- For the broader urban area including suburbs and other nearby destinations, please see the Greater Orlando article.
Orlando deserves its reputation as the theme park capital of the world. The Greater Orlando area teems with an energetic spirit that almost never slows, and with an estimated 52 million visitors a year, how could it? Of course, many of those tourists are coming for the two pillars that gift the area its reputation: Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando (though Disney is not within the Orlando city limits). But Orlando holds a lot to offer besides those two amusement meccas. Of course, the International Drive area near Universal contains a multitude of independent attractions and smaller theme parks as well as hotels and restaurants galore. Beyond that, however, lies much to be explored. Expansive areas of untouched wilderness, world-class museums and theaters, and unique dining and nightlife in downtown are a few of the things that await the traveller who ventures outside of the constructed worlds of the theme parks.
At the center of the state of Florida, in Orange County, Orlando is about an hour from each coast. The majority of the area attractions are southwest of the city, in Lake Buena Vista (where Disney World is), Kissimmee, Bay Lake, Celebration and other nearby communities.
The Orlando area contains some of the world's largest and most famous theme park resorts. However, only one, Universal Orlando, is within the city limits. Walt Disney World and SeaWorld are in the immediate area, as are many of the more minor tourist attractions, and as Orlando is most associated with these popular attractions, you will find details and descriptions of them below.
Until the Civil War, Orange County was widely considered a rural backwater. However, a Reconstruction-era boom in the area's population and the simultaneous growth of the citrus industry led to the establishment of the city of Orlando in 1885. Ten years later, the "Great Freeze" destroyed much of the citrus crop, forcing farmers to sell and the industry to shift southward.
Around the turn of the 19th century, Orlando became a somewhat popular resort city, and its downtown population grew during the Florida Land Boom of the 1920s. During World War II, the United States Air Force positioned a base in the city, and the military would go on to become Orlando's major industry through the 1950s and 1960s.
In 1965, Walt Disney went on television to announce his plans for "The Florida Project", the most important moment in Orlando's history. Walt Disney World opened in 1971 with one theme park – the Magic Kingdom – and development and population explosion rocketed the city into what it is today. Over the subsequent years, tourism has further entrenched itself as the center of Orlando's economy. SeaWorld Orlando opened in 1973, and Epcot, the second Disney theme park, came in 1982. Disney's Hollywood Studios came in 1989, and Universal Studios Florida a year later. The Universal Orlando resort was born with the opening of the Islands of Adventure theme park in 1999, just a year after Disney's fourth park, Animal Kingdom, opened. With these parks came countless hotels, restaurants, and other tourist attractions spread across the city.
English is the primary language spoken in Orlando, but Spanish is spoken by a portion of the population as well. Due to the high number of international travelers coming to the city, nearly all of the theme parks and resorts, and many of the hotels and restaurants provide menus, guide maps, and other information in a variety of languages ranging from English and Spanish to French, Chinese, and Portuguese. Many attractions also employ bilingual or multilingual staff.
Orlando sits nearly in the center of the state, about an hour's drive from both the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, surrounded by suburban towns on all sides. Bordering Orlando to the north is Altamonte Springs, Maitland and Winter Park. Further north, the city of Sanford contains Orlando-Sanford International Airport, a secondary airport serving the city, and DeLand, where Stetson University is. To the southwest of the city lies Williamsburg (where SeaWorld is) and Lake Buena Vista (where Disney World is), as well as the Disney-inspired town of Celebration. The main airport is directly south of the city, as well as the town of Kissimmee.
There are lakes around the city and many of Orlando's suburbs have shorelines. Some of these, such as Lake Monroe, are a few miles across and are popular recreation areas. They form barriers between the otherwise adjacent suburbs.
|Climate chart (explanation)|
Many say Central Florida has two seasons: hot and hotter. Orlando has temperate winters affected by the occasional cold front; hot summers with daily thunderstorms; and warm, balmy springs and autumns.
- Spring in Orlando has highs in the 80s (27 °C) in March & April transitioning to around 90 °F (32 °C) in May and the low to mid-90s in June. Spring is the driest time of year, and in the past decade some spring months have seen less than a half-inch of rain. This is the time of year in which many small wildfires appear around the region, but this should not affect anyone who stays in the urban areas. March and April are great times to visit with dry days, clear skies, and warm temperatures with no cold fronts. In comparison, late May and early June are filled hot, humid, or dry days.
Florida Cold & Snow
While most think of Florida as a year-round paradise, there are at least ten winter mornings each year when lows fall to near freezing. However, even on the coldest of mornings, highs reach into the 50s and 60s. Every 3-4 years, snow flurries will fall somewhere in the region. However, only once since records began in 1948 has any measurable snow fallen in the city (0.2" in/0.5 cm in Jan 1977). So if you visit between November and March, be safe and bring a jacket!
- Summer brings daily thunderstorms starting in June. Highs from mid-June to mid-September are in the mid 90s, with 90 °F (32 °C) often being reached by 10 or 11AM, and lows in the 70s (23 °C). Due to Orlando's proximity to two coasts, thunderstorms form everyday in the summer from the humid ocean breezes that cross over land and heat up. Sometimes violent thunderstorms occur, see the "Stay Safe" section. After passing, they will often drop temperatures into the low 80s (28 °C), a welcome relief from the hot temperatures earlier in the day.
- Autumn varies much more from year-to-year than spring. The daily thunderstorms taper off in September, leaving highs in the mid to upper 80s (29 °C) until mid-October. The first cold front of the season will usually pass by late October, plunging highs into the 70s (24 °C) and lows into the 50s (12 °C) and upper 40s (10 °C). The cooling trend continues into November and December, with highs falling into the 70s (24 °C) by late December and lows into the 50s (12 °C). These temperatures can be affected by the occasional cold front, which can plunge highs into the 60s (18 °C) and 50s (12 °C) and lows into the 40s (7 °C) and as low as freezing (32 °F/0 °C) by mid-December.
- Winter is much the same as November and December. Highs are in the 70s (24 °C), lows in the 50s (12 °C), affected every week or two by cold fronts. With those fronts, highs can drop into the 50s (12 °C) and lows into the 30s (2 °C). Sub-freezing mornings typically occur two or three times a year. Small changes in latitude make substantial differences to temperature in the area, and every few miles north takes one or two degrees off the temperature on cold days.
Most tourists visit Orlando for summer vacations between June and August, or for spring breaks in March and April. Ironically, the quieter times correspond to the best weather in the Orlando area. Visiting when the weather isn't so hot means fewer people in the area, with emptier parks and more comfortable weather.
Orlando International Airport
- Main article: Orlando International Airport
- 1 Orlando International Airport (MCO IATA). The city's primary airport, and the second busiest airport in the state. It's 12.5 mi (20.1 km) southeast of downtown, close to the attractions in the area, and is a hub or focus city for Frontier Airlines, JetBlue Airways & Southwest Airlines. Flights are also offered from many international destinations throughout North America, South America and Europe.
Orlando International has two key components: landside and airside. There is a central landside terminal (one building divided into sides "A" and "B"), containing the airline counters, baggage claim, rental car agencies, and a hotel. It's connected by elevated trams to four other terminals, known as Airside 1-4, where the boarding gates are. There are plenty of shops and restaurants in both the central terminal and the four airsides. Security lines can become extremely long (1 hr) during the summer tourist season and near holidays. Combined with long check-in lines, it is advisable to arrive 2–3 hours before your scheduled departure.
Orlando is the "rental car capital of the world" and, as can be expected, there are many car rental agencies at the airport offering a large number and wide range of vehicles for rental. There are also many off-site car rental agencies which provide free shuttles to their location and may offer lower prices (See OIA website.)
Public transportation in the Orlando area is provided by the Lynx (☏ ) bus system. Lynx buses can be found at Ground Transportation (Level 1) of the landside terminal's "A" side, in Commercial Lane spaces A38-A41. Fares are $2/ride with free transfers within 90 minutes. Day passes are $4.50 and a 7-day pass costs $16. Discounted fares for youth and the elderly require riders to present a Lynx-issued ID, available only by applying at the Central Station Terminal with a 5-7 day turnaround and therefore not viable for short-term visitors. Routes from the airport can get you to downtown, International Drive, Walt Disney World, and nearby Apopka.
