As most of us know, Orlando is all about the theme parks. With Disney World, Universal Studios and Sea World, what else is there to do? Well the answer is a lot!
If you are heading out of Orlando in central Florida you will definitely need a car – which immediately changes it into a ROAD TRIP – Yay!
After arriving in central Florida, my friend and I headed for our villa in the rural-sounding Polk County, just north of Cougar Town (well where it is set anyway!) I now understand why so many Brits get a second home in Florida. What with the year-round sunshine, so much to do and the huge houses, why wouldn’t you.
We had a modest four-bedroom villa with pool – modest by American standards that is. With me in the front bedroom suite and my friend in the back suite we had to scream at each other to get their attention.
The first thing we decided to do, after exploring our monstrous accommodation, was take a step back in time and go on a joy ride in a biplane. We headed off to the art deco surrounds of Fantasy of Flight to get in touch with our inner Amelia Earhart.
We donned leather flying jackets, scarves, flying hat and goggles to look the part and headed into the sky for a spot of barnstorming. Luckily there weren’t too many scary stunts such as loop the loops or dives or we wouldn’t have had the stomach for lunch!
It is not just the rides that makes Fantasy of Flight a great day out though. This place is all about experiencing the history of flight. You can travel back in time (well not literally!) to discover what it was like during WWI and WWII air raids.
Kids can take control of a Corsair fighter jet in the simulator room, discover what makes planes aerodynamic or see an old plane being restored. It really is hours of fun for the whole family.
The next day we decided to keep our feet firmly on the ground and hit the shops. With the pound weak against the American dollar we set about bagging a bargain at the outlet mall. The Nike factory store sells shoes at about half of what you would pay in the UK. If you want a fabulous outfit that no one else will be wearing, make your way to the BCBG Max Azria shop. With many designer shops such as Kenneth Cole, Max Mara, Dior, Giorgio Armani and Fendi here as well as American high street stores like Banana Republic and Gap, you won’t be going home empty handed.
After an exhausting day shopping til we dropped, we decided to pick up a take-away on the way back to our villa and prepared for a relaxing night in. Of course this was made so much easier when Tina and Kathleen from A-team massage arrived at the villa. Not only did they transform our living room into a ‘day spa’, but just an hour of their healing hands had us floating for the rest of the evening.
If you are in Florida with the family, put dad in charge of the BBQ and send the kids to the pool or games room while you get some pampering! I slept like a log that night.
The next day we were ready to experience Central Florida’s lakes by going airboating with Captain Fred Neidlinger’s Airboat Tours at Camp Rosalie (863-696-1637). Captain Wayne and his wife Dee greeted us and their love of the Florida waterways is apparent as they talked us through the unique wildlife while we kept a sharp eye out for alligators and eagles – both of which we were lucky enough to see. We even got a chance to pilot the airboat itself – an experience that would satisfy any speed fiend!
It was then off to Chalet Suzanne for dinner. Apart from being a quirky homage to the owners’ European travels it also produces some magnificent soups at their own cannery. In fact their Romaine spinach and mushroom soup was so popular with astronaut James Irwin that he took it on the 1973 Apollo flight to the moon. Indulge in their five-course dinner which includes the Romaine soup in their restaurant perched over the lake, the perfect way to end the day.
Finally our holiday had come to an end but the trip home was almost as memorable as the holiday. We were lucky enough to be upgraded to Upper Class on Virgin Atlantic, which was like a mini spa in the sky. We were greeted with champagne and asked if we would like a beauty treatment on board. Later we were provided with fluffy duvets, pillows and pyjama and we settled down in our little pods for the night. I’m telling you, once we landed we had to be pried out of our seats.
By Belinda Wanis
[picture credits: http://www.flickr.com/photos/visitcentralflorida; http://www.flickr.com/photos/kissheartoffl]