7 reasons Orlando is not just for kids
So, Orlando is just for kids, right? Wrong! Orlando and its Florida environs stack up brilliantly for a proper grown up break without the wee ones there to cramp your style. The multiple family orientated charms of Orlando and its theme parks are deservedly well documented. This balmy, sun drenched American escape, though, works just as well for more mature visitors.
Orlando is also incredibly easy to get to with Thomas Cook Airlines offering great value fares direct from Manchester, Glasgow, London Gatwick and Belfast International in under 10 hours - ideal for a long weekend's escape or a well deserved week away. Join me now as I take you on a personal tour with seven great reasons that Orlando is an ideal choice for a holiday without a nappy or children's menu in sight.
1. Explore Orlando
Every year, planes full of people head to Orlando and then leave knowing virtually nothing about the city after the theme parks swallow up all of their time. Without children to hold you back you are free to enjoy the city. A great place to start is at one of my favourite green lungs, the 50-acre Harry P. Leu Gardens.
Tucked by Lake Ivanhoe near the centre you can drift through a butterfly garden, enjoy the fresh aromas of their citrus grove, view what is said to be North America's largest display of camellias (in bloom roughly November to March), and take in the massive collection of over one thousand rose bushes (typically in bloom anytime from April to November).
2. Museum magic
Orlando may be best known as a major holiday destination, but it has a cultural side too - and we're not just talking about cabaret style shows at the resort hotels - that comes across in its museums. Titanic: The Artifact Museum delves into the story of the world's most infamous ship, while you can gawp at the largest collection of Tiffany glass in the world in Orlando's Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art in Winter Park.
It's all here - an epic collage of lamps, lead glass windows, and jewellery crafted by Louis Comfort Tiffany. Look out too for other decorative art and pottery works. Fans of surrealist artist Salvador Dali won't want to miss out on a trip to neighbouring St Petersburg to the spectacular Dali Museum.
3. Fancy food
I love travelling with my wee girls, but they are not always the best company when I'm in the mood for a proper dinner out. While some of the resort hotels are unashamedly geared towards families there are a slew of Orlando restaurants that are well worth visiting. The best place to head is 'Restaurant Mile', home to over a dozen restaurants. If you like gorgeous seafood Eddie V's is a relaxed option.
One of the city's finest Japanese restaurants tempts too with fresh sushi and sashimi at Seito Sushi. Culture and cuisine combine at Santiago's Bodega, an impressive newcomer in Ivanhoe Village. Here, striking artwork is married with a stylish tapas-style menu.
4. Naughty nightlife
One of the things that parents on holiday can really miss out on is nightlife beyond children's entertainers. If you're here without kids it's time to put your gladrags on, and party! You may be surprised but there's some decent nightlife on offer at the theme parks. I like CityWalk at Universal Studios, with its bars, live music, karaoke and clubs.
For something more chilled and sophisticated hotfoot it to Winter Garden, where a sprinkling of wine bars are emerging in the Park Avenue area. Small plates and superb wines are on offer at the Wine Room, where the wine comes from Italian enomatic machines. Carmel Kitchen meanwhile offers over 50 vintages from the old and new worlds matched with delicious Mediterranean cuisine.
5. Channel your inner Gentle Ben
Ok, so you'll need to be of a certain age (I just qualify) to remember the warm hearted antics of this lovable TV bear as he cruised about the swamps of Florida on one of those boats that look like a giant hairdryer. You don't need to be a big fan of the mammal big ben to enjoy a boat ride in this glorious wildscape, though. Book an airboat ride, and you'll swish along with a cooling breeze in your hair as you gaze out looking for all manner of birdlife and, of course, for those ferocious looking alligators.
6. Go wild in the Everglades
If you want to get stuck into the landscape and lose a few pounds in the process, the Everglades are the perfect venue. Swathes of this green wonderland, which are laden with forest and mangrove swamps, have been protected further to the south as a national park. There are myriad ways of getting around, from hiking, through to mountain biking and on to kayaks. I've enjoyed some brilliant kayak adventures here lost in a primordial world that could not feel further away from the bustling theme parks.
7. Theme parks
Theme parks - stick with me here - offer fun days out for adults too, letting you explore them without kids cramping your style. It's a liberating experience actually getting to choose which parks you want to go to for a change, and also the rides that you have really been itching to get on but your pesky kids were too short to be allowed on.
The parks are wise to the increasing adult-only market, so look out for special VIP packages and passes that give you some welcome extras and queue jumping away from the family hordes. If you want to really push the boat out hire a guide, who will ease you around a theme park for the day sorting everything out for you, and getting you to the very front of the queues.
If you're tempted to leave the little ones behind and explore America's biggest playground adults-only, then Thomas Cook Airlines should be your first port of call. You can find great deals online with fares one way from under £200. Remember, you can also check out the weather in Orlando, and see when we think is the best time to go for ultimate conditions to make the most of your time in Florida.
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