Orlando, Florida, for most people conjures up the image of theme parks, mainly Disney World, but it has a lot more to offer than that. In fact, Disney is technically not in Orlando, but is in nearby Lake Buena Vista. Make sure that you don't miss downtown Orlando and charming Winter Park.
Those traveling by air can enter via Orlando International Airport (IATA: MCO), . Orlando-Sanford International Airport (SFB) is located north of the city in Sanford, and mainly caters to charter flights from Europe as well as regional carriers. Other International air options are Daytona Beach International Airport (DAB) to the northeast, Tampa International Airport (TPA) to the southwest, and Melbourne International Airport (MLB) to the southeast.
Greyhound, 555 North John Young Parkway, . Visitors arriving by Greyhound can go south on SR 423 to Interstate 4 to get to the major Attractions.
Disney's Magical Express, ! This exclusive complimentary shuttle and luggage delivery service conveniently takes you from the airport directly to your Walt Disney World® Resort hotel.
Running from the airport to various points, including Kissimmee, theme parks, University of Central Florida, and the cruise port at Port Canaveral.
- Beeline Ground Transportation, +1 407 438-3969, .
- Mears Transportation Group, +1 407 423-5566, .
Orlando has an Amtrak station that provides service to Miami or points north up to New York via the Silver Star and Silver Meteor lines. Prior to Hurricane Katrina, Orlando served as the eastern terminus for the coast to coast Sunset Limited that provided service to Los Angeles via Jacksonville, New Orleans, and San Antonio. Due to extensive track & bridge damage caused by Hurricane Katrina, the Sunset Limited is not currently operating east of New Orleans and the timetable for repair is several years away.
In nearby Sanford, the southern Terminus of the Amtrak Auto Train carries passengers and automobiles between Sanford and Lorton, Virginia, effectively serving as a car-rail link from Orlando to the Washington, DC Metro Area.
- I-Ride Trolley, Phone: +1 407-248-9590, . Along International and Universal Drive, this primarily serves tourists in the attractions area. While the service is advertised as a trolley, the trolleys are in fact modified buses and there is no dedicated traffic lane for the service; heavy traffic with many stops makes for a very slow ride. There are 85 stops along the main route on International Drive and 22 stops on the route that serves Universal Drive. The fare is $1 per ride. Per-day and multi-day bus passes are available from many locations.
- Lymmo Bus, Phone: +1 841-LYNX. This free service operates frequently in a circuit in Downtown Orlando, from City Hall to the Centroplex and back. The Lymmo has a dedicated lane and stations with streetcar type control signals and modified buses that allow passengers to enter the bus without climbing. M-Th 6AM-10PM, F 6AM-12AM, Sa 10AM-12AM, Su 10AM-10PM.
The car is still king in Orlando, and it is a very easy and convenient (if not congested) way to get to your destination. The roads are all wide and easy to drive on with all the major areas signposted, but traffic jams around downtown are common in the afternoons, and around the tourists areas on Saturday nights.
If you arrive by air via Orlando International Airport and get a rental car, go to the North Exit and head to SR 528 West to get to International Drive, Universal Orlando and SeaWorld. This will require $0.75 in tolls. A short-cut to Walt Disney World is the South Exit to SR 417 South, following it to Exit 5, and taking SR 536 straight into Disney. This requires $2 in tolls.
In Orlando, the main tourism area is International Drive, a strip of road that runs parallel to I-4 for about 10 miles.
To get to the Space Coast beaches, such as Cocoa Beach, as well as the cruise terminals of Port Canaveral, use SR 528, the Bee Line Expressway (recently renamed to the Beach Line), which is I-4 Exit 72.
Orlando is the largest rental car market in the world and is known as capital of car rental companies, with all major car rental companies easily accessible from the airport. All major car rental companies are located inside the Orlando airport or nearby.
Car Rental Companies include:
- Alamo Rent A Car, +1 800-462-5266, .
- Avis Rent A Car, +1 800-331-1212, .
- Budget Rent A Car, +1 800-527-0700, .
- Dollar Rent A Car, +1 800-800-3665, .
- E-Z Rent-A-Car, +1 800-277-5171, .
- Enterprise Rent-A-Car, +1 800-261-7331, .
- Hertz Car Rental, +1 800-654-3131, ].
- Thrifty, +1 800-847-4389, .
Orlando's public transportation is the Lynx bus service. Approximately 60 routes serve the metro Orlando area and costs $1.50 per ride (transfers included) except for the Lymmo bus service as noted above. Check out Go Lynx for routes and fares.
