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ABOUT CENTRAL FLORIDA

You can read extensively about Central Florida's famous theme parks elsewhere on this site, but there are other things to do in and around Orlando....

Shopping

Florida offers tremendous opportunities to buy clothes at great prices.

Premium outlets

The two branches of Orlando Prime Outlets are probably the most popular with visitors - one at the top of International Drive (used to be the Belz Mall and Pr1me One) and just off the I-4 at Vineland Road. Both offer fantastic bargains in leisure wear, although there are probably fewer sports/casual stores than there used to be and a higher proportion of fashion names - Hilfiger, Timberland, Polo Ralph Lauren, DKNY, Hugo Boss, Lacoste etc. However, great value stuff from Nike, Reebok and so forth is still available. These are factory outlets stores and the goods are perfect – in some cases, they will tend to be last year's new look, so it might not be ideal for terminal fashion victims. You can also find the cheapest (genuine) Disney-branded items here, in a couple of "character" stores. As always, there are large food court to feed you with all manner of delights while you pause in your retail frenzy.

The Florida Mall on Sand Lake road has conventional shopping on a grand scale, at slightly higher prices. All the serious designer items are here, in huge department stores with a full range of goods. It's the biggest shopping center in central Florida and does offers a far wider range of goods than the clothes-focused outlets. Owned by the same company as Premium.

Mall_at_MilleniaThe Mall at Millennia offers 150 shops with a very determined up-market approach. It is just off exit 78 of I-4, going north towards Orlando city. It is perhaps a little heavy on the wallet for vacation shopping but it's a spectacular mall and there are some good restaurants there - even the food court is worthwhile.

Branded sports wear is also very good value around Orlando, in the outlet shops and places like Sports Dominator, where you can get basketball, American football, etc., team uniforms, hats and all manner of memorabilia.


Trips and Places, Things to Do - a little bit different

De Leon SpringsNot everything about visiting central Florida is noisy and crowded - how about visiting natural hot springs in a state park and then making your own pancakes in a 200-year old mill? That's what you can do at the Old Spanish Sugar Mill at De Leon Springs State Park. You can also head a couple of miles down the road to Blue Springs State Park and (in winter) observe Manatees in the shallow, clear water of the hot springs there. There are St John's river tours here, year-round - http://www.sjrivercruises.com/, which has a daily updated Manatee count so you know how many of the massive aquatic beasts are around (they start to arrive in November). http://www.planetdeland.com/sugarmill/index.htm

 


bok towerFor an even more relaxed day out, try Bok Tower Gardens - a musical "singing tower" set in tranquil botanical gardens on the estate of one of America's best-known publishers. There are nature trails, musical performances, art exhibitions and a grand house to visit - but no religion, despite the appearance of the tower. http://boktowergardens.org/



If you've ever watched naturalists and TV presenters speeding around the lakes and swamps of Florida on flat-bottomed airboats and wondered what it would be like...well, you can find out by taking your own airboat tour. There are several companies which offer this very southern type of trip around lakes like Tohopekaliga - here's a video from one of them, Boggy Creek Airboats - http://www.bcairboats.com/

 

 

Nightlife, Dining & Fun - Highway 192 and I-Drivehighway 192

For non-style shopping, eating and night-time entertainment generally, the greatest concentration of places are:

(A) along Highway 192, the western end of which is about 3 minutes from the villa, a huge strip (15 miles long) of eateries, shops, budget hotels, dinner theatres and crazy golf. Much of it is enormously tacky, but that adds to the fun; and



I-drive

(B) International Drive, home to hundreds of bigger hotels and the Convention Center. This is generally more stylish than the 192, although the top/north end is pretty cheap 'n' cheerful. There are scores of restaurants, bars, clubs and other distractions to occupy your time here. Seaworld is located there, too. 

www.highway192kissimmee.com 

http://www.internationaldriveorlando.com

 




SportsBuccaneers_2

All of America's major professional team sports are played in central Florida:

American Football

Tampa Bay Buccaneers  www.buccaneers.com 

Basketball

Orlando Magic  www.nba.com/magic 

Baseball 

Tampa Bay Rays  http://tampabay.rays.mlb.com

Ice Hockey

Tampa Bay Lightning  www.tampabaylightning.com 


Dinner theatres

arabian-nights-cast-stars

Evening dinner performances are a big part of the Orlando experience. Spectacular and splendidly tacky, there are plenty of show restaurants, combining an elaborate meal with a themed experience, often on a huge scale: Medieval Times (a jousting tournament inside a castle), Pirate's Adventure (sword fights and stunts on a life-size pirate galleon), Capone's (1930s gangster nightclub), Arabian Nights (50 horses in a drama around a royal wedding in ancient Arabia), Hoop de Doo(cowboys – you can book two years in advance, if your life's that organised). These are colourful and spectacular - not a refined experience, but great fun, although the food 'n' drink may be a bit basic. The best reputation seems to belong to Sleuth's, on I-Drive, which is a murder-mystery whodunit (13 different plays) where you get to interview the characters and guess the murderer.

Don't forget to get your discounted tickets from an agency!

 

Golf

Golf_2

Golf is a major activity in Florida and there are dozens of top golf courses nearby, most notably the two at Greg Norman's Champions Gate complex, only a few minutes' drive away (http://www.championsgategolf.com/). Even closer is the course at Highlands Reserve, virtually across the other side of the highway from our villa (http://www.highlandsreserve-golf.com). You can find many other course listings at http://www.efloridagolf.com/golf_directory.aspx?Region=Orlando, which contains web links to about 40 local clubs and phone numbers to another 100 or so.



Books on Florida

guide to Disney

Before you go - learn more about the place, so you enjoy your vacation more. We'd recommend a general guide like The Rough Guide to Florida or Lonely Planet Florida and also something specific on theme parks: there are plenty on Walt Disney World and others on "everything apart from Disney". The best one we've found is The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World (http://touringplans.com/unofficial-guideMake sure the guides are as up-to-date as you can get, because things (especially prices!) are always moving on.

   

The Weather

The local climate is sub-tropical, which means you can expect very hot, humid summers and warm sunny winters.

www.weather.com gives the following average daytime high and overnight low temperatures for Orlando (in degrees F):In summer, it is common for it to rain in late afternoon, generally only for a short time, but you should plan not to get caught out in it, as it can be very heavy indeed. Winters are dryer.

Jan

72°F

 

50°F

 

Feb


74°F

 

51°F

 

Mar

 

79°F

 

56°F

 

Apr

 

83°F

 

60°F

 

May

 

88°F

 

66°F

 

Jun

 

91°F

 

71°F

 

Jul

 

92°F

 

73°F

 

Aug

 

92°F

 

73°F

 

Sep

 

90°F

 

72°F

 

Oct

 

85°F

 

65°F

 

Nov

 

79°F

 

59°F

 

Dec

 

73°F

 

53°F

 

 

In the middle of winter, nights can be a bit chilly, and there are occasional frosts, so wear a light jacket at those times – this is seldom necessary otherwise.

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