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Things to Do in Orlando - page 2

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House of Blues Orlando

Come for the barbecue and stay for the live entertainment at House of Blues Orlando. Just far enough away from the main Disney World Resort restaurants and entertainment venues to make a dent in the crowds, House of Blues has long been a favorite of both locals and park visitors. The venue hosts all kinds of performers, from local favorites to world-famous stars. Even when there isn’t a concert, music will be playing and TVs will be on for sports fans.

The dual restaurant and concert venue set-up provides something for everyone. Families love House of Blues for its many kid-friendly meal options, while couples enjoy the sprawling patio, where live music can be heard. Diners rave about the shrimp, grits and barbecue ribs, and night owls particularly like the concerts and the late-night bar menu that goes along with them.

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Clearwater Beach
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Clearwater Beach is a silky white-sand oasis along the warm, calm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. More low key than its southern neighbor, the bustling St. Pete’s Beach, Clearwater Beach hosts plenty of spots for kayaking, shelling, and biking. Families especially like its gentle surf, which is perfect for swimming and water sports.

Restaurants, shops, and hotels line Mandalay Ave., which runs parallel to the beach. At about 1 mi (1.5 km) long, the strip is easy to stroll. Day visitors should head to Sand Key Beach & Park, a wide beach for swimming and watching dolphins leap out of the sea. For non-beach activities, watch sea otters at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium or watch jugglers and magicians perform at Pier 60.

You can also get out on the water on dolphin-watching cruises or even take a pirate cruise. To get an overview of the area, jump on the Jolley Trolley, which travels around Clearwater Beach and up to Sand Key.

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Everglades National Park
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The Everglades National Park, covering much of the southeastern tip of Florida, is more than a big swamp full of alligators. True, you will see alligators - lots of them - but this unique subtropical wilderness also supports such creatures as American crocodiles, bottlenose dolphins, manatees, snowy egrets, bald eagles and ospreys. And amid the mangroves, cypress, hardwood hammocks and miles of sawgrass, there are endless opportunities for hiking, bicycling, canoeing, kayaking, or taking an airboat ride. You can book Everglades tours departing from Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Fort Myers in addition to Orlando. Spot alligators on a day-trip along the Tamiami Trail or take a two-hour tram tour in Shark Valley. When hunger pangs set in, stop in Everglades City for a plate of gator nuggets and frog’s legs. The visitor center at Big Cypress National Preserve has great exhibits for kids and an outdoor, water-filled ditch popular with alligators.
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Wild Florida Airboats and Gator Park
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With a visit to Wild Florida Wildlife Park in the Florida Everglades, you can get an up-close look at the unique ecosystem of the area on foot or on an airboat tour.

Wild Florida is a combination of a wildlife park and a launch point for airboat tours of the Everglades. In the wildlife park, you can walk through a zoo-like atmosphere where you'll see animals from all over the world. There are exotic animals from Africa, Australia, South America, and elsewhere, which you can even feed. There's a special focus on Florida's native wildlife in the park, too, including alligators, white tail deer, and tropical birds. You can walk through the park on raised walkways overlooking the animal habitats, and then you can take off on an airboat tour of the Everglades. After your tour, you can get your picture taken holding an alligator.

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More Things to Do in Orlando

Kennedy Space Center

Kennedy Space Center

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You don’t have to be a space junkie to enjoy NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, the only spot in the United States from which humans have been hurled into space. The plethora of hands-on exhibits, IMAX movies, and sheer magnitude of the shuttles will surely impress the most passive fan. One of the highlights is the Shuttle Launch Simulator, where budding astronauts are strapped into a cockpit and given high-fidelity ride, which creates the impression of an actual lift-off.
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LEGOLAND® Florida Resort

LEGOLAND® Florida Resort

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Florida is well-known for having some of the country’s best theme parks, and the 150-acre LEGOLAND Florida is one of them. Located in the city of Winter Haven -- 45 minutes from Orlando -- the park features over 50 rides, shows, attractions and impressive LEGO models, there is a lot for visitors, especially families with children, to explore. Additionally, because the original site of the park was Cypress Gardens, there are also vibrant botanical gardens littering the grounds. Immerse yourself in the world of legos by wandering through the 10 different “lands” comprising the park, including The Beginning, Fun Town, Miniland USA, Castle Hill, Land of Adventure, LEGO® City, Xtreme, Imagination Zone, Pirates Cove and DUPLO® Village.

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Universal Orlando Resort

Universal Orlando Resort

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Spider-Man®, now in high-def 3-D; and the Jurassic Park River Adventure®. Take a starring role in some of the biggest movies and TV shows ever created at Universal Studios®, home of the 3-D ride Despicable Me Minion Mayhem, Shrek 4-D, Revenge of the Mummy®, Universal’s Superstar Parade, Universal’s Cinematic Spectacular nighttime show, and the Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit® coaster. And enjoy the best in restaurants, nightclubs, shopping and movies at Universal CityWalk®. It’s all at Universal Orlando Resort, where vacation becomes adventure. TRANSFORMERS: The Ride – 3D – NOW OPEN! Embark on a daring adventure that redefines thrill rides. Opening Summer 2013, TRANSFORMERS: The Ride - 3D is an ultra-immersive sensory experience that puts you on the front lines of an intergalactic war between the Autobots and Decepticons. You’ll lose sight of the difference between fantasy and reality as ground-breaking high definition 3D film is fused with flight simulation technology on this epic ride.
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Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park

Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park

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Get up close and learn about Florida’s wildlife at Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park. Visitors flock here in droves to see manatees, in particular, that can be seen twisting, turning, diving and playing from the park’s underwater observatory. The park provides a safe habitat for black bears, bobcats, alligators, crocodiles and river otters, among other animals, and works to educate the public about Florida’s wildlife. There is a children’s education center on the premises to further this goal, while a specific educational program about manatees is offered three times every day.

