Orlando may be the theme park capital of the world, but there is much more to do in the heart of Florida than just wander around a sprawling amusement park. There's art, food, nightlife, and culture. After all that, if you still have the time and energy to visit an amusement park, then I'll tip you off to the strangest offerings in Orlando that you've probably never heard of. So come with me, let's drop those bags at a hotel -- I recommend an IHG Hotel near Universal -- and then take a whirlwind weekend tour around town!
With over two dozen museums, there's something for everyone here in Orlando. Fan of sports cars? Visit the Exotic Car Gallery. Fascinated by the history of the Titanic? Visit Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition. Artwork more your thing? The Orlando Museum of Art is one of the top-rated in the city. Traveling with kids? Orlando Science Center is the place to go. Want to please the kids and the kid inside of you at the same time? Ripley's Believe It Or Not! Orlando is your answer.
Alternative: Don't like any of those? Then you'll absolutely love the Tupperware Confidence Center! Not only is it one of the most unusual museums in the entire United States, but it also wins my award for the most creative museum name ever. 100% refund if you don't leave here with more confidence in your Tupperware skills.
Ever visited an ice bar? They can be found in over 30 cities around the world and are absolutely amazing. After donning a jacket and gloves, guests are led into a frozen bar where everything is hand-carved from ice: walls, chairs, tables, glasses, decorations, and even the bar itself!
Of course, if you're visiting Florida to escape the winter back home, this might not sound like an appealing idea. However, Icebar Orlando is the largest ice bar in the world and features over 70 tons of carved ice, making it the top dog in an already exclusive club. And for that reason alone, Icebar Orlando deserves a visit on a humid evening.
Alternative: Orlando Brewing has been creating "darn good beer" for over a decade now and offers free daily tours every day of the week (except Sunday). The bar features two dozen taps, so no matter what your poison, you can go straight to the source for the freshest brew.
Given its reputation as an international family vacation destination, cuisines from around the world can be found in downtown Orlando and the theme park district of the southwest. There is no one dish or cuisine that is distinctly Orlando. However, there are some restaurants that are distinctly Orlandian.
The Cowfish is proudly the first and only burger and sushi bar in the world. Step on in and try one of the signature creations: the Burgushi. Café Tu Tu Tango fuses global recipes with a Florida twist, using only local ingredients and serving meals in an art gallery showcasing local artists.
Alternative: Can't decide? Spend a few hours on an Orlando Food Tour to eat your way around town and have a couple drinks while doing it.
Screw Walt Disney World. Go somewhere unique this trip, like Gatorland–home to all your alligator amusement needs–or better yet, the Holyland Experience–where the Bible comes to life. Hint: it's even more entertaining and over the top than the good book itself. ;)
Alternative: If neither of those sounds right for you, check out these other one-of-a-kind Orlando amusement parks.
Most people head to the sunshine state for a dose of its unrivalled surf and sand, the golf courses, and some of the world’s best theme parks and nature reserves, but Florida is also home to other great options like a variety of delicious culturally diverse foods. So if you’re looking to head down to Florida for a relaxing vacation, here are some of the top eats for you to pick from.
This delicious sandwich should be on the radar of anyone visiting southern Florida, and was originally made in cafés catering to early Cuban immigrants. It has become the signature sandwich of the city of Tampa and features Cuban bread, ham, roasted pork, Swiss cheese, pickles, mustard, and occasionally salami (as in Tampa).
Florida’s rock shrimp are a great starter or as a snack to enjoy while relaxing and having an afternoon drink. Pair them with a sweet dip, a traditional shrimp sauce, or for those looking for a bit of a kick, something spicy. Caught just off the Florida coast, they’re always fresh and tasty.
Made in the Florida Keys—nicknamed the Conch republic—these large shellfish can be baked with lemon slices and lemon juice, to produce a tender meat, not unlike ceviche. Another popular method is to chop and mix them with other meats and vegetables, then deep-fry them, which produces the crunchy and flavourful Florida style fritters.
