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Orlando Is a Tourist Magnet for Good Reason

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Satisfy your competitive streak and your craving for cool fun by zipping down the Taumata Racer at SeaWorld’s Aquatica water park; photo courtesy of Visit Orlando.

If you’re in town for the NAEC Convention, you won’t have trouble filling any free time.

The NAEC 68th Annual Convention and Exposition will take place on September 10-14, and important business, education, dealmaking and networking opportunities will take precedence, but in a setting like Orlando, it’s not hard to imagine that there will be time for sightseeing, dining and visits to the myriad tourist attractions for which Central Florida is so well known. You can arrive for early registration from 1-5:30 p.m. Sunday, September 10, at the Orange County Convention Center, and registration will be open at 7:30 all other mornings.

Built into the convention agenda are several fun events. On Monday, September 11, the official golf tournament has an 8 a.m. shotgun start at the newly redesigned Shingle Creek Golf Course. Transportation will be provided from the headquarters hotel, the Hyatt Regency Orlando, with the bus leaving at 6 a.m. Golfers are asked to arrive 15 min. early. Non-golfers may want to take the 9 a.m. Monday airboat tour of Central Florida’s swamps, marshes and rivers, where they can see alligators, eagles and more. You will also tour a wildlife park and can have a photo taken while you handle a live alligator. Then, on Monday night, the Elevator Escalator Safety Foundation will host a fundraising Cornhole Tournament, with teams vying for prizes and bragging rights while playing the popular beanbag game. The fun starts at 8 p.m., and will include entertainment, desserts and beverages.

On Tuesday, runners can take part in the Fun Run ’17, a 5K run/3K walk that starts at 6 a.m. at the Hyatt Regency. And, Tuesday afternoon, from 1-5, there will be a tour of scenic Winter Park, an excursion that includes an open-air boat ride past luxury homes along three beautiful lakes and canals, and a stroll through Winter Park’s brick-paved streets, where shopping, galleries and cafés provide a lovely experience.

If you have more free time during NAEC week, there are limitless other offerings for vacation fun.

Visit Orlando

Visit Orlando, the Orlando/Central Florida official tourism organization, offers comprehensive information about attractions, lodging, dining and transportation on its website, www.visitorlando.com The website also includes links to a huge listing of tourist-related businesses, plus a search function that makes it easy to navigate. Interested in transportation options? Type “transportation” into the search box, and you’ll get page after page of relevant hits, most of them complete with contact information and links to each provider’s website. You’ll get similar results searching “lodging,” “dining,” etc.

To make your trip-planning even easier, Visit Orlando has a mobile app that provides recommendations for nearby hotels, restaurants and more; an interactive map; Visit Orlando’s concierge service; games; and “tickets, deals and discounts.” Click on the “Get Our App” link on the homepage.

As Visit Orlando proclaims, Orlando is the “Theme Park Capital of the World,” and it would be hard for anyone to dispute this. After all, the Orlando region is home to such world-renowned attractions as LEGOLAND Florida, SeaWorld Orlando, Universal Orlando Resort and, perhaps best-known of all, the huge Walt Disney World Resort.

LEGOLAND Florida

LEGOLAND Florida is a 150-acre interactive theme park in Winter Haven, about 45 min. from Orlando. This kid-friendly park offers more than 50 rides, a water park, a botanical garden and plenty of shows, restaurants, shopping and other attractions. Tickets can be purchased in advance on the LEGOLAND Florida website, www.legoland.com/florida.

SeaWorld Orlando

SeaWorld is known for its amazing sea life, but did you know you can experience a mysterious underwater world, complete with canyons and a legendary sea monster? If this sounds like fun to you — and you’re of stout heart — you’ll have to try “Kraken Unleashed,” a virtual-reality (VR) joyride on SeaWorld’s renowned floorless coaster. Learn more at seaworld.com/orlando.

If you want to stay cool, Aquatica by SeaWorld is the place to be. Here’s a splash-happy, family-friendly water park with all levels of rides. Buy tickets, book hotels and more at aquaticabyseaworld.com/Orlando.

Universal Orlando

Take an escape from reality here. Universal Orlando includes the theme parks Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure; the Volcano Bay water park; and an after-dark entertainment complex, Universal CityWalk Orlando. There are VR rides that take you along for “Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts,” “Jurassic Park River Adventure” and “Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon,” to name just a few. If crazy coasters are your thing, try the Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit. Learn more at www.universalorlando.com.

Walt Disney World

More than 45 years ago, the Walt Disney Co. made Orlando synonymous with theme parks when it opened Walt Disney World. Starting with its first park, the Magic Kingdom, Disney World went on to add Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Disney’s Animal Kingdom. There’s also the Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach water parks, the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex and other venues. There is more than enough to keep a family entertained at the Disney parks — the Magic Kingdom alone has more than 40 rides and attractions, including such favorites as “Space Mountain,” “Pirates of the Caribbean” and “Country Bear Jamboree.” You must plan ahead to visit, so go to disneyworld.disney.go.com and get clicking.

The list of things to do goes on and on, including more golf, nightlife and dining, cultural attractions and numerous others. The Visit Orlando website is a good resource to plan your NAEC week.

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