Florida Four: Surprising Orlando and Jacksonville, plus artsy Amelia and Apalichola

The new Four Seasons Resort inside Walt Disney World adds lustre to a city that’s on the rise. I also have photos of cool areas of Jacksonville and a look at two Florida spots you may not know much about; Amelia Island and wonderful Apalachicola.

There’s plenty new at Disney World , including the new Seven Dwarves Mine Train ride and a revamped Dumbo ride in Fantasyland at The Magic Kingdom. I also got a kick out of the Little Mermaid/Ariel attraction and ride, partly because of the colourful fish and the great music.

The new Wizarding World of Harry Potter Diagon Alley attraction at Universal Studios Orlando is a huge treat. You can wander the streets of London and take in the new, fun Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts ride.

Transformers The Ride 3D s a rolling, rollicking, stop and start ride at Universal Studios Orlando that will have you grinning and laughing, and probably a little scared. It’s tons of fun even if you don’t know anything about the movies.

The new Four Seasons Resort is located inside Walt Disney World property and is a marvellous family place, with luxurious surroundings, tons of greenery and lots to do.

The new Four Seasons Resort inside Walt Disney World has a lazy river, several pools and two terrific water slides. There’s also beach volleyball, water basketball, ping pong, tons of other games and a newly revamped Tom Fazio designed golf course about to open.

Downtown Orlando has come a long way, with sleek new restaurants and bars and tons of night life. New condos are sprouting up in the city centre, giving 24-hour-a-day life to downtown streets. And Lake Eola park is a wonderful centrepiece for the city.

Fernandina Beach, located on the north end of Amelia Island north of Jacksonviille, is one of the great towns of Florida, with artsy and fun galleries, great restaurants and wonderful beaches. There’s also a cool fort on the edge of town.

Summer Beach Resort is a great place for families to stay on Amelia Island, with large condo units featuring all the amenities you need. The beach goes on forever and the dunes are lovely.

The Ritz Carlton Amelia Island is a stunning facility, with a marvellous pool and a ton of great programs for the kids. The beach is terrific, and Salt restaurant is a beautiful spot serving inventive Florida and southern cuisine with a modern twist.

A Segway ride with Kayak Amelia is a great way to spend time in the Amelia Island area. I had a terrific, off-road ride on Fort George Island, checking out cool plantations, shady southern forests and pretty marshlands.

San Marco is a buzzing, fun neighborhood close to downtown Jacksonville . You’ll find great coffee shops, art galleries and independent book stores. Not to mention nearby river views.

The Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens is a marvellous, unheralded museum in the Riverside section of Jacksonville. There’s luscious art work from around the world and a pretty garden with great views of the St. John’s river and the city.

Azurea is a smashingly good and stylish restaurant inside One Ocean Resort and Spa in Atlantic Beach, just north of Jacksonville Beach. The Hawaiian sea bass is one of the best fish dishes I’ve had anywhere on the planet.

Apalachicola is about an hour and 15 minutes from both Panama City Beach and Tallahassee. It’s a beautiful old port that’s seeing a steady increase in tourism, thanks to nice beaches and a lively downtown.

Apalachicola has a surprisingly strong shopping scene, with beautifully designed home décor shops, galleries and goofy stores like The Tin Shed, where you’ll find all sorts of nautical and pirate gear. The restaurants are quite good, and the new Oyster City Brewing Co. is fantastic.

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