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Orlando and Disney may go together like Tweedledum and Tweedledee, but there’s more to “The City Beautiful” than cartoons and roller coasters. From sprawling shopping strips to natural-spring pools, this metropolis is overflowing with thrills, spills and sunshine.
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“Stepford Wives”, eat your heart out. White picket fences, lush green lawns, picture-perfect homes … it’s suburbia as you’ve never seen it before – Disney style. Fake snow in the warm Florida winter puts the icing on the cake. Sample the Town Tavern’s Celebration Breakfast – fried eggs, bacon, sausage patties and a side of fries, naturally.Accommodations in Celebration
Address fan mail to: Mickey Mouse, Lake Buena Vista. This is Disney HQ. Treat yourself to a massage at the resort spa, then take a stroll and check out the boardwalk performers. Hit the fairway and tee off on the championship golf course. When it's time to eat, head to Johnny Rockets diner to slurp down a thick shake with your bacon cheese fries.Accommodations in Lake Buena Vista
I-Drive is a tourist delight. This sprawling strip gratifies your every whim as you hop back and forth from Orlando's theme parks and stop off at its trio of entertainment complexes. Luxury resorts and restaurants provide plenty of R & R between theme park outings. Try dim sum at Ming Court, or cool off with ice cream sundaes at the Ben and Jerry’s Café.Accommodations in International Drive
Movie buffs – here’s your chance to star in an epic Terminator battle or shake in an earthquake simulator that’ll carry you off the Richter scale. Harry Potter’s Hogwarts and Hogsmeade conjure up magical moments. Seek out your two “fauxs” - “New York” and “San Fran” – these two mini areas are designed after the real cities.Accommodations in Universal Studios Orlando Area
“Forget all your troubles, forget all your cares and …” catch a film at the Plaza Cinema Café 12. Then hit Hanson’s Shoe Repair – a modern-day speakeasy serving prohibition-inspired cocktails. Grab a beer and watch the local scene sail by at Latitudes rooftop bar. Knock back shots at Don Jefe’s Tequila parlour and take a breather from the crowds.Accommodations in Downtown Orlando
Winter Park outshines its seasonal name; 70+ gardens filled with everything from poppies to pine trees. Take in some culture at the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art or the Harry P. Leu Gardens, where outdoor movies make the most of the sunshine state. Sip wine and tuck into a cheese board at the Wine Room for a sensory overload.Accommodations in Winter Park
A nerd at heart, Anthony enjoys exploring educational facilities like museums and science centres.
The Winter Park and the Park Avenue areas offer some of Orlando’s best kept suburban secrets, away from the bustle of the theme parks. There you’ll find four museums, including Cornell Fine Arts Museum at Rollins College, as well as numerous lakes perfect for boat tours and water sports.Accommodations nearby
A Kissimmee area native, Marilyn relishes Orlando's eclectic food scene, speakeasies, and arcades.
Visit ViMi Vietnamese neighbourhood for its colourful murals and the best banh mi (Vietnamese sandwich) and pho soup in Orlando. Stop by Lil' Indies for handcrafted cocktails with herbal garnishes, or appreciate local art while enjoying craft beer and playing retro arcade games at Bart.Accommodations nearby
Amanda loves Orlando’s year-round vacation vibe, spectacular fireworks shows, theme parks and outlet malls.
Lake Eola hosts a farmers’ market on Sundays and seasonal events like a pumpkin patch in autumn and “snow” during Christmas. The unique little boutiques that line main street are also a plus. Get a coffee and walk around various winding trails surrounding the lake.Accommodations nearby
Jarrod enjoys watching America’s biggest population of nesting Bald Eagles that call Florida home.
If you want to see the real Florida, you should venture outside of the city to Wild Florida Park. You can ride airboats and get up close to alligators and other Florida wildlife like birds, turtles and even a Bald Eagle. Afterwards there is an alligator show and a zoo on the premises.Accommodations nearby
A Been-there-done-that Orlando dweller, Mark feels that Florida has something for everyone.
If you plan on visiting Disney Springs a good tip would be to make dinner reservations in advance. Disney Springs is busy every night, and having a reservation can save you hours worth of waiting. You’ll thank me later! Check out T-Rex Café for fanciful Stone Age and underwater décor.Accommodations nearby
A fun day for Heather includes park-hopping at Disney then ending the night with a glass of wine and movie.
Pointe Orlando is ideal for low-key shopping and nightlife. BB Kings blues club and Orlando Improv comedy club are worth a visit. The area also has mid-to-upscale restaurants that include Greek food, a traditional American steakhouse, English pub fare, and modern Cuban cuisine.Accommodations nearby
Having lived in the outskirts of Orlando for 2 years, Stephanie delights in the charm of small town life.
At the Maitland Farmers’ Market you can take in lovely views of Lake Lily and its adorable duck inhabitants while shopping for homemade soaps, flowers, fresh produce and popcorn made in a kettle right before you.Accommodations nearby
When not in a theme park, 19-year Orlando veteran Shawn likes driving to Atlantic Coast beaches.
