Orlando City Guide
city of Orlando is commonly known as ‘the theme park playground of America’. This city and its surrounding areas of Lake Buena Vista and Kissimmee are world famous tourist Mecca’s that are renowned for their many theme park and numerous other attractions. Orlando’s theme parks can trace their origins to the 1960’s, when famous American film producer Walt Disney bought up land in the area to establish a dream theme park. Unfortunately, Walt Disney died in 1966 before he could accomplish his dream and his brother Roy Disney inaugurated the Disney’s first theme park, Magic Kingdom in Orlando in 1971.
The Disney Empire in Orlando over the years grew to include four main theme parks and other smaller attractions along with numerous hotels in every style and price category and a huge collection of restaurants, shops and nightclubs to cater to the huge tourist hordes that descend on Orlando almost all year round.
Today a trip to Orlando largely revolves around Walt Disney World and other similar attractions like Universal Orlando, Sea World Orlando all of which draw families to vacation in the area.
Besides the theme parks and other manufactured avenues of entertainment, Orlando is also a well known business hub, which is home to industries like software development, medical device manufacturing and digital media production and entertainment. As a result, Orlando also attracts a substantial number of business travelers along with the hordes of leisure travelers who periodically book a vacation to Orlando for ‘some fun in the Florida sun’.
Where to stay in Orlando
Most vacationers on a visit to Orlando like to stay within easy reach of its theme parks and other attractions. The city’s greatest concentration of hotels are thus situated in areas located in the southern and western parts of the city in areas like International Drive, Sand Lake/Dr Phillips and Lake Buena Vista.<
Downtown Orlando is the city’s Central Business District, which is home to several retail and office buildings. This area of Orlando is well served by public transit though besides office buildings, it is also home to sporting and entertainment arenas like the Dr. P. Phillips Performing Arts Center and the Citrus Bowl football stadium and numerous night clubs, restaurants and bars. Downtown Orlando also hosts some of the city’s most well known luxury hotels along with a clutch of mid-range hotels that are popular accommodation choices for business travelers.
The International Drive area is located at a distance of 10 miles from Walt Disney World. International Drive is not actually an Orlando neighborhood in the true sense but it is the city’s most prominent entertainment and hotel district. Located here are attractions like the Wet ’n’ Wild Water Park, Ripley’s Believe It Or Not, Wonderworks along with all types of hotels, restaurants and shopping centers.
Located within the boundaries of International Drive is the Orange County Convention Center, which is the second largest Convention Center in America. Hotels located within the International Drive area are not only a popular choice with leisure travelers who are on a vacation to Orlando but they are also favored by convention attendees and business travelers who need visit the vacation hotspot of Orlando for work.
Places to see in Orlando
Walt Disney World
Walt Disney World is the main focal point of the majority of Orlando vacations. Walt Disney World consists of four main theme parks: Magic Kingdom, EPCOT center, Animal Kingdom and Disney Hollywood Studios. Walt Disney World additionally offers various other attractions like themed resorts (Grand Floridian, Beach Club, Contemporary, Polynesian, and Ft. Wilderness), five golf courses; two water parks (Blizzard Beach, Typhoon Lagoon) and even a real town (Celebration). These Disney attractions also feature more than 50,000 cast members who contribute greatly to the magical ambience that pervades all over Walt Disney World.
Sea World in Orlando offers three separate attractions: Sea World, Discovery Cove and Aquatica, which offer numerous interactive exhibits that aim to educate as well as entertain. Sea World, additionally, offers shows that features marine creatures like killer whales, sea lions and dolphins along with other attractions like a Plexiglas walk-through tunnel shaped aquarium and two excellent roller coasters which count amongst the highest and most exciting rides in the country.
Universal Orlando Resort
The Universal Orlando Resort is divided into two main parks- Universal Studios Florida and Universal’s Islands of Adventures though Universal also runs the older Wet n’ Wild Park, which is located within the International Drive area of Orlando.
The rides and shows at Universals theme parks are influenced by the various movies and TV shows that have been produced by the studio like Jurassic Park, the Simpsons, Men in Black, Spiderman and many more. The park also offers a shopping and dining area called Universal City Walk that features dining outposts like Hard Rock Café , Emmeril’s and many more.
Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex
The Kennedy Space Center offers a valuable insight into the men and the technology that help to conquer space. The complex, which is located one hour east of Orlando, offers a wide array of fascinating attractions that include a rocket and missile museum, interactive simulator experiences, displays of space suits worn by astronauts, an IMAX theater, the Astronaut Hall of Fame and the Vertical Assembly Building, which is responsible for the assembling of space shuttles. Most Orlando Hotels offer shuttle services to the Kennedy Space Center Complex for their customers.
