Orlando, FL Destination Guide
There are places we can barely imagine any way other than the one we know, and Orlando is a prime example. Yet, it's true that not so very long ago, Orlando was nothing but a sleepy little town amid citrus groves -- until a certain mouse settled in. Walt Disney's grand dream of a world of fantasy has come true here. Where once there was only the Magic Kingdom Park, the Walt Disney World Resort is now made up of multiple parks and caters to everyone from families to seniors to club-hopping singles. But that's just the beginning! Although Walt Disney World Resort dominates Central Florida, an explosion of other attractions over the years has resulted in Orlando becoming one of the most popular vacation spots in the US.
There are 7 enormous theme parks, 2 nighttime entertainment districts, countless smaller attractions, restaurants, and cultural activities, including Universal Orlando and SeaWorld. This is a great development for visitors, resulting in cost-effective combo packages and a seemingly never-ending variety of activity and entertainment!
Visitors stream in non-stop, so there is no true "off-season" in Orlando, but some seasons are less crowded than others. If possible, avoid holidays and big convention dates. The least crowded times are generally October, early December, and February. The busiest time is summer, when crowds of vacationing families reach their peak, as do the heat and humidity.
Reasons to Visit
Family Fun Theme Parks: For knock-your-socks-off entertainment, there simply isn't anything else in the world like Orlando. Families are the VIPs and everyone else is equally treated to their choice of first-class entertainment, day and night. Fantasy, outdoor adventure, and a jammin' nightlife highlight an endless array of attractions. Pace yourself! If you try to do everything in one visit, you will succeed only in exhausting yourself. Start with what you've most wanted to do, and then come back another time for the rest!
Beautiful Florida Climate: The weather in central Florida is near perfect year round. The holistic array of entertainment possibilities ensures something for everyone. Orlando is not just for the kids — singles, couples, and adults without children all have a blast touring the neighborhoods and parks, meeting people, and simply relaxing in the glorious sunshine.
What To Do & See
Walt Disney World Resort: The greatest recreational center in the world offers so much, the trouble is deciding where to start!
- The original Magic Kingdom Park is a whimsical journey of fantasy.
- Epcot features Future World, where you can glimpse what your life will be like with the development of new technology. There's also the World Showcase, where you "go around the world in a day" for a cultural whirlwind of folk costumes, traditional food and entertainment, and fascinating customs from various and diverse countries!
- Disney-MGM Studios immerses you in the fascinating world of show business.
- Disney's Animal Kingdom Theme Park is a natural treasure of wild creatures and an unforgettable expedition into the African savanna.
- Disney's River Country, Disney's Typhoon Lagoon, and Disney's Blizzard Beach — These 3 water parks each have their own personality: Disney's River Country is a relaxing swimming hole right out of "Huckleberry Finn"; Disney's Typhoon Lagoon is a tropical setting with a live shark reef and one of the world's biggest wave pools; and Disney's Blizzard Beach has slalom and bobsled water slides.
- Pleasure Island in Downtown Disney features 8 happening clubs that fire up the nightlife scene.
- DisneyQuest Indoor Interactive Theme Park is a one-of-a-kind entertainment venue bursting with games that give "state-of-the-art" new meaning. Discover five floors exploding with cutting-edge technology, virtual reality and 3-D experiences — all fueled by Disney innovation and imagination.
- The Main Street Electrical Parade at the Magic Kingdom Park is the classic original that has delighted generations and has recently gotten even better with a sparkling new makeover.
SeaWorld: The ocean theme park offers all-new shows including Journey to Atlantis and 6 sensational dolphin and sea lion shows. The extreme water stunts and acrobatics of the Intensity Water Ski Show are nothing short of eye-popping!
Discovery Cove: This is a thrilling attraction where you swim nose-to-bottlenose with dolphins and other underwater creatures. There is also snorkeling in a coral reef lagoon, a tropical river and, for the more adventurous, swimming among rays and staring down dangerous sharks and barracudas — safely separated by clear underwater partitions, of course! You can also feed, hold, and play with more than 300 tropical birds, sunbathe at the beach, wander the leafy paths and waterways, or relax in a hammock. You're even treated to a sumptuous meal served in your choice of the restaurant, bar, or beach. Reservations required.
Universal Orlando: It's the largest working film and television production studio outside Hollywood. Movie-based thrill rides like Twister, Jaws, and Terminator let you "Live the Movies." The new Islands of Adventure were created with Steven Spielberg and include Seuss Landing, Jurassic Park, and Toon Lagoon. At CityWalk you can waste away in Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville, sing the blues at CityJazz, "kick it up a notch" at Emeril's, wail at a Marley tribute, or live la vida loca in the Latin Quarter!
Sleuth's Mystery Dinner Show: It's murder, every night! This professional comedy mystery show includes dinner, unlimited wine/beer/soda, dessert, and lots of audience participation. It's one of Orlando's best, yet often overlooked, attractions — don't miss out!
Dolly Parton's Dixie Stampede Dinner & Show: Families have a great time as Dolly recreates her childhood gatherings with grand entertainment of horses, performers, and a four-course feast. The December Christmas Show will warm your heart and touch your soul with nostalgic songs and holiday costumes.
Cypress Gardens: Stroll through 200 acres of gorgeous botanical gardens punctuated by lakes, lagoons, and waterfalls. Boat rides, a butterfly conservatory, flower festivals, ice shows, and more make for a tranquil day that is popular with seniors and anyone who would like a retreat from the turnstiles and animatronics.