Almost every mid- to high-priced hotel in the city offers airport transfers. Additionally, there are several shuttle services options that run from the airport to various points, including Kissimmee, the theme parks, the University of Central Florida, and the cruise port at Cape Canaveral. Approximate rates for shuttle vans range from $18–26 depending on your destination (see OIA website for details on local transport). You may wish to contact your hotel to inquire about discounts on certain shuttles or possible free airport transfers. Disney and Universal also offer free shuttles to their on-site resorts.
Taxi cabs/vans may carry up to 9 passengers with luggage and may be found at Ground Transportation (Level 1) of the "A" and "B" sides of the landside terminal. Rates are determined by a taximeter, regardless of the number of passengers, and flat fares are prohibited.
Orlando-Sanford International Airport
- 2 Orlando-Sanford International Airport (SFB IATA). A secondary airport which serves the Orlando, 28 mi (45 km) northeast of Orlando (via SR 408 and I-4 and 417) in Sanford. The airport is served by Allegiant, Flair, Swoop, Sun Country and Surinam Airways. Check with airline or tour operator for schedules.
Rental car agencies on-site are: Advantage, ☏ , toll-free: . ; Alamo, ☏ , toll-free: . ; Avis, ☏ , toll-free: . ; Budget, ☏ , toll-free: . ; Dollar, ☏ , toll-free: . ; Enterprise, ☏ , toll-free: . ; Hertz, ☏ , toll-free: . ; National, ☏ , toll-free: . ; Thrifty, ☏ , toll-free: .
Taxi service is available from Yellow Cab Company of Orlando, ☏ . Shuttles are available from American Coach Shuttle, ☏ , toll-free: , [email protected]. and Orlando Carriers, Inc., ☏ , [email protected].
Other regional airports within an hour and a half drive include Daytona Beach International Airport (DAB IATA); served by Delta and American; and Melbourne International Airport (MLB IATA); served by Allegiant, American, Delta, Elite and TUI (from the UK). In addition, Orlando area visitors who plan on visiting the Gulf Coast can also flying into Tampa International Airport (TPA IATA), about 80 mi (130 km) west/southwest of Orlando, or just over an hour's drive, as it is less crowded and a bit easier to access by car.
If you plan on visiting more than just Orlando and plan on taking international flights, you may want to consider flying in to Miami International Airport, 200 mi (320 km) south, which offers more international flights and is the largest U.S. gateway for flights from South and Central America and the Caribbean. Accessible by Greyhound, Red Coach, Megabus or Amtrak.
Orlando Executive Airport and Kissimmee Airport are other options to consider if you are flying in for the theme parks. Orlando Executive and Kissimmee exclusively serves general aviation and some air taxi. Orlando-Sanford International serves also general aviation alongside its commercial use.
Orlando Executive Airport provides 24-hour service through two fixed based operators, SheltAir Aviation Services and Showalter Flying Services. Air taxi and air charter companies such as Orlando Jet Charter fly a variety of private charter aircraft and jets, from charter luxury Gulfstreams down to economical piston twins for small groups and individuals.
- Main article: Rail travel in the United States
Orlando has an Amtrak station that provides service to other destinations such as Miami, but also connects to other points as far north as New York City via the Silver Star and Silver Meteor lines. Journey times are about 23 hours from New York and five hours from Miami. While trains are comfortable and includes both seating and sleeper options, delays are quite common.
Also, nearby Sanford is the southern terminus of the Auto Train which carries passengers and automobiles between Sanford and Lorton, Virginia, effectively serving as a car-rail link from Orlando to the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. The train runs daily with no intermediate stops and takes 17½ hours one way.
Finally, while SunRail is mainly a commuter rail system within Orlando, it can be used to travel from Kissimmee, through the greater Orlando Metro Area, to Deltona (DeBary Station). There are several SunRail stations within greater Orlando.
- 3 Orlando station (Amtrak Silver Meteor & Silver Star), 1400 Sligh Blvd (One mile south of downtown). Built 1926 in a Spanish Mission architectural style, the station is also known as Orlando Health/Amtrak Station. Same station/cross platform transfers between SunRail and Amtrak are only in Winter Park, Orlando Health and Kissimmee.
- 4 Sanford Auto Train Station (Amtrak Auto Train), 600 S Persimmon, Sanford FL. Separate station in Sanford for the Auto Train to load and unload vehicles and passengers.
- 5 Brightline (Virgin Trains USA), Orlando International Airport South Intermodal Center, ☏ . To be served by Brightline, an inter-city service that started operating in 2018 between West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale and has since extended to Miami. Construction of the route from West Palm Beach to Orlando is underway and is expected to open in 2023. Plans are underway to extend the Brightline route west from Orlando International Airport to Disney World and Tampa. The airport station will also be the airport stop for the existing SunRail commuter train.
Being in the middle of the state Orlando serves as a de-facto hub for multiple intercity bus companies for intrastate bus services. From here buses go to all directions of the state such as Tallahassee (NW), Miami-Dade (SE), Naples (SW), Jacksonville (NE) and points in between. Locally they have their own separate bus stations and stops in different parts of town that are far from the airports, Amtrak/Sunrail train stations and each other. Some may offer additional local stops in addition to their own bus stations. Check individual bus company websites for specific cities served, schedules, fares and local station/stop locations:
- ATC Buses, (office) 14119 Lord Barclay, ☏ , [email protected]. 24/7. Offers bus charter transportation to and from the Orlando Airport to Port Canaveral Cruises and hotels in the Orlando-Sanford area. They also offer chartered transportation to specified destination(s) for group travel. Call for quote.
- 6 Flixbus, (bus stop) 4953 International Dr (Bus will board in the "Bus Only" loading zone in front of St. John and Old Navy at the West entrance to the Orlando International Premium Outlets, Enter near the intersection of W. Oak Ridge Rd and Adrianna Ave.). Service between Orlando and Ft Myers via Lakeland, Tampa and Sarasota along I-4 & I-75 on one route and to Miami through Port St Lucie, W Palm Beach and Ft Lauderdale on another route. They also have additional local stops at McDonald's on 8060 S Orange Dr and at Terminal 'A', Level 1 at the airport arrivals zone. See tickets and schedules as to where to catch the bus at (or where you will be dropped off at).
- 7 Greyhound Lines, (bus station) 555 N John Young Pkwy, ☏ , toll-free: . Service from Atlanta (via Tifton, Lake City, Gainesvile, Ocala, ); Houston (via Lafayette, Baton Rouge, Mobile, Pensacola, Panama City, Tallahassee, Lake City, Ocala); Miami (via Ft Lauderdale, W Palm Beach, Ft Pierce); Naples (via Ft Myers, Tampa/St Petersburg); and from New York (via Savannah, Brunswick, Jacksonville, St Augustine, Daytona Beach). Passengers transfer in Miami to continue to the Keys and in Atlanta, Savannah or Houston to continue to other destinations.
- 8 Jet Set Express, (bus station) 3718 L.B. McCleod Rd Suite B (NE of the intersection of I-4 and John Young Pkwy), ☏ . Thrice-daily service between Orlando, Hollywood, Miami Beach, Downtown Miami, near Miami International Airport Area and Hialeah. Check schedules.
- 9 Megabus (Intrastate services operated by Empire Coach Lines), (bus station) Orange Blossom Center at 4652 S Orange Blossom Trail (The ticket office is around back from behind 'Seguros Auto Insurance/Dentist' office on the south end of the strip mall. Strip mall at S Orange Blossom Trail & S 45th St). Service from Miami (via Ft Lauderdale) and Atlanta (via Jacksonville, Daytona Beach). Passengers transfer in Atlanta to continue to additional destinations.
- 10 Panda NY Bus, (bus station) 5046 W Colonial Dr (Next to First Oriental Supermarket), ☏ . Connecting New York to Orlando via Jacksonville, Brunswick GA, Savannah, Charleston, Columbia SC, Fayetteville, Florence SC, Hardeeville, South Hill VA, Richmond VA.
- 11 Redcoach, (bus station) 1777 McCoy Rd (Next to Days Inn Hotel east of the intersection of McCoy & Gandola.), ☏ , toll-free: . Service from Tallahassee (via Gainesvile, Ocala); Miami/Ft Lauderdale (via W Palm Beach, Ft Pierce); and from Naples (via Ft Myers, Tampa). They also have an additional local stop at University of Central Florida.
- 12 Starline Express, (bus station) 5144 W Colonial Dr (Between Hunan Taste and Tofu House Restaurants at the Magic Outlet Mall.), ☏ . Connecting New York to Tampa via Battleboro, Brunswick, Charleston, Fayetteville, Florence, Hardeeville, Jacksonville, Lumberton, Manning, Savannah, Wilson, Summerville, Rocky Mount, Orlando, St.George, Roanoke Rapids and Weldon.