Orlando Museum of Art
The Orlando Museum of Art with its permanent collections of American Art, Art of the Ancient Americas and African Art provides a welcome diversion from the theme parks of Orlando. This museum is located within the Lochaven Park neighborhood of Orlando, which also offers other attractions like the Orlando Science Center and the Shakespeare Theater, all of which constitute worthy alternatives for visitors who want a break from ‘theme parks and rides’ on a vacation to Orlando.
Best time to visit Orlando
Orlando experiences a year round warm subtropical climate, which is characterized by high levels of humidity. The summer months in Orlando are some of the busiest times for the theme parks even though temperatures prevailing over the city at this time can be stifling. A good time to book a vacation to Orlando if school is not an issue for you, is during the months of September and October, for during these months the tourist crowds usually thin out as kids go back to school and the parks and rides are less crowded. Moreover the weather is still warm. However Orlando does experience a hurricane season which lasts from June to November when afternoon thunderstorms are a common occurrence.
Yet another good time to plan a trip to Orlando is during early December before the holiday crowds descend on the theme parks as during the winter months, the weather in Orlando turns dry and temperate and is thus quite agreeable for walking around the theme parks.
Getting around in Orlando
Orlando is served by its three area airports namely Orlando International, Executive Airport and Orlando Sanford International Airport. Of the three Orlando airports, Orlando International is located closest to the theme parks and attractions.
Fare Buzz offers a wide array of flight deals and cheap air tickets for Orlando all throughout the year. So even if you decide to book a vacation to Orlando at the spur of the moment, Fare Buzz can come through for you with its repertoire of affordable last minute flights and hotel deals for Orlando.
Public transport in Orlando is provided by the local Orlando transportation authority, LYNX which provides bus services that serve the metro area of Orlando. The International Drive area is served by its own I-Ride Trolley, which costs $1.25 per ride for adults though it offers concessionary rates for seniors and children under 12 ride free. The Walt Disney world park operates its own bus system to transport people between the parks and the Walt Disney World hotels and resorts along with a boat transport system and a monorail.
Orlando is also served by a fleet of taxis, however, these are not usually hailed in the street but have to be called on the phone. Mears Transportation and Diamond cab are two taxi companies that operate taxi fleets in Orlando.
However, Orlando like Los Angeles is very much a car town and you will probably need to rent a car for the duration of your stay in Orlando. Fare Buzz offers an assortment of reasonably priced car rentals for Orlando, which can be booked along with your other Orlando travel bookings through the very same channels.
Where to shop in Orlando
Orlando offers a plethora of shopping opportunities for those holiday-makers who like to combine their theme park filled visit to Orlando with a spot of shopping. Luxury department stores, malls, boutiques and even flea markets abound in Orlando.
Some of the most popular shopping locales in Orlando include malls like the Florida Mall, the Festival Bay Mall, the Waterford Lakes Town Center and the Mall at Millenia; all of which offer numerous shopping, dining and entertainment options. Other shopping opportunities can be had at Orlando’s Antique Row at Orange Avenue in downtown Orlando while bargain hunters find themselves in heaven at Flea World in Sanford and at the Osceola Flea and Farmers Market in Kissimmee. Both these shopping locales offer a substantial number of wholesale vendors, who offer a wide range of products like apparel, handicrafts, jewelry, souvenirs, leather goods, books and much more.
Where to eat in Orlando
Orlando in the past was not particularly known for its culinary scene as the resort city’s dining offerings consisted of mainly fast-food fare, which largely catered to hordes of family tourists that chose to vacation at this resort city. However recently, the Disney Corporation completely altered the dining landscape of the city as it overhauled its dining offerings to include much upscale, gourmet fare, which is served at restaurants like Victoria & Albert’s, California Kitchen, Sanaa and Jiko.
These Disney restaurants were then followed by various other fine dining restaurants like Primo, Luma on Park, Hue, The Boheme, Emeril’s Tchoup Chop, Seasons 52, Donna Scalla’s La Luce, which further transformed the city’s restaurant scene, so much so that Orlando is today considered to be one of the top dining destinations in the country.
Nightlife in Orlando
Orlando might exude a family-friendly vibe but this resort city offers numerous nightlife attractions that are bound to please its vacationing adult population as well. The best Orlando nightlife generally revolves around music and aside from the theme parks that feature hundreds of performers; Orlando also offers several live music venues like the BB King’s Blues Club, Hard Rock Live and Firestone Live, which host various well known performers all throughout the year.
Other prominent nightlife attractions in the city include the Wall Street Plaza in downtown Orlando, the House of Blues at International Drive and the Roxy which is the best dance club in the city.