The 10 Best Beaches Near Orlando

The 10 Best Beaches Near Orlando

Less than two hours southeast of Orlando lies the resort town of Vero Beach. The area is known for its posh downtown, gorgeous nature preserve on the Indian River Lagoon, and of course, the Atlantic Ocean. Disney even opened its own beach resort here on Florida's Treasure Coast, so if you're not ready to part ways with Mickey Mouse, you can enjoy the best of both worlds. Disney's Vero Beach Resort offers sing-alongs, campfires, kayaking adventures and even a surf school.

Orlando's closest beach is also known for its surfing culture. Cocoa is the international headquarters for Ron Jon Surf Shop, and its flagship store is the world's largest surf shop at 52,000 square feet. Open 24 hours a day, the store features everything under the sun, from T-shirts and seashells to beach bikes, paddleboards, and of course, surfboards. Try riding the waves with a lesson with the Ron Jon Surf School.

While spring breakers congregate around the Cocoa Beach Pier for beach volleyball and partying, many families like the quiet of Lori Wilson Park, where you'll find free parking, restrooms, and outdoor showers.

Ahoy! Port Canaveral is your gateway to the Caribbean on Disney Cruise Line, Norwegian Cruise Line, Carnival Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean Cruise Line. Whether you have a free morning before your cruise or are coming over for a day trip, there is lots to discover on the Space Coast. The Kennedy Space Center is the birthplace of the U.S. space industry, with amazing exhibits like the Saturn V rocket that sent man to the moon, the Space Shuttle Atlantis, the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame and even thrilling rocket launches you can experience in person.

The Canaveral National Seashore and the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge are ideal for spotting bald eagles, sea turtles, dolphins and manatees.

Just to the north of Port Canaveral is "the locals beach" for many Orlandoans. Before hitting the sand, stroll the five blocks of Flagler Avenue from the river to the ocean for Old Florida shops, local boutiques and casual eateries. Third Wave Cafe and Outriggers Tiki Bar & Grille are a few favorites. The wide, smooth sands allow for fun beach activities like riding bikes straight into the surf.

The "World's Most Famous Beach" is just an hour from downtown Orlando. Daytona Beach is all about the cars—a place to catch a world-famous NASCAR race and even drive your own car right on the beach. Free summer concerts with movies and fireworks are offered May through October at the Bandshell, and there's plenty of entertainment at the nearby boardwalk and fishing pier.

For a quieter corner, head to Ponce Inlet and climb to the top of Florida's tallest lighthouse which stands at 175 feet, built in 1835. For local shopping and dining, Beach Street in downtown Daytona is popular, and nearby Ormond Beach is home to John D. Rockefeller's former beach house in addition to local dining hotspots on Granada Boulevard.

Just up Interstate 95 from Daytona Beach, the charming coastal town of St. Augustine awaits. Of course, this historic European-style city is known for its Fountain of Youth and the first permanent settlement in the United States, established back to 1565. After a robust history lesson downtown, head to the beach. Popular attractions along the coast include the St. Augustine Lighthouse, the St. Augustine Alligator Farm and Marineland, where you can swim with dolphins.

Take a short, scenic drive up the ocean on the famous state Road A1A, and you'll find the upscale beach community of Ponte Vedra Beach. In 1928, the Ponte Vedra Inn & Club opened here, and today it boasts a AAA five-diamond rating with an amazing spa, golf course and oceanfront fitness facility. Or, stay at the Sawgrass by Marriott for lots of family-friendly amenities as well as exclusive golf access. Nearby is TPC Sawgrass, home to THE PLAYERS Championship every May. The clubhouse and course are open to the public. The area is also home to the GTM Research Reserve, one of the largest estuaries in the world with kayaking, bird-watching and hiking.

If you long for the calm and clear waters of the Gulf of Mexico, then appropriately named Clearwater is your paradise. Just 20 minutes from Tampa, Clearwater is popular for its family-friendly beaches and attractions. Clearwater Marine Aquarium is a must-see, with the famous movie star Winter from "Dolphin Tale," who swims with a prosthetic tail. Indian Rocks Beach is another relaxing spot for couples and families, free from high rises and crowds.

Travel south from Clearwater to arrive at the ever-popular John's Pass Village, where the calm waters of the bay meet the Gulf of Mexico. From here, set sail on a sunset cruise or a daylong fishing excursion or just stroll the wooden boardwalk and check out the waterfront shops and dining options.

