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Holiday Guides for North America - United States

Orlando Holiday

If the mere thought of giant cartoon animals, stomach churning rides and 3D movies makes you grin like a Cheshire cat then the chances are that you will at some point be visiting Orlando. The various theme parks may be a shrine to all things American but it takes a cold-worn cynic to not even have the faintest smile of bemusement, amazement or plain old happiness on their face when they get inside the fairytale world of their childhood imagination.

Walt Disney World is the main reason why 40 million people a year make the theme park pilgrimage to Florida. Head to the Magic Kingdom to get snap-happy with the Mouse himself then brush up on your science knowledge at the interactive Epcot centre. Film goers can catch enhanced snippets of family classics at Disney-MGM Studios before going on safari to gaze at the array of African and Asian wildlife wandering around the Animal Kingdom. Just be warned – at peak times the queues are long and food prices are sky-high.

For more film-orientated rides, head to Universal Studios to go Back to the Future in a simulator, fight the machines at Terminator 2: 3D or pitch your wits against a tornado at Twister. But for the latest in edge-of-your-seat suspense, brave the queues at the five Islands of Adventure. Get your fill of cartoon-themed madness at the Toon Lagoon before going head to head with the dinosaurs at Jurassic Park. Marvel Super Hero Island is home to the best adrenaline rides whilst the Lost Continent offers the joys of spiralled rollercoasters. Seuss Landing is one for the kids but with a good firework show. The Universal Studios CityWalk offers a further chance to part with your cash at the plethora of restaurants, live music, dance clubs, theatres and shops.

If you visit during the sticky summer months then chances are a trip to one of the water parks will be high on your list of priorities. Disney-owned Blizzard Beach continues the fantasy theme along the lines that an eccentric entrepreneur tried to build a ski resort in Florida and the result is a water world extravaganza. The 120-metre vertical drop of the Summit Plummet is not for the fainthearted but gentle raft rides will bring your blood pressure back down to normal.

For something a little more atmospheric, head to Typhoon Lagoon where you can enjoy a relaxing swim among the tropical fishes in the shark reef or wander through rainforest. But if the Disneyification proves a little overwhelming, try the Wet 'n' Wild waterpark with its own array of adrenaline-heavy rides but shorter queues.

To get up close and personal with fishy friends then Sea World is the place to go. The killer whale extravaganza known as the Shamu Adventure show offers 20 minutes of intense whale aerobics. The Wild Arctic complex is home to walruses and polar bears and a simulator ride through a blizzard.

Penguin fans can watch the pint-sized waddlers go about their business on an iceberg whilst the dolphin pool offers a chance to get thoroughly soaked by playful flippered friends. Those looking to see a smiling shark can go to the Terrors of the Deep, safe in the knowledge a bit of Perspex is standing between them and a rather ferocious looking fish. Sea World's exclusive Discovery Cove buys you time to swim with dolphins, snorkel with sharks and feed tropical birds.

You'd think it would be nigh on impossible to get bored in Orlando but sadly queuing times are an integral part of the experience and somehow even wearing a pair of Minnie Mouse ears does little to relieve the frustration. On the upside you'll get some memorable holiday snaps and accumulate enough memorabilia to turn your home into a small scale Disney museum.