orlando review

Orlando: The perfect family getaway, and how to keep older kids happy

Sharnaz Shahid

As locations go, it's hard to beat Florida's go-to destination of Orlando for a family holiday. With its glorious weather, thrilling theme parks and scenic trails, the Sunshine State has a never-ending list of entertaining things for parents and their children.

WHERE TO STAY:

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Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort

Set within the private community of Golden Oak with panoramic views of tranquillity, we felt like millionaires at the Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort - the perfect setting for an idyllic base. With an all-round friendly atmosphere, you can enjoy outdoor activities, such as tennis and golf, and take full advantage of the luxury hotel's exquisite cuisine and Zen-like spa. But most importantly, the location is super child-friendly with water slides, a lazy river, a climbing wall and a hideout with video games. Breakfast at Ravello is not one to miss, your little ones can kick off the day with Goofy and his pals, even grown-ups can enjoy snapping selfies with the classic characters over a delicious breakfast. Those looking to unwind can sip cocktails by the adults-only pool or enjoy an evening meal at the rooftop steakhouse, Capa, while admiring the display and sparkle from the fireworks at Magical Kingdom. If you are looking for something a little more secluded, the hotel offers a fantastic room service menu – order via telephone or the room’s very own Ipad.

ACTIVITIES:

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Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios

For a taste of some magic, we eventually got lost in the streets of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios. This is where visitors can walk through the gates of the snow-laced Hogsmeade village and down the cobblestone streets with shops and eateries before you arrive at the main focal point, Hogwarts. There are two themed rides and various interactive experiences such as Ollivander's Wand Shop - where you can put your wand to good use – and enjoy a trip on the Hogwarts Express at Kings Cross Station.

If you're not a Harry Potter fan, enjoy a thrilling river raft adventure at Jurassic World or a trip to the King Kong cave for a multi-sensory, multi-dimensional ride. If you fancy something more outdoorsy, immerse yourself in wonder at SeaWorld Orlando, where you can enjoy real interactions with the aquatic world, including a closer-than-ever encounter with hundreds of penguins. Thrill seekers may want to try the new shark-themed hypercoaster, Mako, which is the tallest and fastest ride in Orlando – that’s certainly one way to get the adrenaline pumping!

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Experience a closer-than-ever encounter with penguins at SeaWorld Orlando

For something a bit more adventurous, we headed to Disney's Animal Kingdom theme park – where Africa comes to Florida! This is an excellent place to relax and enjoy an excursion thanks to its fascinating jungle trails and up-close encounters with exotic animals. Those looking for something more luxe should venture out onto the savanna for a night-time safari tour, deep in the heart of the Harambe Wildlife Reserve – you’ll get to see animals in a whole new light and you’ll soon find yourself within one of the most secluded and breathtaking private viewing areas the Savanna has to offer. As well as the short sightseeing trek, guests are invited to try African-inspired tapas, paired with a selection of regional beer and wine offerings.

CULTURE:

Visit the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art where you can spend some time exploring the world's most comprehensive collection of the works of Louis Comfort Tiffany. Located in the affluent Winter Park, the exhibition includes beautifully-crafted Tiffany jewellery, pottery, paintings, art glass and an elaborate chapel interior created for the Chicago World's Fair in 1893. Just a few minutes away, there's the Winter Park Scenic boat tour on Lake Osceola, an hour-long guided cruise through three lakes and two narrow man-made canals. During the trip, visitors can learn the history of Winter Park, Central Florida's oldest community, which was originally founded by wealthy Easterners in the 1800s.

FOOD:

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Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen

To settle any pre-flight nerves, Cask & Larder offers a menu of everyday staples – including brewed-on-site beers, home-cured meats, hand-canned fruits and pickled vegetables. Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen is a new full-service restaurant at Universal CityWalk that offers a wide variety of dishes – from all-day-brunch crepes and quiches to unique takes on classic steak, seafood, pasta and more, plus an array of gourmet chocolates and desserts. The restaurant is themed as a 19th century inspired, Steampunk-era chocolate factory and located near the entrance to Universal’s Islands of Adventure.

For more ideas, including shopping, dining, tours and sightseeing, see VisitOrlando.com/UK and the Visit Orlando App.

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