Taxi companies include:
- Ace Metro / Luxury Cab, Phone: +1 855-1111.
- Diamond Cab Company, Phone: +1 523-3333.
- Star Taxi, Phone: +1 857-9999.
- Town & Country Transportation, Phone: +1 828-3035.
- Yellow / City Cab, Phone: +1 699-9999.
Orlando is one of the biggest tourist destinations because of the nearby theme parks and resorts. Close to International Drive is Universal Orlando, which includes two theme parks, three hotels and a large shopping district. SeaWorld Orlando is a marine theme park featuring Kraken, the biggest rollercoaster in the Orlando area, as well as Believe, the all-new Shamu adventure. About 40 minutes outside of Orlando is the well-known Walt Disney World. Comprised of four theme parks, two water parks, dozens of hotels, three shopping and dining districts, eight golf courses and much more, it is the largest privately managed tourist destination on the planet. Not far from Disney World lies the Alligator Capital of the World: Gatorland. Also, don't forget about water park Wet 'N Wild, located right on International Drive.
- Disney World
- Universal Orlando, International Drive, Phone: +1 363-8000. 9AM-(closing times vary -- usually from 6PM-10PM). Discounts for purchasing tickets online.
- SeaWorld Orlando, SeaWorld Drive, +1 800-327-2424, Phone: +1 351-3600. 9AM-(closing times vary -- usually from 6PM-10PM).
- Gatorland, 14501 South Orange Blossom Trail, Phone: 407-855-5496, Toll Free: 800-393-JAWS. 9AM-5PM.
- Wet 'N Wild, 6200 International Drive, Phone: 407-351-1800, Toll Free: 800-992-WILD. Hours vary.
Despite the proximity of theme park haven Lake Buena Vista, the City Beautiful has a lot to offer on its own. Downtown Orlando is a growing area centered around Orange Avenue that is packed with bars, clubs, and restaurants, as well as theatres and concert venues. The main strip on Orange Ave. is closed most nights because of the large volumes of pedestrians. But just a few blocks over is Lake Eola, a picturesque park situated around a swan-filled lake. In the middle of the lake is a lighted fountain that has been established as an icon of Orlando, and on one side of the lake stands the historic outdoor shell theatre, where tourists and locals alike can see a version of the Nutcracker every year in December. Swan-shaped paddle boats and gondolas are available for rental as well.
Florida Mall - The biggest mall in Orlando located at the crossroads of Orange Blossom Trail and Sandlake Road. Home to hundreds of shops and anchored by Saks 5th Avenue, Macys, Dillards, Nordstrom, Lord and Taylor, JC Penney and Sears. You can go an entire day in this mall and still not finish.
Mall at Millenia - This is Orlando's most upscale and beautiful mall. Find everything from Tiffany's to Hugo Boss and Gucci. Also home to upscale department stores like Macy's, Bloomingdales and Neiman Marcus. This mall is part of the very new and trendy Millenia area of Orlando. Located conveniently on the Conroy Road exit off of I-4 a few miles south of Downtown.
Altamonte Mall - Located in the northern suburb of Altamonte Springs.
Fashion Square Mall - Located on east Colonial Drive just north of downtown.
West Oaks Mall - Located on West Colonial Drive in the western suburbs of Ocoee and Winter Garden
Oviedo Marketplace - Located in the eastern suburb of Oviedo
Premeire Outlets - Home to the biggest designers such as Armani, Fendi, Versace. Also home to Tommy Hilfiger, Nike, Polo, Nautica and many more. Located off of 535 and visible from i-4 closest to the Disney World area. This is the best mall to pick up bargains from all the name brands and designer wear.
Prime Outlets (formerly Bellz) - Home to many designers such as Polo, DKNY, Nike, Reebok, and Liz Claiborne. The mall is currently undergoing major renovation but the outside centers are still open and have the above stores.
Little Saigon - Located on Colonial Drive just east of downtown. Here you will find about 100 stores that stock items from
China, Viet Nam, Hong Kong, etc. Also home to many Asian restaurants. The shops will mainly consist of Asian grocery stores and gift shops and a few herbal healing stores run by chinese.
Little India area - This area is a bit spread out. You will find many Indian stores in the South Orange Blossom Trail area on the main streets and side roads. Starting with Lancaster Road, which houses a video store and Indian restaurant, and then traveling south you will see a few Indian shops in clusters every mile all the way to 417 where you end at the local indian movie theatre.
- The Athenian Garden Cafe, 2918 N. Orange Ave., Phone: +1 898-2151. Great Greek food at a fair price.
