Central Florida

Photo © SirRogue58

Travel Guide North America USA Southern United States Florida Central Florida

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Introduction

Central Florida is home to some of the world's famous theme parks: Walt Disney World, SeaWorld, Universal Studios Florida. The Kennedy Space Center, Cypress Gardens, Daytona International Speedway and Gatorland are also located in this region.

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Cities

Orlando

Located in Central Florida, Orlando is the busiest metropolitan area in the state. The reason for this is undoubtedly the theme parks, and in particular, Walt Disney. With more than a dozen of different parks, Orlando is the place to have fun in family. If you are not keen on family holidays, them parks and other joy, it is best to get out of here as quickly as possible, because Florida has much more enjoyable cities, beaches, nature and culture for you.

Other Cities

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Sights and Activities

Manatees

Big Beautiful Manatee

Big Beautiful Manatee

© All Rights Reserved Utrecht

Florida is one of the best places in the world to see manatees without too much effort. There are dozens of places along the coast (mainly the southern half of the state) where you will see this big beautiful creatures of nature. Several of them are difficult to get to or are forbidden to enter by travellers. Others can only be reached independently for example by kayaking or walking a bit to a place you can spot them. But the Manatee Capital of the world is Crystal River, about midway along the west coast. The main season is winter, from December till April, with peaks in January and February when the weather is at its coldest. Especially after brief cold spells when temperatures can drop to around zero, the manatees will flock here in the hundreds at least. But even on a normal day there are at least a dozen or so of these fantastic animals that you can spot. There are loads of tour operators in the area, so it's best to check Tripadvisor's Activities in Crystal River to decide which one is perfect for you. There won't be any major differences, but one tip is to go as early as possible. Some of them leave just after 6:00am which is recommended.

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Events and Festivals

Holidays

  • New Year’s Eve - The US celebrates the outgoing of the old year and incoming of the New Year quite dramatically. Every state boasts its own parties to ring in the New Year, but none is more extravagant than New York’s Time Square, which sees people overflowing into the neighboring restaurants, bars, parks, beaches, and neighborhoods.
  • St Patrick’s Day - March 17 celebrates the US’s large Irish population. Many cities around the country boast boisterous parades and Irish-themed parties, especially New York and Chicago, where the river is dyed green. Be wary of the drunkenness that dominates as this is definitely a party-day.
  • Memorial Day - Memorial Day is an important holiday throughout the United States, but not for crazy festivities. Parades commemorating wartime heroes are often held and the day is also the ‘unofficial’ start of summer. Most visitors follow the crowds to parks and beaches, which are capped off with informal BBQs.
  • Independence Day - Also known as the Fourth of July, Independence Day celebrates the US’s break from the British during the 18th century. Barbecues, street parties, beach trips, and weekend getaways are commonplace to appreciate freedom.
  • Halloween - Halloween is a fun holiday on October 31 for all generations to dress up in costumes and relive their youth. Children walk around the neighborhood trick-or-treating for candy, while adults attend parties. Other seasonal events include haunted houses, pumpkin farms and carving, and corn mazes.
  • Thanksgiving - On the fourth Thursday in November, Thanksgiving is held in almost every home in the US. Tourists will have a hard time finding anything to do as the country essentially shuts down in observation. A typical Thanksgiving meal consists of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie commemorating the original Pilgrim’s feast at Plymouth Rock.
  • Christmas - On December 25, Christians celebrate Christmas as the pinnacle of their calendar by attending church and opening gifts from Santa Claus. Almost everything shuts down to promote family togetherness. The northern regions hope to experience a “white Christmas,” with trees and festive lights blanketed by snow.

Sport

  • Super Bowl Sunday - the world’s most watched sporting event and one of the highest grossing TV days of the year, Superbowl Sunday is a spectacular extravaganza. Held the first Sunday in February, the Superbowl is the final playoff game between the NFL’s top two teams. The venue rotates every year around America, yet the local parties seem to remain. Pubs, bars and restaurants are great places to enjoy the Superbowl or locals throw their own parties with different variations of betting.
  • The Daytona 500 is the start of the NASCAR Sprint Cup and the most prestigious one of them all. It is held on a Sunday during the second half of February and attracts over 150,000 visitors every year. Tickets vary from just about US$50 to hundreds of dollars for VIP tickets, usually sold in combination with tickets for other events or as a package for the whole weekend.

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Getting There

By Plane

  • Orlando International Airport (MCO) is the major airport for the city and many airlines serve destinations within the USA and to Europe and South America. The airport is located about 11 kilometres from the CBD of Orlando. It's the second busiest airport in Florida and even in the top 30 worldwide.
  • Tampa International Airport (IATA: TPA, ICAO: KTPA, FAA LID: TPA) is located around 11 kilometres from Tampa's CBD. A few dozen of airlines serve the airport, mainly on domestic routes, but there are a few interesting alternatives on international routes, like the one to London Gatwick Airport.

By Bus

Check Greyhound buses for options.

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Getting Around

By Car

You will find most of the big cities with rental offices by one or more of these companies so picking up a rental car in Florida is easy. Prices will vary depending on the time of the year you are booking. Many international rental companies have a wide selection of rental cars and these include SixtHertz, Avis, Dollar, Thrifty, Enterprise, Budget and Alamo/National. Most companies will require you are at least 25 years of age, although younger people might be able to rent cars at slightly higher rates and with some insurance differences as well. A national driver's license is usually enough, but an additional international one is recommended. Also note that it usually costs more to include lots of other extra things. For example extra drivers, GPS, the first full tank, SLI (Supplemental Liability Insurance), PAI (Personal Accident Insurance, usually covered already at home), road assistance/service plan, and drop-off costs for one-way rentals.
If you want to book a car, it is recommended that you book your car before arriving in the USA. This is almost always (much) cheaper compared to just showing up. Also, try and book with a so-called 'broker', which usually works together with a few or many car rental companies and can offer the best deal. Some examples include Holidayautos, Holidaycars and Sunny Cars. Some of the cheapest deals to book from Europe, includes Drive-USA, which also has a German version.

For more information and tips about renting cars and campers, additional costs, insurance, traffic rules, scenic routes and getting maps and fuel it is advised to check the USA Getting Around section.

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This is version 7. Last edited at 13:28 on Dec 3, 18 by Utrecht. 8 articles link to this page.

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