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Florida Guide > Places to Visit

Orlando’s Lesser Known Attractions – Part III

Nobody can deny that it is the lure of the big name theme parks, Universal Studios, Magic Kingdom, Sea World and the like, that attracts the vast majority of visitors to the Orlando area. However, the region could not survive on just these few, albeit ‘big’, businesses alone. Fortunately the region has seen the growth of a whole range of entertainment businesses, which both contrast and complement the big boys.

About 35 miles southwest of Kissimmee, just a few miles off the US27, is the Cypress Gardens Theme Park. This smaller cousin of the likes of Magic Kingdom and Islands of Adventure can be the perfect venue for those who want some white knuckle rides but also would appreciate a more relaxed and generally quieter day out. Established in 1936 the park has had a roller coaster career of its own, surviving a decline in visitors in the aftermath of 2001 terrorist attacks on America and three hurricanes in 2004. Featured attractions include ‘The Triple Hurricane” a wooden roller coaster so named as it was the largest structure to survive the hurricanes, “Storm Surge” white water rafting experience and Yo-Yo which whirls you round 25 feet in the air and allows you to add your own twists and turns to create a unique ride.

There are also plenty of rides for younger children and the less adventurous as well as the superbly maintained gardens. At the time of writing the park is open Friday, Saturday and Sunday only, although it did operate a 7 day week throughout the summer months. Check before you travel for both prices and opening hours.

A little closer to the main resort areas is the Congo River Adventure Golf. There are two miniature golf courses, Livingstone and Stanley, set amid a Tropical African theme which features waterfalls, caves, wooden bridges and live alligators! Open from 10am to midnight this is the complete family attraction and costs only $10. 95 for one course or $14. 95 for two (Adult) with a $2 discount for under-10s.

On the occasional day when the Florida weather tempts you to stay indoors rather then be out in the sunshine then DisneyQuest at Downtown Disney is a great place especially for teenagers. Although part of the Disney empire I have included this attraction as it does not require theme park entry and so is effectively an ‘independent’ attraction. The five-story building combines Disney magic with cutting-edge technologies. Visitors can ride a roller coaster of their own design on Cyber Space Mountain, battle with the Pirates of the Caribbean in their quest for gold or experience the 4-D river raft ride as they explore a prehistoric river in the age of dinosaurs. A day ticket costs $37 (aged 10+) or $31 (ages 3-9).

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Page added on: 18 August 2009
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