With close to 300 rides under its belt, Florida isn’t known as the theme park capital of the world for nothing. And, while loads of them cater to the younger crowd, Florida’s theme parks are home to some of the highest-octane attractions on the planet. Even family favourite, Walt Disney World, has a bunch of rides with a slightly taller height restriction – you’ll drop 13 storeys on The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror™, while Rock 'n' Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith and Test Track both clock speeds of over 60 miles an hour. Meanwhile, Universal Orlando® Resort’s rides take a hi-tech turn, with innovative, award-winning attractions like Revenge of the Mummy® and Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey™. And, 2016 marks a triumphant year for SeaWorld® Orlando – they’ve just cut the ribbon on Orlando’s tallest, fastest, and longest rollercoaster, Mako™.
Forget what you heard about Route 66, because Florida is the USA’s new road trip destination of choice. With Orlando as a central base, you’ll have the manatee-filled national parks and America’s oldest city, St Augustine, to your north, plus Miami’s famous beaches and the mysterious Everglades to your south. What’s more, all Thomson holidays to the Sunshine State come with car hire included, so you can take to the open roads without breaking the bank. That said, if you’ve got some spare cash and you fancy hitting the highways in style, you can upgrade your standard car for a swankier set of wheels – it doesn’t get much more American than dropping the top of your shiny red Ford Mustang as you cruise down International Drive.
Potter around the theme parks at lunchtime, and you’ll find yourself immersed in a world of chain restaurants, famous turkey legs, and Mickey-shaped everything. But scratch Florida’s surface, and there’s a whole dining scene that’s talked about far less often than it should be. Sure, Walt Disney World has some world-class restaurants – the AAA Five Diamond Award-bearing Victoria & Alberts, for example – but it’s the surrounding towns that do the best grub. Winter Park, 15 minutes’ drive from Orlando, is home to The Ravenous Pig, an acclaimed gastropub with an ever-changing menu based on whatever local ingredients they can get their hands on. Orlando’s so-called ViMi District, meanwhile, is their Vietnamese answer to a Chinatown. Here, you can fill up on authentic south-east Asian dishes, like pho (rice noodle soup) and filled dumplings called pot stickers.
Let’s face it, there aren’t many children that enjoy being carted around a shopping centre for hours on end. But the same can’t be said for us grown-ups. Luckily, Florida is your gateway to some of the USA’s best shopping outside of the Big Apple and Beverly Hills. But wait – it gets better. Most of Central Florida’s big malls are outlet centres, where you can pick up brand name gear for a fraction of the everyday price. If you’d rather take your shopping spree up a notch, though, try out The Mall at Millenia, near the northern tip of Orlando’s famous I-Drive. You’ll come across designer stores like Burberry and Louis Vuitton, as well as more affordable options, including H&M, Urban Outfitters, and Macy’s.
Check out the videos – like this one – we shot in Florida with TalkBeckyTalk’s Becky Sheeran. And, when you’re ready, click here to book your dream holiday to the Sunshine State.
Author: Lee Dasilva
Loews Royal Pacific Resort at Universal Orlando brings a taste of Polynesia to America's Sunshine State.
Highlands Reserve has secured a spot on the edge of town – Orlando’s coast is a daytrip away.
Set on the banks of a river, Disney's Port Orleans Resort - Riverside showcases the slower-paced side to Louisiana.
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