At the heart of St. Pete Beach is the historic pink palace, the Loews Don Ce Sar Hotel—built in 1928 at the heart of America's Jazz Age. It's worth a visit for dinner or cocktails to soak up the nostalgic, Gatsby-like atmosphere.

For a more natural experience, Fort De Soto is ideal. Plus, it's home to one of the only dog beaches in the area. Make time to see the Salvador Dali museum in downtown St. Petersburg on your way out of town. The building itself is a work of art, and it houses the largest collection of the legendary surrealist outside of Spain.

Remember VIP Express Tours Transportation for your transportations need to any of the beaches. We provide taxi and car services to and from Florida beaches

Our picks for 2019's best spring festivals happening in Orlando

Florida Strawberry Festival

Spring in Florida is for three things: enjoying freshwater swimming holes before the tourists take over, picnicking in the sun and the Florida Strawberry Festival. This annual 11-day event in Plant City celebrates the red berry with more than 500,000 visitors. There's always, of course, crops of fresh strawberries and the world-famous strawberry shortcake, but there's also strawberry pizza, strawberry kettle corn and strawberry hamburgers for the adventurous foodie. Aside from youth livestock shows and carnival attractions, the Florida Strawberry Festival also boasts a strong concert lineup, this year including Willie Nelson, Alabama, Old Dominion, For King and Country, the Drifters and many more.

10 a.m.-10 p.m. | Florida Strawberry Festival, 303 N. Lemon St., Plant City | | $10-$45

Feb. 28-March 17

Central Florida Fair

In the century-long existence of the Central Florida Fair, the focus has shifted from a primarily agricultural event to one focused on risk-taking, whether that comes in the form of loading yourself into what feels like a rickety deathtrap that someone sarcastically decided was a ride, or taking a gamble on eating deep-fried butter. But with all-day ride wristbands available for $25 and fair food prices still remaining a nudge south of the prices at the big parks, one risk you don't have to worry about is whether you're getting enough fun for your buck. And hey, the livestock, shows and live music are still there if you need to take a break to get your stomach settled.

Central Florida Fairgrounds, 4603 W. Colonial Drive | 407-295-3247 | | $8-$25

Friday-Sunday, March 22-24

Spooky Empire

The long-running local horror convention definitely had some logistical growing pains at last October's event (whoa, Nelly), but one can't help but root for Spooky Empire's organizers, especially when scoping out the lineup for their satellite spring event. So far they've confirmed big-ticket talent like Christina Ricci (Buffalo 66, The Addams Family) and Christopher Lloyd (Back to the Future, Who Framed Roger Rabbit); cult favorites like Fairuza Balk (The Craft) and Florida's own Ricou Browning (The Creature From the Black Lagoon); and intriguing up-and-comers like David Howard Thornton and Damien Leone from the unrelentingly dark Terrifier. And of course, expect the usual cavalcade of vendors, panels, film screenings, musical entertainment and cosplay-o-rama.

1 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m. Saturday-Sunday | Wyndham Orlando Resort, 8001 International Drive | 954-258-7852 | | $30-$65

Saturday, March 23

United We Brunch

The concept of brunch – not quite breakfast, not quite lunch – goes back to 1895, when it was first named by English writer Guy Beringer in his essay Brunch: A Plea. In it, Beringer advocated for the hybrid meal as a way for heavy Saturday night drinkers, such as himself, to make Sundays a little less painful. Not much has changed in modern times, except for the fact that a post-brunch hangover is a bit more standard than a pre-existing one. To help with that, we gather together some of the best brunch restaurants in the area under one roof and have them bring along their best bites for you to try. We combine that with unlimited mimosas, Bloody Marys and beer for the ultimate brunch experience. And this time, we're even covering the after-party for our VIP ticketholders. Plus, it's on a Saturday, so you won't even have to call out from work the next day.

