Look past the parks and rides and there's a sedate side to Orlando that many never see, finds LISA CLARK
It may be the theme park capital of the world but the laidback city of Orlando is perfect for a girlie getaway in the sun.
You'll be pleasantly surprised by upmarket Winter Park with its lakeside homes owned by celebrities (the little boat tour of the lakes and canals offers a charming introduction to the area), consisting of quaint boutiques, galleries and cafes lining Park Avenue.
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Set in 480 acres of lush nature reserve, the five-star Waldorf Astoria hotel at Bonnet Creek oozes elegance.
My luxury suite had a kitchenette and dining area, a living room with an extra-large TV and a bedroom with a view of the parkland.
I had a wonderful massage in the spacious Guerlain Spa which cured my jet lag.
Golf lovers will be in their element on the championship course adjacent to the hotel with fairways bordered by towering pine and cypress trees.
What really sets this hotel apart, however, is the friendly staff.
Every evening I was greeted by the doorman saying: "Welcome home."
Orlando is a foodies' paradise.
The breakfast buffet at Oscar's in the Waldorf Astoria is legendary with mouthwatering pancakes, platters of fresh fruit, the cutest mini pastries, and bacon and eggs any way you want 'em.
The more sedate Bull & Bear is the hotel's flagship restaurant.
Tuck into a 36oz Tomahawk steak (around £62 for two), served with creamy mash and spring greens.
Naturally there's also the classic Waldorf salad.
Our best meal outside the hotel was at trendy Seasons 52 where no dish is more than 475 calories.
After salmon and steak could there be room for dessert?
Of course, when the choice is delicious chocolate peanut butter mousse, key lime pie or Belgian chocolate rocky road.
Winter Park is renowned for its one-off boutiques but for everything under one roof head for super-swish The Mall at Millenia (mallatmillenia.com) with more than 120 designer fashion outlets and a conservatory-style roof so you don't feel as if you are stuck indoors.
Best buys include gadgets from the Apple store where you can save about £80 on an iPad2.
I stocked up on Hollister hoodies (almost half the UK price) and lingerie from Victoria's Secret.
Keep your eyes peeled for celebrities. John Travolta, Alicia Keys, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Michael Jordan have all been spotted here.
We all love a bargain and Premium Outlets (premiumoutlets.com) is stacked with them.
It has two designer outlet villages (International Drive and Vineland Avenue) a short drive from the Waldorf Astoria hotel.
We shopped 'til we dropped in some of the bigger International's 180 stores, with designer labels at knockdown prices.
Best buys included a Kate Spade handbag for £62, Ralph Lauren polo shirts for £16, Ray-Ban sunglasses for £75 and a Nike Michael Jordan hoodie for £25. Gap is also great for cheap denim and children's wear.
When you start flagging, pop into delicious Pinkberry for some energy-boosting frozen yoghurt.
The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art in Winter Park houses the world's most comprehensive collection of Tiffany work.
The new wing boasts the restored daffodil terrace from designer Louis Comfort Tiffany's own Long Island home, plus many of his iconic leaded-glass lamps, vases and jewellery.
Chill out at SeaWorld's Discovery Cove, a tropical paradise with lagoons, waterfalls and white sandy beaches.
I adored swimming with the stingrays but the main attraction is the dolphins.
I waded into the water while a trainer whistled for Dash the dolphin to join us. She arrived with a splash and waved hello with her fin.
Those of us brave enough swam into deeper water and had the thrilling experience of Dash towing us back to shore.
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FOR NIGHT OWLS
The fun doesn't stop when the sun goes down, not when you have the lively entertainment complex Downtown Disney.
The House of Blues is a popular concert venue and Cirque du Soleil has a permanent home here where it is currently showing the spectacular La Nouba.
The cast comprises some talented Britons including Liverpool's Melanie Bayol.
If you fancy learning what it's like on X Factor go to Rising Star Karaoke at Universal CityWalk where you can perform with a live band.
You will go home singing Orlando's praises.
Waldorf Astoria Orlando (0870 546 6677/waldorfastoriaorlando.com) offers doubles from £105 per night (two sharing), room only.
Virgin Atlantic (0844 209 2770/virginatlantic.com) offers return flights from Gatwick to Orlando from £564.
Discovery Cove Orlando (0800 231 5281/ seaworldparks.co.uk) offers a Choice Package from £181 including a dolphin swim, food, drinks, snorkel and goggles and a day pass to SeaWorld.