- The Boheme Restaurant, 325 South Orange Av. (in the Westin Grand Bohemian), Phone: +1 313-9000.
- Vito's Chop House, 8633 International Dr., Phone: +1 354-2467. Great cooking, great wine. $15-$30.
- Citywalk at Universal Orlando features a variety of restaurants such as Margaritaville, Hard Rock Cafe, Pastamore, NASCAR Cafe and much more. Parking is $10 during the day and free after 6PM (except during holidays or special events, such as Hallowen Horror Nights).
- Norman's, 4000 Central Florida Pkwy. (at Ritz-Carlton Grande Lakes), Phone: +1 393-4333. Chef Norman Van Aken. Prix-fixe $55 and up.
Khasiyat Indian Cuisine...852 W. Lancaster Road, Orlando, FL, 32809...ph: 407-888-2147
Nightlife away from the theme parks is centered mostly around Central Boulevard and Orange Avenue in downtown Orlando. Here you can walk and find many bars and several dance clubs from the chic urban Rhythm and Flow to the Mulvaney's Irish Pub. A short walk away is the tiny Thornton Park District, located near/around the intersection of Washington and Summerlin. Among the dozens of cafes and pubs, you might stop in for a drink and a quick bite at Dexter's on Washington. For local flair head across the street to Burton's Frosty Mug. Sample the hip urban environment at the trendy HUE at the corner of Washington and Central.
At the theme parks, there is Pleasure Island at Disney World and the CityWalk at Universal Studios. For a nominal admission fee, both sites offer numerous venues for libations and entertainment. If you're staying along International Drive, there are plenty of bars, pubs, and clubs.
With a hotel around every corner (actually 4 or 5 around every corner)it seems impossible to throw a rock and not hit a hotel. There are hotels to meet every traveller's need, whether it be a hostel or a 5-star resort.
- DoubleTree Club Lake Buena Vista, 12490 Apopka Vineland Road, . Located near Downtown Disney, featuring scheduled shuttles to all four theme parks. Family suites at this hotel make it a family favorite and the Executive Floor, business center and free high-speed internet in the lobby make this a business traveler's haven.
- Embassy Suites Hotel, Lake Buena Vista Resort, 8100 Lake Avenue, . Located near Orlando’s theme parks, downtown businesses, and entertainment venues. Suite accommodations at Lake Buena Vista Florida hotel provide the ideal setting for a family vacation.
- Grande Lakes Orlando Resort, 4040 Central Florida Parkway, . Luxury Orlando resort featuring The Ritz-Carlton Orlando and JW Marriott Orlando. Spa, golf, and restaurants on site.
- The Peabody Orlando Hotel, 9801 International Drive, . Luxury Orlando hotel located across the street from Orlando Orange County Convention Center.
- Marriott Orlando Downtown Hotel, 400 West Livingston Street, . Downtown Orlando hotel located minutes from TD Waterhouse Center and other Orlando attractions.
- Courtyard Orlando Downtown Hotel, 730 North Magnolia Avenue, . Downtown Orlando hotel located minutes from Carr Performing Arts Center and other Orlando attractions.
- International Plaza Orlando Resort and Spa, 10100 International Drive, . Orlando resort located just minutes from Sea World and Orlando Convention Center.
- Radisson WorldGate Kissimmee Hotel, 3011 Maingate Lane, . Closest "Official Disney Good Neighbor Resort" hotel to Walt Disney World. Also located with minutes of MGM studios and Epcot.
- Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress Orlando Hotel, One Grand Cypress Boulevard, . Ideally located adjacent to Walt Disney World, this Lake Buena Vista, Florida hotel combines the most comprehensive selection of activities – including golf, tennis, pools, horseback riding, dining and more – with state of the art meeting facilities, luxurious guestrooms and renowned Hyatt service.
- Doubletree Universal Orlando Hotel, 5780 Major Boulevard, . Orlando hotel located steps from Universal Orlando Resort in Orlando, Florida and minutes from other Orlando attractions.
- Sheraton Safari Lake Buena Vista Hotel, 12205 S. Apopka-Vineland Road, . Lake Buena Vista hotel located 1/8 of a mile from the Walt Disney World Resort and minutes from other Orlando theme parks and attractions.
- Hawthorn Suites Orlando(Universal Studios), 7601 Canada Avenue, Phone: +1 581-2151, . Located just one block from the famous International Drive, minutes from the Orange County Convention Center.
