Virtually synonymous with Walt Disney World and other attractions both large (Universal Studios, Sea World) and relatively small (Gatorland, Ripley's Believe It or Not), the Orlando area is the world’s most popular family-friendly destination, luring more than 50 million amusement seekers each year. But there’s more to this large Central Florida city: botanical gardens, the definitive Tiffany glass collection at the Morse Museum, watersports on dozens of lakes and golf on 20 area courses. Away from the theme parks, Orlando shows off its bohemian side in the funky shops of the nearby Milk District, while nightlife is focused on the downtown bars and pubs of Central Boulevard, Orange Avenue and the Thornton Park District.
This central Florida city outdoes every other destination on the East Coast in terms of its family vacation offerings. Orlando boasts four Disney parks (Hollywood Studios, Epcot Center, Animal Kingdom, Magic Kingdom) and two Universal parks (Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure). Other amusement parks include SeaWorld, Wet 'n Wild, and the limited-entry (and therefore less hectic) Discovery Cove, known for its dolphin swims. Get behind the wheel of a race car at the Daytona 500 Experience. Travel to the coast to visit Kennedy Space Center and Cocoa Beach, the East Coast surf capital. Wakeboarding is huge in Florida; learn the basics at Orlando Wakeboard Academy. For slightly less strenuous activity, check out the Orlando Premium Outlets for bargain designer-brand shopping. Seasonally, Major League Baseball spring training is a big draw. Dinner shows are very popular due to their all-ages appeal. The three big ones are Pirate's Dinner Adventure, Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament, and Sleuths Mystery Dinner Show. For live performance in a theater setting, Blue Man Group and Cirque du Soleil are in permanent residence. Or, for a real Orlando experience, catch an Orlando Magic game at Amway Arena.