The Universal Studios are just a few of the incredible theme parks around Florida

From fairytale parades to daredevil rides, Orlando is a world of make-believe. A jaw-dropping array of fun in the sun stretches from cuddly encounters with cartoon characters for tiny tots to souped-up speedway driving for grown-ups.

What to see and do

Hogwarts has cast its spell over central Florida with the opening of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando Resort. Harry and chums join Spider-Man, the Incredible Hulk, Shrek and the Simpsons among characters at the resort’s two major theme parks.

Six parks and more than 20 hotels make up the vast Walt Disney World, which covers an area the size of Manchester. The choice includes the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom.

Head into another world at Kennedy Space Centre, a 90-minute drive from central Orlando and just 10 miles from Port Canaveral. Visitors can tour the giant Shuttle launch pads, play with interactive exhibits and even chat to real astronauts.

Where to eat

Dragonfly (www.dragonflysushi.com) is a sleek new restaurant that offers a modern take on sushi, sashimi and other Japanese cuisine. It also has a saki bar.

New on International Drive is Delmonico’s Italian Steakhouse (www.delmonicositaliansteakhouse.com). It is the company’s first restaurant outside New York.

Celebrity chef Cat Cora has opened Kouzzina (c) on Disney’s BoardWalk (www.disneyworld.com). The family-friendly restaurant specialises in Greek and other Mediterranean cuisine.

Where to drink

Baby Grands Dueling (c) Piano Bar (www.babygrandsduelingpianos.com) is a new entertainment spot in downtown Orlando. There’s song and dance aplenty, with music changing nightly according to customers’ requests.

There are more than 120 wines on offer at Funky Monkey Wine Company’s new bar on International Drive (www.funkymonkeywine.com). The venue has a sister bar in the downtown area.
Cuba and Polynesia meet 1950s Las Vegas at the Red Coconut Club at Universal CityWalk (www.universalorlando.com). The colourful venue has three bars on two levels, with DJs or live music.

Where to stay

Luxury hotel brand Waldorf Astoria has chosen Orlando for its first property outside New York. The 497-room Waldorf Astoria Orlando (www.waldorfastoriaorlando.com) includes a spa and 18-hole championship golf course.

The Peabody Orlando (www.peabodyorlando.com) has completed a $450 million expansion. The new-look hotel has 1,641 rooms, a spa and fitness centre, three swimming pools and 10 restaurants and bars.

Fun for all ages is promised at the new CoCo (c) Key Hotel and Water Resort (www.cocokeywaterresort.com) on International Drive. The 392-room hotel includes a water park with 14 giant slides, water canons and a play island.