This traditional Floridian food has been around for centuries, dating back well before colonialism. Swamp cabbage is better known as the heart of palm and is extracted from the sabal palm trees that are native to Florida. The heart of palm can be stewed until tender in a rich tomato sauce, or with water (or broth), meat, and dripping, then served up hot ready to be enjoyed.
Another dish out of the Florida Keys, Key West to be specific, this cool and refreshing pie is made from lime juice, egg yolk, and sweetened condensed milk, which is whipped, thickened, and served on a crisp crust to produce a dish that is both smooth and zesty. It’s the absolute perfect dessert for a hot Florida day.
There are many types of dishes in Florida that have roots in the Caribbean islands, using ingredients like mangos, papayas, plantains, and coconuts. These include Jamaican jerk chicken, arroz con pollo, and different style barbecues such as Cuban, Puerto Rican, and Bahamian. If you see a Caribbean influenced restaurant in Florida, odds are you’re in for a treat.
So if you’re booking your flights in the USA to Florida, remember, there are plenty of fun things to do, just remember to leave a little time to discover the delicious culinary scene. Please feel free to add your Florida food suggestions in the comments below.
Many vacationers in the United States head south during the summer months to the most southeastern state of Florida. Florida offers many exciting attractions to offer tourists during all parts of the year. With mild winters and sunny summers it's no wonder it's called "The Sunshine State." If you want to spend some days chilling out in the sun and getting a tan, here are some good recommendations for laid back hotels.
Panama City is a great place to base yourself for family and college spring breaks. Panama City Beach, or "PCB" as young party goers like to call it is adjacent to Panama City. Panama City Beach is a stone throw away from Panama City and provides vacationers with amazing beaches. For the younger crowd, there are a countless number of beach bars and clubs located on the strip. If partying and drinking the day away is not your thing, try heading into the heart of Panama City and strolling around St. Andrews State Park for some peaceful time with nature.
Located on Florida's Gulf Coast, Fort Myers provides visitors with fantastic beaches, surreal sunsets, and clear water. Known as a family destination, many visitors will flock here during spring break and the summer months to watch the waves roll in and listen to the sounds of the Atlantic Ocean To break away from the crowds head to the less populated Lovers Key State Park, located on Lover's Key. However, expect many honeymoon lover's on this white sand beach.
Image via Flickr by Matthew Straubmuller
The sunny state's largest city has plenty of places to relax at. The city has a large bustling city center that will be sure to entertain visitors, but the cities largest appeal are the barrier islands and beaches one can chill out on. The first of the islands one should head to would be Amelia Island. If you're looking to splash out and chill on a beautiful Florida beach then look no further than Fernandina Beach.
Gainesville is home to the Florida Gators or the University of Florida. If you're headed here you're likely ready to catch America's greatest sport, at one of it's best institutions for college football. There are numerous hotels to chill out here after all the day at the stadium or the something a little more relaxing such as the Butterfly Rainforest. Butterfly Forest features hundreds of different species of butterflies that is sure to impress anyone and make for a great escape.
So you have spent all your time in Florida and getting ready to pack up your vacation? A great place to get a real taste of the Southern United States is Bossier City, Lousiana. Bossier City is in the northwestern part of the state and is home to over 62,000 residents. Visitors can promenade along the Red River and pick a good hotel to set base at while exploring the Barksdale Air Force Base followed by a night of fun in one of the cities four riverboat casinos.
This post was originally published on The World Pursuit on June 11th, 2016 by Cameron and Natasha.
Travelers that want to find a combination of beauty, history, hospitality, and sunshine need to consider visiting the South. The South has something for everyone. Whether you want a taste of bourbon in Kentucky or to relax by the water in Maryland, there is a southern city that matches your needs. Check out the 5 southern cities below that have something to offer its visitors.
Lexington is the “Horse Capital of the World” and is one of the most popular cities in Kentucky. One of the must-see’s in Lexington is the Kentucky Horse Park, where you can explore a 1,200 acre facility that features museums, art exhibits, and of course, a variety of horse breeds. If you like gambling, you can bet on horse races on grounds like the Keeneland Race Course. While a lot of the popular attractions involve horses, there are non-horse activities worth checking out if you visit Lexington. One of my favorites is taking a tasting tour at a local distillery. For instance, you can try a taste of Kentucky at one of the bourbon distilleries, like the Wild Turkey or Four Roses.