Open Road Tolling
Open road tolling is employed along most of Orlando's toll roads. A driver with a SunPass or E-Pass transponder and a prepaid account continues straight along the road at the speed limit, with the toll accounted for electronically; drivers paying cash (almost all tourists) must follow signage that diverts them to toll booths constructed off to the right side of the highway. Drivers who don't have transponders and continue going straight past the toll booth are photographed and ticketed. The fine is $100 per offense, plus tolls outstanding.
Some rental car agencies use Sunpass or toll-by-plate to cover tolls, with incurred tolls charged to the customer's credit card. Inquire with the company when renting a car.
Toll roads in the Orlando area are only compatible with Florida's SunPass and the older E-Pass, North Carolina Quick Pass, Georgia's Peach Pass, and within the Orlando area only, E-Z Pass.
If you mistakenly drive through a SunPass lane, you can still contact the Florida DoT to pay the toll without being fined; see sunpass.com/violationsMissedToll or contact ☏ . You will need the license plate number and, to the best of your knowledge, note the date, time, and location of the missed toll.
The highway is omnipresent in Orlando, and it is a very easy and convenient (if sometimes congested) way to get to your destination. Orlando is a sprawling city, with most attractions lying far to the south of downtown and spreading into adjacent cities like Kissimmee. The roads are all wide and easy to drive on, with all major attractions well-signed. However, traffic jams around downtown are common during the morning and afternoon rush hours, and around the tourist areas when the theme parks close up each night. Orlando ranks 8th in the nation in terms of traffic congestion, and there are numerous ongoing construction projects on area highways. Traffic information is available from electronic signs over roadways, most local radio stations, and by calling 511 (a free, automated service which provides current traffic info).
As with most urban areas in the U.S., there are plenty of drivers who prefer to speed and drive aggressively. The Orlando area receives over 50 million visitors each year, many who drive while in town with little knowledge of the roads, while also home to 2 million permanent residents. The combination of these two types of drivers can make Orlando's roads a bit hectic at times. Speed limits in the Orlando area are higher than some parts of the U.S., around 45-50 mph (~80 km/h) on major roads. The speed limit on highways like Interstate 4 and the toll roads is 65 mph (~110 km/h), with urban sections closer to downtown posted at 55 mph (~90 km/h). Drivers in the left lane tend to drive 5-15 mph faster than the speed limit. While it is the law to keep right except to pass, this is not strictly enforced.
The main highway through Orlando, and the only Interstate serving it, is Interstate 4 (commonly called "I-4") which runs diagonally from northeast to southwest through the Orlando area. Major construction on it has widened the highway through areas south of the Beachline Expressway (SR 528), making it a commuter-friendly highway (except for traffic during rush hours and on weekend evenings). Downtown Orlando; International Drive; the Amway Center; the Mall at Millenia; Arabian Nights dinner theater; and theme parks and resorts such as Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando, SeaWorld, and the Holy Land Experience are all along or near I-4.
Every other highway in the Orlando area besides I-4 is a toll road. While the tolls are modest for short trips within Orlando, they can quickly add up on longer drives. For example, bypassing Orlando on SR 417 is $5.50 for the 55 mi (89 km) drive.
Other major highways include:
- Beachline Expressway (SR 528), which runs east from I-4 (exit 72) to the Space Coast area, ending near Cocoa Beach and Cape Canaveral, home of the Kennedy Space Center.
- Central Florida GreeneWay (SR 417), which starts at I-4 in Sanford and forms a partial beltway to the west of Orlando, passing both Orlando-Sanford International Airport and Orlando International Airport before ending just west of SR 192 near Disney World.
- East-West Expressway (SR 408), which starts at Florida's Turnpike in the city of Ocoee west of Orlando, and travels through downtown Orlando before ending near the University of Central Florida at SR 50.
- Western Beltway (S.R. 429), which starts at U.S. 41 in Apopka and takes you past the Florida's Turnpike and Disney World, ending at I-4 just west of SR 192 and Disney World, near SR 417.
- Florida's Turnpike, which starts in Miami at I-95 and heads north through Orlando, ending in Wildwood at I-75.
In Orlando, the tourist area is centered on International Drive, a strip of road south of downtown that runs parallel to I-4 for about 10 miles (16 km). Many tourist-focused shops, restaurants, hotels, and attractions can be found along "I-Drive". Due to this, it is excruciatingly hard to drive on and find parking in the area on weekends, especially in the summer and from Thanksgiving to New Year's. Trips to this area are best done by bus, taxi, or rideshare app during such times.
Other major roads include: U.S. 192 in Kissimmee (fronted by thousands of small shops and older attractions), Orange Blossom Trail (US 17/92/441, a north–south alternative to I-4), John Young Parkway (which can be an alternative to US-441), and SR 50 (east–west route towards downtown).
A few local laws to keep in mind:
- Lights on when raining. It is the law in Florida to have headlights on when it is raining.
- Seatbelt use is mandatory.
- Move over when passing stopped emergency vehicles. Florida has a so-called "move over" law, which compels drivers to move out of the lane closest to stopped emergency vehicles (police cars, ambulances, fire trucks). If it is not safe to do so, drivers must slow down 20 mph below the speed limit to pass parked vehicles (this is higher than any other U.S. state with such a law, where it's normally 5-15 mph below the speed limit).
By rental car
If you arrive by plane via Orlando International Airport and pick up a rental car there, you can go through the north exit and head to SR 528 West to get to International Drive, Universal Orlando, and SeaWorld. This will require $1.75 in tolls. Alternatively, you can take a direct route to Walt Disney World by going through the south exit and taking SR 417 South, following it to Exit 5, and taking SR 536 straight into Disney. This requires $2 in tolls. Toll booths along this expressway use open road tolling: see note above in box.
Orlando's public bus system is known as LYNX. Approximately 60 routes serve the metro Orlando area and cost $2 per ride (transfers included) or $4.50 for a day pass, except for the free Lymmo bus service downtown.
- Lymmo Bus, 1-841-LYNX. This free service operates frequently in a circuit in downtown, from City Hall to the Centroplex and back. The Lymmo has a dedicated lane and stations with streetcar type control signals and modified buses that allow passengers to enter the bus without climbing. M-Th 6AM-10PM, F 6AM-midnight, Sa 10AM-midnight, Su 10AM-10PM.
LYNX buses of interest to visitors include Links (routes) 8, 21, 37, 38, 40, 42, 111, 300, and 350—e.g., bus 8, 38, or 42 for International Drive, Links 21, 37, 38, or 40 for Universal, Links 8 or 111 for SeaWorld, Links 300 and 350 for Disney, and Links 37, 42, or 111 for Florida Mall. Seven-day standard passes are $16. Check out GO LYNX to plan your trips.
SunRail, ☏ (RAIL-411)) runs a limited north–south route through the center of the area, with a northern end in DeBary and an initial southern end at Poinciana. Bus connection is provided from Orlando International Airport to the Sand Lake Road station by Links 11, 42 and 111; and from Orlando-Sanford International Airport to the Sanford station by Link 46E.
Base one-way fare is $2, with an addition of $1 for each county line crossed. An all-day pass costs $9.50.
There is no service on weekends and some federal holidays.
The I-Ride Trolley, ☏ , runs along International Drive and Universal Boulevard and primarily serves tourists in the attractions area, operating daily from 8AM to 10:30PM. While the service is advertised as a trolley, they are in fact modified buses traveling in traffic with many stops making for a slow ride. There are 85 stops along the main (Red) route on International Drive and 22 stops on the (Green) route that serves the less-congested Universal Blvd. The fare is $2 per ride for adults, $1 for children ages 3 to 9, 25¢ for seniors, and free for toddlers younger than 3; exact change is required. There's also an unlimited 1-day pass available for $5 per person. These 1-day passes, as well as multi-day passes, are not sold on the bus but are available in many locations around International Drive. However, because of the very limited route coverage of I-Ride (it goes nowhere near Disney) the better choice for many visitors is to use LYNX buses (e.g., bus 8, 42, 50, or 111).
