Hello and welcome to my “Where to travel” series. Throughout the first part of the year, I will be posting on various travel destinations, giving my personal reviews, experiences, and advice on where to go and what to do.
This concept began as an idea for a single post where I would simply list a few places I thought would be great to travel to, stating what to do there etc, but alas it became way too involved. So instead I decided to break it down into multiple posts doing one place at a time but doing it in depth.
Today we begin with Orlando
Wonderworks, an attraction found on International Drive Orlando
Orlando is a city located in central Florida and is probably best known internationally for the presence of dozens of theme parks. But this popular vacation spot has so much more to offer.
I have been visiting Orlando on and off since I was six years old. In more recent times, my family and I have been going yearly and with good reason. Orlando is a great place to have a vacation.
Orlando is fun! For a lot of younger, hardcore travelers looking for organic deep cultural experiences, an Orlando visit may seem almost laughable, but don’t knock it till you try it. Orlando has a lot to offer and I think of it as a slightly more family-friendly version of Las Vegas. There is something there for everyone no matter what your specific interest is. There are things to do and see for the art lover, the thrill seeker, the foodie, you name it!
Any time of year. Orlando is in Florida and because of this, it enjoys fairly warm weather year round although it does get cooler from December to February. Additionally, Orlando has events going on all year so you pick whenever works best for you.
WHERE (to stay):
A hallmark of Orlando is the plentiful resort/villa/condos up for rent. Many of these are timeshare locations so if you or a family member owns one, be sure to check and see if the company has a location there. I think staying at a resort adds the overall Orlando experience. Many of them are located in a similar area which is close to lots of attractions particularly Disney parks. There are also a lot of hotels to chose from. They go from 2 star to 5 star and you chose based on your budget and preference. The areas I recommend staying include Lake Buena Vista area (close to Disney), International Drive and Kissimmee, but really anywhere is pretty close to most things.
WHAT (to do):
Theme Parks are probably what Orlando is best known for and indeed it hosts a massive number of parks with all the Disney parks and Universal Studios as well as lesser known ones like Wet and Wild water park and Bush Gardens. There is something for everyone whether you like roller coasters or prefer more relaxing rides.
Orlando also has some great shopping especially if you like outlet malls. There are two major outlet malls: Orlando International Premium Outlet mall and Orland Vineland PremiumOutlet mall. There are also multiple other malls and shopping complexes dotted around, for example, the mall at Aventura.
Premium Outlet mall at Vineland
Apart from theme parks, there are lots of ways to be entertained in Orlando. If you like shows, there is a Cirque du Soleil at Disney Springs and the Blue Man Group performs at Universal Studio. There are a number of art galleries including Pop art Gallery at Disney Springs
Pop art Gallery at Disney Springs
You cannot go hungry in Orlando that’s for sure. There are clusters of all the popular American eateries such as Golden Coral, Applebees, Olive Garden etc. There are also numerous dining experiences at places like Disney Springs and Universal Boardwalk and International Drive.
A few examples:
Bongos Cuban Cafe
Wolfgang Puck Grand Cafe
Morimoto Asian Cafe
Wolfgang Puck Cafe at Disney Springs
Banshoo Sushi Bar
Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar
Kobe Japanese Steakhouse and Sushi Bar
If you are particularly interested in the theme parks, a visit outside of the summer months is recommended. Many families vacation in Orlando because it is kid friendly and the most popular time to travel is summer so everywhere gets extra packed. However, everywhere is always kind of packed so be prepared for lines no matter what.
If you are doing the Disney Parks, there are buses that transport you free of charge to all the Disney Parks and Disney Springs so you can get around easily that way
IRide Trolley- This is a bus service that uses these cute San Francisco trolley-style buses. The iRide trolley has two routes that basically run the length of International Drive (I-Drive). On this route, you can get to major shopping areas including the two main Outlet malls, as well as the countless attractions, restaurants, and stores along International Drive.
Lynx- This is the other common bus service in Orlando. While iRide is more tourist oriented, Lynx is used by everyone including locals and that means it goes a fair amount more places than the iRide trolley. You can get to some of the theme parks as well as other malls using Lynx. Be sure to buy a day pass or even multi-day pass as you will likely have to switch buses a number of times while there.
Car Rental- This isn’t an absolute must when visiting Orlando. I have done trips with and without renting a car. Thanks to iRide trolley, Lynx and the fact that many things are clustered together e.g along I-Drive, you can have a great trip without renting a car, however, it definitely makes things easier. It means you can leave whenever you want and avoid long wait times and multiple stops. This is important especially if you have a tightly packed schedule.
IDrive website- International Drive has a website where there are loads of coupons offering savings and deals at the many businesses along International Drive as well as ideas on what to do there. Check it out.
If you’re thinking about visiting Orlando be sure to use some of these tips and be sure to have an awesome day!