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Most Orlando locals look at the theme parks as they would an unruly neighbor: it's big and loud, but it keeps a nice lawn. Central Florida's many theme parks can become overpowering for even the most enthusiastic visitor, and that's when an excursion into the "other" Orlando—the one the locals know and love—is in order.There are ample opportunities for day trips. If the outdoors is your thing, you can swim or canoe at Wekiwa Springs State Park or one of the area's many other sparkling springs, where the water remains a refreshing 72°F no matter how hot the day. Alternatively, you can hike, horseback ride, canoe, and camp in the Ocala National Forest.If museums are your thing, charming Winter Park has the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art with its huge collection of Tiffany glass, and the Cornell Fine Arts Museum on the oak-tree-covered Rollins College campus. While in Winter Park, you can indulge in some high-end shopping and dining on Park Avenue or take a leisurely boat tour of the lakefront homes.Got kids to educate and entertain? Check out WonderWorks or the Orlando Science Center, where you can view live gators and turtles. Even more live gators (some as long as 14 feet) can be viewed or fed (or even eaten) at Gatorland, just south of Orlando.Do the kids prefer rockets and astronauts? Don't miss a day trip to Kennedy Space Center, where you can tour a rocket forest, sit in a space capsule, or see a space shuttle up close.Kissimmee is a 19th-century cattle town south of Orlando that proudly hangs on to its roots with a twice-yearly rodeo where real cowboys ride bulls and rope cattle. The town sits on Lake Tohopekaliga, a favorite spot for airboat rides or fishing trips.
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Whether you choose a hotel or rental home, stay as close as you can to your theme park of choice to avoid spending a lot of time in traffic.
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Just another zoo it's not. Ride past rhinos, hippos, lions and more on a Kilimanjaro Safari; conquer the Kali River Rapids. Meet some dinosaurs too.
Get practical advice from Samantha Brown for a fun-filled vacation your whole family will like.
Try your pipes at The American Idol Experience—or your nerves at the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. Set the tykes loose on the Honey I Shrunk the Kids set.
Get away from the rides to cross a serene lake in a swan-shaped pedal boat. In the evening, a fountain comes alive with lights and music.
Conditions are perfect at the Marriott's Grande Pines—a 7,012-yard, par 72 golf course with something for all skill ranges. Fire up your golf cart and go.
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