With all of the tourists, it's no surprise dozens of taxi companies operate in the region. It's not be a problem to find a taxi from Orlando International Airport (MCO) to your hotel or from the hotel to a theme park, restaurant or mall. Mears Transportation Group, ☏ , dominates taxi service in Orlando and operates several different brands (Yellow Cab Company, Checker Cab Company, and City Cab Company) with identical rates and yellow color. Taxi fares and rates are determined by the taximeter (no flat rates). Beware of taxis without meters, which are widely reported to be rip-offs. Plan ahead and know your route and never hail a cab off the street. Always call, or have your hotel call, to arrange for a cab to collect you.
Rideshare services, like Uber and Lyft, can be hailed and can drop you off anywhere in Orlando (including at MCO and the theme parks). However, MCO limits pickups to the high-end services, e.g. Select XL and Uber Black. They pick at the Express Pickup Tunnel on Level 1 directly next to the rental car counters, and they probably translate to a rate comparable to, or higher than, the regular taxi services at MCO.
The Go Orlando Card is very useful to pay one price to visit many of these attractions.
Gardens and parks
- 1 UCF Arboretum, 4312 Scorpius St (University of Central Florida), ☏ . Sunrise to sundown daily. An arboretum and botanical garden covering 80 acres (32 hectares), containing more than 600 species of plants in cultivated gardens. Its cultivated areas include a Conservatory, a bromeliad sanctuary, cycad garden, fern garden, palm collection, rose garden, swamp habitat, and a wetland plants display. Free, donations accepted.
- 2 Harry P. Leu Gardens, 1920 N Forest Ave, ☏ . 9AM-5PM daily except December 25, last admission at 4:30PM. Beautiful landscaped gardens and lakes set in nearly 50 acres (20 hectares) of land, featuring flora gathered from around the globe since 1936. Includes the largest rose garden in Florida and the largest camellia collection in the U.S. outside of California. The Leu House, set within the grounds and dating back to the 1880s, has tours every 30 minutes that explore its museum illustrating Florida living at the turn of the 20th century (closed due to Hurricane Irma damage). Special events throughout the year. Adult $10, child (4-17) $5.
- 3 The Orlando Museum of Art, 2416 N Mills Ave, ☏ . Tu-F 10AM-4PM, Sa Su noon-4PM. Ongoing exhibitions of American portraits and landscapes, American impressionist works, and art of the ancient Americas. Adult $15, senior (65+) $8, student $5, child (4-17) $5, active duty and Veterans free.
- 4 The Orlando Science Center, ☏ . Su-Tu Th-Sa 10AM-5PM. A large hands-on learning center with hundreds of interactive exhibits for visitors of all ages. Images surround visitors on the giant screen of the Dr. Phillips CineDome. Other attractions include the Body Zone, teaching health and fitness, as well as an observatory. The center has the largest refracting telescope in Florida. Adult $21; senior (55+), student $19; child (3-11) $15;.
- 5 Orange County Regional History Center, 65 E Central Blvd, ☏ , toll-free: . M-Sa 10AM-5PM, Su noon-5PM. Features exhibits and artifacts from the earliest days of the region to the modern day. Includes information on everything from the time of the Seminole Indians to the founding of the city to the Civil Rights era to the Disney period to today. Adult $8, senior (55+), student $7, child (5-12) $6.
- 6 Ripley's Believe It or Not!, 8201 International Dr, ☏ . 9AM-midnight daily. In a building artfully constructed to appear as if it were collapsing to one side, visitors can explore bizarre artifacts, strange collections, weird art (for example, check out the scale model of a 1907 Rolls Royce Silver Ghost automobile made entirely of matchsticks and glue), and interactive exhibits in 16 odd galleries. Seriously schlocky, yet fun. Adult $22, child (3-11) $15, discount on website.
Orlando is one of the biggest tourist destinations on the planet because of the nearby theme parks and resorts. Close to International Drive is Universal Orlando, which includes two theme parks, a water park, several hotels and a shopping and dining district. Not far from Universal lies the small Fun Spot America Orlando, home to the only wooden coaster in the area. South on International Drive lies SeaWorld Orlando, a marine theme park featuring several thrilling roller coasters and a rapidly dwindling amount of animal shows. About 25 minutes southwest of downtown Orlando is Walt Disney World. Comprising four theme parks, two water parks, dozens of hotels, a large shopping and dining complex, and four golf courses, it is the largest privately managed tourist destination anywhere. Not far from Disney World lies the "Alligator Capital of the World": Gatorland. If you have limited time, you have to choose between quality and quantity. Do you go to fewer parks and see all of them? Or do you see a little bit of most of the parks?
- 1 Walt Disney World (18 mi S of downtown), ☏ . Hours vary by park and season. The renowned gold standard resort complex, home to four iconic theme parks and much, much more.
- 2 Universal Orlando, International Dr, ☏ . Hours vary by park and season. Top-ranked challenger to Disney and home to Harry Potter, with two theme parks, a nightclub and restaurant complex, and six resort hotels.
- 3 SeaWorld Orlando, 7007 SeaWorld Dr, ☏ , toll-free: , . Hours vary by park and season. A beautifully landscaped 200-acre marine theme park featuring thrilling rides, fun exhibits, an ever-shrinking amount of animal shows. A more laid-back alternative to Disney and Universal, the complex includes the main park, as well as the all-inclusive Discovery Cove experience park and the Aquatica water park. $80-170 when buying online.
- 4 Discovery Cove, 6000 Discovery Cove Way, ☏ . 7:15AM-5:30PM (until 9PM on selected evenings). A unique companion to Sea World, it is often sold out as admission is limited to 1000 guests per day, but it does include all your equipment, food, drink and a 30-minute interaction with the dolphins in the water. $150-400 when buying online.
- 5 Gatorland, 14501 S Orange Blossom Trail, ☏ . 10AM-5PM daily. An iconic, small alligator and reptile themed park that was one of the first tourist attractions in the area, predating Disney World. Adult $30; senior (55+) $25; child (3-12) $20; discount if purchase online.
- 6 Fun Spot America - Orlando, 5700 Fun Spot Way, ☏ . 10AM-midnight. Small unthemed amusement park with go-karts, thrill rides, and roller coasters, including Orlando's only wooden coaster. All $45.
- 7 Basilica of Mary, Queen of the Universe, 8300 Vineland Ave, ☏ . Monday - Friday 10:00 - 17:00, Saturday 10:00 - 19:00, Sunday 7:00 - 14:00. This extravagant, 2,000-seat Catholic church has become a tourist attraction thanks in part to the millions of Catholics from around the world who visit it and the rest of Orlando every year. Keep in mind, though, that it is not a parish and therefore it cannot perform weddings, funerals, or baptisms. Free.
- 8 Holy Land Experience, 4655 Vineland Rd, ☏ , toll-free: . Tu-Sa 10AM-6PM. Either inspirational or kitschy, depending on your proclivities, this biblical-themed park is designed to look like ancient Jerusalem. Adults $50; child (5-17) $35.
- 9 Orlando Magic (Amway Center), 400 W Church St, ☏ . The Magic play in the National Basketball Association (NBA) and are Orlando's only representative in the U.S.' big four sports leagues.
- 10 Orlando City SC (Exploria Stadium), 655 W. Church St, toll-free: . Orlando City, nicknamed "The Lions", have become one of the more popular Major League Soccer (MLS) teams since their founding in 2015. They have played at Exploria Stadium (formerly the Orlando City Stadium) since 2017.
- Orlando Solar Bears (Amway Center), 400 W Church St, ☏ . A minor league hockey team in the third-level ECHL, the games are a fun and cheap option.
- Orlando Predators (Amway Center), 400 W Church St, ☏ . An indoor football team that started playing in the 2019 season as a member of the National Arena League (NAL).
- Orlando Pride (Exploria Stadium), 655 W. Church St, toll-free: . The Pride are a women's soccer team founded in 2016. A member of the National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) they're owned and operated by Orlando City SC.
- UCF Knights (Multiple venues). The teams representing the enormous University of Central Florida (UCF) compete in NCAA Division I sports as members of the American Athletic Conference, but are set to move to the Big 12 Conference in 2023. The campus has heavily invested in athletics facilities, with the most notable examples being the football team's 11 FBC Mortgage Stadium, still widely known by its nickname of Bounce House, and the 10,000-seat 12 Addition Financial Arena.
- 13 Downtown Orlando Information Center, 201 S Orange Ave, Ste 102, ☏ . M-F 9AM–6PM. Helpful office with two interactive kiosks and electronic message boards with information about local downtown restaurants, shops, accommodations, special events, etc.