11 a.m.-3 p.m. | Orchid Garden & Ballroom, 126 W. Church St. | | $45-$80

April 5-14

UCF Celebrates the Arts

When UCF decides to celebrate, they go all in. This festival will have the Dr. Phillips Center overflowing with intriguing experiences for a full 10 days, to the point that attendees may just want to bring a sleeping bag and camp out on the Seneff Arts Plaza so as not to miss anything. (Except, whoops, even the Seneff is being activated with immersive installations and interactive art-making.) This fest really does fulfill that tired cliché, "something for everyone": book-lovers can meet Station Eleven author Emily St. John Mandel; Broadway fans can attend a performance of Titanic: The Musical; opera lovers get a production of Aaron Copland's The Tender Land; jazz fans can snap fingers to the Flying Horse Big Band's tribute to Ray Charles. And that barely scratches the surface of the myriad concerts, exhibitions and happenings taking place. Admission to many events is free, but all events require a ticket; some performances add a surcharge to reserve seats.

5:30 p.m. Friday, April 5, through 5 p.m. Sunday, April 14 | Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, 445 S. Magnolia Ave. | 407-823-1500 | | free-$50

April 12-21

Florida Film Festival

We won't have the schedule of films playing at this year's 28th annual Florida Film Festival until mid-March, but there's always plenty worth seeing. The area's only Oscar-accredited film festival screens more than 180 films this year at Maitland's Enzian and the Winter Park Village Regal Cinemas. That includes shorts, features, documentaries, animation ... something for every cinematic taste. Last year's investment in a mobile app made finding the movies you want to see and snagging tickets for them a breeze, so we're happy to see that's returning. Keep an eye out for announcements about films, celebrities, parties and more in the next few weeks.

Enzian Theater, 1300 S. Orlando Ave., Maitland; Regal Cinemas Winter Park Village, 510 Orlando Ave., Winter Park | | $12-$1,500

Friday, April 26

Whiskey Business

Whether we're talking bourbon or scotch, Irish or Canadian, whiskey/whisky is the star at our annual Whiskey Business party. Enjoy samples of dozens of varieties from some of the area's most dedicated brown liquor providers, including brands like Jack Daniel's, Woodford Reserve and Whistle Pig. To keep it classy, though, we also make sure there are plenty of booze-absorbing bites from several different restaurants on hand, along with live music and burlesque interludes to feast your ears and eyes upon. The beautiful wooden architecture of the Cheyenne Saloon complements this event perfectly.

6-10 p.m. | Cheyenne Saloon, 120 W. Church St. | | $20-$80

May 14-27

A Travel Guide for How to Visit Orlando on a Budget

When to Visit

There is no sure way to avoid crowds in Orlando, but certain times of the year are less crowded than others. After late August and the start of school in most places, Disney World has a history of offering discount packages to keep the trams full of visitors. Summer is the most popular and therefore worst time to visit the theme parks. Pack sunscreen and patience in equal doses. If you can avoid times when school is out, you'll see shorter lines. Find a flight to Orlando.
Where to Eat

Most major U.S. restaurant chains have at least a few locations in the Orlando area. Most food budgets go haywire at the theme parks, where captive audiences will pay very high prices for generally ordinary food. Some of these purchases can't be avoided, but plan larger meals away from the parks. For example, eat a large breakfast and a large dinner, but make lunch a snack. It can do wonders for your budget.
Where to Stay

On-site resorts save time, but not necessarily money. And it's possible to stay at a budget-friendly hotel even during peak season. Disney even recognizes the need for lower room rates and offers on-site rooms at discounted prices after school starts each August. Four-star hotel for under $100/night: Monumental Hotel on International Drive. Key question: How far is your "bargain" room from the attractions you will visit? Don't stay in Apopka if you're planning to visit Universal or WDW each day.

Find hotels in greater Orlando if you don't mind being a bit farther out.
Getting Around

Remember that the region has three fairly busy airports: Orlando, Daytona Beach, and Sanford. Some travelers find it easier or cheaper to use Tampa's airport, too. You'll need an Orlando car rental to visit major attractions, and it definitely pays to shop for a rental. Competition here is fierce. Beware of the booth: Greater Orlando is Florida's toll road capital.
Orlando Attractions

Walt Disney World is 30 minutes southwest of downtown Orlando. Planners envisioned it as a place where construction would never "finish," a destination where people would have to come back to see the latest and greatest. Universal Studios Orlando is part of a massive entertainment complex where you can see working film sets, sample the work of world famous chefs, and ride attractions that put you in the movies. Take a look at a step by step approach to saving money at Disney World.
Beyond the Theme Parks

One reason for Orlando's phenomenal growth is its central Florida location. Gulf and Atlantic beaches are within 60 miles, as is the Kennedy Space Center, Ocala's horse farm country and some wonderful bass fishing.
More Orlando Tips

Get a GO Orlando Card

This is a card you buy prior to your trip and then activate on first use. You can buy from one- to seven-day cards good for free admission at dozens of local attractions. Design your itinerary before you consider a Go Orlando purchase, to determine if the investment will save you money on admissions.

