|Ride the Movies at Universal
Moviegoers love Universal Studios because there they can "ride" into movies such as Jaws, Back to the Future, E.T. Adventure, Earthquake... The Big One, and Kongfrontation. Universal Studios is the largest working television and motion picture studio outside of Hollywood.
"Terminator 2 3-D" sweeps up viewers into the action in this thrilling 3-D interactive live-action motion picture with actors Arnold Schwarzenegger, Eddie Furlong and Robert Patrick. Youngsters get to sing-along with the great big purple dinosaur in "A Day in the Park with Barney," another popular attraction. Other live, interactive shows are Beetlejuice's Graveyard Revue, the "Murder, She Wrote" Mystery Theatre, and The Wild, Wild Wild West Stunt Show.
Universal Studios is undergoing an enormous expansion, one that will culminate in its current resort including a new theme park, Islands of Adventure, and E-ZONE, an incomparable entertainment zone. Islands of Adventure will include Seuss Landing, with rides and attractions that bring Dr. Seuss' characters alive; Isla Nublar, Home of Jurassic Park, where dinosaurs from Jurassic Park will come alive; and attractions starring Popeye and his friends and other cartoon characters such as Spider-Man, the X-Men and the Incredible Hulk.
Additionally, the expansion will create a world-class hotel, a golf lodge with villas, championship golf and tennis venues, more movie and production facilities, and 300,000 square feet of conference space. For information about Universal Studios, call 407/363-8220.
Science: Space and Flight
The Orlando Science Center, 407/896-7151, which has just moved into a new building, manages to get everyone into science with its hands-on activities and exhibits. Ten highly-themed exhibit halls allow visitors to indulge in various scientific adventures. Among them are WaterWorks, NatureWorks, and Tunnel of Discovery, Science City, Cosmic Tourist, PeopleWorks and Career Center. Visitors can travel to other planets in the Dr. Phillips Cinedome or engage in an interactive science presentation in the Darden Adventure Theater.
The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Center is a must stop for those interested in space exploration. The center's newest attraction -- the Apollo/Saturn V Center -- offers "you-are-there" theatrical presentations, a 363-foot Saturn V rocket, and a "hands-on" intergalactic gallery. 407/452-2121
Find out about America's space heroes at the United States Astronaut Hall of Fame. It features astronaut training simulator rides, exhibits, a full-scale Space Shuttle that encloses a theater, and U.S. Space Camp for children. To find out more information, call 407/269-6100 To view fascinating restored airplanes, hop over to the Flying Tigers Warbird Air Museum. Enjoy learning about restoration projects or thrill to an airplane ride. 407/933-1942
Between Orlando and Tampa is Fantasy of Flight. This $30-million aviation-themed museum features 30 antique planes, two private grass runways, a pre-1940s diner, a gift shop and a flight simulator.
Nature: Gardens, Zoos & Theme Parks
Thousands of orchids, flowers so beautiful you wonder if they're real, can be seen at A World of Orchids. It offers an indoor display of thousands of orchids in different garden settings. 407/396-1887
Big Tree Park has some of the oldest and largest trees in America; for instance, the bald cypress tree called "The Senator" is 3,500 years old and 138 feet tall. 407/788-0405
Everyone who comes to Florida wants to see gators.
And they can see lots of them at Gatorland.
Nearly 5,000 alligators and crocodiles live here, along with birds
and other animals. 407/855-5496
Have a splash at Sea World of Florida! Sea World manages to mix great good fun with learning. That is because Sea World presents an intimate look at the animals who live near or in the sea, including whales, manatees, sea lions, penguins, dolphins, sharks, etc. Visitors come away from the displays, exhibits and shows with a much greater appreciation for the variety, beauty and lifestyle of those animals. 407/363-2200
Let your kids get a firsthand experience with farm animals, some 300 of them at Green Meadows Petting Farm, 407/846-0770. They can ride a pony, milk a cow, or take a hay ride.
