Doctor's Review: Medicine on the Move

August 23, 2017

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Head an hour and a half outside of town and swim with the US's last remaining wild manatees

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Orlando

An itinerary for adults

Can a city devoted to the kid in all of us cater to adults as well? The answer is yes. The vast, vigorously international metropolitan area that fuels the world's greatest collection of theme parks has offerings for the more serene, discerning portion of the population as well.

If you’d prefer to skip the strip on International Drive, stay downtown at the hip, new, 17-room Eo Inn and Spa (227 N. Eola Drive; eoinn.com; $139 a night in September and October; all prices in US dollars) on the swan-infested Lake Eola. In the morning, drive 10 kilometres down the road to Winter Park (cityofwinterpark.org), the historic college area where huge, old, moss-draped live oaks and winding brick streets are definitely pre-Disney.

Take an hour-long Scenic Boat Tour (312 East Morse Boulevard, Winter Park; scenicboattours.com; adults $12) of the area through canals and lakes, past Spanish colonial-style mansions, azalea gardens and the occasional alligator. Browse the local shops and then munch on Turkish kebabs, pizza and baklava at Bosphorous Turkish Cuisine (108 S. Park Avenue, Winter Park; bosphorousrestaurant.com; mains $9 to $21).

While you're digesting, stroll a couple of blocks down the street and take in the works of stained-glass master Louis Comfort Tiffany at the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art (445 N. Park Avenue, Winter Park; morsemuseum.org; adults $5, kids free; closed Mondays) where you can see the daffodil-themed chapel Tiffany designed for the Chicago World's Fair in 1893.

Then, before leaving, dine on oysters with cherries, absinthe and fennel, and other delicacies at gastropub foodie favourite the Ravenous Pig (1234 N. Orange Avenue, Winter Park; theravenouspig.com; mains $13 to $34; closed Sundays and Mondays).

Theme park like a grown-up

Of all the parks in Orlando, EPCOT (disneyworld.disney.go.com/parks/epcot), the only non-fiction theme park, is officially the most adult. Buy your tickets in advance (try undercovertourist.com for deals) and get there early.

After you've used your FASTPASS (free passes that let you reserve a place on a ride) to cross the two most popular rides off your list — Soarin', a foot-dangling, 12-metre-high tour over the California landscape, and Mission: Space — take time to wander the pavilions in World Showcase.

Take a break at the soothing Knot Butterfly and Herb Garden in the UK pavilion. At the Japanese pavilion, catch a glimpse of Miyuki, the world's only female candy artist; stop in at the pickle tree in the Germany pavilion’s Christmas Corner for an idea for a new family tradition.

Restaurants abound — call 407-WDW-DINE to reserve up to 180 days in advance — but the most popular for a fancy meal is Monsieur Paul in the French pavilion. And, from September 27 to November 11 this year, EPCOT will host an International Food and Wine Festival with dozens of marketplaces and nightly food and concert events.

End your day with a viewing of Illuminations, a blend of fireworks, lasers and fountains. Be sure to stake out your viewing area at the Rose and Crown Pub in the UK pavilion half an hour before showtime for great seats!

If you have multiple days in the area, make reservations (at least one month in advance) for Discovery Cove (6000 Discovery Cove Way; discoverycove.com; from $169) where you can swim with dolphins, wade near otters and snorkel with tropical fish. The park only admits about 1300 people a day (as opposed to Magic Kingdom's 42,000!), and breakfast, lunch and snacks are included as are wetsuits and snorkel gear and tickets to Seaworld and Aquatica.

Swim with the manatees

For a more authentic marine mammal experience, take a 90-minute side trip to Crystal River (crystalriverfl.org) and swim with the country's last population of wild manatees; only about 1000 of them are left.

River Ventures’ Manatee Experience (498 S.E. Kings Bay Drive, Crystal River; riverventures.com; $45) gets you in the water with a wet suit and snorkel gear for an unforgettable three-hour tour with the "sea cows," as they're affectionately known. If you don't want to get wet, visit the creatures at a wildlife refuge at the nearby Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park (4150 S. Suncoast Blvd., Homosassa; floridastateparks.org/homosassasprings; adults $13, kids 6 to 12 $5), which is more zoo than park.

Lunch (or brunch!) at Cracker's Bar & Grill (502 NW 6th Street, Crystal River; crackersbarandgrill.com; mains from $7 to $19) then plan an afternoon trip to the Crystal River Archeological State Park (3400 N. Museum Point, Crystal River; crystalriverstateparks.org; visitor centre closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays), a Native American site with impressive ceremonial mounds and a "temple."

Finish the day at The Vintage (114 NE 5th Street, Crystal River; vintageon5th.com; main $18 to $32; closed Mondays), which will supply you with a Florida favourite, shrimp and grits, done upscale with a touch of smoked gouda.

The Crystal River area is a little sleepy and rough around the edges, but the wildlife makes it worth the visit. Locals think the Holiday Inn Express (1203 NE 5th Street, Crystal River; hiexpress.com; from $90 a night in September and October) is the best place to stay. For an Old Florida experience, try Plantation on Crystal River (9301 W. Fort Island Trail, Crystal River; plantationoncrystalriver.com; from $118 a night in September and October), which offers golf, kayaks and boat tours onsite.

This article was accurate when it was published. Please confirm rates and details directly with the companies in question.

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