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Florida is one of our most popular destinations, especially during the school holidays. With thousands of passengers about to descend on the Sunshine State via our daily flights to Miami and Orlando, we take a look at a handful of Central Florida's latest crowd-pleasers...
LEGOLAND Florida Water Park
About an hour's drive southwest of Orlando in Winter Haven, LEGOLAND Florida opened last autumn at the site of the former Cypress Gardens. Florida's newest theme park is aimed at families with children between 2 and 12 and is the largest Legoland park in the world. More than 50 rides, attractions, shows, restaurants, shops and a botanical garden are spread across the 150-acre property, with large-scale Lego models on display throughout the ten themed 'lands', including Miniland USA, Pirates' Cove and Fun Town.
The latest addition to Legoland Florida is a brand new Water Park which opened on 26th May, featuring a 583,000-gallon Wave Pool with five slippery-fast water slides, a special play area for toddlers with shorter slides and interactive DUPLO characters, and a pair of 375ft enclosed slides for tubing down. The Build-a-Raft River allows families to construct their own unique Lego vessel and sail it along the length of the 1000 ft lazy river, shaded by tropical plants and palm trees.
The park is also the proud recipient of a new Guinness World Record after it recently broke the former tally for the most people keeping beach balls in the air - with 1,294 bouncing orbs smashing the previous record of 401.
Various one and two-day ticket options are available with discounts of up to $10 if booked in advance online.
LEGOLAND Florida, One Legoland Way, Winter Haven, FL 33884
Safari Wilderness Ranch
Midway between Orlando and Tampa lies the Safari Wilderness Ranch which opened in March 2012. Neither a zoo nor a theme park, the working ranch is 260 acres of pristine wilderness without crowds or queues. Customised, canopied safari vehicles tour through large herds of exotic game including water buffalo, zebra, waterbuck, fallow deer, eland and kudu.
For a more hands-on adventure and a chance to become part of the herd, opt for a 90 minute Camel Safari led by experienced handlers or a Carriage Safari pulled by majestic Haflinger horses; a particularly hardy and muscular breed from the Alps of Austria and northern Italy. Personal feeding encounters with a hundred budgie parakeets and a troop of ring-tailed lemurs are also available on an exclusive and number-restricted basis.
Tours are available at 9am, 11am, 1pm and 3pm and need to be booked in advance to ensure the ranch can keep visitor numbers in check.
Safari Wilderness Ranch, 10850 Moore Road, Lakeland, FL, 33809
Fantasy of Flight
Fantasy of Flight is the personal passion project of aviation nut and aerobatics pilot Kermit Weeks. The art deco attraction in Polk City (about a 45 minute drive southwest of Orlando) is home to more than 40 rare and vintage aircraft, many of which have been meticulously restored and are still flying today. The collection represents all eras of aviation from the earliest years of flight up until the 1950s, and includes such treasures as a 1945 Spitfire and a 1929 Lockheed Vega, the type of plane flown by Amelia Earheart on her solo flight across the Atlantic.
There are a number of different guided tours available, including visits to working maintenance and restoration areas, and a daily aerial demonstration (weather dependent). Visitors can get a birds' eye view on the state-of-the-art hang gliding simulator, and would-be pilots and daredevils can even take a bi-plane for a spin. Fantasy of Flight's newest attraction is the thrilling Wing WalkAir over-water ropes course with 33 separate challenges and 600 feet of ziplines, right on the edge of the runway.
Fantasy of Flight, 1400 Broadway Blvd S.E, Polk City, FL, 33868 Virgin Atlantic operates flights to Orlando from London Gatwick, Manchester and Glasgow, and flights to Miami from London Heathrow. Visit Virgin Holidays for a full range of Florida holidays, with great deals on Orlando hotels, Florida Flydrives, and a range of Special Offers.
Header photo of LEGOLAND Water Park's tubing slide @ Chip Litherland Photography
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About the author: MaxineMaxine Sheppard
Maxine is the editor of the Virgin Atlantic blog. Travel and music are her joint first loves, and despite having written for Virgin for more years than she cares to remember she still loves nothing more than jumping on a plane in search of new sights and new sounds.