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Aerial view of Cinderella's castle in Disney World

Florida

Beach Time and Theme Parks in Orlando and Tampa, Florida

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    Florida

Orlando, Florida, home of Walt Disney World Resort and Universal Studios, offers a long list of family-friendly attractions.

Tampa, just a 90-minute drive west of Orlando, combines history, cultural attractions with a vibrant nightlife and dining scene, as well as nearby beaches. Get the best of both worlds with a Florida vacation that includes both cities.

Orlando Offers Disney & Family Fun

Millions of visitors make their way to Orlando, Florida, each year to experience the rides and attractions at Disney World, Universal Studios and SeaWorld. These parks offer classic attractions including Disney World’s Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Universal's The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man. You can also head to Disney Springs, formerly known as Downtown Disney, for dining, shopping, and entertainment, without paying park admission fees.

Orlando has much to offer beyond traditional theme parks, including many new experiences around International Drive (I-Drive), a short distance from Universal Studios. WonderWorks features more than 100 interactive exhibits, a ropes course and a 6-D motion ride, while The World of Chocolate Museum provides a history of chocolate-making and offers freshly made chocolates for sale.

More attractions are just a short drive from the major theme parks. Discover The Orlando Eye, a 122-meter-high Ferris wheel and the largest observation wheel in the region; Gatorland, a 44.5-hectare theme park and wildlife preserve that's billed as the "Alligator Capital of the World;" and the Harry P. Leu Gardens in Winter Park, a semi-tropical garden encompassing nearly 20 hectares of landscaped grounds and lakes that's about a 20-minute drive from Orlando.

The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman at Universal Orlando

The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman
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Getting from Orlando to Tampa

To travel from Orlando, which is located in central Florida, to Tampa, on the West coast, your best bet is to rent a car for the 90-minute drive along Interstate 4. For those who prefer not to drive, you can travel by Greyhound or the Florida Express Bus, which takes between 90 minutes and three hours, depending on the level of service. You can also take the private car service UberHighway.

Tampa Bay area beach

Tampa Bay area beach
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Sample Tampa's Coastal Vibe & Local Seafood

Located along Florida's West Coast,  Tampa Bay is best known for its cultural attractions, seafood restaurants, Ybor City nightlife and nearby  beaches. In downtown Tampa, you can visit The Florida Aquarium, featuring penguins, sharks and coral reef exhibits, and the Tampa Theatre, a restored historic theater that shows modern and classic films and live concerts. The Tampa Museum of Art, which overlooks the Hillsborough River, houses a large collection of modern and classical art, as well as traveling exhibitions.

Need some beach time? Spend a morning or afternoon at Ben T. Davis Beach, which is near downtown Tampa and features boat ramps and picnic and grilling areas. Or head west across the bay to beautiful white-sand beaches, including St. Pete Beach, Clearwater Beach and Treasure Island.

Those who want more rides and attractions can spend the day at the African-themed Busch Gardens, a 136-hectare theme park that offers safari adventures, roller coaster rides and live entertainment.

At night, check out Tampa's diverse dining scene, whether you're looking for Cuban-American cuisine in Ybor City, locally inspired fare in trendy Hyde Park Village, or fresh-caught seafood along the waterfront.

Cheetah Hunt roller coaster at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay

Cheetah Hunt roller coaster at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay
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Restaurants, Cafes & Shops

ORLANDO

Ceviche Tapas Bar and Restaurant (125 W. Church St.): Serves authentic Spanish dishes and fresh ceviche; also hosts flamenco shows on Friday and Saturday nights.

Funky Monkey Bistro & Bar (9101 International Dr. #1208): Locally owned restaurant service eclectic Asian-American cuisine, including hand rolled sushi.

Outta Control Magic Comedy Dinner Show (9067 International Dr.): Upbeat dinner show with a buffet dinner and kid-friendly menu options.

Pirate's Dinner Adventure (6400 Carrier Dr.): Guests play a role in this interactive show that includes a Port of Call Feast, kids' meals and complimentary beverages during the main show.

Todd English's bluezoo (1500 Epcot Resorts Blvd.): Upscale venue inside the Walt Disney Dolphin Resort serving fresh Florida seafood.

TAMPA BAY

Columbia Restaurant (2117 E. 7th Ave.): Historic dining destination with a tapas bar in the Ybor City neighborhood that hosts regular, live jazz and Flamenco dance performances.

Oxford Exchange (420 W. Kennedy Blvd.): Houses a restaurant serving afternoon tea and weekend brunch, a bookstore and gift shop — all designed with a traditional European theme.

Rusty Pelican (2425 N. Rocky Point Dr.): Waterfront restaurant serving fresh seafood with Caribbean flair.

Bayshore Boulevard, Tampa

Bayshore Boulevard, Tampa
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Bill Ward