Florida

Florida: Action, adventure and relaxation in the Sunshine State

by Chloe Best

For a once in a lifetime holiday experience, it doesn't get much better than Florida. Home to some of the world's best theme parks, beautiful beaches and an enviable climate, the aptly nicknamed Sunshine State has it all.

Florida has long been a popular family holiday destination, but it isn't just for the kids. There are so many different places to explore whether you're after action and adventure, or some much needed relaxation. Plus it's even more accessible than ever thanks to a year-round service from Norwegian Air, with fares starting from as little as £179 one-way.

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Florida is the perfect destination for a once-in-a-lifetime holiday

Of course a trip to Florida wouldn't be complete without a visit to one of its famous theme parks, which are constantly evolving with new rides and attractions to appeal to thrill seekers both young and old. 

One such park is SeaWorld, which is home to a number of impressive rides as well as sea life including penguins, dolphins and whales. Its newest attraction is the hypercoaster Mako, which opened to the public in June 2016 and has been crowned the longest, tallest and fastest rollercoaster in Florida.

Seaworld-Mako

Mako is the longest, tallest and fastest rollercoaster in Florida

Featuring a 200ft drop and following the fast hunting patterns of the deadly Mako shark, this is not one for the faint hearted, but a must-try for adrenaline junkies. Along with Manta, the attraction which sees riders travel at speeds of over 50mph head-first and soaring up to 140ft, it makes SeaWorld Orlando the ultimate destination for rollercoaster fans.

If you prefer to take things at a gentler pace then there is still lots to see and do, such as visiting the animals rescued and cared for by SeaWorld including sea turtles, manatees and the adorable penguins housed at the Antarctica experience.

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Visit the penguins at SeaWorld's Antarctica experience

The year-round sunny climate in Florida can be hard to bear if you're spending all day exploring theme parks, so break up the action with a trip to SeaWorld's neighbouring water park, Aquatica.

Whether you fancy sunbathing at your own private cabana or getting wet and wild on the water slides, there's something here for everyone.  Again, there are a number of new attractions here for holidaymakers including Ihu's Breakaway Falls, where the floor literally falls from beneath you, catapulting you down a steep spiralling drop.

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Ihu's Breakaway Falls is Aquatica's newest attraction

The fun isn't only restricted to Orlando though; travel one hour south and you will arrive at Tampa Bay, home to Busch Gardens as well as some other beautiful places to explore. Busch Gardens opened in 1959 and has a unique mix of high-speed rollercoasters and endangered animals for a day that is wild in all senses of the word.

Start your day with a visit to the Serengeti Safari for an opportunity to see zebras, rhinos and elephants up close as well as hand-feed giraffes from the top of the truck. Then it's time to try out some of the newest rides on offer including Cobra's Curse, a fun family rollercoaster that gives you a different ride every time thanks to the clever free-spinning mechanism.

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See the Serengeti Safari at Busch Gardens

Meanwhile Falcon's Fury takes riders 335 feet into the air before plunging them down to the ground face down at speeds of 60mph. The tallest freestanding drop tower in North America, the ride offers incredible views across Tampa - if you can dare to look!

Use your time in Tampa to explore and enjoy the city's laidback lifestyle, which can be a welcome break from adrenaline-filled days at the theme parks. There are a number of things to see and do here, with a visit to Ybor City high on the agenda.

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Ybor City is a great place to visit during your time in Tampa

Renowned as the Cuban Cigar City of the world, Ybor has a rich and fascinating history, with the Ybor City Museum State Park the perfect calling point to find out more. Alternatively you can get a taste of the city's Cuban influences in Columbia restaurant – Florida's oldest restaurant and the largest Spanish restaurant in the world.

There is still adventure to be had away from the theme parks, too; whether you go canoeing through the Hillsborough River, spotting alligators, migratory birds and other wildlife with Canoe Escape, or glide alongside dolphins and manatees during an hour of stand-up paddle boarding with Urban Kai, you will not get bored during your time in the city.

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Swim with dolphins at Discovery Cove

After an action-packed few days, a trip to Discovery Cove offers the perfect way to round off your trip. This secluded getaway offers guests an incredible all-inclusive adventure, complete with unique experiences such as snorkelling with rays and tropical fish, feeding exotic birds and swimming with dolphins.

An incredible end to a once-in-a-lifetime holiday!

FOOD AND DRINK

There are so many incredible restaurants located in Florida serving fresh, seasonal food, such as Ocean Prime in Orlando. This modern American restaurant serves an array of seafood and prime cuts of steak, the latter of which has seen it named one of the best steakhouses in the city.

Should Mexican fare be more to your taste, a trip to Rocco's Tacos is a must. This laidback restaurant serves authentic Mexican cuisine along with hundreds of tequila options.

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Visit Ybor City's famous Columbia restaurant

Meanwhile no visit to Tampa is complete without a trip to Columbia in Ybor City. This huge restaurant seats up to 1,700 people and offers live flamenco dancing every night along with an extensive menu of Spanish/ Cuban cuisine.

Alternatively try Haven; a restaurant with a focus on cheese and charcuterie and a dinner menu that changes daily to reflect the freshest available ingredients. The bar is equally as impressive, with more than 300 varieties of bourbon and 40 different wines.

WHERE TO STAY

Hilton Grand Vacations at SeaWorld is ideally located for your theme park trips, with three swimming pools, a gym and a restaurant located in 33 acres of land.

Sheraton Tampa Riverwalk Hotel is a great choice for your trip to Tampa, and offers great views over the Hillsborough River as well as easy access to the city centre.

GETTING THERE

Norwegian fly year-round to Orlando, with two flights per week departing on a Tuesday and Saturday throughout the summer season and a new additional Saturday flight departing during the winter months.

All flights are operated by a fleet of brand new Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft with two cabins - Premium and economy. Fares start from £179 one-way in economy and £499 one-way in Premium including taxes and charges. To book visit www.norwegian.com/uk.

TICKETS

The best value ticket for visiting SeaWorld Parks in Florida is the Discovery Cove Ultimate Package. The Discovery Cove Ultimate Package includes one-day reservation at Discovery Cove (with 30- minute dolphin swim experience, all meals, snacks and beverages) plus 14-day unlimited entry to SeaWorld, Busch Gardens and Aquatica Orlando – offering customers more savings and flexibility for their Florida holiday. Prices start from £171 per person.

For further information about SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment in Florida or to book tickets visit www.seaworldparks.co.uk.

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