Orlando is home to more than just Mickey

Orlando is the ideal family vacation spot for Caymanian families. Only 350 miles from the islands, it offers more variation in temperature than Miami and contains so many attractions that it is likely you will need to come back more than a few times to see everything.

While everyone automatically thinks of Mickey Mouse and his cohorts at Disney World when the name Orlando springs to mind, other entertainment venues in Orlando have worked hard to contribute to the realm of activities that awaits families, couples and individuals alike in this fun-loving city.

Accommodation is the main concern when going on vacation. When holidaying with your family, it can prove costly and frustrating to stay in a hotel for any extended period of time. Squeezing two adults and 2.4 children into a hotel suite that is essentially just one oversized bedroom takes its toll on parents and kids alike after a short while. A popular alternative, particularly in Orlando, is the holiday rentals market – renting villas or houses for a stay anywhere from one night to one month in length.

Keith Hallas, owner of K&W Vacation Homes Inc., (www.kwvacationhomes.com), a company in Orlando that oversees the rentals for nearly 50 properties, points out the advantages of staying in self-catering accommodation.

‘It’s certainly nicer to have the freedom of supermarket shopping and making your own meal, rather than feeling like you have to eat at a restaurant every night. And the added space provides a much nicer atmosphere for the family,’ he explains.

‘Also, all our houses come with a pool outside too, which is private and can provide entertainment without having to leave your accommodation.’

Mr. Hallas’s properties are also designed with children in mind. ‘In accordance with State laws, pool homes are equipped with safety features to help parents keep their children safe; either pool doors are equipped with alarms or a child fence is fitted around the swimming pool so that kids can’t just slip outside and into the pool unattended,’ he states.

Villas come fully-furnished and are so spacious that they exceed the luxury of a hotel suite. You are given the first day of arrival at the villa to relax and then one of the management staff schedule an appointment with you the morning after arrival to get you set up for your trip. This appointment can be as brief or long as you wish, and can provide you with useful information such as directions, maps and a resident’s key tips to getting around and which hotspots to visit. These are all services you would receive at a hotel concierge desk, with an added personal touch.

If you are interested in visiting Orlando and avoiding the usual Disney World track, or at least providing your vacation with a couple of days of Mickey Mouse variation, check out the other attractions worth visiting below.

Skyventure

Ever wondered what it feels like to skydive? To jump from a plane and freefall for hundreds of feet before the release of your parachute allows you to float through the skies? One trip to Skyventure in Orlando allows you to experience this sensation without giving your mother a heart attack. In fact, your mother can do it with you, and children as young as three can fly with Skyventure, making it truly a family activity. Skyventure uses a vertical wind tunnel that allows you the chance to ‘skydive’ in 120mph winds. Many serious and experienced skydivers visit the location also, as the wind tunnel provides a great environment for learning key skills to skydiving without the distraction of falling thousands of feet through the sky. However, if it’s your first chance, prepare for an adrenaline rush! A quick lesson before your turn in the tunnel shows you the necessary hand signs and body positions that you will need to successfully float and communicate with your instructor once in the tunnel. You can even get a DVD of your experience, just as if you had gone skydiving! An appropriate and fun activity for all ages; visit www.skyventureorlando.com for more information.

Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede

Want to catch a dinner and a show? Make that two shows, and be prepared for a fun night at the rodeo with Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede. A pre-show entertains until you are led into the arena, where you are seated and fed a four-course feast while watching buffalo stampede, ostriches race and horses perform dressage. Throw in some racing chickens and pigs and you have a night at Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede. The show involves fun audience rivalry and is great for kids and adults alike, with the chance for some audience involvement also. Visit www.dixiestampede.com for more information.

Medieval Times

If you want your children to learn something while enjoying a nice evening out, Medieval Times provides the most thrilling type of history lesson. The audience is seated in coloured sections which correspond to the colour of a knight’s clothing. The premise of the show involves six knights duelling for a princess’s hand. It’s thrilling and the horsemanship is also impressive, with several dressage techniques exhibited. A fun and hands-on experience – in true medieval fashion you are to eat your dinner with only your hands – Medieval Times is an enjoyable evening. Visit www.medievaltimes.com for more information.

SeaWorld

Everyone knows SeaWorld for Shamu and the amazing dolphin shows that you can watch. These shows are no less amazing now but equally entertaining at SeaWorld are the displays of other animals that are available for viewing. If you enjoyed the film March of the Penguins, visit the Penguin Encounter, where you can watch a variety of penguin species in their ‘natural’ environment, with machine-produced snow for their comfort! Equally adorable and unexpected is the Pets Ahoy! show, featuring cats, dogs, pigs, ducks and even a skunk performing tricks taught by their devoted trainers. The show focuses on encouraging audience members to adopt their next pet from a humane society or animal shelter, which is where all of SeaWorld’s trained pets are adopted from. Of course, there is also a ride or two for those of you who are adrenaline junkies. Kraken, Orlando’s only floorless rollercoaster, turns you in so many directions at once you’ll feel as though you’re spinning in a barrel, while Journey to Atlantis plunges you down a 60-foot drop while riding a log flume…be prepared to get wet! Go ahead and spend the day being educated and entertained at SeaWorld. For more information, go to www.seaworld.com.

Kennedy Space Centre

On 6 September, 2006 the Space Shuttle Atlantis will launched its journey to the International Space Station. This launch, along with the history of previous space missions, is presented and celebrated in many forms at the Kennedy Space Centre in Orlando. The centre offers an IMAX cinema for viewing space films such as Magnificent Desolation: Walking on the Moon and Space Station 3-D, while bus tours take visitors to various spots, including the launch pad of the Atlantis space shuttle. There are chances for astronaut encounters along with fun and educational exhibits in the Astronaut’s Hall of Fame. With so many areas to explore, plan to spend a full day at the Kennedy Space Centre, and improve your child’s – and your! – knowledge of science, space exploration, and the future of our universe. For more information, visit www.kennedyspacecenter.com.

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