A year-round favorite for its plethora of theme parks, the Florida city of Orlando has everything for a great family holiday as well as for couples and singles looking for a good time in the sun. Most of the visitors to the city’s major tourist draw, Walt Disney World, prefer to stay in the on-complex hotels, leaving plenty of room in the wide selection of accommodation in the city itself for holidaymakers heading for its many other attractions. Put succinctly, Orlando isn’t just Mickey Mouse, performing dolphins and adrenalin-boosting rides.
Old Orlando is the historic heart of the city, set in the downtown district on Church Street between Orange and Garland avenues close by Lake Eola. The
streets of traditional brick-built homes are lined with century-old oak trees, making for a pleasant, peaceful walk away from the crowded business and shopping districts. Orlando’s neighborhoods are built on former wetlands, with hundreds of pretty lakes, lush, green parks and ornamental gardens performing well as the city’s green lungs and attracting varied bird species. Together with the nearby Florida Everglades, the city offers ecotourists a variety of experiences.
Orlando is famous for its theme parks, with Walt Disney World alone drawing countless thousands of visitors annually. The city is also a hub for cultural events including classical ballet, opera and theater, as well as the best in modern dance music.
Walt Disney World
One of the most popular family destinations on earth, Walt Disney World is the original of the now worldwide chain of Disneymania theme parks. From fairytale castles to every possible Disney character, rides and entertainments, kids and their parents love every minute here.
Sea World is the watery equivalent of Disney World for its massive aquarium and 200-acre marine theme park. Also featured are exciting rides, fun exhibits and fabulous entertanments.
Henry P Leu Gardens
This mansion and its glorious gardens date back 130 years and give a horticultural experience second to none in the state as well as a journey back in time within the period-furnished mansion. Highlights include a magnificent rose garden and the second-largest collection of camellias in the USA.
Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art
This iconic museum is mostly given over to an eclectic collection of the works of Louis Comfort Tiffany, famed during the Art Nouveau period for art glass, stained glass windows, lamps, pottery, artworks and the exquisite, elegant silver and gold jewelry popular with collectors worldwide.
Eating and drinking and shopping nearby
Eating out is everyone’s favorite activity here, with Orlando’s restaurants favoring amazingly fresh seafood and traditional meat-heavy American meals such as steaks, grills and ribs. Ethnic eateries serve Italian, French, Mexican, Cuban and Asian culinary delights, and sushi, sashimi and other Japanese dishes are popular. Upscale dining is had at hotels, with the Hilton Hotel’s steakhouse and the Peabody Hotel’s fine cuisine outlets recommended. Orlando offers everything from designer boutiques to bargain factory outlets, with huge discounts on branded fashion at Festival Bay Mall, two Orlando Premium Outlets and Pointe Orlando just a short stroll from the Orlando International Resort Club. The Mall at Millennia offers Chanel, Gucci, Louis Vuitton and more, and Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s and Neiman Marcus are all here.
Getting in is straightforward, with Orlando’s international airport the busiest in Florida State and the main arrivals hub for the majority of the city’s 50 million annual visitors. Daily flights arrive from all over the USA and from major European cities including London. Virgin Atlantic and British Airways both offer direct flights from London Gatwick, and Virgin also flies from Manchester. Once you’re here, getting around is straightforward by bus, taxi, trolleybus or rental car. The least expensive option is bus travel, and taxis cost less than in the UK, but, for exploring Orlando and its surroundings at your own pace, rental car is by far the best option.