If you are travelling through Louisiana, you need to stop by Cajun country and stay a few nights in Lafayette. Lafayette is a vibrant city that offers a nice combination of “country” with city-life. You can spend the day visiting Avery Island, where you can see the Tobasco factory, a bird sanctuary, and exotic animals in Jungle Gardens. After a busy day of exploring, go enjoy the local cuisine at one of the many Cajun and Creole restaurants. Want to enjoy the nightlife? Check out the bars and clubs on Jefferson Street. If you need to find a place to stay near the action, consider Studio 6 which is only a few blocks from the action.
The Sunshine State is a popular travel destination in the South. One of my favorite cities to visit is located in the heart of the state in Kissimmee, Florida. For budget travelers, you have to check out the $20 million dollar local park project, the Kissimmee Lakefront Park. You can rent pavilions, go boating, fishing, BBQ, hiking, and other low-cost outdoor activities. The real reason most people stay in Kissimmee is because of its close proximity to Walt Disney World. In fact, you can stay at an affordable Kissimmee hotel like the Vacation Village that is only about 10 minutes away from Disney World.
For travelers that enjoy getting off-the-beaten path, Norcross will be worth considering. It’s cleverly tagged “a place to imagine” because of its blend of art, music, cuisine, and history. Take a stroll down the historic downtown and stop into the Crossing Steak House for a cocktail. The real benefit to staying in Norcross is that you can find an affordable hotel and still be just a few minutes from downtown Atlanta.
Salisbury is a fun city in southeastern Maryland that offers its visitors a variety of activities. If you want a quiet place to relax, the 11 acre park on Schumaker Pond is just the spot. Grab a nice book, blanket, and a few snacks, and you can decompress in the serenity of the park. Another local favorite is the Salisbury Zoo. Admission to the zoo is free and they provide guided tours. If you are looking for a versatile city to spend a few days while traveling through Maryland, you should consider staying in Salisbury.
Summer is coming, and the beaches are calling. Whether it be on the east coast, the west coast, or the Gulf, get ready to feel the sand between your toes. These five destinations are family friendly but also offer plenty of activities that will appeal to adults of all ages--but especially those still young at heart. Get ready for a fun summer!
When it comes to overlooked family destinations, Gulf Shores should be at the top of everyone's vacation list, with 32 miles of pristine white sands. It's the home of both the Gulf State Park and the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, as well as more than half a dozen different golf courses--even a mini golf center for the kids. There's Waterville USA and the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo, not to mention a seemingly never-ending number of water-based activities in the warm Gulf waters. What are you waiting for? Get packing and come on!
The beachside Los Angeles suburb of Marina del Rey is small but beautiful. The area gets its name from the marina, which is actually the world's largest small boat marina in the world. Marina del Rey is home to over 5,000 boats and yachts, Burton Chace Park, Mother's Beach, and Fisherman's Village, which has appeared in numerous movies and TV shows over the years, including one of my favorites, Arrested Development. Other must-visit attractions include the famous Venice Beach and refreshing Yvonne B. Burke Park.
Known for its many miles of boating canals and iconic riverwalk promenade, Fort Lauderdale has long been a popular year-round destination. Besides all the obvious aquatic activities, there is a sprawling city to explore full of museums, parks, shopping districts, casinos, live music venues, delicious restaurants, and sports arenas. The area is also home to hotels of all budgets, including the immaculate Lago Mar Resort Hotel & Club for discerning travelers, as well as several more affordable chain options.
For those looking for a romantic luxury getaway, look no further than Hilton Head Island. This upscale island paradise is full of beautiful beaches, meandering rivers and streams, relaxing parks, lavish resorts, 24 sprawling golf courses, and over 350 tennis courts. While these are all perfect for couples, those traveling with children might consider checking out Disney's Hilton Head Island Resort. Located on an island within a river, this is arguably Hilton Head's most impressive resort.
