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It’s no wonder Orlando, Florida, is often referred to as “The Theme Park Capital of the World,” as it boasts ever-popular Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure, and SeaWorld among several other parks. This central Florida city is a mecca for theme ride thrills and rollercoaster chills where families can book Orlando hotels near all the amusement park excitement through Expedia.
Many of these accommodations offer Orlando hotel deals, which include theme park benefits such as special deals, early entry, and even express line passes. And because Orlando is very much a kid-focused destination, numerous hotels in Orlando, Florida, present family friendly features such as pools, game rooms, and entertainment.
However, various hotels in Orlando, FL also cater to solo travelers, couples, and those traveling on business who may prefer a calm and quiet oasis away from the theme park frenzy. Multiple hotels in Orlando offer upscale restaurants, adult-only pools, business centers, and spas for a more grown-up appeal.
Flights to Orlando International Airport through Expedia are one of the most convenient ways of arriving in O-Town. Located southeast of downtown, the airport provides a variety of shuttles and airport vans servicing all the Disney hotels, hotels near Universal Studios, and theme parks. From the airport, travelers can also hop on the public transit, the Lynx, to arrive at must-see areas, such as Downtown Disney and Magic Kingdom.
Travelers driving into Orlando from the north or south generally take I-95, which runs from Maine to Florida. Many of the resorts and amusement parks are just a few minutes away from this major interstate.
Orlando visitors who prefer to kick back with a window seat can ride Amtrak or Greyhound as both services access the Orlando area.
Driving is one of the quickest ways of getting around Orlando, especially for those planning on visiting sites outside of Disney World. Orlando is known for its massive car rental market, so it’s easy to find and reserve a rental vehicle to explore central Florida on your own terms.
Other forms of transportation include the Lynx, I-Ride Trolley, and the Lymmo Bus. Orlando’s public bus service, Lynx, provides service to the best attractions, such as Disney World, Universal Studios, and SeaWorld. The I-Ride Trolley, meanwhile, is a bus that services the stops along International Drive. Additionally, Orlando offers the free Lymmo Bus circuiting City Hall to Centroplex downtown. Orlando also features various taxi services for those visitors who need late-night or direct transportation.
Things to Do
Perhaps to no surprise, Orlando vacationers consistently flock to the House of Mouse for some of the finest entertainment in all of O-Town. It’s undeniably one of the most magical places in the world, providing guests with the opportunity to sip tea with Alice in Wonderland at the Mad Tea Party and tour Mickey’s house in Toontown. Journey into outer space on the Space Mountain rollercoaster at Magic Kingdom and spook yourself at the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror in Hollywood Studios. Although it’s nearly impossible to visit all of the Walt Disney World attractions in just one day, the resort features Disney hotels, making a trip to the Walt Disney World Resort a stop for any Orlando traveler.
Because Orlando is known as the hot spot for theme park entertainment, Universal Orlando Resort is another can’t-miss attraction on every vacationer’s itinerary. The park includes both Universal Studios and Adventure Island promising nonstop fun for the entire family. The Universal Studios is not only a theme park, but also a film production studio, where guests can go behind the scenes of their favorite sets and hop on movie-themed rides. And for those exploring Adventure Island, tour the halls of Hogwarts at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and ride a river raft through the Jurassic Park jungles in search of dinosaurs. The best part, is that Orlando offers numerous hotels near Universal Studios, which makes the destination an easy addition to your itinerary.
Orlando visitors with several days to soak up the city, plan an unforgettable family vacation and reserve tickets to Discovery Cove, a theme park providing an experience unlike any you’ll find at the other parks in Orlando. At this reservation-only resort, swim with the dolphins and snorkel with the rays. Discovery Cove is an all-inclusive aquatic park, which allows you to get up close and personal with wildlife like never before with once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to feed tropical birds and frolic with otters.
If meeting talking mice and enchanting princesses or swimming with sea creatures are not on your list of things to do in Orlando, plan to stop by the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex for a slightly more adult adventure. This museum houses some of the most prominent space memorabilia while also offering tours to the nearby Apollo/Saturn V Center and the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame. Walk out on the Launch Complex 39 observation deck, touch pieces of a Moon rock, and see a chunk of the Apollo 13’s Lunar Module. Travel back to the beginning of space exploration and delight at the original spacesuits and spacecraft replicas along the way on your next Orlando vacation.
