Sparks for the Family in Orlando & Fun Side Trips

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Let’s face it — Orlando, Florida is one of the fun capitals of the world where we can all have a guilt-free “second childhood” for a few days and makes a great family travel escape.

Home to the iconic Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando with their own theme parks and water parks, there is also the unique and amazing Discovery Cove, as well as gorgeous beaches like Cocoa Beach and New Smyrna Beach about an hour’s drive east of the city. And, because Florida is a narrow state you only have to drive 2 hours west to visit the equally lovely Clearwater Beach on the Gulf of Mexico, passing the city of Tampa on the way.

If you are interested in space exploration the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is also only an hour’s drive directly east of Orlando on the Atlantic Coast. It has interactive displays, movies and exhibits on the complete history of space flight, bus tours of historic and current launch sites, and you get up close and personal to the actual space shuttle Atlantis.

Epcot Center in Orlando Florida

Epcot Center at night

From Orlando, you can do side trips to to Daytona International Speedway, famous for the Nascar Daytona 500 race which will be held in 2018 on February 18th. Of course there are lots of other race meets throughout the year so check out the schedule. You can now explore the new Motorsports Hall of Fame of America when you visit the Speedway.

It showcases all forms of motor sports and has an exception array of cars, motorcycles, drag cars, land speed record holders and powerboats. There is also the bonus of the fabulous Daytona Beach only 15 mins drive from the speedway. You really can’t go wrong with all the action-packed family options available to choose from in the Orlando area.

Most of the theme and water parks in Orlando are owned and managed by three of the majors players in the entertainment business: Disney, Universal and Sea World. Many people choose to stay onsite at either Walt Disney World Resort or Universal Orlando Resort, but it is not mandatory to do so. For example there are accommodation options to suit all at Lake Buena Vista , which is near entrance to Disney World in Orlando.

Walt Disney World in Orlando

Hotels on International Drive in Orlando are close to Sea World, Universal Orlando Resort and Universal’s brand new water park Volcano Bay, for those without a car. An advantage of staying within the Universal Resort complex is that you are allowed early admission into a theme park of your choosing, 1 hour before “outsiders”. Walt Disney World has a similar arrangement as well.

If you are a fan of wildlife and like the idea of a relaxed waterpark where you can swim in close but safe proximity to dolphins, sting rays and tiger sharks, then Discovery Cove is the place for you and me alike. Entry is all-inclusive too so food, beverages, lockers, towels, use of snorkels and wet suits, sunscreen and most things you’ll need are free once you’ve paid the price of admission. If you have more time, drive south to Miami and explore the awesome Miami Zoo.

It’s the only zoo in a tropical setting in North America and gets great reviews. For an even more intimate experience take a tour of the Zoological Wildlife Foundation in Miami. It places a big emphasis on educating the public about rare and endangered animal species and visits are by appointment only so you need to book ahead and can do so online.

The best time of the year to holiday in Florida is during the dry season of November through April, when it is consistently sunny and warm, but without the excessive humidity, heat and frequent rainfall of the wet season (May-October). Visiting during the “dry” months will also ensure you avoid the Hurricane season.

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