You can never learn enough about animals. And the five hundred unusual animals, reptiles and birds housed at Jungleland are each interesting in their own way. Tours and shows are available. Call 407/ 396-1012.
Learn about animals in their habitats and Floridian history by enjoying Jungle Adventures. Take a jungle cruise through an alligator habitat, see a Florida panther, view endangered species, or tour an Indian village or a Spanish fort. 407/568-1354.
Florida is definitely a water haven. There is water everywhere -- the ocean, the lakes, the rivers, the springs -- and with the wonderful warm sun shining overhead, no better place to enjoy water year-round. Take a look at these descriptions of the water parks in and near Orlando where you and your family can frolic in clear, cool, relaxing waters. Disney offers three water parks for wet fun. River Country is a backcountry swimming hole with water slides that twist and turn, white water rapid ride, a beach and a nature trail. Typhoon Lagoon enables visitors to snorkel with fish, ride waves, and plummet down flumes. Other features include a children's area slide, fountains and waterfalls. Blizzard Beach, the newest water park, has a winter sports theme and 19 rides, including the Summit Plummet, a 120-foot freefall. Call 407/824-4321 for info about them.
A day in the water can be had year-round at the more than 25 acres of Wet 'n Wild. Here, entrants can cool off in any of numerous water slides and rides. Among them are the Surge in which five passenger take a tube ride through 600 feet of curves, the Bubba Tub, the wave pole, Der Stuka, Fuji Flyer and children's playgrounds. 407/351-3200
For those wanting to visit Universal Studios, Sea World of Florida and Wet 'n Wild, a five-day, multi-park Value Pass is available that allows travelers to visit all three attractions with unlimited admission. This Value Pass costs only $89.95 for adults and $72.95 for children between 3 and 9 years old. Call 407/363-8000 for further information about these package deals.
Upcoming Fun in Orlando
Talk about action, Orlando is where it's at! Orlando hosts more than 140 special events each year, events that make vacations more memorable. Besides those, there are new attractions opening constantly.
The Richard Petty Driving Experience
Now, motorsports fans can get into a stock car, buckle up and race around a speedway going up to 145 miles per hour. Vroom! The noise generated by participants zipping around the track during The Richard Petty Driving Experience will be heard at the Walt Disney Speedway between April 1 and September 30, or in October and November. Call 800/ 237-3889 or 407/939-7727 to learn about driver requirements, etc.
The Imperial Tombs of China Visiting Exhibit
From May 2 to September 15, a most important exhibit from China will be displayed at the Orlando Museum of Art. Seven-foot-tall Guardian Lions from the emperors' Forbidden City, a jade burial suit and a gold-lacquered dragon throne will be just some of the 250 artifacts representing the years from 500 B.C. to A.D. 1900. A tremendous opportunity to learn about China's past and its culture. 407/ 896-4231.
The New Silver Springs -- It's Alive!
The world's largest natural spring is the site of Silver Springs and Wild Waters. Silver Springs offers visitors a chance to have great fun. There, you can ride glass-bottom boats, ride into Florida's Jeep Safari to meet alligators, giant snapping turtles and a myriad of beautiful waterfowl. As if that wasn't enough, the number of attractions are being expanded this summer: World of Bears, where grizzly, kodiak and three other bear species can be seen; Kids Ahoy! Playland, site of slides, rides and more; the Twin Oaks Mansion, a stage made to look like a Southern mansion; the Sprinkles Ice Cream Parlor, the Rose Garden, and the Garden Pavilion. Wild Waters will add Swampy's Smokehouse Buffet, the White Gator Trader and the Big Gator Lagoon.
Skull Kingdom Opens
Yikes! For those who like to get a good scare, a visit to Skull Kingdom, 407/354-1564, might be on the agenda. Just opening, its Giant Skull Entrance greets those who dare with creepy sounds. Inside, the intrepid participate in a walk-through, hands-on, interactive experience that ends in the Ghoulish Face Painting Gallery and the Haunted Toy Shop.