Celebration (13.8 miles:- 18 minutes)
Celebration is a small town with a population of around 7,500 which was originally developed by the Walt Disney Company 18 years ago. Disney has since divested most of its control of the town but the touch of Disney is still unmistakeable.
We have visited Celebration on the last two occasions that we have been over in Florida and it is without doubt one of our favourite places to spend time having a meal, walk and an ice cream! The drive through Celebration to its town centre is a pleasure in itself looking at the colonial style homes. There is a large free car park just off the main high street behind the shops and fire station.
The town centre which is centred around a very pretty lake is lined with small cafes, bars, restaurants and boutiques. There is even a cinema. On the first occasion that we went, we bought a delicious sandwich each from the deli and then took them down to the edge of the lake which has cute little wooden rocking chairs and benches dotted around it which are perfect for enjoying the sun and the view. There are baby gators and terrapins in the lake and a lot of bird life. We loved seeing an osprey fly overhead with a fish in its mouth.
There are walking and biking trails and bikes can also be hired at the far side of the lake behind the Bohemian Hotel.
Definitely not to be missed is the amazing ice cream parlour which has all types of ice cream and confectionary on sale to tempt you with. Perfect to take your ice cream and sit by the water fountain outside, which children love to play in and avoid getting wet, as it fires jets of water in to the air.
Kennedy Space Centre, Cape Canaveral (74.5 miles:- 1 hour 19 minutes)
Kennedy Space Centre at Cape Canaveral on the Atlantic Coast is a fun, educational, entertaining awe-inspiring day for all ages.
Visit NASA's launch complex, the astronaut hall of fame or if you are really lucky and there at the right time, even a rocket launch!
You can learn first-hand about the first space mission, look around the launch sites and see the shuttle and Apollo rockets up close. Enjoy the new IMAX 3D shows, simulators and various tours. One tour includes a chef prepared buffet lunch in the company of an astronaut from whom you will hear stories about what life in space is really like, from someone who has actually been there and experienced it.
We had a day at the Space Centre when we were staying at our villa in November with 5 friends, all adults. It took just over an hour by car and it was a pleasant journey, quiet motorway all the way and no hold ups. It was the first time we had visited this attraction in about 12 years and what an amazing difference! All of us were completely enthralled and the quality of the exhibits and attractions was outstanding. It was one of the highlights of our two week holiday for us all and I would very much recommend a visit.
As Kennedy Space Centre is on the cape at Cape Canaveral which is a nature reserve there is even the chance to spot some wildlife such as dolphins and gators.
Click here to find out the next space launch
Winter Park (38.5 miles:- 1 hour)
Winter Park, situated north of Orlando is a beautiful arts and culture filled city and was highly recommended to us by a friend living in Orlando as a great place for a day out. We have visited on each of the last occasions that we have been in the area as it is a relaxing place to go to stroll along the small shops, and enjoy a meal at a table on the pavement that is lined with family run cafes and restaurants. The feel of Winter Park with its alfresco dining and style of architecture is very European.
Park Avenue which is the main artery running through Winter Garden runs from Rollins College at one end to the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of Natural Art at the other end.
You will find a delightful mix of family owned jewellery shops, cafes, restaurants and boutiques alongside other larger stores such as Pottery Barn, all of which are lovely to browse around. There is even a cigar shop which is interesting even just for the rich smell coming from it.
There are more than 70 parks in Winter Park and throughout the year they host various events and festivals. The Central Park Rose Garden which is across the road from the restaurants on Park Avenue has a railway line running straight through the middle of it and a station where passengers catch the Amtrak trains. It is quite surreal seeing and hearing these large trains going through the middle of such a pretty place and we always take a walk over to the station to have a closer look.
Winter Park Scenic Boat Tours can be taken from the dock at the east end of Morse Street (about 5 minute's walk from Park Avenue). Here you can take a very pleasant boat tour that goes across three of the seven lakes on the Winter Park chain and enjoy views not just of the impressive buildings in the area but wildlife too.
Winter Park is also very well known for its Farmer's Market which is located two blocks west from Park Avenue. It is the number 1 produce and plant market in Central Florida. Held every Saturday morning throughout the year from 7 am until 1pm except the 3rd Saturday in March when it is closed for the Winter Park Sidewalk Art Festival.
Gatorland (18.6 miles:-29 minutes)
Gatorland is over 60 years old now and is still a family run, privately owned business. It covers 110 acres and is a blend between a theme park and a wildlife preserve. Known as the Alligator Capitol of the world, here you will experience at close hand, not just alligators but also crocodiles, snakes, turtles and other reptiles.
There is a free flight aviary, a petting zoo, shows, the natural alligator breeding marsh and for those wanting a thrill high above the tree tops there is the Screamin' Gator Zip Line.
The zip line was voted by AOL travel as the best in the USA and you can enjoy the fun and thrill of flying high above the park and over the alligator breeding marsh as you travel along the 1,200 feet of the zip line, with the added knowledge that as you do so there are 130 giant alligators looking up at you from below as you soar overhead.
You can pay for additional activities such as a behind the scenes opportunity to be a trainer for the day during which you will really be able to get up close and personal to these unique creatures at Gatorland.
There are a few places to eat while you are in the park such as Pearl's Smokehouse, a snack bar and Fudge Kitchen.
As Gatorland is situated quite near to the airport it can be a good place to visit on your last day when you have checked out of your villa and are heading north to the airport.
International Drive (22.9 miles: 28 minutes)
It is quite hard to know where to even start describing International Drive, or I-Drive as it is also known as, because it encompasses so many attractions.
