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Destination Guide

Once upon a time, you could see all or most of Walt Disney World in a day or two. Now you need at least a week?and thats if you're moving at a rapid pace. With four major theme parks sprawling across the Walt Disney Worlds vast acreage, planning a visit here requires the tactical planning of a top sergeant. Not only are there all those parks?Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney-MGM and the Animal Kingdom?but WDW also has golf courses, nightclubs and restaurants galore, including gourmet havens, water parks, a zillion shops, games rooms, the continuously running Cirque du Soleil, and much, much more?you can even get married there and head off into the sunset in Cinderellas pumpkin coach!

Right down the road, Universal Studios, with its two parks, can keep you amused for a couple of days, at least. And more than 70 other attractions in Central Florida?Sea World, Cypress Gardens, Wet 'n Wild, themed dinner shows, and more?can keep you busy for months.

So, "doing" the parks requires a planning session?and when you're "parked" out, many other diversions still await to entertain and amuse.

Beyond the theme parks
There is more to Central Florida than Orlando. Heres a look at some other intriguing places to visit.

Lake Wales
As you travel south on U.S. 27, the terrain changes from the flatlands of Orlando to rolling hills. Set among them is this lovely, small town nestled into vast acres of citrus fields about 50 miles from Orlando. A glittering lake provides a backdrop for this village that has retained its most charming characteristics by preserving and upgrading historic structures. Bok Tower towers over Lake Wales in lacy glory, and its carillon rings across the hills every half hour with a 45-minute recital each afternoon. Lake Wales also plays host each winter to the Black Hills Passion Play, an outdoor depiction of the final weeks in the life of Christ.

Winter Park
So sprawling is Orlando now that this lovely little town about nine miles away almost qualifies as a suburb. No one here would much like that definition, however, and, indeed, Winter Park is light years from the neon and plastic of the theme park sector of Orlando. Tree-lined Park Avenue, the towns main street, is one of the states poshest shopping boulevards, ranking in charm, elegance, dining and entertainment with Palm Beachs Worth Avenue and Fort Lauderdales Las Olas Boulevard. Rollins Colleges pretty campus is here, and so is an eye-boggling collection of Louis Comfort Tiffanys spectacular stained glass creations, displayed in its own museum. To add to the allure, Winter Parks restaurants are renowned in the region, both for beauty and cuisine.

Winter Haven
Stretched out all around you here are stubby green trees, but nestled in their dark-green leaves are the orange and gold orbs of Floridas most important crop?oranges, grapefruit and other citrus that rolls away from these hills at the rate of more than ten million boxes a year. Winter Haven is also the home of lovely Cypress Gardens, where champion waterskiers whizz around a cypress- rimmed lake and damsels in ante-bellum hoop skirts add colorful pointillist touches to acres of manicured grounds awash in rainbow-hued blossoms. One of the most photogenic spots in Florida, Cypress Gardens?and Winter Haven?are about 47 miles from Orlando.

Many charter flights from the UK and Europe arrive at the airport in this small rural town 23 miles from Orlando. From here, too, begins a popular boat journey aboard the Riverboat Romance that sails on the St. Johns River, long the mercantile backbone of north Florida and a river unusual in its own right?it flows north! Here, too, you can hop into a canoe and paddle down the scenic Wekiva River.

A favorite stop at Halloween, this tiny village 30 miles from Orlando is tucked among cypress trees dripping Spanish moss. Since 1875, this area has been a center for psychics. Today, you'll see small signs outside many homes announcing the presence therein of a medium, all of them quite serious about their calling, and all registered by the National Spiritualist Association of Churches. Whether or not you're interested in contacting the late, lamented Uncle Harry, a ride through this tiny town offers you an opportunity to revel in a little bit of old Florida at its somnolent, scenic best.

Town and gown unite in this village that is home to the handsome pillared and porticoed architecture of Stetson University. Deland, about 35 miles from Orlando, is worth the drive, if just to roam through the grounds of this shady, old-world campus. De Leon Springs State Recreation Area sports an old Spanish sugar mill and a popular swimming hole.

If you never met an antique you didn't love, head straight to Micanopy (pronounced Mick-ah-NO-pea) where the towns single street is lined with antique shops. Sprouting from an 1821 trading post, Micanopy, its boosters say, can trace its history back to Seminole Chief Micanopy, who is said to have dispensed his wisdom from a spot under the moss-draped oaks. A number of artisans have settled here in recent years, and the towns only street, Colokka Boulevard, boasts a cluster of handsome brick buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Micanopy lies 95 miles northwest of Orlando and just south of Gainesville.

Mount Dora
Quaint and pretty, this snug village is renowned for its resemblance to cozy New England enclaves. Several times a year, a local antiques dealer, Renningers, sponsors a memorable show and sale, with the largest taking place in November. Mount Doras about 25 miles southwest of Deland and about 25 miles north of Orlando.

Veggie lover alert! Winter vegetables that appear on tables all along the Eastern Seaboard get their start in this village 27 miles from Orlando. An annual Sweet Corn Festival in May celebrates the spring vegetable harvest that also includes carrots, lettuce, cauliflower and radishes.

For those who worship the growl of a well-tuned engine roaring along at 150 miles per hour or so, Sebring is the place to be in March, when some of the worlds greatest racecar drivers tear around the track at the annual 12-hour Sebring International Grand Prix of Endurance. Sebring is 86 miles south of Orlando, and its rolling hills and sparkling lakes make it a wonderful backroads detour if you're in th area.

Altamonte Springs/Longwood
Altamonte Springs, about nine miles north of Orlando, is popular for a huge mall that bears the name of the town, some good restaurants, and the tiny neighboring town of Longwood, which has a number of attractive old homes.