Harry and Walt you probably know about, but long-time Orlando resident and travel guy Kevin Chippindale wants you to think beyond Muggles and Mickey.
Chippindale, an England native who moved to the city in 1986 and who’s in his 30th year promoting Orlando, has a new Orlando Attractions mobile app that’s available through the iOs App Store and at Google Play.
The app, which is free, lets you learn about the theme parks before you go (or when you’re already there). It also goes well beyond Disney and Universal and delves into everything from ziplines to riverboat rides and awesome beaches that even a long-time Florida lover like me didn’t know about.
I spent 20 minutes on the site this week and discovered a ton of places near Orlando I hadn’t heard of, including Mount Dora, the town of Deland and the Wekiva River.
The app features a parks section, as well as one on attractions. There’s also an explore area where you can find all sorts of cool activities and places to see, and even a planner to help you decide what to do on what day. Push the “more” button on the bottom right to get links to where you can buy tickets, fiind deals, get coupons and find directions.
“Obviously we have to have details about the big boys, the theme parks, and we do,” Chippindale said by telephone from Florida. “There’s so much information people want to know. But we also feature a lot of what you might call second-tier attractions; zip lines and air boats and other attractions.”
The app (and the website) also look further afield, giving folks videos, maps and details about Gulf Coast beaches, historic St. Augustine and other regions; with wonderful tips and nice photos to help make travel decisions easier.
“We’re finding that visitors to Orlando are increasingly independent,” Chippindale said. “They’re looking at new experiences and new places, and there are so many things to see and do near Orlando.”
Mount Dora is a cool village north of Orlando that features hills overlooking a lake. There’s also a steam train that’s been used in many well-known movies (including True Grit and Oh, Brother, Where Art Thou) and Segway tours of downtown.
Winter Garden, just west of Orlando, has one of the state’s best farmers markets, while Crystal River (north of Tampa) features crystal clear water where you can snorkel with manatees, something he calls a “life-changing experience.”
In Orlando proper, Chippindale recommends checking out the entertainment at the Dr. Phillips Center downtown, a marvellous performing arts spot with everything from symphony performances to Broadway shows.
“It’s a nice facility; as good as anything in the U.S.”
I haven’t seen a show at the center but I had a tour a couple years ago and found it stunning.
Chippindale also recommends the beers at Orlando Brewing (“it’s organic so it’s good for you”) and the Mills 50 district, just northeast of downtown, for fabulous Asian food and cool cafes. (I agree; it’s one of my favourite parts of the city.)
Chippindale said the theme parks are good value but that they’re getting more expensive.
“Some folks are doing Harry Potter or Mickey but can’t afford both. Or they’re doing a little of each and leaving more time to explore.”
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