Prepare Yourself for Admission Prices

People who don't do their homework experience "sticker shock" when they find out how much admission will cost. Check Web sites and find discounts before you go.

Be Skeptical of the word "Discount"

There is no shortage of offers for "deep discounts" and "cheap rooms." Sometimes the offers will save you money, but many have strings attached. Don't be duped.

Save Time for Central Florida

Cape Canaveral's Kennedy Space Center is unique and should not be missed. Budget a day to see it. Orlando's trendy, upscale Winter Park area is a nice alternative to a day at the theme parks, too.

Sunburn can ruin your trip

It might be obvious advice, but scores of people plan and save for a Florida vacation and then lose most of the enjoyment to sunburn. Buy a good sunblock and use it. Consider it cheap travel insurance.

Try to Blend In

Criminals target people who advertise their status as tourists. Don't stack luggage in your car so it can be seen through the windows. Keep big bills tucked away safely in a money belt.

Watch Your Speed on Interstate 4

This main highway that connects Tampa, Disney, Orlando, and Daytona is well-patrolled, especially in the area near Disney. Warnings are few and tickets are expensive. You'll find other areas where radar-enforced tickets are common, but I-4 is probably the place where speeders get ticketed most frequently.

9 Best Florida Beach Vacation Destinations for Families

St. Augustine
Where to Play: Though not known as a beach destination, this historical city of St. Augustine is a must-visit with the family. St. Augustine beaches are both secluded and unspoiled with more than 40 miles of scenic coastline where Spanish explorers first set foot hundreds of years ago. Spend the days at the beach and the nights among the cobblestone streets of the historic district. My kids loved the Pirate and Treasure Museum, Old Jail, and Alligator Farm among other city attractions.
Where to Stay: The Hilton Garden Inn at St. Augustine Beach is my go-to hotel for a great location at a budget-friendly rate.

RELATED: Dolphins and 30 Other Great Things to Do in Key West with Kids

Singer Island
Where to Play: Part of The Palm Beaches, Singer Island feels like a private oasis. The wide beaches, turquoise water, and breezy air will leave you feeling relaxed and sun-kissed. Though not a lot of attractions on the island, there are a number of kid-friendly sites to see within a quick drive. Head to Loggerhead Marine Life Center to meet recently rescued sea turtles and catch classes and storytimes during the week. At nearby John D. MacArthur State Park also lies the urban estuary of Lake Worth Lagoon and the Intracoastal Waterway, where you can kayak, canoe, and hike short trails and visit the Nature Center.
Where to Stay: The all-suite Palm Beach Marriott Singer Island Beach Resort and Spa is a great beachfront hotel for families with a very child-friendly pool and a kids club.

RELATED: 50 Things To Do in Orlando with Kids Other Than Theme Parks

Delray Beach
Where to Play: Small beach town, big personality: Delray Beach was voted Most Fun Small Town in America by USA Today. When not enjoying the white-sand beaches and delicious local restaurants, check out the unique Morikami Japanese Gardens. Take your fun indoors at the Silverball Museum for some unique family entertainment with modern and old-school arcade games or drive to Boca Raton to visit the Gumbo Limbo Nature Center.
Where to Stay: Delray Sands is a great beachfront boutique hotel with the perfect combination of upscale and coziness. For a larger hotel with all the amenities you could ask for, stay at the Delray Beach Marriott.

Hollywood Beach
Where to Play: This family-friendly South Florida beach destination provides a wide beach with a great broadwalk to bike, rollerblade, or just take an evening stroll before stopping in at one of the many local beachfront restaurants. Hop on the FREE Hollywood Trolley and head south to John U. Lloyd State Park, where you can take a kayak tour of Whiskey Creek.
Where to Stay: My favorite family-friendly hotel on Hollywood Beach is the Margaritaville Hollywood Beach Resort, which offers complimentary chairs and umbrellas on prime beach space in front of the hotel. There are three pools, a Flow Rider, and a hut to rent kayaks and paddle boards for exploring the mangroves of the intercoastal waterways. For a more luxurious family stay, The Diplomat will not disappoint.