Arts & Entertainment
Orlando isn’t just dizzy inducing rollercoasters and dancing cartoon characters, but rather the Florida city has a substantial art and cultural scene as well. Orlando is home to a number of prominent theaters, including the Orlando Shakespeare Theatre and the Mad Cow Theatre. Vacationers who can’t get enough of mischief causing fairies and star-crossed lovers in Shakespearean plays will want to check out the captivating Shakespeare performances at the Orlando Shakespeare Theatre. And although with a name like Mad Cow, the theatre sounds as though it belongs in one of the city’s amusement parks, this theatre company is in fact one of the best in Orlando, presenting both classic and contemporary productions.
For an additional glimpse into the world of art, visit the Orlando Museum of Art and admire the intriguing 20-foot Cobalt and Citron Tower created by artist Dale Chihuly. Walk around the exhibits and study some of Ansel Adams’ finest black-and-white photographs and Georgie O’Keffee’s best flower paintings. This art museum boasts African art and ancient America artwork along with a multitude of other priceless pieces.
Long before Mickey Mouse took up residency in Orlando, the Seminoles, a tribe of Native Americans, originally lived on the Orlando territory even before the first European settlers arrived in 1837. There was much dispute between the natives and the settlers, which eventually escalated into the Seminole Wars. These wars resulted in the diminishing of the native population and an increase in cattle ranchers. Following these wars, Orlando experienced the “Gilded Era,” in which the citrus industry flourished. Then the city gained attention as a prime resort area during the period between the Spanish-American War and World War I.
During the early 20th century, Orlando continued to grow from an area of rural citrus groves into a booming city. The city expanded again after World War II, and then gained major tourist interest with the creation of Walt Disney World in 1971. This Orlando resort sealed the city as a major vacation spot, greatly increasing the city’s population and economy. Today, Disney World, in combination with the Orlando’s additional amusement parks, entertainment, and luxury hotels, still attracts travelers from around the world to this orange picking, Donald Duck dancing Florida city.
Orlando Magic is the city’s only major professional sports league, but the NBA team carries just enough wizardry talent to keep the locals happy. The Magic holds five division titles, two conference titles, and has appeared in the play offs 14 times as of 2013. Celebrity Shaquille O’Neal added a bit of his own star dust to the team’s magic, as he played for the Orlando team during from 1992 to 1996, significantly improving the team with some spellbinding games. The Magic’s biggest contender is now the Miami Heat, as they’re locked in what some call the Sunshine State Rivalry. For an exciting Florida charged game, book a luxury hotel, choose a side, and watch the two Florida teams duel.
Orlando is also the spring training home to both the Atlanta Braves and the Houston Astros, but Orlando has yet to acquire its very own major league baseball team of its own. Orlando has had a rocky history with maintaining a MLB team, as its last bout came with the Orlando Rays. The Rays represented the city while playing in the brand new Champion Stadium at Walt Disney World, but the team failed to gain a strong following. Because of poor attendance, the Rays glided over to play for Montgomery, Alabama, leaving Orlando teamless. Despite Orlando’s bad luck with keeping a baseball team, there are still grassroots efforts to revive America’s favorite pastime.
Reserve a downtown Orlando hotel for easily access to some of the hottest nightlife and after-hours entertainment in O-Town. For those visitors who have had their fair share of spending time in kid zones all day, treat yourself to the 21-and-up scene in top areas such as Downtown Disney and Church Street. Sing along with the dueling pianos, laugh out loud at the improve comedy clubs, let loose at the dance clubs, or even chill out in an ice bar. The resort area also offers night cruises from Orlando, featuring off-shore fun for several hours out on the open sea.
If you’re on babysitting duty though, swanky lounges and ice-carved bar stools won’t win you any parenting awards. Fortunately this city caters to kids, as it presents countless opportunities for family fun after the sun sets. Check out the dinner theaters, mini golf courses, Shakespeare performances, and Cirque du Soleil shows to tucker out the kids before another day at the amusement parks.
After a day of hanging out with Mickey and the gang and screaming at the top of your lungs on rollercoaster rides, no doubt you’ve worked up an appetite. Fortunately, Orlando serves up a variety of cuisines and offers a plentiful selection of restaurants to feed your hunger. For international fare, Restaurant Row on Sand Lake Road features Italian, Hawaiian, and Mexican food joints to name a few, while the theme parks surprisingly enough feature top-notch ethnic restaurants as well. And Turkish, Peruvian, Vietnamese, and Indian diners are scattered throughout the city too.