- Hawthorn Suites Orlando Airport, 7450 Augusta National Drive. Phone: +1 438-2121, . Business travelers will enjoy in-room business services, featuring an oversized work area.
- Hawthorn Suites Orlando/Convention Center, 6435 Westwood Blvd., Phone: +1 351-6600, . Surrounded by tropical landscaping, free-form heated pool and whirlpool spa, as well as special children’s pool, play area and game room.
- Nickelodeon Family Suites by Holiday Inn, 14500 Continental Gateway, . In addition to the Nickelodeon colors and themes, the hotel has added over $25 million in amenities and features: Two amazing pool complexes with waterpark features like slides, flumes and wet/dry play areas; The Lagoon and The Oasis pools are completed and offering live Nickelodeon entertainment pool side.
- Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate, 1500 Masters Blvd. Orlando/ChampionsGate, +1 888-444-OMNI (6664), . The hotel is located within minutes of Walt Disney World, Sea World and a myriad of water parks and other attractions. ChampionsGate Golf Course has been honorably mentioned in Golf Magazine's "10 Most Distinctive Places to Play".
- Parc Corniche Condominium Orlando Suite Hotel, 6300 Parc Corniche Drive, Reservations: 800-446-2721, Resort Telephone: 407-239-7100, Resort Fax: +1 407-239-8501, . Orlando Hotel Condominium Suites at the Parc Corniche, located in the middle of the action on the famous International Drive and minutes away from the theme parks.
- Quality Suites Maingate East, 1-877-609-1777, . Near Walt Disney World© Resort. The hotel features a heated pool, free breakfast and happy hour, and transportation to local theme parks.
- DoubleTree Guest Suites Orlando Hotel in the Walt Disney World Resort, 2305 Hotel Plaza Boulevard, Phone: +1 934-1000, . Within the Walt Disney World Resort®. Orlando Airport is 15 miles away and within minutes of Disney Marketplace, Pleasure Island, and Disney's West Side.
- Embassy Suites North Orlando Hotel, 225 East Altamonte Drive, Phone: +1 407-834-2400, . 19 miles from Orlando Airport and six miles from downtown Orlando - close to the business district, shopping and the many local attractions, and there is a complimentary shuttle within a five-mile radius.
- Embassy Suites Orlando Hotel & Convention Center on International Drive, 8978 International Drive, Phone: +1 352-1400, . 244 two-room suites, 10 miles from Orlando Airport MCO, and just minutes from Walt Disney World®, Sea World and Universal Studios.
- Holiday Inn Nikki Bird Orlando Hotel, 7300 West US 192, Phone: +1 396-7300, . One mile from Disney's Main Gate and 15 miles from Orlando. Magic Kingdom Park, Epcot and Walt Disney World are all within one mile.
- Holiday Inn International Drive Orlando Hotel 6515 International Drive, Phone: +1 351-3500, . A 13-acre playground just steps away from great restaurants and shopping. Sea World, Universal Orlando, and Wet 'N Wild are just a short ride away along International Drive.
- Holiday Inn Select Orlando Hotel at the Orlando Airport MCO, 5750 TG Lee Boulevard, Phone: +1 851-6400, . Just outside the exit of Orlando Airport and 8 miles from downtown - well placed for many of the major Florida attractions, including Disney World.
- Gaylord Palms Resort & Spa, 6000 W Osceola Parkway, Phone: +1 586-0000. Located five minutes from Walt Disney WorldThis amazing resort includes a 4.5-acre glass-covered atrium that celebrates the entire state of Florida. Features restaurants, La Petite Academy Kids Station, Canyon Ranch SpaClub, shops and live animal displays. You have to visit this hotel to believe it!
- Wyndham Palace Resort & Spa in the WALT DISNEY WORLD® Resort, 1900 Buena Vista Drive, Phone: +1 827-2727, . Within the world-renowned Walt Disney World® Resort, and is an Official Hotel in the Downtown Disney Resort area.
- Wyndham Palms Resort, Hotel & Country Club, 7900 Palms Parkway, Phone: +1 396-1311, . An easy drive from the Orlando International Airport and just minutes from Orlando's major attractions - including Walt Disney World®, Magic Kingdom®, Epcot® Center, MGM Studios®, SeaWorld® and Universal Orlando®.
- Marriott Residence Inn Lake Buena Vista , 11450 Marbella Palm Court, Phone: +1 465-0075 (fax +1 407 465-0050), . Features include: location near Walt Disney World, and accomodations for extended stay business visitors, or events at the nearby Orange County Convention Center hotel.
