7 reasons Orlando is not just for kids
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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.
Getting to Orlando: ever-popular, there are many great value breaks to Orlando with Virgin Holidays* and, for the self-catering touch, James Villas*.
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 and enjoy the fresh aromas of their citrus grove.
You can also see 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
Kids aren't always the best company when you're in the mood for a fine meal out. While some of the resort hotels are unashamedly geared towards families there 's a slew of Orlando restaurants that are well worth visiting.
The best place to try 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 glad rags on and party!
You may be surprised but there's some decent nightlife on offer at the theme parks. Try 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 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 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.
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.
Weather & climate: don't forget, you can find out about 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.
Ready to experience the grown up side of Orlando? Check out the latest deals from Virgin Holidays and self catering options from James Villas.
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