Everyone in America knows the name Myrtle Beach, but the city is popular with international tourists as well. Beyond the 60 miles of soft beaches lies an exciting and fun-filled city to explore. For adventurous travelers, there are adrenaline-packed activities like NASCAR races at the Myrtle Beach Speedway, ziplining, and even skydiving. Water lovers will find that their days are full of parasailing, jet skiing, kayaking, and scuba diving. Are arts and culture more your thing? Myrtle Beach is home to a wide array of museums, historical tours, live music venues, and, of course, the Duplin Winery.
Summer? Autumn? Winter? Doesn't matter when you are headed to Florida, the weather is always great. However, why head all that way just to find yourself in another big city? The following five small towns pack a big punch when it comes to top-notch resorts and breathtaking beaches.
While Saint Augustine most definitely is not the first city that comes to mind when you think about Florida, it should be. This modest city of less than 15,000 people was founded in 1565, making Saint Augustine the oldest city in the United States. People visit not only for the beaches but also for the stunning Spanish colonial architecture. Travelers who value style and comfort above all else will want to make the Bayfront Westcott House B&B their home away from home.
Located just 25 miles from Tampa is Clearwater Beach, a popular year-round destination for anyone who needs a quick escape from the city stress, or who is in urgent need of the closest beach from the Tampa airport. The town has several times been named one of the top ten beach destinations in Florida, and for good reason. The pristine white sand beaches and bright blue cloudless days are the stuff you usually only find in movies. Beyond just water-based activities, the town also boasts several amusement parks, museums, and other family-friendly destinations.
For anyone planning to visit northwestern Florida, Panama City can be found just west of Tallahassee and has year-round perfect weather. Rather than simply having one Gulf coastline, Panama City is actually nestled slightly inland and surrounded on three sides by a large collection of rivers and bays. As one might guess, this makes the city a favorite of visitors because of the easy access to water. Trivia fact: When the Panama Canal was first constructed, the closest American port was in a town called Harrison, so the town changed its name to Panama City.
Sanibel Island is an elongated island that acts as a barrier island to Cape Coral and Fort Myers. The island is beloved not only for its massive wildlife refuges (the largest being a whopping 5,200 acres!) but also its shell-covered beaches. Combine that with its easy access via bridge to the metropolitan area, and it's no surprise that the island is perfect for families on vacation. There is also no shortage of resorts catering to both couples and families. One of the most highly reviewed is the Sanibel Island Inn, thanks to its immaculate beaches and landscaping, not to mention its amazing amenities.
The biggest, and arguably the best, destination saved for last on this list is West Palm Beach. With a population of around 100,000, the city boasts enough diverse sights, activities, restaurants, and shopping for travelers of all types and ages. Some of the favorite attractions that you must visit at least once include the Palm Beach Zoo & Conservatory and, of course, McCarthy's Wildlife Sanctuary.
Featured image via Martial Arts Nomad
There’s nothing under the sun that captures the imagination quite like outer space. With the discovery of water on Mars, the meteoric rise of Matt Damon’s new film, “The Martian”, and the impending release of the new Stars Wars flick, the universe has been, well, everywhere lately.
Back here on the earth, the closest most of us mere mortals will come to outer space is a visit to one of America’s NASA-run Space Centers: the Johnson Space Center, located in Houston, TX, and the Kennedy Space Center, in Cape Canaveral, FL. We wondered, which Space Center location's vacation price is down-to-earth and which one is other-worldly expensive?
To find out, we analyzed our 2015 data for average flight prices to each center's nearest airport from the 30 most popular airports in the U.S. and daily car rental prices, in addition to the average prices for hotel stays in Houston and Cape Canaveral. We also looked at the average ticket prices and, just for fun, how much it would cost to eat lunch with an astronaut, a program offered at both locations.
