Cultural & Sporting
There is a reason that so many PGA World Tour players call Florida home, but the State’s sporting and cultural charms are far wider than golf alone. Florida has cultural and sporting attractions to suit all interests….
The Orlando Arts Scene
Downtown Orlando offers a diverse range of cultural and artistic venues. The Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra perform regularly at the Plaza Live Theatre. The Orlando Ballet can be seen at the Bob Carr Theatre and soon also at the new Orlando Dr Phillips Centre for Performing Arts which is scheduled to open in November 2014, with an exciting programme of events. The Orlando Museum of Art is overshadowed by the collection at the Cornell Fine Arts Museum at Rollins College in neighbouring Winter Park, but the Orlando Shakespeare Theatre and the Orlando Science Centre offer great value, high-quality entertainment.
The waters around Florida offer some amazing experiences for divers, including the opportunity to swim with manatees and/or dolphins. These amazing creatures are found in Florida waters particularly over the winter period. There is a small Manatee Sanctuary over on the east coast in Cocoa Beach, but the majority of dive tours best accessible from Orlando are to be found on the west coast, north of Tampa. You can hire all the equipment and choose from guided tours ranging from beginner to experienced diver.
Some of our villas are based on resorts built around lakes which provide some great fishing spots on your doorstep. Of course, in an area with this many lakes, both Orlando and Kissimmee and their surrounding waters also offer more challenging fishing experiences. There is a choice of ‘Trophy Brass’ fishing lakes in the immediate area or head east on the Martin Andersen Beachway Expressway (highway 528) to enjoy a day of deep-sea fishing on board one of the many fishing tours or excursions that depart from Cape Canaveral or Cocoa Beach.
With more than a hundred courses within 45 miles of Orlando alone, Florida boasts some of the best Golf courses in the world. You might have to travel a far way beyond Orlando – and have some notable connections – to play at Florida’s best, Seminole or Sawgrass. But Orlando still has plenty to offer: the challenging and exclusive options include Isleworth and Lake None; the popular include the Reunion and Grande Cypress resorts, Shingle Creek, Grande Pines, Champions Gate or Grande Lakes. Even in the heart of the parks you’re not short of choice; the Disney complex alone offers four golf courses. Orlando also makes a great base if you’re willing to travel a little further afield for a round; other acclaimed Central Florida courses include Mountain Lake, World Woods, Streamsong, Black Diamond Ranch and Old Memorial.
Hot Air Ballooning
There is no more peaceful or beautiful way to experience Orlando’s dramatic backdrop of colourful theme parks or the rugged, natural beauty of the surrounding landscape than by hot air balloon. Dawn or dusk are the most popular times to fly. Whether you book onto a tour where you can share a group basket or hire a private basket complete with champagne toast, you are guaranteed an unforgettable experience.
You can’t beat attending a live sports game for a genuine taste of American excitement. If you’re in Orlando during the winter months you might be lucky enough to catch an Orlando Magic game at the Amway Centre. Even if you think you’re not into basketball, watching an NBA game live just might change your mind!
You’ll have to travel to Tampa if you want to take in major league basketball or football, but you can catch some ECHL ice-hockey action at the Amway Centre and cheer on the Orlando Solar Bears. The Citrus Bowl is currently undergoing a redevelopment, and it’s hoped that this will attract some big names and big games to the city.
Speed and exhilaration isn’t just to be found in the Florida theme parks. Orlando isn’t short of opportunities for petrol-heads to get their kicks too. Several locations will rent ATVs, buggies or ‘mucky ducks’ to you so you can go kick up some Florida mud.
When we think of Florida today, our minds immediately jump to the modern theme parks and retirement communities, so it is often easy to overlook the state’s historic landmarks – and hard to imagine Florida is home to the oldest town in the continental USA. But it is.
Settled by the Spanish in 1565, San Agustin was the capital of Spanish Florida for two hundred years. This is what gives the beautiful, historic town its claim to being ‘America’s oldest city’. Strolling along the charming cobbled streets, you can feel the Spanish vibe in the old town. The Castillo de San Marcos and Fort Matanzas are impressive remnants of the city’s past and worth an exploration, as are its Lighthouse, kitsch tourist tain, and the Lightner Museum.
St Augustine is just under a two-hour drive from Orlando: head east to Daytona Beach on the I4 then pick up the I95 north towards Jacksonville.
In a state famous for its fruit growers, it’s gratifying to know that some of the vast acreage is turned over to the noble art of wine production. There are 33 wineries in the state, some of them within easy reach of Orlando. A tasting tour offers a gentler – possibly more refined – alternative to the heady paces of the theme parks. But, in September, you get an opportunity to combine the two as that’s the month that Epcot hosts an extravagant Food and Wine festival.