International Drive doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to things to do. Hop aboard one of the iconic pine-coloured I-Ride Trolleys, and eye up all of the options as you coast from one end to the other.
As you head from top-to-bottom, you’ll pass themed minigolf courses, a Titanic museum and a giant slingshot ride to start with. Restaurants range from fast food to super-swanky, and there are souvenir shops by the bucketload – they’re a great spot for discount t-shirts and any novelty Florida gifts.
The upside-down world of WonderWorks and Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Orlando are popular picks, and the iFLY skydiving centre scores highly on the thrill scale. The biggest attention-grabber on this bustling belt of attractions is the Orlando Eye, though. Just as its name suggests, it’s like a stateside sibling to London’s whopping riverside observation wheel. Take a ride, and you’ll spy Universal Orlando Resort™ close by and Disney parks in the distance.
If your dollars are weighing down your jazziest pair of Hawaiian holiday shorts, the mall’s a great place to part with a wad of bills. There are a few options around here which boast a three-figure tally of shops and restaurants, including Orlando International Premium Outlets and Pointe Orlando.
We’ve got our eye on the Mall at Millenia, which occupies a spot between I-Drive and the heart of Orlando. You can pick up designer buys at Michael Kors, Louis Vuitton and Gucci, or something a little more middle-of-the-road at Urban Outfitters or Macy’s. Just remember to leave enough room in your case.
What the heart of Orlando might lack in roller coasters and multi-coloured characters it more than makes up for in sights. Sports fans can pay a visit to the city’s two premier sports stadiums – Orlando City’s purple-tinted arena is the newer of the two, and the nearby Amway Center hosts everything from Orlando Magic’s basketball games to global music stars like Taylor Swift and Bon Jovi. Downtown Orlando, meanwhile, delivers a glut of art galleries, smart restaurants and bars that spring to life after dark.
Keep exploring, and you’ll reach a pocket of nature among the modern skyline. Lake Eola’s like the Central Park of Orlando, and you can pedal swan boats across the water from a picturesque jetty. A Sunday market pops up close to the waterside every week, selling artisan breads, fresh fruit and handmade crafts. Further afield, the museums and golf courses of Winter Park are ideal for a slow-paced day out.
As it’s not technically in Orlando, this one’s cheating a little, but no visit to Florida’s complete without a day’s jaunt to one of the beaches. Blue Flags are in good supply on both coastlines, and there are a couple of sandy sweeps that count themselves among the best sunbathing spots in the world. One of those is squeaky clean Clearwater Beach, where a chunky throng of dove-white sand draws sunseekers like kids to an ice-cream van.
It’s an hour and a half’s drive to get there, but the scenic drive’s definitely worth it. You’ll cross huge lagoons and pass bustling marinas before reaching the seafront, where those in the know make a beeline for the pier. It’s where you’ll find chirpy boardwalk magicians and quirky craft stalls. The sand on either side’s roomy enough for even the biggest crowds, too. If all that relaxing leaves you feeling peckish, there’s a tonne of places to pick from within 10 minutes’ walk.
Close to the major theme parks and set in a 48-acre garden dotted with palms and lagoons, the is both sprawling and modern.
If you want to add a luxury edge to your Florida break, the Vista Cay Resort by Millenium is just the ticket. It’s got an Italian design, tropical gardens, and the theme parks are only 10 minutes’ away by car.
Stay right where the action is at the Rosen Inn at Pointe Orlando. There’s a shuttle to the theme parks, 3 swimming pools and you’re only a few hours’ drive to all of the spooky action.
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