Here’s what we found it would cost, on average, a family of four for a 3-day, 2-night trip:
In other words, a family of four can save an average of $600 by choosing Space Center Houston over Cape Canaveral, most of which is saved through airfare and Space Center admission prices. Here's how that breaks down, per person:
|Avg. RT Airfare||$387 Melbourne Intl Airport (MLB)||$294 George Bush Intercontinental (IAH)|
|Avg. Nightly Hotel||$144||$116|
|Daily Admission||$50 Adult/ $40 Child||$21 Adult/ $16 Child|
|Lunch with Astronaut||$30 Adult/ $16 Child||$50 Adult/ $30 Child|
|Car Rental||From $26/ day||From $27/ day|
While this may appear like pretty steep price tag for a short vacation, both centers offer numerous discount opportunities and are generally all-inclusive. For example, Kennedy Space Center admission includes all exhibits and shows, IMAX space films, the Kennedy Space Center Bus Tour and free next-day admission to the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame when a general admission ticket is purchased. Multi-day packages that can reduce the overall price are also available.
Meanwhile, Space Center Houston offers a CityPASS if you plan to visit other Houston attractions, which allows visitors to save 50 percent on admission to Space Center Houston and four more top Houston attractions: 1) Downtown Aquarium, 2) Houston Museum of Natural Science, 3) Houston Zoo or Museum of Fine Arts, and 4) Houston Children’s Museum or Kemah Boardwalk All-Day Ride Pass. You’ll skip most ticket lines, too.
So while Space Center Houston is inarguably the less expensive of America's two NASA centers, both locations offer multiple opportunities to let your imagination (and inner-astronaut) be free from gravitational pulls for a few days.
Blast off about your Space Center story in the comments below!
Methodology: Hipmunk analyzed 2015 data for average airfare prices to MLB and IAH from the 30 most popular U.S. airports, as well as average nightly hotel prices in both Houston and Cape Canaveral. Car rental prices were the lowest recent price posted on Hipmunk.com departing and returning to MLB and IAH, respectively. All other data was found on each Space Center's website. As always, airfare, hotel, and car rental prices frequently change and Hipmunk does not guarantee that the prices listed in this story reflect what is currently available.
This article was posted on Hipmunk's Tailwind blog by The Hipmunk on November 11th.
Eager to take a long overdue romantic getaway to Miami? It's no problem finding someone to watch over the kids for a weekend but what about your favorite four-legged friend? Obviously they have to come with! Thankfully there are plenty of charming great pet-friendly hotels in Miami Beach.
Plush carpet. Spacious bathrooms. Sparkling fixtures and furniture. The name of this downtown Miami hotel describes it in one word: EPIC. I am nervous just wearing my shoes or drinking wine over the carpet around friends' places this nice; I would certainly never think it acceptable to bring a pet somewhere like this. However the EPIC not only is allows pets they even encourage them by never charging a pet fee or size limitation. Add in an amazing view and delicious restaurant and it's a wonder that EPIC is so aptly named.
Located right on the highway outside the airport, Sofitel is the perfect pet-friendly hotel for anyone in transit. However it by no means looks or feels like an airport hotel. Instead Sofitel exudes a unique charm thanks to it's stylish design that features just a touch of that modern Paris feel. Plus what they lack in beachfront view they more than make up for with their jaw-dropping view of the downtown Miami skyline. Although they do charge a $300 deposit per pet, it is 100% refundable as long as Fido doesn't destroy the place.
Another option for visitors that prefer the calm and quite located a few miles south of the heart of Miami is Fortune House. The hotel has an amazing few and rooms with balconies, if so desired. They are the perfect place to enjoy a bottle of wine while watching basking in the sun set. Fortune House is one of the best options for longer vacations thanks to their extended stay discount and tranquil surroundings.
When nothing but the absolute best will do for you and your furry family members, the Viceroy is the only hotel in Miami to consider. Impeccable style, impressive views and an infinity pool -- all three of which can be enjoyed simultaneously on the 15th floor -- are just a few of the many things that the Viceroy has to brag about. A world class spa, top-notch dining with a seemingly endless wine choices and delectable cocktails, the hardest thing about staying at the Viceroy is leaving. However if you have to enquire as to what their pet fee is, this might not be the best hotel for you.
For the budget conscious traveler, Miami also have several pet-friendly options that will give you everything you need to feel at home on the road without any of those excess frills. Red South Beach is located just across the causeway in Miami Beach and their prices cannot be beat. Definitely the best pet-friendly lodging and an ocean view within twenty miles. Extended Stay America also has a Miami location that is perfect for the family on the road.
