If you want to have fun with the entire family, there is no better place to visit than Orlando, Florida! Orlando has something for every age and it is conveniently situated where the weather is delightful and the days are made for fun and play!
Orlando was originally an army fortress called Fort Gatlin that was sited between three lakes of fresh water during the Second Seminole War in 1838. Then, in 1843, the first civilian resident was Aaron Jernigan, a cattleman that bought a large plot of land two miles from Fort Gatlin. For much of its life Orlando’s economy was based on several nearby military installations and was involved in nearly all conflicts including the American Civil War, the Spanish-American War, World War I and II and even the Vietnam War. Then, in 1965, Walt Disney decided to build the Theme Park “Walt Disney World” in Orlando.
The 50 Mills District is colourful and fun!
You can easily fly into Orlando International Airport, which is located just 14km (8.7 miles) outside of the city. Traveling to downtown is simple and there are many options available! The least expensive way is by shuttle which runs every 30 minutes and is a journey of around forty minutes. Ride-shares are all readily available but I’d recommend renting a car while you’re visiting because parking is excellent and many of the sites are outside of the city.
Everyone visits Orlando for the theme parks, and they are great, but there are also other fun things to do in and around Orlando. Here are my favourites:
- Walt Disney World, probably the most famous theme park in the world is the reason Orlando is on the map! This park was opened in 1971 and has delighted children and adults ever since! Disney has several separate parks including; the Magic Kingdom, the EPCOT Centre, Animal Kingdom and Disney Hollywood Studies. Disney even owns two water parks; Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon which offer a fun way to cool off during sultry summertime visits!
Hogwarts is not some type of Orlando infection!
- Take some time to visit Universal Studios theme park where wizards, witches and superheroes will greet you! Take your time to enjoying the parks because, after all, this is reason you are visiting the area!
- Spend the day shopping on International Drive and find the best deals! Orlando Premium Outlets has over 200 designer stores with amazing prices. You can also find some great shopping at The Florida Mall or the boutiques of Winter Park Avenue.
Cape Canaveral is out of this world!
- Visit the Kennedy Space Centre in nearby Cape Canaveral and feel like you’re a real astronaut! The Cape is about 50 miles (80 kilometres) east of Orlando and well worth the short drive – especially if a launch is occurring during your stay!
- For art and culture aficionados, Mills 50 district will be a breath of fresh air. It is one of Orlando’s oldest neighbourhoods and it is packed with galleries, museums, restaurants, and boutique stores.
- Visit ICON Park and ride the Ferris wheel! More of an observation wheel, it stands 400 feet tall (122 meters), and will make you feel as if you can touch the clouds. Enjoy the Orlando skyline at sunset. You can even have a romantic meal on-board!
- You can’t visit Florida and not enjoy the sunshine at the beach! While none of these are in Orlando, they are close and they are some of the best beaches:
- Cocoa Beach is the perfect place to enjoy some surfing or explore the beach pier that is brimming with boutiques and restaurants
- Visit New Smyrna Beach and ride a bike right down to the shore! This beach is one of the closest to Orlando and it is just lovely!
- Daytona Beach is famous worldwide for it’s eponymous 500 mile race! Just an hour from downtown Orlando you will be amazed by this area’s love of all things NASCAR!
Here’s a pro-tip: The theme parks are extremely vast and depending on the time of year you visit, also quite busy! The parks have spent fortunes developing special queuing processes to speed you through the lines. Use early-bird access, fast-track and other time-savers to see as much as possible.
Because Orlando welcomes visitors from all over the world, its food scene is one of the most varied in the entire country! While you can find just about any cuisine and all is very reasonably prices, here are my top picks:
- Winter Park Avenue is the crème de la crème of Orlando’s food scene. Try ‘The Ravenous Pig’ doesn’t have the classiest name but this high-end gastropub offers some excellent menu options! Their unique meals ranging from clever seafood dishes like the Mahi-Mahi Sandwich or their delicious dry rubbed wings!
Black Rooster is the taco the town!
- Black Rooster Taqueria – based in the trendy and artsy Mills 50 district is a tasty place to visit. Enjoy some amazing home cooked craft tacos by a husband and wife team. The couple are all about the ‘farm to taco’ experience and use only the freshest ingredients. The fresh shrimp ceviche is my favourite!
Here’s another pro-tip: Downtown Disney and Disney Springs are geared for adults at night. Enjoy dancing, chatting over a cocktail or two, or browsing boutiques on warm evenings!
There’s no doubt that your trip to Orlando will leave you needing a good night’s sleep. While the hotels within the parks are iconic, I prefer to have a little space away when I visit. Here are my favourite places to stay:
Start your night off with a bang!
- Downtown Orlando is a great base. Residence Inn by Marriott is a great option because it gives you more space in an apartment style complex with all the amenities you need. The staff is welcoming and helpful!.
- If you want a break from theme parks, then you can stay in the quaint South Eola Park area. With a lovely lake, pubs, and walks, this is a realxing area. The EO Inn is a great choice because of its boutique feel and comfortable rooms.
- If you are going to base your trip around the amazing theme parks of Orlando, then I recommend you stay on International Drive. Avanti International Resort is a great choice with a beautiful pool area and its right next to ICON Park!
Orlando is a fabulous place to play, relax and reconnect with family and friends regardless of your age. You’ll enjoy Orlando your first time and then return again and again!