Disney, Universal and SeaWorld
Disney World is the headliner of Orlando and it has only grown in quality and size since Magic Kingdom was first opened in 1971. The Disney area based by Lake Buena Vista now encompasses four theme parks two waterparks, dozens of hotels and even more activity areas. The Imagineers of Disney designed the world to ensure all members of the family feel the magic and have a memorable time.
Universal Orlando Resort is a movie themed world with two exciting theme parks and a nightlife area in the form of Universal CityWalk. This film favourite is aimed at slightly older kids with scarier rides but just as many magical characters featured throughout like Shrek, Harry Potter and Marvel superheroes. They have their own waterpark, Wet ‘n Wild based at the top of International Drive.
SeaWorld Parks sits at the bottom of International Drive and now features its famous aquatic theme park filled with animal shows and rollercoasters, Discovery Cove and Aquatica form the rest of the SeaWorld brand in Orlando. Discovery Cove gives visitors the chance to interact and swim with beautiful sea creatures while Aquatica is an awesome waterpark filled with sensational slides.
Even more to see and do
Those looking for a break from a busy day at the theme parks have plenty of options across Orlando and in neighbouring Kissimmee.
Flying under the radar but providing tourists with exciting experiences is Gatorland where you can interact with Florida’s mascot, alligators, as well as other animals. Those who want to soar through the air without jumping out of a plane can try iFly, an indoor wind tunnel that gives you a skydiving experience.
Other highlights include helicopter tours, hot air balloon rides and sky rides in classic aviation models. Tour operators are available or you can make the drive yourself to either of Florida’s coasts to find water sports and peaceful beach surroundings. Towards the east people learn at the Kennedy Space Centre while the west coast is home to the popular theme park Busch Gardens.
Shows and entertainment at night
Orlando is a large city which presents visitors with a fantastic selection of attractions to enjoy both day and night. After dark some areas come to life with comedy clubs, stunts, music, dinner shows and so much more on offer.
The theme parks often end the days with music and light shows or firework displays but both Disney and Universal present fun nightspots to carry on the fun. Both Downtown Disney at Disney Springs and Universal CityWalk host plenty of live entertainment in bar and music club settings.
Hundreds of shops
Orlando is never short of gift shops with each park area presenting a plethora of souvenir opportunities. The shopping and restaurant areas of each of the large theme parks also present varied shopping opportunities with commercialised swag on offer.
If you’re looking for a souvenir which stands out a bit then search down the long 11 mile strip of International Drive. The shopping opportunities here range from indoor market sellers to large malls filled with clothes, accessories, toys and food- the list is seemingly endless.
Thousands of restaurants
Throughout the entire city of Orlando there are thousands of places to choose to eat. Not just within the theme park areas, there is a huge range of dining options which incorporate different American styles as well as international flavours.
As well as the promise of delicious food, some venues offer live entertainment and full-blown productions to accompany your meal. Comedy theatres, pirate shows and murder mystery dinners are just some of the options for those wanting to experience more than just the food.
Bus and shuttle options
Orlando Sanford International Airport is based slightly north of Orlando and the drive to your accommodation could take anywhere between half an hour to an hour.
Hiring a car is a popular way to get around the large surroundings of Orlando but there are plenty of bus and shuttle services to help people who don’t want to drive or just want to save money.
The I-Ride trolley operates along International Drive and runs to several popular areas. The Lynx Bus service operates from Kissimmee and can cost as little as $2. Many hotel complexes also offer free shuttle services to different theme parks throughout the day.
Best time of year to visit
Holidays to Orlando can be enjoyed at any time thanks to the temperatures that stay hot all year long. The average highs are 21C at their coldest and 33C during the height of summer. The summer season is the wettest with up to 20 days of rainfall seen in July and August.
Throughout all of October Orlando’s theme parks change their tone to create a spooky and sometimes scary atmosphere within. December gets much jollier with Christmas spectaculars promised in Disney and Universal.