Over 70million people visit Orlando Every year. Making this one of the top 5 Most Visited US Cities. Being the Home of the vast Walt Disney World, this is the obvious draw along with the other BIG theme Parks Such as Universal Studios and SeaWorld. But there is more to the area than just the theme parks. The Incredible Natural Landscape is chock full of wildlife and the tropical climate provides year-round sun and warm temps. The sunshine State is deserving of its name and any trip to the City is bound to be packed with fun for all the family.
Our Orlando Guide is geared towards those visiting for the first time and tries to cover all the basics need to have the perfect trip. While Travel agents rush to pack as many people onto the planes little care is taken to ensure there trip is tailored to their tastes. We endeavour to help you find all the Practical information you need to have the Perfect Trip in Orlando.
Before Walt decided to alter the fate of the Orlando Area forever the City was a much different place. It mainly served the US Military installations that surrounded the area and had little interest for tourists. When Large tracts of land began getting bought up the people never really expected the extent their futures were about to be turned upside down.
Eventually, after secretly buying up 37 square miles of swampland he announced the arrival of Disney World and compliment to the already hugely popular west coast Disneyland in Anaheim California. The rest is as they say history.
Now Tourism is the Number one industry in the area, by a LONG way, the 70 million tourists spend over $33Billion! Along with Disney Worlds 4 Theme parks and 2 Waterparks, Many hotels and there is also the two Universal parks and 1 Water Park SeaWorld, Sea World Discovery Cove and a Sea World Waterpark, and hundreds of other tourist attractions. There are two shopping outlet centres thousands of Huge Souvenir Stores on nearly every corner and a million fast food and chain restaurants, well it feels over a million! It feels like the entire area is designed to get tourists in a relieve them of their cash.
In return, you are promised the vacation of a lifetime.
Where to Stay
The Big Choice here is simply Disney Hotel or Not? Most people stay at a Disney Property and there are many great benefits to this but it does mean you are in the clutches of the Disney Corp for your entire stay! Which can be Trying.
Staying outside the Disney Hotels can have a lot of advantages as well. Not to mention it’s cheaper, you also have much better dining options different locations more central to other attractions and not having to spend the entire time in a theme park are all part of the charms.
In short, if you are doing a very Disney Central Vacation, especially with kids it is often best to stay in a Disney Resort the Extra Magic hours, Disney Transport and improved FastPass+ privileges make it much better for navigating Disney.
Those looking to only visit Mickey on a few days, or not at all Will generally do better looking at outside accommodation.
For most people, a Rental car is the prefered method for getting around the City. We tend to agree this is by far the easiest method. The big downside is Disney has deemed it only fit to charge you $100’s to visit their parks but also you must pay for the “privilege” to park your car while doing so! The $20 a fee is something that has no easy answer to get around.
If you are staying in a Disney Hotel then you have full access to the incredible Disney Transport system that will whisk you to any point on the Disney property from free…We say Whisk, depending on point A and point B it could be upwards of an hour each way with several transfers. Of course, that’s worse case, but there will likely be one or two journeys per trip you wish could have been easier. After all Disney world is Gigantic. It’s the size of a City and as such can take some getting about!
For those outside the park then Things are even worse. Your Hotel will probably provide some type of shuttle. But this will probably only get you to one or two parks where you will need to join the Disney Transports to get to the others…Suddenly the $20 a day for parking sounds reasonable.
Of course, rather than standing up to Disney’s parking charges, it’s competitors just jumped on board! So expect Parking charges at most attractions. The Good news is Rental cars are really cheap. As is Gas so it almost cancels it out but it still stings.
Public Transport is pretty dire too Due to the Coverage of the Disney transport system the Public Transport is not gear for the tourist but for locals and workers so it’s not ideal. Taxi’s and shuttles are readily available but expensive. Uber and Lyft offer alternatives but can still rack up. The I-Ride Trolleys are fantastic for getting around certain parts of the City, mainly Internation Drive, but the coverage doesn’t extend to all hotels and Theme Parks.
Our prefered method if still to take the Disney Tax hit on the Wallet and pay for parking. It’s something you have to get used to. We never Stay Exclusively in Orlando so a car gets us out and about in Florida at other times.
Things to Do
Obviously, the BIG Draw to Orlando is its dizzying array of Theme Parks and of course the chance to visit a certain little mouse! Disney World is every Kids dream come true, no matter how old they are 7, 17, 70? We absolutely love everything Disney and are So excited to be sharing our Disney adventures, guides and Advice with you in the future.
However, the Delights of Disney can get overwhelming and there is a ton of other things to see and do in the area. We put together a full guide on everything to see and do Other than Disney.
