Orlando: The Magical Convention City

Physician's Money Digest, August15 2004, Volume 11, Issue 15

Physicians coming to Orlando (407-363-5872;www.orlandoinfo.com) for the first time to attendthe American Academy of Family Physicians conventionthis October will hear, no doubt, where the kidswant to go: Disney World. Conventioneers who arereturning will find fresh temptations in this ever-growingcity. What hasn't changed is the best hotel in town,the Orlando Peabody (800-PEABODY; www.peabodyorlando.com). Everything you'd want to see is within a20-minute drive from this hotel.

In Downtown Disney itself, the major new attractionand best show in town is Cirque du Soleil's La Nouba(407-939-1298; www.cirquedusoleil.com). Nearby, inthe Magic Kingdom, snarling engines mark the RichardPetty Driving Experience, where you can ride around thetrack with a racing driver for $89.

Greater value, despite the price, lies in the upscaleexperience Sea World has added at Discovery Cove(877-434-7268; www.discoverycove.com). It's $229 fora special admission that includes—among manyextras—swimming with dolphins, an encounter thatyour kids will remember all their lives.

Extraordinary Activities

Looking for experiences—less expensive but still outof the ordinary? Then take an airboat ride at BoggyCreek (407-933-4337; www.bcairboats.com). PilotEdgar Alexander says, "It's an educational adventure.Kids keep saying, ‘This is better than a zoo!'" The boatsneed only 2 inches of water to float around the CentralFlorida Everglades powered by 454 Chevrolet engines.

Floating on air at the simulated skydiving activity,Sky Venture (407-903-1150; www.skyventure.com) usesa different engine—electricity—and its electric bill hits$200,000 a year. "We don't blow our customers up fromthe ground," the manager Omar Arias says, "We suck'em from the top by vacuum." This helps the novice skydiversstay upright—but kids who'd rather be upsidedown can head for the Incredible Hulk Coaster atUniversal Studios' Islands of Adventure (800-232-7827;www.universalorlando.com).

An unexpected pleasure at 8445 International Drive,fairly close to the Convention Center, is Titanic TheExhibition (407-248-1166; www.titanicshipofdreams.com). "Titanic was the largest man-made structure inthe world," says Jim Trebowski, a guide portrayingpassenger Harry Markland Molson. "Interestinglyenough," he says, "at this busy time of immigration tothe Americas, the ship was only half full on its maidenvoyage, yet sold out for its return from New York."

Dinner and a Show

Families tired out at the end of the day from trailingaround the attractions sometimes collapse in front oftheir hotel room TV and miss out on another uniqueexperience: the dinner show.

The most popular are Arabian Nights (800-553-6116; www.arabian-nights.com), the Dolly Parton DixieStampede (866-443-4943; www.dixiestampede.com),and the long-established Medieval Times (888-WEJOUST;www.medievaltimes.com). If you like your dinnerwith a challenge, consider Sleuth's Mystery DinnerShow (407-363-1985; www.sleuths.com). You have toeat somewhere, so why not let the kids play detectiveand watch this show?

Fun on a Budget

If you have hungry kids, take them to the immenseMcDonald's in the shape of a serving of french fries onSand Lake Road; it's an entertainment complex in itself.Don't be so stuffy as to avoid the brochures. Mostattractions have discount coupons in them.

Physician's Money Digest

See the August 31 issue of for reviews of the top Orlando-area restaurants.