlando:

  • Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens:This park has more than 400 animals, 23 acres of native gardens, an Insect Zoo and Reptile House, a children’s zoo with animals you can feed and pet, a splash playground, and educational demonstrations.

  • Fantasy of Flight: This attraction features more than 40 rare aircraft, flight simulators, interactive exhibits, daily aerial demonstrations, and backlot tours.

  • Orlando Science Center: Explore hands-on exhibits, enjoy live programs, see a giant-screen film, or experience seasonal skywatching in the observatory.

 

Outdoor activities

Don’t forget that Orlando offers kayaking and canoeing, wildlife viewing, birding tours, manatee-spotting trips, hot air ballooning, horseback riding, and, of course, golf.

Orlando has more than 170 golf courses, 20 golf academies, and some of the world’s most prestigious tournaments. It was voted the “North American Golf Destination of the Year” by the International Association of Golf Tour Operators in 2010. And with a multitude of great courses designed by the likes of Nicklaus, Dye, and Fazio, die-hard golfers will definitely want to bring their clubs.

Tips for first-time visitors

Great entertainment tips for first-time visitors to the greater Orlando area abound at www.VisitOrlando.com. Among the highlights:

  • The closest beaches are Cocoa Beach, Canaveral National Seashore, and Daytona Beach, all about an hour-and-a-half drive. Cocoa Beach can be reached via Toll Road 528. Canaveral National Seashore can be accessed via SR 50 east to US1. Daytona Beach can be accessed via Interstate 4 (I-4) East. The more-tranquil beaches of the Gulf of Mexico, such as St. Pete Beach,Clearwater Beach, and Tarpon Springs, are about a 2-hour drive via Interstate 4.

  • Orlando’s major theme parks are all located within about a 15-mile radius. Walt Disney World Resort is in Lake Buena Vista, about 20 miles southwest of downtown Orlando. Universal Orlando Resortand SeaWorld Orlando are located within the International Drive resort area, about 13 miles northeast of Lake Buena Vista and 10 miles southwest of downtown. Many hotels offer shuttle service to them.

  • Get the best deal on theme park tickets by buying ahead of time. One place to get them is www.VisitOrlando.com.

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