So you’ve set your sights on Orlando, Florida as your next travel destination. Chances are your plans will land you at one of the excellent theme park choices that the city has to offer. Whatever your reason is for visiting The City Beautiful, you can surely make it a Prime Adventure.
Orlando International Airport (MCO) is a major hub that supports many airline carriers and serves plenty of domestic and international flights daily. You can often find mega flight deals through budget airlines like Frontier and Spirit. I’ve personally gotten sweet deals from larger carriers as well.
Orlando is very well connected through major highways and the Florida turnpike so it is easily accessible by car.
Other transportation options include train service–like Amtrak, and bus service– like Megabus.
You will not be hard pressed to find a place to stay in the city of Orlando. There are literally dozens of hotels and resorts to choose from on a wide variety of accommodations.
My advice for choosing a place is start by deciding what type of experience you want to have on your visit. If you are coming for a relaxing vacation experience, it may be in your interest to splurge on a more luxurious option. If you are coming to see the sights and only in your hotel room to sleep, there are plenty of economy options to choose from.
Orlando is truly a city with something for the entire family. Activities range from theme and water parks, to fine dining, and nightlife.
There are two major theme park properties in the Orlando area: Universal Orlando and Walt Disney World resort.
Universal Orlando is home to two separate parks, Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. A third park is opening this summer dubbed “Volcano Bay,” which will be a water theme park.
The attractions at Universal Studios are largely based from movies. There are a variety of 3-D and 4-D ride options. Universal is also home to Diagon Alley, a replica area based from the Harry Potter books and films. The title attraction in this area is “Escape from Gringotts,” a 4-D experience where riders tag along with the Harry Potter crew to escape from Gringotts bank.
Islands of Adventure features separately themed “islands” with attraction that match. The title attractions here are the Incredible Hulk rollercoaster that opened in 1999 and since refurbished in 2016 and Hogsmeade, the original Wizarding World of Harry Potter experience at Universal.
The two parks are connected at the Harry Potter themed areas with the Hogwarts Express train connecting Diagon Alley at Universal Studios to Hogsmeade at Islands of Adventure. Two park access is required for this experience.
Both of the Universal Orlando parks have attractions that are great for all ages.
The other major theme park holding is Walt Disney World. The Disney property has four theme parks: Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom. As well as two water parks: Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon.
Each of these parks offer immensely different experiences. Immerse yourself in the magical experience of Magic Kingdom and enjoy classic attractions like Haunted Mansion and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Or, go to Animal Kingdom and view wildlife and conquer the Expedition Everest thrill ride. The other Disney properties offer everything in between.
If cost is not a huge factor, a visit to Disney could easily consume an entire week.
Orlando Eye – the Orlando Eye is a 400 feet observation wheel that takes visitors high above Orlando for the best views in the city.
International Drive attractions – attractions along the International Drive area include things like the world’s largest McDonalds, arcades, mini golf, and Fun Spot. In addition there are two outlet malls within driving distance to catch a few shopping deals.
Championship Golf Courses – the Orlando area is home to many great courses like Bay Hill, Marriott and Hilton Golf properties, Walt Disney, Shingle Creek, Eagle Creek, and more!
Top Golf (Coming Soon) – there will soon be a Top Golf location in Orlando!
Night life and drinking – visit one of the night clubs or bars near Church Street in Downtown Orlando or check out one of Orlando’s breweries to sample some local brews.
Professional Sports – Orlando is home to professional sports teams like the Magic, Orlando City Soccer, and the Orlando Solar Bears.
Disney Springs – Disney Springs is an outdoor shopping, entertainment, and dining complex.
Kennedy Space Center – visit NASA’s KSC and see where rockets are launched and the history of our space program within an hour from Orlando.
Legoland– is another theme park that is popular amongst children located in Winter Haven, Florida,
State parks – there are beautiful state parks that are prime for a place to cool off and relax like Wekiwa Springs and Rock Springs.
If all that isn’t enough for you, go catch some waves (and more sun) by driving about an hour to Atlantic coast beaches such as Cocoa beach.
Getting out of the tourist district and exploring other areas of the city like Mills 50 and Winter Park will reward you with some of the best food in the land. Some of my favorites are as followed.
Seven Bites – Breakfast/Cafe
Metro Diner (Altamonte) – Family Diner
4 Rivers Smokehouse – BBQ
Hawkers Asian Street Fare – Asian Fusion
Mamak – Asian Fusion
Bar Taco – Modern Tacos
Tako Cheena – Modern Tacos
Lazy Moon – Pizza
Oblivion Taproom – Burgers/Beer
Tibby’s New Orleans Kitchen – Cajun/Creole
Soco Thornton Park – Modern Southern
Sweet By Holly – Cupcakes
If none of these spark your fancy, there are countless other chain options located within ease of popular attractions.
Yard House – Casual American and Beer
Bahama Breeze – Caribbean
Fuddruckers – Burgers
Macaroni Grill – Italian
Your options for public transit are limited to a very inconsistent bus service and the Sun Rail train. I would recommend that you get a rental car while in Orlando.
The flexibility of having a vehicle will allow you to get out and commute all around the city. While you may hit traffic here and there, parking will be free almost everywhere you go and allow you the freedom of going wherever, whenever.
Adding to my previous point, if you plan to be driving around Orlando, be sure to have cash and change for tolls to avoid paying fees with rental car companies.
Save a few bucks in the theme parks by asking for cups of ice water anywhere there is a soda dispenser. This may be more convenient and more sanitary than finding a water fountain. And best of all, it’s free!
Orlando is known for its world class theme parks, so it is not surprising that millions of tourists flock there each year. That being said, visiting the parks does not come cheap. Planning an affordable trip will surely require effort with planning and saving.
Having lived in the city for four years, I can attest to Orlando and the greater area is diverse culture, history, and things to do. Branching outside of the the generic staples could allow for an unforgettable Orlando vacation.