Despite featuring year-round sunshine, easy accessibility to the glorious sandy beaches of both the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts and some of the best places to stay in Florida – including the resorts of CLC World –Orlando’s main claim to fame remains its unparalleled collection of world-famous theme parks.
While visitors to this part of Central Florida shouldn’t pass up the opportunity to check out some of these renowned parks – such as Disney’s Magic Kingdom or Seaworld –it might be of interestto you to learnabout some of Orlando’s lesser-known holiday attractions. After all, one of these hidden gems could actually surprise you and end up being the highlight of your trip.
Here are a few examples of what this sun-soaked region of Central Florida has to offer.
Boggy Creek – Airboat Rides in the Everglades
Florida’s massive Everglades wetland is filled with a vast amount of different animal species. While it is more commonly associated with South Florida, in actuality the Everglades headwaters originate in Central Florida – within easy reach of the vacation resorts of Orlando.
Nature lovers should make a beeline straight for Boggy Creek, where you’ll be able to head directly out into the Everglades on an airboat ride. Imagine skimming across the shallow surface of the swamp lands at 45 miles per hour (72 kilometers per hour), and then slowing to almost a crawl, as you observe the stunning natural terrain and wildlife that surrounds you. Each airboat has been approved by the US Coast Guard and is piloted by an expert master captain who is knowledgeable in the best routes through this habitat and in the ways of the exotic creatures that live here.
Among the multitude of animals that call this unique ecosystem their home, there are Florida panthers, rattlesnakes, manatees, blue herons, eagles and alligators. As your airboat whisks you through the Everglades, keep your eyes open for some of the amazing sights that you’re likely to see and listen to your captain, as he points out the wonders of this incredible natural environment.
Aquatica – A Thrilling Water Park
In the warm, often humid weather of Central Florida, nothing could be more refreshing than a dip. When you add some truly pulse-pounding rides to the equation – that gives you Aquatica, the state-of-the-art water park designed by SeaWorld. Mere minutes from most of Orlando’s vacation resorts,Aquatica promises an exhilarating day of thrills and spills as you slip, slide and cavort in the cool waters beneath the sweltering tropical sun.
Shoot down clear tubes suspended in the midst of a pool filled with blackandwhiteCommerson’s dolphins,which play right alongside you, as you zip by them. Test your bravery on Ihu’s Breakaway Falls, a watery, free-fall ride that plunges you eight stomach-dropping storeys. Race seven of your friends or family members, on mats, headfirst down an insanely steep hill. If you prefer your adventure to be a bit more laid-back, surf’s up on the park’s side-by-side wave pools. Or, you can float down a lazy river as you work on your tan.
Gatorland –See Florida’s Ferocious Alligators
Fascinated by huge alligators? Then Gatorland is a can’t-miss experience. Located less than a half-hour’s drive from many of the best vacation resorts in Orlando, Gatorland bills itself as “The Alligator Capital of the World.”
See alligators at every stage of their growth process – from tiny baby hatchlings all the way up to the 14-foot (4.27-meter) giants – as they go about their business in the park’s breeding marsh. Catch glimpses of the four (out of only 12 on the planet) leucistic (pale) alligators that live at Gatorland. Marvel at these huge, incredibly rare white behemoths who stare at you from icy blue eyes.
Aside from the alligators and crocodiles that inhabit the park, there are a number of different attractions at Gatorland to pique your interest and keep the fun quotient high. Observe different types of native birds as they fly around the aviary. Soar above the alligator breeding marsh on a zip line, as the 30 gigantic alligators below follow you unnervingly with their eyes. Or go on an off-road adventure that’s been especially designed to increase your heart rate and have you smiling from ear to ear.
Kennedy Space Center – Gateway to the Moon, Planets and Beyond
For anyone who has ever dreamed about journeying into space or marveled at the iconic footage of rocket launches and astronauts walking on the surface of the moon – a visit to the Kennedy Space Center is likely to be on the very top of this list. Only 45 minutes from Orlando’s vacation resorts, this legendary place, which sits on Florida’s Atlantic coast, showcases some of the most famous NASA imagery and artifacts from the glory years of space exploration right up through the heyday of the space shuttle. Take a tour through the facilities of the Space Center, which has been the start site of many of the most well-known US space missions.
Get up close to the Space Shuttle Atlantis, which now resides in its own specialised zone at the Kennedy Space Center. Gaze at the photos and exhibits on display. And try out the simulators, which give you a taste of how it would have felt to be a crewmember onthis innovative spacecraft as it docked with the international space station and performed various tests and functions in orbit.
Watch IMAX films that take you above the earth’s atmosphere. Listen to presentations by NASA astronauts who have witnessed the earth from a vantage point beyond our atmosphere. Best of all, if you get the timing right, you could even watch a live launch – your heart beating faster as you listen to Mission Control counting down to blast off.