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Alternative attractions for a Florida holiday

I’ve just got back from what can only be described as one of my best and most wonderful holidays to Florida. First and foremost I’ll say that booking a package holiday to Florida got us the most for our money. We were part of a party of 14 that spanned three generations so we needed privacy and space, so we got a large villa with a pool and three bathrooms (not that we needed them) for so much less per person than a hotel would have cost, which we thought was a great deal. Since we were in the US we thought we’d get all the space we could, because space is not something the Americans are short on!

Obviously, Orlando and the surrounding areas of Florida have the huge attractions at Disney World and Universal Studio’s, but we’d already seen these parks in previous trips and having enjoyed our trip to Florida so much we thought we’d come back and see what else was on offer. The first place on our radar was Gatorland, nothing could seem more American, or more specifically more Floridian, than Gatorland. The 110-acre plot is certainly something to behold and unlike the zoos in the UK you feel as though you’re really in the wild. The fear that at any moment you could fall in the water and be gobbled up is genuinely there, and if that isn’t enough of a thrill you can actually hold an alligator if you dare. I even saw one frightened tourist holding a tarantula, an opportunity I most definitely passed on. Spiders aside, a trip to Gatorland is well worth half a day out, especially if you’re travelling with a bravado-fuelled young man, which, on that day, we were. We finished the day with an all-American meal at Denny’s, which I’m told is like an American tourist enjoying a trip to a Two-for-One chain pub whilst visiting the UK, but hey-ho we still enjoy it!

Busch Gardens

We also planned on travelling outside of the safety of International Drive, and with our air-conditioned Buick we decided we’d hit the highway and head south for Busch Gardens. Until recently we’d been put off by the location of Busch Gardens thinking the drive wouldn’t be worth it but it turns out that driving in Florida is about as easy as it gets. For starters, the roads don’t bend, and their grid system is painfully easy to navigate. Put on the air-con, turn on the crazy American radio stations and hit the road. You’ll have loads of fun and you’ll find some interesting food outlets along the way! Anyway… Busch Gardens is definitely worth the drive.

For starters, you can expect to spend considerably less time in a queue because most of the tourists are clogging up the attractions in Orlando, and secondly, the roller coasters are superb. Montu and Kumba were huge highlights on our trip because they turned us into big kids! Once we got off the ride we ran round like giddy children to get straight back on, taking advantage of the complete lack of a queue! The trip around the Serengeti Plain was also a memory that will stick with me. If you time it right you can see the sun setting over the flat plains of Florida and soak up an hour of peace and quiet while the monorail gently wanders through the reserve. Florida Holidays don’t normally come this quiet.

So far, so good. We’ve had a few days by the pool and two great days out, and so far we’ve been nowhere near Disney World. Don’t get me wrong, we love Disney World, it’s a wonderful world they’ve crafted for you to explore, but obviously that world isn’t real. Just down the road however, is the very real Kennedy Space Centre, which for me was the highlight of the entire trip. You can see the very rockets that have taken people into space. It’s even possible to climb aboard the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo capsules to get an idea of just how ridiculously small they really were. The massive size of the rockets makes you assume there was lots of space on board, but trust me, this is not the case.

Kennedy Space Centre

While we were there, we had the opportunity to meet a real life Astronaut by the name of Bob Springer who gave a great talk at the Astronaut Encounter. So far we’ve seen the actual rockets that put people into space and been blown away (excuse the pun) by their sheer size, we’ve sat in the capsules, and we’ve met an actual astronaut. We’re totally in ‘space’ mode when we finally get to take the full Kennedy Space Centre tour, which is for me at least, was tremendous. The atmosphere was full of awe and amazement, people were moved to a frenzy of inspiration in that place; I can’t recommend it highly enough. Of course, what would any Florida tourist attraction be without an ‘experience’ to top it off; well at the Kennedy Space Centre, there is the new Shuttle Launch Experience, which as you can imagine is as great as it sounds. As a ride, expect something as high calibre as the rides at Disney World, made all the more scary by the fact you really are at the Kennedy Space Centre.

I guess what I’d like to say to anyone looking to visit Florida, is that there’s MUCH more to Florida than International Drive and Disney World. If you hire a car and hit the road you’ll not run out of things to do and you’ll leave your holiday to Florida with ideas for your next trip. Myself and my husband have yet to hit the Everglades to take a ride on an air boat, swam with dolphins at Discovery Cove, Explored all of the wonderful beaches such as Daytona or Ormond; all of which we’ll definitely try to fit in next time! This is our third trip to Florida and we’ve still not run out of places to visit, I can’t wait to get back on that plane next year and get exploring all over again!

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