Despite the proximity of the theme parks and other tourist attractions, the city center has a lot to offer on its own. Downtown Orlando is a growing area around Orange Avenue that is packed with bars, clubs, restaurants, theaters, and concert venues. The main strip on Orange Avenue is closed down to cars most nights because of the large number of pedestrians. Just a few blocks over is Lake Eola, a picturesque park situated around a swan-filled lake with a lighted fountain that has been established as an icon of Orlando. On one side of the lake stands the historic outdoor shell theater, where tourists and locals alike can watch a production of the Nutcracker every December. Swan-shaped paddle boats are available for rental as well. Meanwhile, Wall Street, a small pedestrian-only alley off of Orange Avenue that houses several restaurants and bars, has been taking over for Church Street as the main nightlife hotspot. There are frequent concerts there, providing an area for bands to play during everything from Cinco de Mayo to the Capital One Bowl and Citrus Bowl celebration weeks.
- 14 Bay Hill Club & Lodge, 9000 Bay Hill Blvd, ☏ . Two courses: 18 holes, over 7,205 yards with a par of 72 (Private Non-Equity); 9 holes, over 3,409 yards with a par of 36 (Private Non-Equity).
- 15 Boggy Creek Golf Club, 3650 8th St, ☏ . 9 holes, over 3,250 yards with a par of 36 (Public).
- 16 Country Club of Orlando, 1601 Country Club Dr, ☏ . 18 holes, over 6,591 yards with a par of 72 (Private Equity).
- 17 Cypress Creek Country Club, 5353 Vineland Rd, ☏ . 18 holes, over 7,014 yards with a par of 72 (Public).
- 18 Dubsdread Golf Course, 549 West Par St, ☏ . 18 holes, over 6,055 yards with a par of 72 (Municipal).
- 19 Eaglewood Golf Club, 5800 Pga Blvd, ☏ . 18 holes, over 2,516 yards with a par of 58 (Public).
- 20 EastWood Golf Club, 13950 Golfway Blvd, ☏ . 18 holes, over 7,176 yards with a par of 72 (Public).
- 21 Fairways Country Club, 14205 E Colonial Dr, ☏ . 18 holes, over 5,332 yards with a par of 70 (Public).
- 22 Faldo Golf Institute By Marriott, 12001 Avenida Verde, ☏ . 9 holes, over 2,308 yards with a par of 32 (Public).
- 23 Grand Cypress Resort, 1 N Jacaranda St, toll-free: . Four courses: 18 holes over 6,773 yards with a par of 72 (Public); 9 holes over 3,462 yards with a par of 36 (Public); 9 holes over 3,521 yards with a par of 36 (Public); 9 holes over 3,434 yards with a par of 36 (Public).
- 24 Grande Pines Golf Club, 6351 International Golf Club Rd, toll-free: . 18 holes, over 7,012 yards with a par of 72 (Public).
- Lake Nona Golf Club, 9801 Lake Nona Rd, ☏ . 18 holes, over 7,011 yards with a par of 72 (Private Non-Equity).
- 25 Lake Orlando Golf Club, 4224 Club House Rd, ☏ . 18 holes, over 6,803 yards with a par of 72 (Public).
- 26 MetroWest Golf Club, 2100 S Hiawassee Rd, ☏ . 18 holes, over 7,051 yards with a par of 72 (Public).
- 27 Orange Tree Golf Club, 7540 Woodgreen Dr, ☏ . 18 holes, over 6,968 yards with a par of 71 (Private Non-Equity).
- 28 Rio Pinar Golf & Country Club, 8600 El Prado Ave, ☏ . 18 holes, over 6,929 yards with a par of 72 (Private Equity).
- 29 Ritz Carlton Golf Club, 4048 Central Florida Pkwy, ☏ . 18 holes, over 7,122 yards with a par of 72 (Public).
- 30 Shingle Creek Golf Club, 9939 Universal Blvd, toll-free: . 18 holes, over 7,213 yards with a par of 72 (Public).
- 31 Stoneybrook Golf Club, 2900 Northampton Ave, ☏ . 18 holes, over 6,820 yards with a par of 72 (Public).
- 32 Ventura Country Club, 3333 Woodgate Blvd, ☏ . 18 holes, over 5,467 yards with a par of 70 (Public).
- 33 Orlando Tennis Center, 649 W Livingston St, ☏ .
- 34 Lake Cane Tennis Center, 5108 Turkey Lake Rd, ☏ .
- 35 Fort Gatlin Recreation Complex, 2009 Lake Margaret Dr, ☏ .
- 36 Orange County Convention Center (OCCC), 9860 Universal Blvd, ☏ . With 2.1 million-square feet of exhibition space, the OCCC serves as the area's convention and meeting center.
- 1 The Florida Mall. The largest mall in Orlando, at the crossroads of Orange Blossom Trail and Sand Lake Road, about a mile north of the Florida Turnpike/Beachline Expressway interchange. Home to over 200 shops including Macy's, American Girl, Dillard's, JC Penney, and Sears. You can go an entire day in this mall and still not finish. Popular among international tourists wishing to stock up on cheap American goods, but of better quality than found at the many stores.
- 2 Disney Springs. Formerly Downtown Disney, the area has been transformed into an upscale mall and dining destination on Disney's property.
- 3 The Mall at Millenia. This is Orlando's most upscale and beautiful mall. Find everything from Tiffany's to Hugo Boss and Gucci. Also home to upscale department stores like Macy's, Bloomingdales and Neiman Marcus. This also features Apple and Sony Style selling computers and related products. This mall is part of the very new and trendy Millenia area of Orlando. Conroy Road exit off of I-4 a few miles south of downtown.
- 4 Orlando Fashion Square. E Colonial Dr and Macguire Blvd, more than a mile NE of downtown.
- 5 ICON Park. International Drive, close to SeaWorld Orlando.
- Orlando Premium Outlets - Vineland Ave. Home to the biggest designers such as Armani, Fendi, Burberry, Ferragamo, Lacoste, Coach. Also home to Tommy Hilfiger, Nike, Polo, Nautica and many more. Off of 535 and visible from I-4 closest to the Disney World area. This is the best mall to pick up bargains from all the name brands and designer wear.
- Orlando Premium Outlets - International Drive. (formerly Beltz/Prime Outlets) — Home to many designers such as Polo, DKNY, Nike, Reebok, and Liz Claiborne. It's a beautiful outdoor mall with a wide variety of stores.
- Lake Buena Vista Factory Stores. Select from over 300 designer and name brands such as Gap, Reebok, Carters and Eddie Bauer. Stores offer factory direct, quality merchandise at savings up to 75%. Off of SR-535 near International Dr and Disney.
Little Saigon, East Colonial Dr (around N Mills). Here you will find Vietnamese grocery stores, gift shops, and a few herbal healing stores, which stock items from China, Vietnam, Hong Kong, etc. Also home to many good inexpensive Vietnamese and other East Asian restaurants.
Little India area - This area is a bit spread out. You will find many Indian stores in the South Orange Blossom Trail area on the main streets and side roads. Starting with Lancaster Road, which houses a video store and Indian restaurant, and then traveling south you will see a few Indian shops in clusters every mile all the way to 417 where you end at the local Indian movie theater
Little Brazil, the north end of International Dr. Several Brazilian restaurants, bakeries, stores, hairdressers, imports and exports shops. Some are hiding on the back of strip malls, some others are easy to find right up front flying the Brazilian flag.
Not a drop to drink?
Orlando's tap water is notorious among travelers for being unpalatable; many describe a sulfuric or metallic taste. Just as many find it perfectly drinkable, however, and it's absolutely as safe to drink as any other municipal water supply in the U.S. Either way, those who think they might be sensitive to Orlando's unique terroir should consider taking their refreshment from a bottle or can.
A wide variety of restaurants can be found in CityWalk at Universal Orlando, including Margaritaville, Hard Rock Cafe, Pastamore and NASCAR Cafe. Parking is $20 during the day and free after 6PM (except during holidays or special events, such as Halloween Horror Nights). Much choice can also be found in Disney Springs, including Rainforest Cafe, Planet Hollywood, and Wolfgang Puck Cafe. Texas de Brazil, is a Brazilian steakhouse in the heart of downtown, serving beef, chicken, lamb and pork in many preparations.
- 310 Lakeside. Classic American cuisine overlooking Lake Eola.
