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The sights of Orlando.

Orlando has come a long way since the early days of its incorporation. Back in 1875 it was little more than a 1sq.-mile-wide city named, according to popular legend, after a U.S. soldier killed while on sentinel duty. Today the city is the heart of one of the most thriving vacation meccas in the world. There are sporting events, shopping complexes, water slides -- and, of course, the ubiquitous theme parks. Suffice it to say that there is something for everyone, both on and off the beaten path.

Walt Disney World Vacation Kingdom, made up of the Magic Kingdom Park, Epcot Center and Disney-MGM Studios Theme Park, is the heart of Orlando. The Magic Kingdom Park the original branch of Walt Disney World Vacation Kingdom, houses such familiar favorites as Cinderella's Castle (the core of the park), Adventureland, Fantasyland, Frontierland, Liberty Square, Mickey's Starland and Tomorrowland. Rides such as the perennially scary Space Mountain (Tomorrowland), Mr. Toad's Wild Ride (Fantasyland) and the all-new Splash Mountain (Frontierland) elicit squeals of delight from children of all ages. There are also tamer fides such as 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Dumbo the Flying Elephant and the Mad Tea Party -- all in Fantasyland. Haunted Mansion is a popular draw in Liberty Square. Costumed Disney characters roam the park just waiting for the opportunity to shake hands or pose for a photo with youngsters. Along Main Street, Victorian-era stores are interwoven with restaurants. Wait Disney World Railroad runs around the outside of the park and provides a good overview, There are musical shows, parades, gift shops and restaurants galore to fill any possible spare moment. Open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.

Epcot Center, divided into Future World and World Showcase, opened with a bang in the fall of 1982. Future World is devoted to the exploration of technology and houses attractions and exhibits sponsored by some of America's largest corporations. Spaceship Earth, Universe of Energy, Journey Into Imagination and Captain EO (a film staring Michael Jackson) offer a future wodd of wonder, education and excitement. At Wodd Showcase, painstakingly recreated architecture combines with films, exhibits and shops to bring the cultures of many nations to life. Eleven countries are represented and there are excellent restaurants for each culture. Scale models of the Eiffel Tower, a Mayan temple and the streets of Old London are very attractive. American Adventure presents a 30minute history of the United States. Open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.

Slightly smaller in scope, Disney - MGM Studios Theme Park opened in 1989. This newest addition to Disney's tripartite structure is a salute to the heyday of Hollywood with soundstages, special-effects demonstrations and a replica of a Chinese Theater. There are Jim Henson's Muppet Vision 3-D, Aladdin's Royal Caravan, Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular and a Roger Rabbit pink paw trail. A backstage studio tour and The Magic of Disney Animation are intriguing. Open 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.

For movieland adventures that feature E.T., King Kong and Jaws, Universial Studios is the place. Park visitors can participate in adventure rides that whisk them past the great gorilla, transport them through time in Back to the Future and all-too realistically simulate Earthquake -- The Big One. Also popular are movie and TV sets, a tribute to Lucille Ball, Hanna-Barbera animation world and Nickelodeon productions. Interstate 4 and Kirkman Road. Open 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.

Home to two of the world's most popular killer whales, Sea World is Orlando's largest marine life park. Exploring the sea's mysteries here is a family adventure. Guests get to view the Shamu family both in their habitat and, simultaneously, on a giant video screen. Special underwater cameras offer new perspectives of the live dramatic action and playtime fun that takes place beneath the surface. A giant shark exhibit allows visitors to ride through on a conveyor belt, and a chilly penguin palace shows off the waddling creatures to their best advantage. In addition, there are performances that showcase water skiing (The Gold Rush Ski Show), whales and dolphins, and sea lions and sea otters (Clyde and Seamore 10,000 B.C.). A Polynesian luau is held nightly and requires reservations. Interstate 4 and the Bee Line Expressway.

Open 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.

A short distance from Orlando, a flower-lovers' paradise can be found at Cypress Gardens. This 223-acre botanical garden and theme park is well loved and much photographed. With over 8,000 varieties of plants, waterski shows, boat rides and costumed antebellum beautifies, the gardens have come a long way from their original status as a swamp. The coffee trees, hibiscus and gardenia make for a fragrant and visually stimulating tour of the lush grounds. The gardens are located east of Winter Haven on Route 540. Open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.

Bok Tower Gardens is a tranquil, floral spot to get away from the bustle of theme parks. At the center of the park is Bok Tower, a marble structure housing a carillon that rings out on the half-hour, with a 45-minute concert daily. U.S. 27, Lake Wales. Open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Big Tree Park is a maze of moss-draped trees and picnic tables. The favorite resident is "The Senator," one of the oldest and largest bald cypress trees in the country. 761 General Hutchinson Highway, Longwood. Open Mon. through Fri. 7 a.m. to sunset and Sat. through Sun. 9 a.m. to sunset.

Gatodand and the Central Ronda Zoological Park offer a view of virtually every species. At Gatorland, one can take in alligator breeding marshes and alligator wrestling, as well as other Florida critters such as flamingoes and snakes. 14501 S. Orange Blossom Trail, Orlando. Open 8 a.m. to dusk daily. Those in search of less viperous creatures can make their way to Central Florida Zoological Park for lions, tigers and lemurs -- not to mention pony rides for the kids. U.S. 17-92, near Lake Monroe. Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.

The United States Astronaut Hall of Fame showcases America's first astroronauts and their historic missions. NASA Parkway in Titusville.

Open 8 a.m. to dusk daily. Spaceport U.S.A. at the Kennedy Space Center like-wise presents an abundance of information about the development of the space program. Visitors can examine moon rocks and Apollo capsules and take in a showing of "The Dream Is Alive," a film narrated by Walter Cronkite that features footage shot by orbiting astronauts.

The Morse Museum of Art is home to a fine collection of Tiffany artifacts and other artwork. Call for current exhibits. 133 Welbourne Avenue, Winter Park. Open Tues. through Sat. 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sun. 1 to 4 p.m.

There's much more to shopping in Orlando than the ubiquitous Mickey Mouse souvenir stands. There are malls, boutiques and flea markets to suit every taste. Orlando's traditional malls are Altamonte, Colonial Plaza, Fashion Square and Honda Mall. Each has 50 or more shops with major department stores and restaurants.

It wouldn't be Florida without Orange Blossom Market and Belitz Citrus Circus. These Orlando staples carry citrus fruits, candies, fresh juices and a variety of sunshine state souvenirs.

Church Street Station houses boutiques and gift shops such as Benetton and Victoria's Secret in a large retail complex and train depot. One of Central Florida's most famous shopping spots, the posh Park Avenue in Winter Park showcases elegant shops and ice cream parlors that make for a decidedly glamorous afternoon. At Old Town in Kissimmee, shops featuring such unique items as racing paraphernalia, music boxes and crystal are flanked by an old-fashioned general store, ferris wheel and carousel.

Browse through boutiques and kiosks displaying dolls, hammocks and clothing as you wander along the brick streets of Mercado Mediterranean Village. Nightly entertainment and ample ethnic food specialties bring alive the feel of an open-air Mediterranean market.
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Title Annotation:supplement: RIMS Annual Conference 1993; traveler's guide to Orlando, Florida
Publication:Risk Management
Date:Apr 1, 1993
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