Our Opinion of Orlando
Orlando is one of the biggest tourist destinations in the world, especially for family vacations. Besides having an almost year-round perfect climate, the city is best known for its many theme parks and resorts in the area, in particular Walt Disney World Resort in nearby Lake Buena Vista. Other notable area attractions include SeaWorld, Universal Orlando Resort, Gatorland, and Wet n' Wild.
Downtown Orlando, centered on Orange Avenue, has lots of worthwhile attractions to see such as fascinating museums, and it is packed with bars, clubs, and restaurants, theaters and concert venues. Shopping areas in Orlando have as much variety as the local attractions. Orlando is also known for its wide array of golf courses, with numerous courses available for any level of golfer. A mere one hour drive away is the beautiful Cocoa Beach located next the Kennedy Space Center.
Disney World is THE famous attraction. The Walt Disney World resort is the area's largest attraction with its many facets such as the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney-MGM Studios, Disney's Animal Kingdom, Typhoon Lagoon, Blizzard Beach, and Downtown Disney. There are also dozens of hotels, plenty of shopping and dining districts, and eight golf courses.
Next in fame is Universal Orlando Resort, comprised of Universal Studios, CityWalk, the Islands of Adventure theme park, and the recently opened Wizarding World of Harry Potter. SeaWorld Orlando, is a large adventure park that features numerous zoological displays and marine animals alongside an amusement park with roller coasters and water park. Right across the street is Discovery Cove, which lets you get even closer to the sea life by allowing you to swim with fish, stingrays and the park's main attraction, Bottlenose dolphins. Only 1,000 visitors are admitted daily so it is often sold out, even with its steep admission fee.
Cocoa beach is the closest beach on the Atlantic Ocean. It is 97 km from Orlando, only 60 minutes away. If you are lucky enough to be there on a day that there is a launch, you can watch a shuttle propel into space right on the beach since it is next to the Kennedy Space Center. The Space Center, a mere 45 minutes from Orlando, offers visitors a unique opportunity to tour launch areas, see giant rockets, try modified spaceflight simulators, and much more. The center may not be open on certain launch days so call ahead.
There are many, many more theme parks and family attractions such as: Wet 'N Wild water park, Cypress Garden Adventure Park, Dinosaur World, Green Meadows Petting Farm, Ron Jon Surfpark, Silver Springs, and Wonderworks.
Downtown Orlando has a lot to offer on its own. Orange Avenue is packed with bars, clubs, and restaurants, so it is closed most nights to cars for pedestrians. Nearby Lake Eola is a picturesque park containing a light fountain that has been established as an icon of the city and a historic outdoor shell theater. The Mary, Queen of the Universe Shrine Catholic church gets many visitors as well.
Several wonderful museums are worth visiting, such as the Cornell Fine Arts Museum, the International Trolley and Train Museum, the Orlando Museum of Art, the Orlando Science Center, and the Morse Museum of American Art located in nearby Winter Park. Two unusual attractions are the Holy Land Experience, a biblical theme park and museum, and Ripley's Believe It or Not! Orlando Odditorium where visitors can explore bizarre artifacts, strange collections, weird art/hobbies and interactive exhibits.
The nearby town of Kissimmee has a few attractions of its own. The Old Town has a classic car show on the weekends, lots of shops and a couple restaurants, and a ferris wheel as well as other rides. The Warbird Air Museum specialises in restoring WW2 aircraft to flying condition. Guided tours are available of the work shops and hangers.
Things to know about Orlando, United States Vacations
Activities & Sports: At last count, Orlando counted around 170 golf courses. This could be considered a golfer's paradise for sure. Some of the favorite public courses include: Boggy Creek Golf Club, Cypress Creek Country Club, Dubsdread Golf Course, Eaglewood Golf Club, EastWood Golf Club, Fairways Country Club, Faldo Golf Institute by Marriott, Grand Cypress Resort: Four Courses, Grande Pines Golf Club, Lake Orlando Golf Club, MetroWest Golf Club, Ritz Carlton Golf Club, Shingle Creek Golf Club, Stoneybrook Golf Club, and Ventura Country Club.
Hike, swim, go boating, canoe, kayak, bicycle, snorkel, or scuba dive in one of the many surrounding parks. Try the Blue Spring State Park, De Leon Spring State Park, Hontoon Island State Park, Lake Eola Park, Lake Louisa State Park, Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, Moss Park/Split Oak, Sebastian Inlet State Park, Tomoka State Park and Wekiwa Springs State Park.
Dining & Nightlife
: Orlando's theme parks also offer great upscale dining options. A few examples include Sharks Underwater Grill at SeaWorld, Mythos at Universal Studios, or Cinderella's Royal Table in Disney's Magic Kingdom. Walt Disney World Resort even organizes meals with some of their famous characters. The city itself has over 5,400 restaurants; from fast food joints, across-the-country chain restaurants, ethnic eateries, and gastronomic tables. Top choices include:
- The brunch at La Coquina at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress
- Hue, located in trendy Thornton Park
- Fifi's Patisserie, also in trendy Thornton Park
- Seasons 52
- Ruth's Chris Steak House's
- The Venetian Room, located at the Caribe Royale Resort
- Victoria & Albert's
- Norman's at The Ritz-Carlton Orlando Grande Lakes
- Del Frisco's Prime Steak & Lobster
- Luma on Park
The city's nightlife is centered mostly on Central Boulevard and Orange Avenue in downtown Orlando. Bars and dance clubs abound with urban rhythm. The tiny Thornton Park District has dozens of cafés and pubs. Suggestions include: Mulvaney's Irish Pub, Rhythm and Flow, Dexter's, Burton's Frosty Mug, and HUE. At the theme parks, there is Pleasure Island at Disney World and the CityWalk at Universal Studios offering entertainment. There is also Hard Rock Café, Hard Rock Live, and Hard Rock Hotel. Here is one especially for kids: the World's Largest McDonald's PlayPlace is located on the corner of Sand Lake Road and International Drive. The interior features an arcade with over 60 games with prize.
Shopping: There is no shortage of shopping opportunities in Orlando that is for sure. Visitors will find a number of major malls, outlet factories and ethnic enclaves:
- Florida Mall is the biggest mall in Orlando.
- Mall at Millenia is Orlando's most upscale and beautiful mall.
- Fashion Square Mall
- West Oaks Mall
- Orlando Premium Outlets is home to the top designers.
- Prime Outlets is also home to many designers.
- Lake Buena Vista Factory Outlets
- Little Saigon has about 100 stores that stock items from China, Vietnam, Hong Kong, etc, and is also home to many Asian restaurants.
- Little India area, although a bit spread out, has many Indian stores in the South Orange Blossom Trail area on the main streets and side roads.
Languages: English. Spanish is the second most commonly spoken language.
Currency: US dollar
Climate: Orlando and Cocoa Beach have a warm and humid subtropical climate, with two distinct seasons: hot and rainy, lasting from May until October, and the other cooler and drier, from November through March. In the summer the daytime average temperature is 32 C and strong afternoon thunderstorms occur almost daily. During the winter season, average lows are around 10 C and the highs average near 22 C.
Electricity: 110-120V, 60Hz
Documents: A valid passport and a return or onward ticket required.
Note: Departure tax is usually included in your ticket price, inquire on booking.
Airport Tax : Departure tax is usually included in your ticket price, inquire on booking.
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