Start your vacation early with a pre-cruise stay in Orlando — the theme-park capital of the world and just 45 miles from Port Canaveral, one of Florida’s top cruise ports. But it’s not just Mickey Mouse and Harry Potter that appeal. Central Florida is home to freshwater springs and charming towns, plus you can check out Kennedy Space Center before you sail away.
What We Love
Winter Park: While away an afternoon in this charming town just north of Orlando. Stroll the cobblestone main drag and see the world’s largest collection of Tiffany works at the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum.
Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge: This 140,000-acre national park has marshes and wetlands as well as habitats for alligators and bald eagles.
Best Known For
Theme Parks: Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, Sea World, and more make Central Florida the most popular tourism destination in the United States.
Kennedy Space Center: The space shuttle program may have ended, but there’s still plenty to see, from the launch control desk at Firing Room 4 to the enormous Saturn V rocket, which launched 24 astronauts to the moon between 1968 and 1972.
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Who It's Best For
Kids of All Ages: Did we mention theme parks? Each one has attractions designed for all ages, from toddlers to adults who want to pair roller coasters with fine dining and nightlife.
Foodies: Orlando actually has a thriving food scene. Hit the Vietnamese district in downtown Orlando for pho, try southern comfort food and barbecue in Winter Park, or book tables from celeb chefs like Emeril Lagasse and Todd English.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
Spring Break Is a Beast: Already heavy crowds get even worse when kids are out of school. Hit the parks early and leave in the afternoon.
It’s Hot: Summer means major heat and humidity, and you’ll find the conditions even steamier in inland Orlando. Bring an umbrella for inevitable afternoon rainstorms.
Susan Moynihan is a Florida-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has also written for Parenting and Woman’s Day.