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An Unforgettable Family Holiday in Orlando

The act of planning a holiday can trigger a real boost of happiness. Dream destinations like Orlando in Florida are awash with activities, adventures and attractions to enjoy. So much so that holidaymakers are spoilt for choice. When preparing for your holiday, consult the guide at hand and make your holiday in Orlando an unequivocal success for every family member.

The anticipation of visiting Disney World, SeaWorld, Universal Studios and Co. makes children’s hearts leap with joy. Orlando, with its world-famous theme parks, is indeed a perfect family holiday destination. But the Orlando area has much more to offer than “meet & greets” with Mickey Mouse and Harry Potter - so much more that holiday planning can be quite a challenge. We suggest you consult the guide at hand to create the perfect Orlando holiday.

Photos: Edelweiss/Loren Bedeli

Where to stay? In a holiday home

Situated south of Orlando International Airport, and with more than 25,000 holiday homes on offer, the Kissimmee area is known as the “Home of Vacation Homes”. In keeping with US standards, almost every rental home features an outdoor pool, a home cinema and a game room. Be it a four-bedroom house or a thirteen-bedroom villa for the extended family: there is something to suit everyone in Kissimmee. Once arrived and unpacked, exciting holiday activities are just minutes away. All of the main attractions, including the world-famous theme parks, are within an hour’s car drive of Kissimmee – which is something the children sitting in the back seat will undoubtedly thank you for.

Adventure in the great outdoors: zip-lining and horseback riding

Florida is known for its wide choice of holiday activities in wild nature, so that fans of eco-tourism are fully catered for in Orlando. The “Forever Florida” adventure park in St. Cloud is a special highlight for people of all ages: whilst adrenaline junkies get their fix on a zip-lining tour, nature lovers can horseback ride through Florida’s wilderness and experience the Sunshine State’s impressive flora and fauna up close. And if a day spent in the adventure park is not enough, family-sized cabins are available for rent. Or, if you prefer, you can pitch your tent and sleep under the stars.

Feel the magic of the Walt Disney World Resort

When in Orlando, experiencing the magic of Walt Disney is basically a must. But which of the six theme and water parks to choose? “Magic Kingdom”, the Walt Disney classic, is a definite: besides meeting Snow White et al. at Cinderella Castle, visitors can test the rollercoaster rides in Adventureland or Tomorrowland. To get the most out of a visit to the Walt Disney World Resort a Park Hopper pass is recommended. The pass gives access to all four theme parks on one day. Disney’s Animal Kingdom captivates visitors with an African wildlife safari and a Pandora-themed attraction inspired by the movie “Avatar”. The latter is best visited after dark, when the bioluminescent rainforest comes to life.

Blissful nature – kayaking through the Everglades

After a strenuous day at Disney World an excursion on the wild side seems right on cue. Kayaking is a popular pastime in Florida – and unsurprisingly so, given that Orlando is home to the headwaters of the famous Everglades. Boasting an endless string of rivers, marshes and lakes, the Everglades are an irresistible invitation to take to the water in a kayak. Kayaking is also a suitable sport for children. The Paddling Center in the Shingle Creek Regional Park is about a twenty-minute drive from the airport and even has four-seater kayaks with child seats for rent. Besides kayaking, park activities include fishing, hiking, mountain-biking and picnicking. And the park’s majestic cypresses, heavily laced with Spanish moss, provide the perfect backdrop for gorgeous holiday snapshots.

Discover Florida’s fauna: airboat safaris with alligator sightings

Action and speed junkies will jump at the chance to experience a “Wild Florida” airboat tour. The company’s experienced captains navigate the boats through the marshland at top speed, while keeping an expert eye out for alligators, birds and bald eagles. Anyone who after a one-hour airboat ride still wants to see more giant reptiles can pop over to the neighbouring “Gator & Wildlife Park” where alligators of all sizes, from thirty-centimetre-long baby alligators up to six-metre-long thick-skinned reptiles, reside. Visitors in the park at lunchtime can watch the alligators being fed. And for the more fainthearted family members: the park is also home to a large number of alpacas, monkeys, parrots and goats that like to be stroked and admired.

Experiencing Disney after dark: a stroll through Disney Springs

Disney enchants not only with rollercoaster rides and theme parks, but also with a shopping and dining complex. “Disney Springs” consists of four different areas that leave nothing to be desired. Featuring streets lined with restaurants, bars, clubs, shops, cinemas and venues, it is the perfect place to end an eventful day with shopping and sauntering, accompanied by live music, dance shows and a hint of Disney magic.

Shopping and bargain hunting in the Orlando International Premium Outlets centre

Even if you have already splurged in Disney Springs, a shopping day in one of Orlando’s well-known outlet centres is an absolute must! The largest outlet -located at the northern end of International Drive- hosts 180 designer and brand stores. Bargain hunters can purchase their choice items and garments for up to 65% discount prices.

Living the American Dream: a visit to Celebration

A place called “Celebration” must be something out of a fairy tale! Built by the Walt Disney Company in 1994, the small town is home to approximately 7,500 residents. Celebration has much in common with the Disney theme parks: history-themed facades, pastel-coloured, strictly regulated architecture and a palm-fringed main street that is sprinkled with artificial snow at Christmas. A good way to explore the town is by bike, available for rent at “Celebration Bike Rental” for instance. As a reward for all the pedalling, a stop-off at the “Wonderland Cookie Dough Co.” is highly recommended. The shop sells a variety of safe-to-eat cookie dough flavours, served in ice cream style. Only to be found in Celebration!

Orlando Holiday Tips

Encore Club at Reunion ;;; The resort features luxurious 4- to 13-bedroom rental homes, restaurants, an AquaPark and a fitness centre. ;;; (encorereunion.com)

Forever Florida ;;; The adventure park offers opportunities for horseback riding, zip-lining and camping. ;;; (foreverflorida.com)

Walt Disney World Resort: Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom ;;; Two of Disney’s most well-known theme parks: whereas the Magic Kingdom largely centres on classic Disney attractions, the focus in the Animal Kingdom is on the conservation of wildlife. ;;; (disneyworld.disney.go.com)

Paddling Center at Shingle Creek ;;; Whether stand-up paddling, kayaking or canoeing: Shingle Creek is a great place to discover Florida’s flora and fauna by water. ;;; (paddlingcenter.com)

Wild Florida and Gator & Wildlife Park ;;; Airboat safaris and an inspiring park offer animal lovers of all ages an unforgettable Everglades experience and an opportunity to learn about wildlife. ;;; (wildfloridairboats.com)

Disney Springs ;;; Disney Springs is a themed retail, dining and entertainment centre in one. ;;; (disneysprings.com)

Orlando International Premium Outlets ;;; 180 brand and designer stores are a real treat for fashion aficionados! ;;; (premiumoutlets.com/outlet/orlando-international)

Celebration ;;; A bicycle tour through the Disney-built city of Celebration is something the whole family will enjoy. ;;; (tourcelebration.com)

Text: Larissa Eichin