|Once upon a time, you could see all or most of Walt
Disney World in a day or two. Now you need at least a week?and thats
if you're moving at a rapid pace. With four major theme parks sprawling
across the Walt Disney Worlds vast acreage, planning a visit here
requires the tactical planning of a top sergeant. Not only are there
all those parks?Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney-MGM and the Animal Kingdom?but
WDW also has golf courses, nightclubs and restaurants galore, including
gourmet havens, water parks, a zillion shops, games rooms, the continuously
running Cirque du Soleil, and much, much more?you can even get married
there and head off into the sunset in Cinderellas pumpkin coach!
Right down the road, Universal Studios, with its two parks, can keep
you amused for a couple of days, at least. And more than 70 other
attractions in Central Florida?Sea World, Cypress Gardens, Wet 'n
Wild, themed dinner shows, and more?can keep you busy for months.
So, "doing" the parks requires a planning session?and
when you're "parked" out, many other diversions still
await to entertain and amuse.
Beyond the theme parks
There is more to Central Florida than Orlando. Heres a look at
some other intriguing places to visit.
As you travel south on U.S. 27, the terrain changes from the
flatlands of Orlando to rolling hills. Set among them is this
lovely, small town nestled into vast acres of citrus fields
about 50 miles from Orlando. A glittering lake provides a
backdrop for this village that has retained its most charming
characteristics by preserving and upgrading historic structures.
Bok Tower towers over Lake Wales in lacy glory, and its carillon
rings across the hills every half hour with a 45-minute recital
each afternoon. Lake Wales also plays host each winter to the
Black Hills Passion Play, an outdoor depiction of the final
weeks in the life of Christ.
So sprawling is Orlando now that this lovely little town about
nine miles away almost qualifies as a suburb. No one here would
much like that definition, however, and, indeed, Winter Park is
light years from the neon and plastic of the theme park sector
of Orlando. Tree-lined Park Avenue, the towns main street, is
one of the states poshest shopping boulevards, ranking in charm,
elegance, dining and entertainment with Palm Beachs Worth Avenue
and Fort Lauderdales Las Olas Boulevard. Rollins Colleges pretty
campus is here, and so is an eye-boggling collection of Louis
Comfort Tiffanys spectacular stained glass creations, displayed
in its own museum. To add to the allure, Winter Parks
restaurants are renowned in the region, both for beauty and
Stretched out all around you here are stubby green trees, but nestled
in their dark-green leaves are the orange and gold orbs of Floridas
most important crop?oranges, grapefruit and other citrus that rolls
away from these hills at the rate of more than ten million boxes a
year. Winter Haven is also the home of lovely Cypress Gardens, where
champion waterskiers whizz around a cypress- rimmed lake and damsels
in ante-bellum hoop skirts add colorful pointillist touches to acres
of manicured grounds awash in rainbow-hued blossoms. One of the most
photogenic spots in Florida, Cypress Gardens?and Winter Haven?are
about 47 miles from Orlando.
Many charter flights from the UK and Europe arrive at the
airport in this small rural town 23 miles from Orlando. From
here, too, begins a popular boat journey aboard the Riverboat
Romance that sails on the St. Johns River, long the mercantile
backbone of north Florida and a river unusual in its own
right?it flows north! Here, too, you can hop into a canoe and
paddle down the scenic Wekiva River.
A favorite stop at Halloween, this tiny village 30 miles from
Orlando is tucked among cypress trees dripping Spanish moss.
Since 1875, this area has been a center for psychics. Today,
you'll see small signs outside many homes announcing the
presence therein of a medium, all of them quite serious about
their calling, and all registered by the National Spiritualist
Association of Churches. Whether or not you're interested in
contacting the late, lamented Uncle Harry, a ride through this
tiny town offers you an opportunity to revel in a little bit of
old Florida at its somnolent, scenic best.
Town and gown unite in this village that is home to the handsome
pillared and porticoed architecture of Stetson University.
Deland, about 35 miles from Orlando, is worth the drive, if just
to roam through the grounds of this shady, old-world campus. De
Leon Springs State Recreation Area sports an old Spanish sugar
mill and a popular swimming hole.
If you never met an antique you didn't love, head straight to
Micanopy (pronounced Mick-ah-NO-pea) where the towns single
street is lined with antique shops. Sprouting from an 1821
trading post, Micanopy, its boosters say, can trace its history
back to Seminole Chief Micanopy, who is said to have dispensed
his wisdom from a spot under the moss-draped oaks. A number of
artisans have settled here in recent years, and the towns only
street, Colokka Boulevard, boasts a cluster of handsome brick
buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Micanopy lies 95 miles northwest of Orlando and just south of
Quaint and pretty, this snug village is renowned for its
resemblance to cozy New England enclaves. Several times a year,
a local antiques dealer, Renningers, sponsors a memorable show
and sale, with the largest taking place in November. Mount Doras
about 25 miles southwest of Deland and about 25 miles north of
Veggie lover alert! Winter vegetables that appear on tables all
along the Eastern Seaboard get their start in this village 27
miles from Orlando. An annual Sweet Corn Festival in May
celebrates the spring vegetable harvest that also includes
carrots, lettuce, cauliflower and radishes.
For those who worship the growl of a well-tuned engine roaring
along at 150 miles per hour or so, Sebring is the place to be in
March, when some of the worlds greatest racecar drivers tear
around the track at the annual 12-hour Sebring International
Grand Prix of Endurance. Sebring is 86 miles south of Orlando,
and its rolling hills and sparkling lakes make it a wonderful
backroads detour if you're in th area.
Altamonte Springs, about nine miles north of Orlando, is popular for
a huge mall that bears the name of the town, some good restaurants,
and the tiny neighboring town of Longwood, which has a number of attractive