In addition to education, Homosassa is a great place for outdoor recreational activities. Bird watching is the most popular activity here, and bird walks are offered, during which guides will point out various species. Families also enjoy picnicking and taking nature walks, and if you don’t bring your lunch, that’s okay—the park has a café and concessions stand on the premises.

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Daytona International Speedway

Daytona International Speedway

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Ladies and gentlemen start your engines! The Daytona International Speedway, a 60,000 sq-ft (18,000 sq-m), interactive motor-sports attraction, hosts Winston, Nascar, stock and sports-car, go-cart, monster truck, and motorcycle races. The place goes crazy in February when the “World Center of Racing” hosts the Daytona 500, one of the biggest car racing events in the world.

When there aren't any races, you can get a peek of the track for free. Adjacent to the speedway, race-car fans can take a Pit Stop Challenge, a 30-minute tram tour of the track, or roar up to 200 mph (320 km/h) in a spectacular simulator for a virtual reality-like race against other passengers in Acceleration Alley.

Other attractions include an action-packed IMAX film, a 30-minute tram tour of the track, and the actual winning car from the Daytona 500 every year - scratches, dents and all!

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Hard Rock Cafe Orlando

Hard Rock Cafe Orlando

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Established in June 1990 and located at the Universal Studios in the CityWalk entertainment complex, the Hard Rock Cafe in Orlando, Florida remains a hugely popular entertainment attraction in a city where there’s always something to see and do.

In fact, Orlando’s Hard Rock Cafe is the largest in the world. It features huge, grand pillars and a vast collection of rock memorabilia to rival all other Hard Rock Cafes. The complex boasts a multi-level version of the famous cafe, as well as a Hard Rock Live music venue, which has a 3000-person capacity and hosts all types of concerts and other events. In the restaurant itself, diners can feast on classic burgers, nachos, wings, ribs, salads, and steaks as they take in the music memorabilia that adorns the walls and rock out to the non-stop Hard Rock beats.

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Winter Park

Winter Park

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Fun fact: four presidents have visited Winter Park, Florida, including Barack Obama in 2012. With those notable stop-ins, this former resort town exudes charm and encourages relaxation even today. The suburban city in Orange County showcases some of the best natural scenery in Central Florida, and nature lovers flock here to enjoy the more than 70 parks in the city. For those still looking for a resort feel, Winter Park also has top-notch golf courses and a popular shopping district.

The city’s Main Street is a lively area. It serves as a cultural hub, complete with art galleries, a liberal arts college, museums, a cemetery and even a beach. Boaters enjoy having easy access to a launch nearby, and two of Winter Park’s most famous attractions are Rollins College and the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of Art. The latter destination is home to the United States’ largest collection of Tiffany glass.

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The Wheel at Icon Park

The Wheel at Icon Park

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The Orlando Eye is the brand new Ferris wheel in Orlando and is the biggest observation wheel on the east coast of the United States. At 400 feet above the ground, the Orlando Eye offers a completely new vantage point of Orlando and the rich landscape of Central Florida. On a clear day, you can see from the lively theme parks, glittering lakes and the downtown skyline all the way to Cape Canaveral on the coast. Additionally, iPads inside the 30 capsules let visitors learn more about the surrounding landmarks in several languages.

The Ferris wheel is part of a whole entertainment complex, which apart from the ride with a view, also includes Madame Tussauds wax museum, the Orlando Sea Life Aquarium, shops and a food court. At night, the Eye lights up in a rainbow of colors and adds another 64,000 LED lights to the theme park capital of the world.

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TIAA Bank Field

TIAA Bank Field

The NFL's Jacksonville Jaguars call EverBank Field their home stadium, and it sits where the former Gator Bowl Stadium once stood.

EverBank Field originally opened in 1995 as Jacksonville Municipal Stadium but got its current name in 2010. The stadium capacity for football games is just over 67,000, but it can expand to 84,000 for other types of events. College football games held here include the annual Florida-Georgia game and the TaxSlayer Bowl.

Some elements of the former venue (Gator Bowl Stadium) were used in building EverBank Field, including the West Upper Deck. The stadium hosted Super Bowl XXXIX in 2005.

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Fantasy of Flight

Fantasy of Flight

Budding aviators and fans of flight will enjoy Fantasy of Flight, called the World’s Greatest Aircraft Collection. Over 40 rare and vintage aircraft are housed inside two striking art deco airplane hangars.

Featured in the collection are planes used in the movies Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, The Great Waldo Pepper and most recently Flyboys. Climb inside the cockpit of a Corsair fighter for a battle over the Pacific, or take a spin on the state-of-the-art virtual hang glider in Fun with Flight, a hands-on interactive area.

History buffs can learn about aviation history, from early flights through World War II planes, including a walk through an authentic B-17 bomber. Also here is the Women's Airforce Service Pilots Exhibit, which pays tribute to the first women fliers who volunteered to fly for the military during World War II.

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