- 1 A Land Remembered, 9939 Universal Blvd, ☏ . A steakhouse named after Patrick Smith's rich novel featuring Florida's historical moments and landscapes. Serves a variety of cuisine and accompanying wine list. Serves Harris Ranch all Natural Prime Black Angus Beef, and menu items catering to all tastes.
- 2 Boston's Fish House, 6860 Aloma Avenue, Winter Park, ☏ . People drive from hours away to this charming family-owned restaurant that brings the fish and flavors of Boston to Orlando. Authentic New England Clam Chowder, cod, and steak tips. Worth the wait for a fresh meal made to order.
- Bubbalou's Bodacious BBQ, 3 locations. BBQ ribs, sandwiches and other smoked delights. Atmosphere has a home-style feel and plenty of pig companions.
- 3 Calypso Bar and Grill, 6300 Parc Corniche Dr. Great menu with a Key West themed dining experience.
- 4 Everglades Restaurant, 9840 International Dr, ☏ . Gourmet dining featuring regional specialties, served in a setting dedicated to the Florida Everglades. Periodic Vine & Dine wine dinners featuring gourmet cuisine and fine wines.
- 5 Jack's Place, 9700 International Dr, ☏ . Gourmet menu featuring prime steaks and fresh seafood in a whimsical atmosphere featuring the world's largest collection of autographed star caricatures.
- 6 Gabriel's Subs, 2840 Curry Ford Rd. Excellent hot veggie subs.
- Hamburger Mary's. A gay-friendly burger joint with drag shows and drinks.
- K Restaurant Wine Bar. Upscale American dining.
- Le Coq Au Vin. A modern twist is given to classic French foods at this restaurant.
- Kres Chophouse. An upscale steak house in the downtown.
- Luma on Park. American cuisine with an extensive wine list.
- 7 Norman's, 4000 Central Florida Pkwy (at Ritz-Carlton Grande Lakes), ☏ . Chef Norman Van Aken. Prix-fixe $55 and up.
- 9 Cafe Mineiro Brazilian Steak House (@I-Drive), 6432 International Drive, ☏ . 11:30am - 10pm. Brazilian steak house. All-you-can-eat special meats with unlimited servings of up to 12 different delectable cuts of meats which are presented on skewers and carved table side. Also, a variety of dishes including salads, pasta, rice and the famous Brazilian style beans called ‘Feijoada’, all freshly made in house.
- 10 Pie-Fection Orlando, 3120 S. Kirkman Rd (near Chase Bank), ☏ . Tu W 5-10PM, Th 6-10PM, F-Su 5PM-11PM. A Brazilian pizza restaurant that also serves pastas and salads.
- 11 El Inka Grill Ceviche, 4106 Town Center Blvd, ☏ . El Inka Grill serves Peruvian seafood and other Peruvian food. Ceviche is their signature dish.
- 12 Chan's Chinese Cuisine, 1901 E. Colonial Drive (On northeast corner of Colonial Dr. and Meridale Ave.), ☏ . 11AM - 9:30PM every day. Offers authentic Chinese cuisine. Many dishes offered and they are very well presented. This restaurant is in an area with many East Asian restaurants and bakeries. Somewhat expensive.
- 13 Khasiyat Indian Cuisine, 852 W Lancaster Rd, ☏ . Vegetarian/Indian cuisine.
- Ming Court. Nightly oriental folk music performances compliment a wide selection of sushi, and dim sum.
- 14 Mr. Wong's Family Taste Chinese Cuisine, 5076 W. Colonial Dr (in the Chinatown shopping area on west Colonial Dr), ☏ . Open lunch and dinner seven days a week. This restaurant specializes in Chinese food. The sign reads in big red letters, "Chinese Cuisine." Only when you see the menu is the whole name displayed. This is not a fancy place, but it serves excellent authentic Chinese food. The diner is given chopsticks, but silverware is readily available. A very clean place to eat.
- 15 Tokyo Sushi & Grill, 8111 Vineland Ave., ☏ . M-Sa 11:30AM-10:30PM; Su noon-10:30PM. Serves very good sushi and tempura. Offers other Asian dishes Moderately expense.
- 16 Sushi Tomi, 8463 S. John Young Pkwy. (In South Park Center), ☏ . Daily 11:30AM-2PM and 5:30-9PM. Japanese sushi and other Japanese food. Excellent quality. Moderately priced.
- 17 Pho Saigon Vietnamese & Thai Cuisine, 5100 W. Colonial Dr (Several doors east of 1st Oriental Market), ☏ . M-Th 9AM-9PM; F-Su 9AM-10PM. Serves mainly Vietnamese cuisine. Most food of excellent quality. Inexpensive prices.
- 18 Chuan Lu Garden, 1101 E. Colonial Drive (N.E. corner of Colonial Dr. and N. Thornton Ave.), ☏ . Daily 11AM-midnight. Traditional Chinese food, specializing in Sichuan dishes. Fairly inexpensive.
- 19 Teriyaki House, 5600 W. Colonial Dr. (S.W. corner of Kirkman Rd. and Colonial Dr.), ☏ . M-Sa 11:30AM-9:30PM. Serves Taiwanese Chinese food, some of excellent quality and some mediocre.
- 20 Mikado Sushi, 13586 Village Park #306 (In The Village at Hunters Creek), ☏ . M-F 11:30AM-3PM and 4:30-10:30PM; Sa noon-3PM and 4:30-10:30PM; Su noon-10PM. Japanese sushi house that offers other Japanese food offerings. Sake also available. Quality very good. This restaurant has another location in Orlando at 6417 Raleigh St.
- 21 BBB Tofu House, 5140 W. Colonial Dr, toll-free: . Th-Tu 11:30 AM-3:30 PM; Su-Tu Th 4:30-8:30PM; F Sa 4:30-9:30PM; Closed W. Authentic Korean cuisine.
- 22 Cala Bella, 9939 Universal Blvd, ☏ . Rosen Shingle Creek's upscale Italian restaurant features Italian classics, with Mediterranean and American inspiration, accompanied by a diverse list of top quality wines.
- Cuba Libre. A Cuban restaurant that turns into a Latin dance club by night.
- 23 Garibaldi Mexican Restaurant, 929 N Semoran Blvd. The best dishes are chili relleno and cheese enchilada.
- 24 Rossi's Pizza, 5919 S Orange Blossom Trl (corner of Oak Ridge & Orange Blossom Trl), ☏ . Highly recommend the 12-inch thin-crust pepperoni pizza.
- 25 Tony's Deli, 1323 N Mills Ave. Best dishes: fava bean salad, hummus and the baklava.
- 26 Vito's Chop House, 8633 International Dr, ☏ . Great cooking and great wine. $15-30.
Visit Orlando partners with many restaurants in the Orlando area to offer a promotional Magical Dining month. During the promotion, partner restaurants offer three-course, prix fixe dinners for $35 per person (plus tax and gratuity). Typically the event is held in late August through September, which tends to be a slow season for the local attractions and restaurants are looking to bring in additional guests.
Orlando nightlife away from the theme parks is centered mostly around Central Boulevard and Orange Avenue in downtown Orlando. Here you can walk and find many bars. A short walk away is the tiny Thornton Park District, near the intersection of Washington and Summerlin. Among the dozens of cafes and pubs, you might stop in for a drink and a quick bite at Dexter's on Washington. For local flair head across the street to Burton's Frosty Mug, or sample the hip urban environment at the trendy HUE at the corner of Washington and Central.
Although most of the downtown Central avenue crowd is comprised of the "twentysomething" generation, for a more 30s-and-over entertainment experience, one can enjoy live jazz on many nights in the lounge of the Grand Bohemian Hotel, downtown on Orange Avenue. The jazz is excellent and the ambiance is quite comfortable, although drinks tend to be pretty pricey here.
Also, for a more professional crowd with a Latin twist, there is the Samba Room, on Sand Lake Road, about 3/4 west of I-4. This is a lively restaurant and happy hour type of place. The look is chic and the locals and tourists alike gather here for a quality food, beverage and people watching experience. You should ditch the shorts and flip-flops for a more casual chic look, but if you do you will be rewarded with a nice experience here. If you are traveling west on Sand Lake Road, after passing I-4, The Samba Room is on the left in a large shopping plaza. Latin food, music and mojitos are just some of the specialties here.
Across the street from the Samba Room, on Sand Lake Road, is the Old Vines wine bar, featuring live jazz usually from Thursday through Saturday nights. The wine selection is extensive and the live jazz is some of the best in town. The jazz is performed in the front of the room by the entrance. There is a divider that separates the more intimate rear portion of the establishment, which is the main dining area.