Ecotourism: Here's the new in-thing for vacationers looking to rejuvenate and reconnect with nature. Tread lightly as you explore over 8 million acres of scenic public land with natural springs, lakes, coastline, native and migratory birds, primal reptiles, otters, and a host of other engaging beasts. If you aren't prepared to rough it, try controlled settings like Gatorland, River Ranch, and Amazing Exotics, a large habitat where you interact with 300 exotic animals from lions to chimpanzees, while learning about their plight in the wild. Titanic: Ship of Dreams is the world's first permanent Titanic attraction. Rare underwater artifacts and historic treasure from the infamous ocean liner, sunk by an iceberg in 1912, are showcased along with a replica of the liner's grand staircase. International Drive
Medieval Times Living Museum: Costumed "villagers" in twelve cottages depict medieval life with demonstrations, including replicas of torture chambers and dungeons. Kissimmee
Eatonville: In 1887, African-Americans built their first incorporated town in the US.Its most famous resident was Zora Neale Hurston, a writer, anthropologist, and folklorist who wrote nationally-acclaimed stories about growing up there. She is honored for her contributions to the town with the annual January Zora Neale Hurston Festival's theatrical performances, educational programs, and art exhibits. Eatonville
Orlando Science Center: Featured on the CBS Evening News, ten exhibit halls lead you on explorations as diverse as the Florida swamps and the arid plains of Mars. Kids Town creates an entire world to scale for the little ones, including Science City, the Inventor's Workshop and Math Avenue for creative, educational play. The Virtual Reality Theater and the New Media Living Room give you a glimpse into the near future of technology. Loch Haven Park
With more than 3,700 restaurants and world-renowned chefs a-plenty, every culinary craving and budget will be satisfied in Orlando, where there are probably more theme restaurants than anywhere else in the world. Parents can count on children's menus and tabletop distractions like puzzles or coloring books in most mid-priced eateries. Since this is largely a family vacation spot, keep in mind that boisterous tots fill up family eateries, so opt for more upscale restaurants or those further away from the theme parks if you want a quiet meal. In recent years, many fine restaurants have joined the scene, providing expanded dining options.
Café Tu Tu Tango challenges all your preconceptions about dining out. Rather than ordering individual entrees, or even family-style platters, everyone picks a variety of appetizer-style dishes and shares. The point isn't to have a big helping of anything, but a little bit of lots of different things. The choices are eclectic, delicious, and internationally inspired; the experience is fun and totally unique, though not a good choice for young children. I-Drive
Les Chefs de France, set in the shadows of the Eiffel Tower at Epcot, allows the dinner guest to savor the delights inspired by famous French chefs at this traditionally elegant restaurant. The atmosphere, the croque monsieur, the salade Niçoise, and the gourmet specialties are so authentically French, you'll forget which side of the Atlantic you're on!
Disney's Spirit Of Aloha Show at Disney's Polynesian Resort regales guests with the music and splendor of the South Seas performed by authentic Islanders, including hula and fire dances. The dinner show takes place in a traditional Polynesian setting and features a delectable luau feast of all-you-can-eat Pacific Rim cuisine.
Amura: Orlando's most renowned chain of Sushi restaurants proudly serves the most innovative sushi found in central Florida. The sushi is fresh and portions considerably generous, with new and inventive rolls created each week. The service is top grade and friendly, and although located in the main tourist district, Amura attracts many loyal residents, too. Church Street Station
The Garden Grill at Epcot's® Land Pavilion is a Character Experience for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, featuring seasonal American menus. It all takes place in a revolving dining room with Mickey and Friends
Blackfin Seafood Grill: The freshest catches from Florida's Atlantic and Gulf coasts tempt all at this elegant Winter Park restaurant. Classy furnishings and an excellent reputation have earned the restaurant a loyal customer base, who return time and time again to appraise the ever-changing menu. Steady favorites include yellowfin tuna, sea bass, and Maryland crab cakes. The "2+2+2" oyster tray lets you sample Rockefeller, Bienville, and raw half-shell versions of the tender mollusk. Steak and chicken meals are always available, but as its name clearly denotes, this is a seafood restaurant. North Orlando Avenue, Winter Park.
Victoria & Albert's at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa is an elite, intimate retreat that has garnered both Zagat's National Top Ten Restaurants Award and the AAA 4-Diamond Award. With fresh ingredients gathered from the world's markets and displayed in a unique approach to culinary artistry, it provides elegant, world-class dining. Remember to sample the award-winning wine list! Reservations required/dress code strictly enforced.
Bice Ristorante: This internationally renowned Italian chain of top rate restaurants has come to Orlando, and couples wanting a night out alone will enjoy the delectable culinary voyage to Milan presented at the table. Old world elegance and modern chic compliment the exquisite antipasti and paste menus, and the impressive selection of entrees and deserts. There are no prices on the menu, but then love knows no boundaries. Portofino Bay at Universal Orlando
Weather in Orlando, FL
October-May (Dry Season) Low 70's to mid 80's
June-September (Wet Season) Upper 80's to mid 90's
Clothing is best chosen for coolness and comfort, and the style is strictly casual. There rarely are activities in a typical Orlando vacation that require fine dress, so unless you specifically plan to seek them out, you are set with summer casuals. If you're visiting in winter, bring along a light jacket for occasional evening cool spells.