If Disney is for Kids then Universal is for Big Kids. The two Parks contain some of the best and biggest rides in Orlando and are at the cutting edge of Ride Technology. The Huge Hulk Coaster and the Rip Ride Rocket are proper world class coaster! There is also a huge compliment of 4D Coasters such as the Transformers ride and the Amazing Adventure of Spiderman which are incredible experiences. And 2018 sees the launch of the Fast and Furious: Supercharged Ride! After trailing in the wake of Disney in recent years they have had a Major Resurgence in the form of…
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Full Recreations of Diagon Alley, Hogsmeade and Hogwarts Castle bring the Harry Potter lore to life like nowhere else. Huge cutting edge rides and incredible detail in the sets really make this a must-visit destination for Harry Potter Fans. The wizarding world has put Universal back on the Map!
Another Giant Stalwart of the Orlando Themepark World. The Oceanic theme park has delighted crowds for decades. In decline in recent years as questions over the ethics of keeping these incredible mammals in captivity have rightly been raised. It has addressed a lot of these questions and is fighting to retain its place with the big boys.
Discovery Cove from Seaworld is a whole different approach and is one of our favourite parks in Orlando. Here you can snorkel along with the fishes over coral reefs and interact with the animals. Kind of like a Bi Aquarium where you can actually jump in!
Kenedy Space Centre
A trip to the Visitors complex at the Kennedy Space Centre is the highlight of anyone’s trip to Orlando. Here you can witness up close some of mans greatest accomplishments. See the Space Shuttle, Stare in awe and gigantic rockets, and if you time it right witnesses a launch.
Alligators are Floridas most famous residents. They are readily found in the wild however for many the thought of coming across a fully grown gator out in the glades is the stuff of nightmares. So Gatorland lets you view Gators safely from behind barriers. The Park is filled with them and opportunities to get up close and personal are many. Experience Gator Wrestling, jump shows and even Zip Line Across alligator-infested swamps!
International Drive is the Cities main Tourist strip and is lined with attractions and restaurants and everything a tourist could need. Check out the Icon Orlando, Madame Tussauds, and Sealife Orlando amongst the many tourist attractions on offer.
Not content with the many attractions available in Orlando? Well, you are spoilt for choice if you want to head out on a Road Trip. Miami, the Keys, Daytona and the Atlantic coast, the Everglades and The incredible Sarasota coastline are all within striking distance. Florida is one of the best states in the country and Orlando is the PERFECT place to Base your Adventures from!
Florida is not called the Sunshine State for nothing! With more Sunshine days than almost any other State and year-round warm temperatures, it makes for a fantastic year-round getaway. Unlike the Desert States that scorch in the summer and end up quite chilly in the winter months Florida is a tropical climate and remains pretty warm right through the winter.
The pay off for this is the Warm humid climate produces a huge amount of rain. Especially during the summer months afternoon rainstorms are a daily occurrence and are very heavy in nature. Fortunately, they are brief, sporadic and unpredictable. They could easily miss you completely or give you a thorough soaking, before moving off replaced by fantastic sunshine once more. It’s all part of Florida Life.
The Dark side of the weather is the fact Florida in on the potential destruction path of the Cape Verde hurricanes. These powerful storms form in the Atlantic and head straight for Florida! Most of the time they turn North missing the State, but once or twice a decade they Slam into the State. As we were painfully reminded last September when Irma, a record-breaking storm, landed a direct hit on Florida. Orlando was pretty much spared apart from a few downed branches and a day of heavy rain and fright train winds. But much of Florida was not so lucky.
This said the chances of this happening are fairly slim (next to impossible outside of Aug/Sept) and Authorities are on top of it, Despite Irma Wreaking a devastating path human casualties were minimal due to incredible preparations and evacuations. Really our best advice s to simply ensure you have adequate Travel insurance in place and stop worrying about it too much.
Eating and Drinking
There is no shortage of things to eat in Florida and the intense competition means prices are fairly low in most places. There are a phenominal amount of Chain and fast food restaurants and you will never be far from food!
Floridian Specialties are a little thin on the ground. Apart from Key Lime Pie, Gator and Mickey Waffles there is little to really look out for. (Feel free to leave us a comment if you disagree!) But there is still some great food in the Florida Area.
Check out our full guide on where is best to eat.
Another big part of the Orlando food scene is the Character meals at Disney. Here you get to Dine with your Favourite Disney Characters often in incredible themed Settings Such as Cinderellas Castle or the Beast Castle from Beauty and the Beast. The Food can leave a little to be desired and the prices make you Wince but these are true bucket list items for any 6-year-old (36-year-olds too?) and one of those things you just try and ignore the expense!
Overall Florida is not a Destination you would head to primarily for the food but you will certainly eat well when there! Especially if you follow our food Guide.