The Undiscovered Orlando

Forget the mouse ears. The Orlando, Fla., area has more to offer than the better-known attractions of Disney World, Epcot Center, Universal Studios and Sea World.

For instance, Cypress Gardens has numerous animal habitats for the interested explorer. Fallow deer, wallabies, cotton-topped tamarins and gila monsters are just a few examples of the displayed animal life. Cypress also boasts a 270-square-meter aviary with lories and lorikeets.

If cold-blooded creatures are more your speed, visit Gatorland where children can wrestle rascally gators. Or, get up-close-and-personal with an electric eel that produces 650 bolts at Marineland.

Flora fans can ogle the orchids at A World of Orchids where thousands bloom in a 30,000-square-foot conservatory. And, for racing fans, Daytona USA's Gatorade Victory Lane displays Jeff Gordon's 1996 Daytona 500 race car.

Whether you're seeking fine dining, dancing and music or if you just want to be a lounge lizard, Orlando offers a world of nighttime excitement. With more than 2,300 restaurants and world-renowned chefs, the area's broad range of atmosphere and menus satisfy every budget and taste. Experience the AAA four-diamond Arthur's 27 known for its international cuisine and panoramic view. Candlelight settings like those at Lake Suzanne's Chalet Suzanne Restaurant or Lee's Lakeside, overlooking Lake Eola, make for a romantic evening.

Florida Trend's annual listing for the state's finest restaurants include:Bergamos' Italian Restaurant (featuring singing waiters), Charlie's Lobster House, Chatham's Place, Dux (AAA four diamond winner), Le Coq Au Vin, Maison and Jardin Restaurante (winner of Wine Spectator's top award and a four diamond recipient), Park Plaza Gardens and Pebble Charley's Steak House (voted one of the "Top Ten Steakhouses in America" by the Knife and Fork Club of America and received an award of excellence by Wine Spectator for its wine list).

In addition to fine dining, Orlando offers numerous nightclubs including Baja Beach Club, Sloppy Joe's, Ybor's Martini Bar and Sapphire Supper Club.

Also, don't miss some of the city's popular sports bars such as Bloopers Sports Bar, Friday's Front Row Sports Grid and the Orlando Ale House.

A wide variety of activities are available for nature lovers. Scenic Boat Tours, a Winter Park tradition for more than 50 years, offers a relaxing, narrated cruise through the area's many lakes.

Elsewhere, the Orange County National Golf Center Complex includes two 18-holecourses, practice tees and instruction.

The 6,900-acre Wekiva Springs State Park provides opportunities for canoeing, camping, boating, fishing and swimming.

Or, visit Blue Springs State Park, home to the endangered manatees. Its pine forest accommodates the outdoor enthusiast well.

Cypress Island provides a safari-like experience where guests will delight in the vast assortment of exotic animals. Airboat rides, jet skis, nature walks and horseback rides are just a few of the activities available.

So, enjoy the conference and venture out afterwards. Orlando and all of the fun it holds awaits you.