O-Town features upscale restaurants for those looking to be spoiled by top celebrity chefs who whip up the finest delicacies. However, this kid friendly town, of course, offers plenty of family restaurants to please even the pickiest of eaters. Whether vacationers are in search of dining options close to their hotels near SeaWorld or restaurants with entertainment features, Orlando answers every visitors hunger call.
Shopping in Orlando provides an activity outside of shooting down log flumes and swimming with the dolphins. Whether you’re taking a break from the kids for a little retail therapy on your own or you’re treating the whole family to some shopping fun, Orlando offers a number of shopping destinations including the Florida Mall, Mall at Millenia, and the Orlando Premium Outlets, all of which are close to countless Orlando hotels.
Florida Mall is the largest shopping mall in Central Florida featuring more than 250 stores with all your retail favorites. Find department stores, clothing shops, and cosmetic vendors for the hottest finds on vacation. The Mall at Millenia is another fashion mall, which provides a shopping paradise with luxury designer goods, international brands, more than 150 shops, and even an on-site Orlando hotel. And for those vacationers who get a thrill out of finding brand names at low prices, the Orlando Premium Outlets are the shopping spot for you. Orlando presents two outlet malls where visitors land the hottest deals on their vacation shopping sprees.
Without a doubt, theme parks are the main attraction in Orlando. For vacationers wanting to explore these attractions, our advice to you is to purchase tickets ahead of time and make a game plan. When visitors book their tickets to parks such as SeaWorld and Disney World in advance, they have a better chance of landing the cheapest deals. Remember these parks are vast, brimming with rides, attractions, and exhibits galore, which make it seemingly impossible to see and experience every nook and cranky. Before arriving, make a list of all your top must-see attractions to ensure you at least see your favorite parts. When you make an itinerary, you avoid the annoyances of back tracking and getting lost.
Although you’re on vacation and you want to look and feel your best, your day at the theme park is probably not the best place to break in your new shoes. Vacationers will want to leave their new kicks back at their Orlando hotels, and instead lace up a comfy pair of shoes, which are already broken in. Guests have clocked in anywhere between 10 to 14 miles of walking each day at parks such as Epcot and Magic Kingdom; you, too will feel the burn! When you only have a few days to hang with Mickey and the gang, you don’t want to cut your day short because of blisters or achy feet. Dress comfy so you can keep up with the kids!
Personalities & Culture
Orlando is regarded as one of the top family friendly destinations in the world, so not surprisingly; families tend to visit and stay in Orlando hotels when the kids have vacation days off from school and parents can take time off from work. Orlando generally has a constant flow of visitors regardless of the time of year, but keep in mind the summer months, winter break, and holidays attract the most vacationers. For a chance at skipping the long times and the massive crowds, choose to visit the theme parks midweek and not during holidays or celebrations.
Also keep in mind, anywhere featuring flying Dumbo and spinning teapots rides is guaranteed to attract children. In all the excitement of planning a trip to Orlando, do realize this Florida city focuses on the happiness of children and making dreams come true. Orlando culture is both geared toward children and influenced by children. Though the Orlando theme parks of course cater to children, adults and childless visitors can have a ball too; just expect to share the park with excited boys and girls.
Weather & Climate
Orlando features a subtropical climate, making it an ideal destination to visit any time of the year. The winter attracts visitors (and their pups!) looking to escape to warmer temperatures free from the possibility of snow at pet friendly hotels in Orlando. The winter season is the dry season, and it’s common for temperatures to settle in the comfortable 70s and 80 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and to drop down to the 50s and 60F in the evenings. The summer months, on the other hand, bring muggy temperatures, heat, and rain. During these months, temperatures hover around the 80 degrees Fahrenheit range, sometimes even hitting the 90s.
Even though technically summer is the wet season, it’s not uncommon for a rain shower to roll through the city during the afternoon at any point of the year. Though these storms don’t usually last long, pack an umbrella so you can stay dry. Also keep in mind, late summer is prime time for hurricanes to hit with September being especially prone to tropical storms. If a big storm hits during your stay, follow the warnings and proper procedures to stay safe and dry.
Whether you visit Orlando during the height of the summer or during the holiday celebrations in the winter, Shamu and the House of Mouse will anxiously await your arrival in this top Florida destination during any time of the year.
Need some more ideas for your next trip here? Our Expedia Viewfinder bloggers have recommendations for your next visit. See some of their latest blog posts below about what to eat, where to drink, what to see, and what to do.