Southern Tip

South Beach
Where to Play: Yes, it may sound surprising but I enjoy South Beach with my kids. Avoid wilder crowds by going during winter (as opposed to spring break). If rain arrives or the kids need a break from the waves, take some time to explore the Miami Children's Museum, located just over the bridge from Miami Beach.The Miami Seaquarium is an amusement park, museum, educational program, and rescue center all in one and a must visit with kids who love sealife.
Where to Stay: Hotel Victor is a beautiful boutique hotel in the heart of South Beach. Though swanky, it's great for families because of its walkable location, beach playground across the street, shallow heated pool, and Sugar Factory restaurant located right off the hotel lobby. Another great accommodation option is Casa Victoria Orchid, a boutique hotel located on the historic Espanola Way.

Gulf Side

Where to Play: Often known for its golf courses and plentiful high-end shopping, Naples, Florida is also perfect family vacation destination. Located on the Gulf of Mexico, in the Southwest region of Florida, the beaches of Naples offer miles of gentle waves, soft white sand, and beautiful warm weather year-round. Besides the abundance of beaches, we never get bored in Naples with its family-friendly attractions and activities! The Naples Zoo and Caribbean Gardens is a fantastic way to spend half a day exploring nature. If you have younger children, you won't want to skip the Golisano’s Children’s Museum of Naples. For waterside activities, the area offers great shelling, calm kayaking, and good fishing off the Naples Pier.
Where to Stay: My favorite beachfront hotel in Naples is the Edgewater: It’s an all-suite, boutique hotel in a convenient location. The Ritz Carlton Naples is also a great family-friendly beachfront hotel that offers kids club activities.

RELATED: 12 Hotels Around the World That Will Blow Your Kids' Minds

 Sanibel and Captiva Islands
Where To Play: There are so many beaches that feel private and secluded on Sanibel and Captiva Islands, located right outside of Fort Myers. My favorite spot to take the kids is near the Sanibel Lighthouse where the waves are calm and the shells are plentiful. Rent bikes for a day to explore the entire island, making sure to stop at the J.N. Ding Darling Wildlife Center. Our family’s favorite beach to watch the sunset is at the Mucky Duck in Captiva. The Sanibel Sea School is an interactive way to get the kids involved in marine ecosystems while having fun.
Where To Stay: The South Seas Island Resort will be the luxurious island escape of your dreams. This expansive resort has everything you need on property for the entire family to have an excellent beach vacation.

Siesta Key
Where To Play: One of the eight barrier islands of Sarasota, Siesta Key beach is continually voted as one of the best beaches in the U.S. The sand is 99% pure quartz, which makes it sugar-fine, uber soft, and cool on the feet. It's easy to spend a day here with the FREE parking, calm waves, beach volleyball courts, large playground, picnic tables, and nice outdoor showers. Take a day to explore the nearby family-friendly attractions like the Ringling Museum and the Children’s Rainforest Garden at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens.
Where To Stay: To take advantage of this beautiful, relaxing beach destination, I suggest condo-style accommodations on the beach. Hyatt Residence Club is a great place for the entire family to spread out or consider renting one of the many rental homes available in the area.

Where To Play: A great add-on to an Orlando vacation, Clearwater Beach is beautiful and family-friendly. When taking a break from the sunshine and sand, plan a few hours at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. When evening rolls around, head to Pier 60 for a wonderful sunset celebration with artisans, crafters, street performers and more. To see the Gulf from a different perspective, go on an adventure with Captain Memo's Pirate Cruise.
Where To Stay: The Hilton Clearwater Beach hotel is next to Pier 60, making it an excellent location for evening activities with the kids. This comfortable and modern hotel makes it easy to have a car-free vacation.

Top photo courtesy of South Seas Island Resort


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Annual Orlando events you don't want to miss


Great Orlando Mixer

The swinging-est party in town, featuring 1920s-themed costumes and music, and drinks from the best mixologists in Orlando.

March 26, Cheyenne Saloon, 128 W. Church St.,


Florida Film Festival

Whether you're a fan of dramas, comedies, documentaries or shorts, the Florida Film Festival has it all.

