If there is an epi-centre for fun, excitement and imagination in the world, then it is right here in Central Florida, in the growing metropolitan area we call Orlando. The home of Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando, SeaWorld and much, much more. This is both a family holiday par excellence and a great experience for couples, as there is SO much to enjoy, much of it with a very grown-up slant these days.
Just to start with, there are more direct flights to Orlando from the UK than any other airport in Florida and it puts you right in the heart of the action. Orlando International Airport is the biggest and busiest airport in the state, while Orlando Sanford International Airport, just 30 miles north, is a handy alternative for some charter airlines. Orlando is a three-hour drive from Miami, an hour from Tampa and a little more than two hours from Jacksonville, while the Atlantic coast is only an hour’s journey to the east and the gorgeous Gulf Coast beaches are about 90 minutes’ drive west. The lower Gulf Coast area (from Bradenton down to Naples) is two to four hours away to the south-west.
Prior to Disney’s arrival, this was a rather insignificant town with its military airbase and proximity to the Kennedy Space Center as its main attributes. Since then, it has grown massively to become an entertainment colossus that now boasts world-class theme parks, hotels, restaurants, shopping and performing arts, and has huge all-round appeal as a destination for adults and children alike. But be aware this is a massively complex place to visit. There are seven full theme parks, five water parks, dozens of smaller attractions, plus huge outlet shopping centres, malls, themed resorts and plentiful nightlife, not forgetting many natural attractions, state parks, great sports – including almost 200 golf courses! – and a growing reputation for craft beers and foodie hotspots. This is not the place to walk into unprepared, so doing some holiday ‘homework’ in advance is essential!