There are quite a few places to enjoy quality dining and drinks along Park Avenue in Winter Park, an adjacent suburb which is just northeast of Orlando. Winter Park is known for its many older grande homes that dominate the more historic sections of this suburb affectionately referred to by many as the center of Orlando's "old money." Park Avenue is an active pedestrian street featuring trendy shoppes, galleries, restaurants and nightspots. It has grown from a one-street attraction to more of a district, as several nearby streets have now added similar attractions.
Of particular interest and uniqueness on Park Avenue is the Wine Room, a converted bank featuring hundreds of wines available for self-serve sampling. The mode of purchasing here is to pre-load a wine "credit card" supplied by the Wine Room. You are then at liberty to peruse the entire building and select any wine you wish to try, merely by inserting your "credit card." Each wine station automatically deducts the value of your current purchase and advises you of your card balance. Dress is very casual here and you are likely to meet both locals and visitors, all sampling and enjoying their vinos of choice throughout the night.
At the theme parks, CityWalk at Universal Studios. For a nominal admission fee, both sites offer numerous venues for libations and entertainment. If you're staying along International Drive, there are plenty of bars, pubs, and clubs.
- 1 Corona Cigar Company's Superstore & Cigar Bar, 7792 West Sand Lake Rd, ☏ . If you're interested in cigars and all the different kinds of cigars, then this place is for you. The Corona Cigar Company allows its customers to sample different cigars. They also serve drinks.
- 2 Howl At The Moon, 8815 International Dr, ☏ . Entertainers perform songs at request all night. A place where people can go to listen to music, dance, drink, and have fun.
- 3 Orena Sports Bar, 6159 Westwood Blvd, ☏ . Orena Sports Bar caters to both locals and tourists. The bar serves food and drinks. Visitors can go to eat, play games, watch sports games and more.
- 4 Velvet Bar at Hard Rock Hotel, 5800 Universal Blvd, ☏ . Sit down, relax and listen to music. Velvet Bar also has live bands.
- 5 Blue Martini, 4200 Conroy Road Suite H246, ☏ . Blue Martini is a very high end martini bar. People can enjoy live entertainment at the bar.
- 6 Dave & Buster's Inc., 8986 International Dr, ☏ . Dave & Buster's is family friendly. Kids and adults can enjoy a great meal and play a variety of games. There is also a bar for the adults where they can sit, order drinks, and watch a sports game.
With a hotel around virtually every corner (actually 4 or 5 around every corner) it seems impossible to throw a rock and not hit a hotel. There are hotels to meet every traveler's need, whether it be a hostel or a 5-star resort, although many visiting families often prefer to rent a private villa as they usually provide much more personal space and have their own private facilities. There are also a lot of lodgings in the surrounding cities and towns.
- 4 Rodeway Inn, 8444 International Dr, ☏ . Free wireless high-speed Internet access and continental breakfast.
- 6 Bahama Bay Resort & Spa, 400 Gran Bahama Blvd, ☏ . Caribbean-style resort 10 minutes from Orlando attractions.
- 7 Best Western Plus Orlando Gateway, 7299 Universal Blvd, ☏ . Near popular Orlando attractions such as Universal Studios Orlando and SeaWorld
- 8 Caribe Royale All-Suite Hotel & Convention Center, 8101 World Center Dr, ☏ . Check-in: 4PM, check-out: 11AM. Features modest yet roomy suites with separated living space, numerous dining options, large pool area with waterslide. Offers a full-service fitness center and spa. Popular with business travelers for its conference amenities, the hotel also caters well to families and tourists.
- 9 Holiday Inn Resort Orlando Suites - Waterpark, 14500 Continental Gtwy, ☏ . At the entrance to the Walt Disney World Resort, the hotel has a water park on the property.
- 10 Clarion Inn & Suites/Convention Center, 9956 Hawaiian Ct, ☏ . Walking distance from the Point Orlando and offers free wireless Internet access.
- 11 Comfort Suites Universal Studios Area, 5617 Major Blvd, toll-free: . Less than one mile from Universal Studios, free ground transportation to theme parks available.
- 12 Castle Hotel, Autograph Collection, 8629 International Dr. Designed as a medieval-themed palace. 216 rooms and suites.
- 13 DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel at the Entrance to Universal Orlando, 5780 Major Blvd, ☏ , [email protected]. Check-in: 4PM, check-out: 11AM. Near Universal Orlando Resort, the hotel has 3 onsite restaurants, bars, swimming pool and fitness center. Also offering complimentary internet in rooms, business center, with 60,000 sq. ft. of meeting space.
- 14 Embassy Suites by Hilton Orlando International Drive Convention Center, 8978 International Dr, ☏ . 244 two-room suites.
- 15 Enclave Suites Resort, 6165 Carrier Dr, toll-free: , fax: . 2 outdoor pools, kiddie pools, and hot tubs, tennis court, fitness center, indoor heated pool and hot tub. 2/2 suites w/ kitchens, sofa beds, and balcony.
- 16 Fairfield Inn & Suites Orlando near Universal Orlando Resort, 5614 Vineland Rd, ☏ . Less than 2 miles from Universal Orlando and nearby Islands of Adventure and Orlando Premium Outlets, where complimentary scheduled shuttle service is provided.
- 17 Four Points by Sheraton Orlando International Drive, 5905 International Dr, ☏ . 301 rooms.
- 18 Hilton Grand Vacations Suites at SeaWorld, 6924 Grand Vacations Way (off Central Florida Pkwy), ☏ . Check-in: 4PM, check-out: 10AM. Official Hotel Partner of SeaWorld. Studios with kitchenettes, one- and two- bedroom suites with full kitchens. 2 pools, activity center, fitness center, grills, free scheduled shuttle.
- 19 Hilton Grand Vacations Suites on International Drive, 8122 Arrezzo Way (at Vineland Ave), ☏ . Check-in: 4PM, check-out: 10AM. Studios with kitchenettes, one- and two- bedroom suites with full kitchens. 2 pools, activity center, fitness center, grills, meeting rooms
- 20 Midpointe Hotel by Rosen Hotels & Resorts, 9956 Hawaiian Ct, toll-free: . A "AAA 3-Diamond" award winner, 223 rooms, high-speed Internet access, adjacent to Orlando's Orange County Convention Center.
- 21 Howard Johnson Tropical Palms Resort, 4311 West Vine St. (W. 192), toll-free: , fax: , [email protected]. 175 rooms, high-speed Internet access.
- 22 Hyatt Regency Orlando International, 9300 Airport Blvd. Business facilities available, within the terminal.
- 24 JW Marriott Orlando, Grande Lakes, 4040 Central Florida Pkwy, ☏ . Resort hotel with a spa and Greg Norman-designed golf course.
- 25 Marriott's Cypress Harbour Villas, 11251 Harbour Villa Rd (South Orlando), ☏ , toll-free: . Offers two-bedroom, two-bath villas near Sea World.
- 26 Marriott's Grande Vista Resort, 5925 Avenida Vista, ☏ , toll-free: . One-, two- and three-bedroom villas with kitchens.
- 29 Parc Soleil Suites by Hilton Grand Vacations, 11272 Desforges Ave (off Palm Pkwy), ☏ . Check-in: 4PM, check-out: 10AM. Studios with kitchenettes, one- and two-bedroom suites with full kitchens. 2 pools, activity center, fitness center, playground, tennis court, meeting rooms.
- 31 Ramada Plaza by Wyndham Orlando Resort & Suites Intl Drive, 6500 International Dr, ☏ , toll-free: . The only Ramada Hotel on International Drive across Wet 'n Wild. King and double lakefront rooms, free breakfast, internet access and shuttle to attractions.
- 32 Westgate Leisure Resort, 6950 Villa de Costa Dr. Two bedroom villas w/ kitchens & washer/dryers; pools, fitness center; 1 mi from SeaWorld.
- 33 Westgate Palace, 6145 Carrier Dr. Two bedroom suites w/kitchens & washer/dryers; within walking distance International Dr; pool, basketball, 1 mi from Universal Resort.
- 35 Floridays Resort, 12562 International Dr, ☏ , toll-free: , [email protected]. Check-in: 4PM, check-out: 11AM. Well-appointed suites with family-friendly floorplans, Mediterranean style decor, and modern furnishings. $135.