April 10-19, Enzian Theater, 1300 S. Orlando Ave., Maitland, 407-629-1088,

Fiesta in the Park

Wander around Lake Eola and check out food, live music, and arts and crafts from tons of vendors.

April 11-12, Lake Eola Park, North Eola Drive and East Washington Street,

Florida Music Festival

A downtown music festival geared toward artists looking to break into the major-label industry.

April 16-18, downtown Orlando, multiple venues,


Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival

Thespians from all over the world descend on the theater complex at Loch Haven for two weeks of performances.

May 13-26, Loch Haven Park, 777 E. Princeton St.,



A monthlong celebration of the best food Orlando has to offer, with special prix fixe menus at each participating restaurant.

June 1-30, multiple locations,

Gay Days

Organized trips to Walt Disney World Resort during the day, themed parties every night.

June 2-8, multiple locations,


Fireworks at the Fountain

Nothing says patriotism like the "oohs" and "ahhs" elicited by this annual firework and light show at Lake Eola.

July 4, Lake Eola Park, North Eola Drive and East Robinson Street,

Best of Orlando

Annual party in honor of our Best of Orlando winners. If you snag a ticket to this exclusive party, congratulations: We like you.

July 30, The Beacham, 46 N. Orange Ave.,


Orlando Nerd Fest

This event brings in video game music composers and nerdcore luminaries like Nobuo Uematsu and MC Frontalot.

Aug. 7-10, venue TBA,



A day in the park that features all kinds of art, from choirs to puppets to painting to dance and everything in between.

September (date TBA), Loch Haven Park, 777 E. Princeton St.,

Halloween Horror Nights

Over a month of special haunted houses and scare zones. Bring your heart medication.

Sept. 18-Nov. 1, Universal Studios, 6000 Universal Blvd.,


Orlando Indie Comedy Fest

Check out some of the country's best underground comedians at intimate venues like Bull & Bush and Will's Pub.

October 2015 (date TBA), multiple locations,

Come Out With Pride

A week of LGBT events and our favorite downtown parade party.

Oct. 5-11, multiple locations,


Winter Park Harvest Festival

A festival that focuses on local agriculture and sustainable harvests.

November 2015 (date TBA), Central Park, North Park Avenue and West Morse Boulevard, Winter Park,

Florida Blue Florida Classic

Annual football game between Bethune Cookman University and Florida A&M.

November 2015 (date TBA), Orlando Citrus Bowl, 1 Citrus Bowl Place,


Christmas in the Park

The Morse Museum decorates Central Park with stained glass windows and the Bach Festival Choir performs a Christmas concert.

December 2015 (date TBA), Central Park, North Park Avenue and West Morse Boulevard, Winter Park,

Grandma Party

Handmade crafts from local artisans and live music from local bands make this our favorite stop for holiday shopping.

December 2015 (date TBA), Stardust Video & Coffee, 1842 E. Winter Park Road,


Zora! Festival

Eatonville's most famous writer gets a festival in her honor every year featuring live music, arts and educational activities.

January 2016 (date TBA), downtown Eatonville,

Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl

The Citrus Bowl plays host to one of the BCS games every New Year's Day.

Jan. 1, 2016, Orlando Citrus Bowl, 1 Citrus Bowl Place,


Puppy Love

This annual tribute to man's best friends (hosted by yours truly) has treats and games, live music and all the butt your pooch can sniff.

February 2016 (date TBA), location TBA,


This DIY festival pays tribute to slain Orlando musician Ralph Ameduri and tends to reunite some of Orlando's bygone bands for special sets.

February 2016 (date TBA), multiple locations,

Lunar New Year Dragon Parade

Formerly taking place in Mills 50, this Lunar New Year celebration got so big that it had to move to the Fashion Square Mall in 2015.