- Masters Inn Orlando, +1 800-633-3434, . Masters Inn of Orlando near Disney, MGM Studios, Animal Kingdom, Universal Studios, Islands of Adventures, and Epcot.
- Masters Inn International Dr., 8222 Jamaican Ct, Phone: +1 345-1172 (fax +1 407 352-2801), . Masters Inn on International Drive is near Universal Studios, SeaWorld & the Orlando-Orange County Convention Center.
- Microtel Inn & Suites Orlando, 7531 Canada Avenue. +1 407 226-9887 . For the fourth consecutive year, Microtel Inns & Suites has been "Ranked Highest in Guest Satisfaction Among Economy/Budget Hotel Chains"*.
- The Howard Johnson Plaza Hotel and Suites, South International Drive, 9956 Hawaiian Court, +1 800-826-4847, . A AAA 3-Diamond award winner, conveniently located off South International Drive that features 223 deluxe guestrooms and one bedroom suites. Provides high-speed Internet access in all rooms, meeting rooms and all public areas. Offers business, group and leisure travelers a best rate guarantee. Adjacent to Orlando’s Orange County Convention Center and within walking distance to popular restaurants and shopping centers.
- Enclave Suites Resort, 6165 Carrier Drive, +1 800-457-0077 (fax +1 407 351-2001), . Resort one block from famous International Drive with two outdoor swimming pools, two "kiddie pools", two whirlpools, lighted tennis court, 24-hour fitness center, gazebo overlooking private lake,and indoor heated pool and whirlpool. Also serves as Orlando vacation home with deluxe studio suites and two-bedroom/two-bath accommodations. All suites come with fully equipped kitchens, sofa beds, and a private balcony.
- AmeriSuites Orlando Airport/Northeast, 7500 Augusta National Drive, Phone: +1 240-3939 . Near Orlando International Airport and minutes from Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando, and SeaWorld.
- AmeriSuites Orlando Orlando Airport/Northwest, 5435 Forbes Place, Phone: +1 816-7800 . Near Orlando International Airport and minutes from Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando, and SeaWorld.
- AmeriSuites Orlando/Convention Center, 8741 International Drive, Phone: +1 370-4720, . Three blocks from the Orange County Convention Center and three miles from Sea World and Universal.
- AmeriSuites Orlando/Universal, 5895 Caravan Court, Phone: +1 351-0627, . Located only 1/4-mile from Universal Studios and City Walk and minutes from Walt Disney World.
- Doubletree Castle Hotel, 8629 International Dr., Phone: +1 345-1511, . A medieval castle themed hotel close to Disney and the Convention Center.
Privately owned vacation rental homes or "villas" are also very popular especially with families and larger groups, offering significantly more space than hotel rooms, and usually at a much cheaper price.
- Orlando Villa Guide, . A comprehensive guide to privately owned Florida vacation rental homes and holiday villas in Orlando, Florida.
- Ten digit dialing is in effect in the Orlando area. All calls from or within the area, even local calls, require dialing the area code.
- Orlando/Orange County Convention & Visitors Bureau 8723 International Drive. +1 800 972-3304. The official sales and marketing organization for the Orlando and Orange County area. http://www.orlandoinfo.com.
Typical rules of tourism common sense apply. Hotel room invasions do occur, especially open-air hotel and motel rooms when the victim leaves their hotel room unlocked and undeadbolted. When you are in a hotel room, lock your doors behind you.
Never leave valuable items in your car unattended; get any purchased items to your hotel room as soon as possible.
Also, do not leave small children unattended for any length of time, especially at a pool. Most hotel pools do not have lifeguards.
Pets are better off left with a friend or in a kennel. If you choose to bring your pet, note that most theme parks and hotels prohibit pets. DO NOT LOCK YOUR PET IN YOUR CAR! Due to the high temperatures in the area, it is extremely dangerous and is forbidden by law in Florida.
- La Petite Academy Kids Station, (Facility on the grounds of the Gaylord Palms Resort), Phone: +1 407-586-0000. Parents sometimes feel guilty separating from their children on a family vacation. But with facilities like this your kids won't notice your absence. Leave the kids for an hour or two while mom and dad have a dinner or enjoy a spa treatment!
- Winter Haven is home to Cypress Gardens, the oldest theme park in all of Florida. Located about 40 miles southwest of Orlando off Interstate 4.
- Clermont, about 20 miles west of Orlando on Florida Highway 50, hosts another Central Florida landmark, the Florida Citrus Tower. The tower celebrated its 50th anniversary in December of 2006.