It is one of the main thoroughfares through Orlando, and as such can be very busy. I-Drive offers visitors a vast range of entertainment, dining, shopping and world class attractions including six of the key theme parks of Orlando.
The key theme parks that are found along I-Drive are Seaworld, Discovery Cove, Aquatica, Wet-n-Wild, Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure.
In addition there are a whole host of other attractions such as Madame Tussauds, Ripley's Believe it Or Not, Pirate's Cove Adventure Golf , Dinner Shows, Night Clubs, a multiscreen Cineplex with IMAX.
You can buy a Combopass for four I-Drive attractions, known as the I-Drive Four Pass which gives access to the following experiences at a cost of $74.99 + tax per adult and $54.99 per child aged 3-12. The four attractions are CSI:The Experience, Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition, Ripley's Orlando Odditorium and Wonderworld.
I-Drive 360 is Orlando's new $200 million entertainment destination with the 400 foot high observation wheel being its highlight.
There is free parking for up to 1,600 cars.
Another great attraction on I-Drive is a $1.5 million watershow set to music and lights which runs twice daily.
So, this just touches the surface of what you can find on I-Drive and in the next couple of years a further $1 billion is being spent on development so there will be a lot more to come.
In the meantime check out more things to do on International Drive through this link .www.internationaldriveorlando.com/things-to-do
Downtown Disney (Disney Springs) (18.6 miles: 26 minutes)
Since 2013, Downtown Disney has been undergoing a period of massive transformation and investment which is due for completion in 2016.
It will be renamed Disney Springs and will consist of several different neighbourhoods. Each neighbourhood will have its own distinct feel and will be connected along the waterfront by the spring. Disney Springs will have over 150 stores, restaurants and entertainment locations. The neighbourhoods will be named The Town Centre, The Landing, The West Side, and The Marketplace.
Admission to the Downtown Disney area is free and it is a fun and exciting place to visit day or night, being open from 8 am to 2 am.
There are many places to dine including some lovely waterfront restaurants to sit and enjoy the views.
The stores are varied and many are quite unique. It is a good place to look for Disney clothing and accessories.
There is a host of entertainment options such a movie theatres, live music, spectacular shows like La Nouba by Cirque Du Soleil.
We spent an evening at Disney Springs in November, 2015. It was our first visit and everyone in our party of 7 adults really enjoyed it. It was easy to park and parking and entry are free. We arrived at 5pm and it was relatively busy at that time but by the time we left at about 10.30 pm it was very busy. A really fun place to spend time with so many places to dine or have a drink and lots of great live music from bands playing in various locations. As it got darker it became quite magical with the lights in the trees and reflecting off the lake. We decided to eat at The Boathouse because of its location overlooking the lake. It was very busy but despite 7 of us turning up without a reservation, we only had to wait about 10 minutes before we were seated at a prime table outside, overlooking the lake which gave us beautiful views. We could also see the volcanic flames coming fromThe Rainforest Cafe across the lake which was fun. The food was nice but quite expensive but worth the price for the location. I think we would go here again and maybe just have a drink on their pier and then eat somewhere else. It was fun strolling around the various shops after dinner such as the Disney Store and the Lego Store. I would aim to have an evening at Disney Springs each time we visit Orlando.
Downtown 1486 East Buena Vista Drive, Downtown Disney Boat Dock, Orlando, FL 32830,Downtown Disney
Alligators Unlimited- Airboat Nature Tours (38 miles : 55 minutes)
Alligators Unlimited Airboat Nature Tours- www.airboatnaturetours.com
This is one of our favourite things to do when we are in Orlando and we will probably repeat the experience each time we are over here with different friends and family as it is so enjoyable.
Captain John is the guide that we have been out with now on two occasions and he is fantastic, having been born and bred in “The Swamp” so he really knows the area. Cost is $50 per person but each time we have been we have had a $5 discount per person. Ride on airboat lasts approximately an hour and is one of the best experiences. We have been now in November and in May and as the seasons change so too does the experience in terms of what wildlife we saw. On each ride we have seen alligators, so many different birds such as herons, falcons, eagles, buzzards. In May we saw wild deer grazing at the edge of the water. As much as the wildlife is wonderful we enjoy the ride itself when it goes at a nice speed it is just exhilarating. Captain John told us that they very best time of year to see the alligators there is in March.
This is in our opinion a must do activity when you are staying here and is only 55 minutes away by car. As it is situated near to the Segway Tours backtrailfla.com that you can do in Lake Kissimmee State Park just 10 minutes away we have done both in one day, together with having a picnic which was very nice and a great change from shopping or theme parks.
Segway Rides - Back Trail Adventures of Florida (37.7 miles: 57 minutes)
Central Florida Guided Segway Tours www.backtrailfla.com is situated within Lake Kissimmee State Park at 14248 Camp Mack Road ,Lake Wales, FL 33898 37.7 miles from the villa.
Geoff the tour guide is extremely welcoming and passionate about what he does and clearly loves taking visitors out on the tours. You are given 20 minutes practice time to get to know how to use the segways and then head off with Geoff on a leisurely nature tour within the State Park. The tours last 70 minutes and are available from Thursday to Sunday from 8.30 am to 3.30pm. You would need to book in advance. Maximum number for one tour is six people and you must be over the age of 14. My elderly parents, both in the eighties, did the tour with us and both loved it and managed the segways very well. This tour is about seeing the nature and not a speed/thrill ride. Cost is $45 per person plus tax.
We have done this twice now. The State Park is nice to take a picnic lunch to before or after the ride as nowhere really to buy food down there as it is very much “out in the sticks”.
The second time we went we combined doing the segways first then had an airboat ride booked in at Alligators Unlimited which is situated a few minutes drive away and made the most of being down in the area.