February 2016 (date TBA), Fashion Square Mall, 3201 E. Colonial Drive,

10 Reasons to Visit Orlando This Winter

Sea Life Orlando Aquarium

A kaleidoscope of colors wows families as 5,000 sea creatures explore their new habitats at the SEA LIFE Orlando Aquarium, set in I-Drive 360. Plan to spend the better part of an afternoon exploring the attraction, as all ages delight at the close encounters with the aquarium’s sharks, Green Sea turtles, and jellyfish. With an emphasis on education and conservation, the Sea Life Aquarium’s exhibits are playful and informative, with fun features that include a 360-degree ocean tunnel and a children’s soft play area.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

From boy wonder to theme park phenomenon, Harry Potter has triumphantly arrived in Orlando by way of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Thrilling Muggles since 2010 with the impeccably-themed Hogsmeade at Universal’s Islands of Adventure, incredible demand for more Potter brought 2014’s Diagon Alley, a new extension accessible only by the Hogwarts Express (arriving on Platform 9¾, of course). Among the highlights of the two lands, Diagon Alley’s Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts is a flagship attraction, taking riders on a 3-D steel coaster through detailed sets, physical effects, and stunning video sequences.

Morimoto Asia Restaurant

Opening this past September, Disney Springs welcomes its newest flagship restaurant, Morimoto Asia, a gourmand destination for the finest in sushi and fresh takes on Pan Asian cuisine. Created by the master himself, Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto, marvel at the prep and masterful pairing of flavors in the custom-crafted sushi rolls with exotic offerings that include Japanese red snapper, uni, and sea eel. More traditional Asian cuisine excites taste buds with a menu that includes dim sum plates, Morimoto’s indulgent spare ribs, and orange chicken. Packed nightly, reservations are accepted and highly recommended, accepted from 180 days prior to your visit – a culinary experience that’s worth the wait.

Legoland’s Heartlake City and Legoland Florida Resort Hotel

Only four years old, LEGOLAND Florida continues to expand its 150 acre property with this past summer’s new land, Heartlake City and the new LEGOLAND Hotel. Based on the LEGO Friends toy series, Heartlake City brings a girl-focused experience to the park, with attractions that include Mia’s Riding Adventure, a rotating disc coaster featuring horse shaped seats, as well as the new Friends to the Rescue live stage show. As for the new LEGOLAND Hotel, Lego construction is always underway as activities include the chance to learn from a LEGO Master Builder in a special workshop, nightly LEGO building competitions, as well as nightly visits from LEGO characters, a pajama party, and movie screenings.

Orlando Eye

Get the best lay of the land and the region’s theme parks as you ascend to the heights of one of Orlando’s newest attractions, The Orlando Eye. Only fifteen minutes from Walt Disney World and Universal Studios Orlando, the 400-foot Ferris wheel anchors I-Drive 360, Orlando’s new $250-million family entertainment destination. The wheel’s thirty high-tech capsules complete a rotation every thirty minutes. Apple iPad Air tablets onboard help to locate points of interest throughout the trip which include the nearby theme parks, scenic landscapes, and visibility of more than fifty miles east to Cape Canaveral and the coast of the Atlantic. A hot new attraction on the Orlando scene, be sure to book tickets ahead of your visit as time slots can sell out.

Star Wars Launch Bay

Fire up your lightsaber and prepare for incredible access to the Star Wars galaxy with Disney World’s newest attraction, Star Wars Launch Bay. Serving as the new hub for the park’s Star Wars craze and capitalizing on the timing of the record-breaking new film, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, this walk-through attraction features an immersive world of replica props, models, and costumes that have become treasured artifacts of cinematic history. A ten minute featurette in the Launch Bay Theater takes fans on a behind-the-scenes look at the creation and inspiration of the Star Wars films including interviews with cast members, directors, writers, and more who’ve played a part in bringing the iconic films to the silver screen.

Crayola Experience

Spend an afternoon exercising your right-brain as creativity runs wild at the Crayola Experience, a 70,000-square-foot haven of color that arrived in Orlando this past summer. An overwhelming twenty five interactive stations extend throughout the two floor center. Don’t miss the younger set’s favorite: You Design, a virtual studio for coloring and digitally accessorizing a car or fashion wardrobe before watching the personal design make its debut on a large projected screen. Also be sure to make it a priority to check out the Crayon Factory, where live demonstrations show the crayon creation process from wax to wrapper.

The Boathouse

Retooling Downtown Disney into the newly christened Disney Springs, The BOATHOUSE arrives as a contemporary and upscale seafood eatery on the waterfront. The fresh seafood and appetizing entrees take a back seat to the restaurant’s main attraction, amphicar tours. Vintage retrofitted vehicles offer the chance for a one-of-a-kind tour of Disney Springs as the vessel’s four wheels submerge underwater and a propeller jet glides riders throughout the lake. The tour costs $125 which includes a Car Captain and seating for up to three guests. Before and after dinner, you’ll want to be sure to make time to explore the restaurant’s impressive fleet of nineteen rare boats throughout the premises, with some featuring custom table arrangements in the dining room for a most nautical experience on land.