Rent a pontoon boat in Sanford and witness fish, alligators and native birds as you float along the St. Johns River, Florida’s longest river. Take along family and friends and see who can spot the widest variety of native birds or the most alligators!Accommodations nearby
Family-friendly fun is what’s kept Jenny happily living in Orlando for 9 years.
Put on a safety harness and fly through the treetops over rivers and swamps on a zipline! Aside from fast-paced ziplining, you can also walk along high rope bridges or between wooden platforms. See if you can scout out exotic animals relaxing in their natural habitat.Accommodations nearby
Booking.com asked travelers...Tell us how you made the most of your time at the theme parks in Orlando.
As well as doing the parks we also got out of Orlando and travelled around. I highly recommend westgate River ranch which is only 1 hour and 20 minutes south of Orlando for an authentic Dude Ranch Experience. Daytona Beach is great if you want some time by the ocean. And for goodness sake get yourself to Kennedy Space Center, if you are even slightly interested in science and space. It is absolutely awe inspiring. Meeting an Astronaut and actually talking to an engineer who built the shuttles who let me hold one of the tiles from the Atlantis shuttle were two of my childhood fantasies. Standing on the floor of Launch control room 4 was pretty special too.See all 101 answers
Booking.com asked travelers...What makes the perfect trip to Disneyland in Orlando?
Stay at the Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista. As well as the usual perks of a Disney Park Hotel, there's a laundrette on site, which will save you money compared to using the hotel laundry service. Avoid visiting in the summer to avoid the heat and crowds. If you have to visit in the summer, visit late Aug when US kids have gone back to school. The Frozen fireworks at Disney Hollywood are amazing. If you think you will use a stroller for at least 2 or more days, think about bringing one over or buying one from wallmart as may work out cheaper than renting (the disney ones cost ~$31 per day, although offer a discount for additional days use).See all 25 answers
Booking.com asked travelers...How does Orlando go the extra mile to make your family feel at home?
If you are here for a vacation it is fantastic, 3 major theme parks within an hour and a half. If you are here because you have a child who needs care one of the best children's hospitals in the world is near the airport and they go out of their way to welcome the family as a part of the healing processSee all 22 answers
Booking.com asked travelers...What was the most entertaining thing you saw in Orlando?
We went to Universal Studios. Everyone in our family was entertained and kept busy for a full day of rides, shows and viewing the sets.See all 33 answers
Booking.com asked travelers...Tell us about your most relaxing moments in Orlando.
Kobe Steak and Sushi restaurant, Florida MallSee all 12 answers
Booking.com asked travelers...Describe what other people like you would like about shopping in Orlando.
3 of the biggest malls in Central FloridaSee all 15 answers
Booking.com asked travelers...Where should people go if they don't want to eat in a tourist trap?
Ciao Italian Diner on Westwood BlvdSee all 13 answers
Booking.com asked travelers...Is there more to shopping in Orlando than just brand-name stores?
yesSee all 20 answers
Orlando International Airport is the city’s main airport. It’s 21 km from the city centre and about 27 km (a 20-minute drive) from the Disney and Universal Resorts. Lynx public buses (Terminal A), taxis (Terminals A and B), and scheduled shuttles (Terminals A and B) can be found on the Ground Transportation Level. There is also a bus link to the Sand Lake Road SunRail commuter train station. Check beforehand for free shuttle services offered through certain hotels.
Located 43.5 km (a 45-minute drive) from Orlando city centre, Orlando Sanford International Airport is the city’s secondary airport. Walt Disney World Resort and Universal Orlando Resort are about 60 km away. Taxis, shuttles and a wide variety of contracted transport companies are available here, as well as on-site car hire companies. Sometimes an airline can occupy both Terminals A and B so be aware of this for checking in.
The SunRail commuter train has several stations located throughout the Orlando area, with a central stop at the Historic Church Street Station in the city centre. For popular areas like International Drive, though, the SunRail won't be able to get you close enough for an easy journey. You can catch the bus service from Orlando International Airport to Sand Lake Road SunRail station. National Amtrak routes also connect easily for any trips going north or south.
Lynx public bus system operates from Lynx Central Station and a single journey costs USD 2. Buses aren’t recommended for tourists, as there aren't many well-placed stops. If you’re staying along International Drive, make use of the I-Ride Trolley, which costs USD 2 per ride and you need to pay with exact change. Some of Disney’s “Good Neighbor” hotels also offer transport to and from the parks.
Orlando is connected by toll-free Interstate 4, which runs through the middle of Central Florida, and toll roads including the 528 (to the Orlando International Airport and the Atlantic Coast) and the 408 which traverses Orlando city centre. Toll roads have Sunpass prepaid transponder lanes, but out-of-state visitors should use the 'cash only' lanes. Rush hour (weekdays 7:00-10:00 & 16:00-19:00) is hectic, but public parking and major car hire venues are plentiful.
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