- 36 Hilton Garden Inn Orlando East/UCF Area, 1959 N. Alafaya Trail (12 mi (19 km) east of downtown), ☏ . Cooked-to-order breakfast and lunch are served daily; free WiFi.
- Hard Rock Hotel. The famous rock 'n roll themed hotel combines restaurants, clubs and shows to provide an entertaining place to stay.
- 39 Hyatt Regency Orlando, 9801 International Dr. Home to the famous Peabody Ducks; across the street from the Orange County Convention Center.
- 41 Ritz Carlton & JW Marriott Grande Lakes, 4040 Central Florida Pkwy. Two hotels sharing a golf course, spa, creative lazy river pool, and two restaurants.
- 42 The Woodhouse Day Spa, 8060 Via Dellagio Way, ☏ , [email protected]. 6,000 square feet of luxury and relaxation on restaurant row.
- 43 Wyndham Orlando Resort International Drive, 8001 International Dr, ☏ , toll-free: . Check-in: 4PM, check-out: 11AM. Opened in October 2011.
- 44 Bluegreen Vacations Lake Eve, Ascend Resort Collection, 12388 International Dr, ☏ , toll-free: , fax: . 176 all-suite accommodations equipped with full kitchens, washers and dryer included in every room.
Never leave children, pets, or the elderly in a parked car for any length of time! Due to high temperature for most of the year, the interior of a parked car can easily heat to lethal temperatures in a short amount of time. During the summer, the interior of a parked car can reach 130-170°F (55-75°C) in just 15 minutes, regardless of the color of the exterior or interior, or whether the windows are open a small amount. You not only risk death, but it is illegal and the consequences are taken VERY seriously, including thousands in fines, potential imprisonment, and the involvement of the Florida Department of Children and Families and/or Adult Protective Services.
Like most cities in America, there are certain areas of Orlando which are more dangerous than others. Some areas travelers should be cautious of are:
- Parramore District, area in downtown Orlando is a location where a lot of the area's homeless population congregates and crime rates are higher in this area.
- Orange Blossom Trail, north of Sand Lake Road is known to be a bit of an unofficial red light district. Drug and prostitution-related crime is common here. Prostitution is not legal in Orlando, so you could spend a night in jail if you decide to indulge.
- Pine Hills, around Silver Star Road and Pine Hills Road west of John Young Parkway. This is a lower income area that has struggled with high crime rates. The Greyhound bus station is in Pine Hills and is a place to use caution.
While it is unlikely that any one individual would experience serious crime in these areas, tourists stand out in these areas, and can unwittingly do things that can make them targets for criminal behavior, so it is sensible to stay away.
While crime in the Orlando area is not particularly high, with the annual tourists far outnumbering the regional population (~2million), a substantial amount of local crime ends up being directed at tourists. The most common crimes are theft of items from cars and hotels, so following common sense travel precautions are particularly important in an area like Orlando.
- Never leave valuable items in your car unattended, and get any purchased items to your hotel room as soon as possible. Consider utilizing the hotel room safe.
- Never leave small children unattended for any length of time, especially at a pool. Most hotel pools do not have lifeguards.
- Hotel room invasions do occur, especially open-air hotel and motel rooms when the victim leaves their hotel room unlocked and not dead-bolted. When you are in a hotel room, always lock your doors behind you, even if you expect someone in a minute or two.
While hurricanes attract most of the attention, the proximity to two coasts also brings frequent, and sometimes dangerous, thunderstorms. These occur nearly every day during the rainy season from mid-June through September. While some days it may only rain for 10 minutes, other thunderstorms can last for hours and its not unheard of for one location to remain dry while another spot 10 miles away gets a couple inches of rain on an afternoon. The summer thunderstorms are the main reason that Florida is the lightning capital of the western hemisphere. During these storms it is best to remain indoors due to the danger posed by frequent cloud-to-ground lightning. Golfers are especially vulnerable. A couple of dozen people are killed each year by lightning in Florida and many more spend much time receiving treatment for lightning strikes.
Pets are better off left with a friend or in a kennel. If you choose to bring your pet, note that most theme parks and hotels prohibit pets but may provide kennels for a fee. Under the ADA laws, businesses are required to accommodate service animals, which are defined as dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities; however, emotional support animals, comfort animals, and therapy dogs are not covered by the ADA so be prepared to find alternate accommodations if they are refused entry. Also note above about interior temperatures in parked cars.
- Ten-digit dialing is in effect in the Orlando area. All calls from or within the area, even local calls, require dialing the area code. There are some public pay phones scattered around the city, but they are becoming increasingly rare with the predominance of cell phones. It is not safe to assume you will be able to find a pay phone at any given time.
- 1 Orlando/Orange County Convention & Visitors Bureau, 8723 International Dr, toll-free: . The official sales and marketing organization for the Orlando and Orange County area.
- Telephone Area Codes in and around the city of Orlando begin with 407 or 321.
- It is common for many of the larger hotels and lodgings in the area to offer free internet access for their guests.
Most consulates are honorary which means they offer limited services to travelers and their nationals living in the area and usually available by appointment only. They are located in different parts of the city rather than in a certain area. The nearest cities for additional foreign consulates for Florida and the Southeastern US, are in Miami and Atlanta. The consulate of Greece is in Tampa while the consulates of Panama and Peru are in both Miami and Tampa:
- Austria, 5782A South Semoran Blvd, ☏ , fax: . Tu Th 10AM-noon.
- Chile (Honorary), PO Box 2968, Winter Haven FL 32790-2968, ☏ . By appointment only. Documents are only processed in Miami.
- Colombia, 5850 T.G. Lee Boulevard, Edificio Citedel 1, Suite #260, ☏ , fax: . M-F 8AM-2PM.
- Haiti, 1616 E Colonial Dr, ☏ , fax: . M-F 9:30AM-3:30PM.
- Mexico, 2550 Technology Dr, ☏ , fax: , [email protected]. M-F 8AM-2PM.
- Netherlands (Honorary), ☏ , [email protected]. By appointment only.
Walt Disney World, about 35 minutes southwest of Orlando, is so expansive that it needs its own travel guide.
Also within an hour of downtown Orlando:
- Altamonte Springs - home of the Altamonte Mall, several parks including Crane's Roost Park, numerous chain restaurants, and many furniture stores.
- Celebration - the Disney-designed and -operated community
- Kissimmee - Large suburb close to Disney World.
- Winter Haven - About 30 miles south of Disney off US27. Home to Legoland Florida.
A bit further, but good day trips or next destinations include:
- Cocoa Beach - Closest beach to Orlando it boasts world-famous surfing.
- Cape Canaveral - Home to the Kennedy Space Center and its large visitor's complex, which showcases many space-related artifacts (including some large rockets). While the space shuttle that once attracted tens of thousands of onlookers for lift-off no longer flies, there are occasional rocket launches throughout the year.
- Daytona Beach - Home of NASCAR's famous Daytona 500 race, "Bike Week", and a popular beach.
- Canaveral National Seashore 24 miles of undeveloped shore; central Florida's only nude(in one spot) beach; over 1000-year-old Indian relics; 58,000 acres for hiking, horseback riding, and biking; but no camping or concessions.
- Melbourne/Melbourne Beach - Historic downtown and a great but "less touristy" beach than most on the Space Coast, beachfront camping nearby.
- New Smyrna Beach - Popular beach destination.
- Ocala National Forest - Great hiking and camping. Home to much fauna, including black bears and the Florida panther.
- Port St. Lucie, Fort Pierce, and much of the Treasure Coast - great boating spots and an awesome opportunity to find sunken treasure from the 1715 wrecks, an hour or two down the Turnpike.
- Tampa and St. Petersburg - At the west end of I-4. Tampa is home to Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, the Florida State Fairgrounds and the famous Ybor City historic district. St. Petersburg hosts, among other things, Sunken Gardens and the Salvador Dalí Museum, and has its own well-known beaches.
|Routes through Orlando|
|Jacksonville ← Winter Park ←||N S||→ Kissimmee → Miami|
|Jacksonville ← Winter Park ←||N S||→ Kissimmee → Tampa|
|Tampa ← Lake Buena Vista ←||W E||→ Winter Park → Daytona Beach|
|Wildwood ← Winter Garden ←||N S||→ Kissimmee → West Palm Beach|
|Punta Gorda/Tampa ← Kissimmee ←||S/W N/E||→ Winter Park → Jacksonville/Daytona Beach|
|Sanford ← Winter Park ←||N S||→ Pine Castle → END|