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Your pocket guide to Orlando . . . it's magic.

Orlando is the most popular holiday destination in the world - and no wonder.

There is so much non-stop entertainment on offer that it's fun from morning 'til night.

As if this wasn't enough, this October will see the start of one of the biggest parties ever staged in America. Florida's Walt Disney World will be celebrating its 25th anniversary - and the fun will last 15 months! Even the 185ft Cinderella's Castle will be transformed into a giant cake.

With so much on offer, if you are a first-time visitor you will need to allow at least a week to experience all the fun and activities.

So you might be wise to book a package which splits a week in Orlando with a week on the coast - so you can recover!

WHERE TO STAY

One of the cheapest ways to visit Orlando is to take a fly-drive package and stay at a motel on International Drive. Call into The Official Visitor Information Center (001 407 363 5871), 8445 International Drive, Suite 152, for good hotel/motel deals.

International Drive lies parallel to Interstate 4 about 15 minutes drive from Walt Disney World. The big advantage of staying within the Disney Vacation Kingdom is that you can get into the theme parks an hour before the official opening time.

Two economy hotels have opened within the last couple of years - the All Star Sports Resort and the All-Star Music Resort. The rooms cost about pounds 45 a night and sleep four.

The Lake Buena Vista complex is located en route to Orlando's other theme parks and attractions.

The well-known chains, such as Travelodge and Holiday Inn, are situated in this area. There are free shuttle buses to the attractions, but no early entry.

One of the best hotels in Orlando is the Hyatt Grand Cypress (UK res. 0345 581666). It has a stunning swimming pool, tennis and riding centres, golf, and excellent childcare facilities. Prices are from pounds 123 for a double room.

EATING OUT

Food in the theme parks tends to be bland, but comes in great quantities.

If you want to save money, sneak in a couple of rolls to stave off the mid-day hunger pangs.

You will find the best lunch at Farmer's Market in EPCOT's Land Pavilion - be sure to book.

For a treat, try Sunday Brunch at La Coquina in Hyatt's Grand Cypress Hotel there's brilliant seafood and unlimited Californian champagne for pounds 25-a-head.

NIGHTLIFE

AN pounds 11.30 ticket to Disney's Pleasure Island gives entry to seven nightclubs from live jazz and country & western to heavy rock (those under 18 must be accompanied after 7pm).

The Mercado Center on International Drive has 60 shops, five restaurants and a rock'n'roll piano bar.

Church Street Station is a three-storey Victorian building housing a host of shops, bars and restaurants. Rosie O'Grady's Good Time Emporium is great fun with its Dixieland jazz bands.

SHOPPING

THERE's more Mickey Mouse merchandise than you can conceivably imagine - and the prices are good deal cheaper than at Disneyland-Paris.

Serious shoppers should try the two Belz factory outlet malls at North End of International Drive. There are nearly 200 outlets offering 25 to 75 per cent discounts on designer gear plus swimwear, sportswear, toys, records and jewellery.

The Disney Village Marketplace is a theme park dedicated to shopping - it has clothes, craft shops and character T-shirts by the ton.

DON'T MISS

Walt Disney World: It's the size of Greater London and draws 25million visitors a year. There are three major theme parks - Magic Kingdom, which has seven themed lands and 50 attractions, Disney-MGM Studios, and Epcot with its Future World and World Showcase of other attractions. A five- day World Hopper Pass costs pounds 138.50 adult, pounds 110.95 child, available at Disney Stores in Britain.

Blizzard Beach: Masses of rides, flumes and pools - all set in a mock ski resort complete with snow! It also has a sandy beach with large wave pool. Price is pounds 16 adults, pounds 12 child.

Sea World: See whales, dolphins and polar bears at close quarters. Wild Arctic is the largest and most ambitious ride while the Shamu World Focus shows whales performing tricks. Expect to get soaked if you sit near the front! pounds 25.30 adult, pounds 21.20 child (3- 9yrs).

Universal Studios: Over 40 rides, shows and movie sets. Latest ride is the "virtual-adventure" experience Terminator 2 3-D. Lots to interest all ages including Earthquake...terror on the subway with fires, exploding tankers and runaway trains. Adult pounds 25.70, child (3-9) pounds 20.66. The Hard Rock Cafe is beside the parking area if you need to escape for a couple of hours.

A Vacation Value Pass offers five consecutive days of unlimited visits to Universal Studios Florida, Sea World Of Florida, Wet'n'Wild and Busch Gardens Tampa Bay for pounds 60 adult, pounds 48.63 child.

USEFUL HINTS

Queues for the Disney rides can be lengthy, so plan your day carefully, making for the favourite rides first.

Don't accept cheap theme park tickets from touts - they may be out of date.

Take dollars or dollar travellers cheques, as American banks won't change sterling cheques willingly. Payment by credit card is universal.

Carry your passport for proof of age - you must be over 21 to hire a car or drink alcohol.

Collect your hire car on the morning after arrival. It saves the worry of driving after a long flight, and the confusion of losing your way in the dark.

Don't stop if your car is rammed. Drive to the nearest petrol station and call the police. The US equivalent of our 999 number is 911.

PACKAGES

Unijet (0990 336 336) are offering 14-nights at the Howard Johnson Maingate in Kissimmee from pounds 465 p.p. based on four sharing, pounds 565 p.p. based on two sharing, children from pounds 299. From Birmingham on August 7.

Jetsave (01342 313911) have Orlando fly-drives from pounds 99 p.p. until the end of August from Gatwick, Birmingham, Newcastle and Manchester. The price includes return flights and 14-days car hire (CDW insurance is essential. It costs pounds 60 per week). Airport tax is pounds 35 p.p. Other tour operators offering a two-centre package include Thomsons, Cosmos, Airtours and Virgin.

Further information: Florida Tourist Office, 18-24 Westbourne Grove, London W2 5RH. Orlando Visitors Centre, Mercado Shopping Centre, International Drive Orlando.
COPYRIGHT 1996 MGN LTD
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1996 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Author:King, Sarah Whitfield
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jul 28, 1996
Words:1066
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