When people think of Orlando they think of Walt Disney World first and of all the other theme parks dotting the horizon second. This is the "Theme Park Capital of the World," home to so many that there is a Top 10 list just of the best Orlando theme parks! (I don't even think there were ten in my home state.)
Most of the big name establishments are owned by Disney or Universal Studios, and thanks to the deep pockets of their marketing departments the masses have been led away. Meanwhile Orlando's best offbeat theme parks, the overlooked ones paying homage to religious history and non-cartoon characters, are ready, eagerly awaiting an opportunity to entertain you and me. So come with me, let's get off the beaten path in Orlando and see what we see!
Equally entertaining to both religious folks and those a little less theologically certain — perhaps even more so for the latter — the Holy Land Experience is exactly what it sounds like: a real-life Christian historical museum. Its 15 acres are filled with biblical reenactments, religious shows and presentations, live music, specialty shops, and nonsectarian research library.
Gatorland might not be the most obscure or unknown attraction in Orlando; however, it is definitely the most fun! This gigantic 110-acre theme park and wildlife preserve is also the self-proclaimed "Alligator Capital of the World" — but seriously, who out there is going to challenge that title? Open every day of the year, Gatorland has dozens of shows, sights, and experiences such as Gator Wrastlin' and Gator Leapin'. It is the perfect daytime activity for the entire family.
The Ripley's name has long been synonymous with oddities and offbeat items. After all, they don't they call their museums "odditoriums" for nothing! I've visited several Ripley's in cities around the US, and they are nothing if not peculiar, even a tad disturbing at times. In addition to the usual tribal oddities, torture devices, shrunken heads, and other downright baffling objects, Ripley's Believe It Or Not! Orlando is known for its fertility statues, which are purported to have helped over 2,500 women become pregnant. Oh, and the spinning vortex tunnel is pretty neat.
If such a thing as an educational amusement park could ever be said to exist, that would be WonderWorks. With over 100 interactive exhibits, visitors can get their knowledge on first, and then go upstairs to the basement (yes, I said that correctly — have you seen this building yet?) for all the exciting hands-on games and amusements, such as laser tag.
No other dinner show can compare to this one. Guests are transported back to medieval times to enjoy a feast inside a castle as the knights joust. Sound familiar? Yes, Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament is the same restaurant from the old Jim Carrey movie, The Cable Guy. Two decades later, they are still going strong and the show is still as entertaining as ever! It's a definite "must" for any quirky travelers to Orlando.
Worried all these amusement parks and activities will break the bank? Browse cheap Orlando hotels via Hipmunk and save as much green as possible for having fun!More HoliDaze Offbeat Travel Guides
I have been an adrenaline junkie as far back as I can remember... having already gone skydiving, bungee jumping and hang gliding to name a few... I am still seeking my next rush!! My little sister has been asking me to come on an adventure for a while now, eager to one day skydive with me. I am however, not prepared to jump out of a plane with my sister just yet. So I brought her, as test, to the World's Tallest Slingshot in Orlando, Florida to see if she was really ready to roll with the "Big Dogs"!
Looking at this slingshot, it really doesn't seem too bad. However, being thrown into the air well... let's just say that's another story. I am pretty sure my eyes rolled into the back of my head, but overall it was an enjoyable experience for just 25 bucks!!!
After viewing the video, I must say my little sister is definitely on her way to being able to handle some of my adventures. Who knows.. Maybe even skydive! I chose to refrain from commenting on my friend sitting next to me and my sister... I think he embarrassed himself enough in the video... don't you think? After all, we definitely couldn't see Jamaica from the slingshot. :)
So, if you desire a quick thrill without paying a whole bunch of money... Check out the Slingshot. There are tons of other videos of celebrities doing it, and some people even fainting (check on youtube)... So don't take it lightly.
Nonetheless, I found that my sister may have what it takes to be a part of my adventures and I checked something off my bucket list!! 2 birds with 1 stone! #boom #winning