Enjoy the nightly fireworks of Disney’s Magic Kingdom from the comforts of your private plunge pool on the deck of your bungalow (with the music of the show piped in through outdoor speakers on the deck!), one of the newest lodging options offered at Disney's Polynesian Villas & Bungalows. Taking a page from the picture-perfect overwater retreats of the South Pacific, Disney has built twenty overwater Bora Bora Bungalows, the first of their kind in the US, on the Seven Seas Lagoon. With rates that start at $2,137 per night, guests can expect accommodations for up to eight, with a full kitchen and dining table that seat eight.

WinterClub Indoor Ski & Snowboard

Proof that heading south doesn't cancel out winter sports, opt for the truly unique experience of skiing and snowboarding in shorts and a t-shirt at Orlando’s WinterClub Indoor Ski & Snowboard. Having opened just a few weeks ago, the region’s first and only indoor ski center welcomes ski and snowboarding enthusiasts at all levels to come practice and play on their high-tech “endless slopes.” WinterClub’s interactive Ski Simulator fuses high-definition large video wall ski runs with a unique chassis that allows skiers to experience the same G-force effects as they would skiing in real life.

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National FFCMH 28th Annual Conference in Orlando

National FFCMH 28th Annual Conference

This event is hosted by: National Federation of Families for Children's Mental Health

Did you know that 1 in 5 children in America experience social, emotional and behavioral challenges? One undisputed constant in our society is that all children who survive childhood and adolescence will become adults. For children who experience untreated behavioral health disorders, this typically results in adults who continue to struggle with symptoms, who become parents and who perpetuate this cycle. The impact of this reoccurring cycle is felt throughout our society.

For over 25 years, the National Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health has been the nationwide advocacy organization with families as its sole focus, playing an important role in helping children, youth and their families whose lives are impacted by mental health challenges. This important work is supported largely by the generous donors like you who contribute to our cause.

Our 28th Annual Conference will feature many great workshops and speakers this year, joining hundreds of mental health advocates and professionals from across the nation as we work to educate and empower children, youth, and families!

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Arts Season Preview: Six events for an arts lover's serious side

Of course, not everything arts-related is meant to be jolly. Here are a half-dozen events from the 2017-18 arts season that dive into weightier issues while they entertain.

•"Baggage Claims": In this Orlando Museum of Art exhibition, an international group of 18 artists explores the mobility of global culture, especially in regard to the humanitarian, economic and political concerns of those fleeing conflict or other hardships. The title refers to physical travel, but also to "emotional baggage" that people cannot leave behind. (Sept. 15-Dec. 31,

•"La Boheme": Opera Orlando forgoes the iconic comedy mask for its companion – tragedy. "La Boheme" tells the story of impoverished friends in 19th-century Paris. At its center is the love of Mimi and Rodolfo, a romance derailed by illness. (Nov. 15-19,

•"Romeo and Juliet": Another case of love gone tragically wrong takes the stage as Orlando Ballet presents a dance adaptation of Shakespeare's best-known romance, set to a score by Prokofiev. The young couple are torn apart by their warring families with disastrous consequences. (Feb. 9-11,

•"American Roots": This Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra concert features two works by the great U.S. composer Aaron Copland. His "Quiet City" is an ode to New York – and the lonely people who inhabit it. The thorny issues of politics, love, death and religion inspired his "Old American Songs." (April 2,

•"Writings on the Wall": NBA superstar Kareem Abdul-Jabbar will speak at Rollins College's Winter Park Institute this spring. Although his basketball playing was serious business, don't be surprised if the six-time league MVP has more important things on his mind. An activist and best-selling author, Abdul-Jabbar regularly contributes to The Washington Post and Time magazine, where he writes on socially relevant and politically controversial topics. (April 4,

•"African-American Masterpieces": Marking the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, the Bach Festival Society of Winter Park presents a concert of three symphonic spirituals: "Negro Symphony," "And They Lynched Him on a Tree" and "The Ordering of Moses." (April 21-22,

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