Orlando is known mainly for its mega theme parks -Walt Disney World and Universal Studios. The city and surrounding area, however, offer quite a diversity of fun, cultural and natural attractions for the whole family. If you’re looking for a vacation spot in a warm place, Orlando is definitely worth considering.
Highlights of Orlando
We’ll cover the theme parks as well as some other and often under-appreciated things to do in this interesting Central Florida city.
- Walt Disney World -This is Orlando’s biggest drawing point. It consists of 4 distinct theme parks: Magic Kingdom, MGM Studios, Animal Kingdom and Epcot. You could easily spend a whole day at each of these places. In addition, there are several water parks, multiple golf courses and lots of special events and live entertainment. If Walt Disney World is the focus of your trip, you should consider staying at one of the many hotels and other accommodations you could find here. This will save you from having to spend lots of time commuting.
- Universal Studios Florida -Another of Orlando’s huge theme parks, this one also includes Islands of Adventure, which has more thrilling rides while Universal Studios focuses more on movie-related rides and activities. You can also spend lots of time browsing the stores, restaurants and clubs along CityWalk.
- SeaWorld Orlando -This theme park is for families who want to be thrilled by a variety of marine creatures such as dolphins, whales and sharks. There are also roller coasters and many other rides.
- Gatorland -Florida is famous for its gators and this is the place to see them up close in a safe environment. In addition to alligators and crocodiles, you’ll find a wide selection of other species on display_ here, including snakes and birds.
- Little Econ Greenway -If you want a break from the crowds and excitement of the theme parks, you can take a hike or jog or visit the playground at this well kept park that’s close to downtown Orlando.
- Orlando Science Center -One of the city’s most interesting museums, this is a fun and educational family destination with interactive exhibits, live performances, 3D films shown on a big screen and various special events.
- Orlando Eye -A giant ferris wheel that stands 400 feet tall. One of the best places to get views of the city’s skyline. While you’re here, you should also take the time to check out the unique museum that’s right under the Eye — Skeletons: Animals Unveiled, which contains skeletons of hundreds of different animals.
Dining and Nightlife
While you can easily spend all of your time in Orlando dining and being entertained at the many theme parks, some people prefer to seek alternatives, either part of all of the time. Fortunately, you can find all kinds of great restaurants and entertainment here in the downtown area and beyond.
- If you’re in the mood for sushi and other Japanese dishes, Seito Sushi —with two locations, one in Sand Lake, the other in Baldwin Park, is one of the best choices. This modern and atmospheric restaurant has been a favorite among locals and tourists for the past ten years.
- Chatham’s Place, which is a little off the main drag on Dr. Phillips Blvd., has been open since 1988 and features vegetables grown on the owners’ own organic farm. You’ll find a wide variety of expertly prepared meat, seafood and vegetable dishes served here. There’s often live music as well.
- Eddie V’s Prime Seafood has just what the name promises. On West Sand Lake Road, you can find delicious entrees and side dishes such as lobster tacos, redfish, salt & pepper shrimp_, lemon sole and lots more.
- Kres Restaurant, in a historic building on W. Church Street, is the place to come for a perfectly prepared steak. Voted Best Restaurant by Orlando Magazine in 2014.
- Ceviche Restaurant and Tapas Bar features 50 tapas dishes as well as ceviche itself, which is a popular Latin American seafood dish. This place is also loved for its sangria, diversity of cocktails and frequent live entertainment.
Walt Disney World always has lots of entertainment options, such as House of Blues, Jellyrolls, Festival of the Lion King and The Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue. You can find plenty of other options as well. You might catch a Warriors game at Amway Center attend Sleuths Mystery Dinner Show or Mama’s Comedy Show. Universal CityWalk has a variety of bars and nightclubs.
Where to Stay
As I mentioned already, if the main reason you’re coming to Orlando is to see Walt Disney_ World, you might want to stay right there. Some of your choices include Disney’s Boardwalk Villas, Disney’s Yacht Club Resort, Disney’s Beach Club Villas and Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort (there are many others as well). Disney also has some alternative lodging choices, such as The Campsites at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort.
Other quality hotels in the area include Avanti International Resort, Holiday Inn Orlando -Disney Springs Area and Best Western Plus Universal Inn, which offers free rides to Universal Studios;
Budget options include Clarion Inn & Suites Universal Studios Area, The Enclave Hotel & Suites and Hampton Inn Orlando. All of these are close to the major attractions.
If you prefer inns or B & B’s some good choices are Perri House Bed and Breakfast Inn on Vista Oaks Court and The Courtyard at Lake Lucerne, which is a number of historic buildings —a good choice if you like older buildings in a city that generally has more modern styles.