Orlando is a large city located in Orange County, Florida.
Orlando, 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 World is not in Orlando, but is in nearby Lake Buena Vista. The region sees an estimated 52 million tourists a year, and downtown Orlando is developing significantly under this tourist boom. Other cities in the metropolitan area include Altamonte Springs, Davenport, Kissimmee, and Winter Park.
When people think of Orlando, most think of theme parks and a vast urban sprawl. However, downtown Orlando includes none of the major theme parks (Disney World, Universal Studios, Sea World), dinner attractions (Arabian Nights, Medieval Times), or even most small theme parks (Gatorland, Holyland Experience, Ripley's Believe-it-or-not, etc). Since Orlando is the larger city associated with most of these popular attractions, you will find details and descriptions of them below.
Most tourists visit Orlando between June and August, while another peak time for tourism is March & April. With the number of tourists, far outnumbering the regional population, the best times to visit are when there are fewer tourists. Ironically, the less busy times for tourism correspond to the best weather in the Orlando area. So not only will the theme parks and malls be less crowded, but you will be able to enjoy great weather.
Many say central Florida has two seasons: hot and hotter. Orlando has warm, balmy springs and autumns; hot summers complete with daily thunderstorms; and temperate winters affected by the occasional cold front. That being said:
While most think of Florida as a year-round paradise, many Americans would be surprised to learn that there are at least 10-15 mornings a year in which lows fall into the 30s in Orlando, at least once down to freezing or below. Lows in the mid 20s occur every 2-3 years. But don't worry, even on the coldest of mornings, highs will rebound into the 50s and 60s! It is always clear when it gets that cold, many hours after the cold front and any precipitation has passed. Nevertheless, every 3-4 years, snow flurries will mix with rain somewhere in the region, the most recent being January 3, 2008. However, only once since records began in 1948 has any measurable snow fell at the airport (0.2" in Jan 1977). So if you visit between November and March, bring a jacket...it may be warmer than northern states, but not as warm as you think it will be!
Summer begins with the start of daily thunderstorms around mid-June. Highs from mid-June to mid-September are in the mid 90s, with 90º often being reached by 10-11AM, and lows in the 70s. Due to Orlando's proximity to two coasts, thunderstorms form everyday during this period from ocean breezes which heat over land, rise, and cool in the atmosphere to create sometimes violent thunderstorms (see the "Stay Safe" section). However, they often will drop temperatures into the low 80s after passing...a welcome relief from the hot temperatures earlier.
Autumn varies much more from year to year than spring. The daily thunderstorms taper off in September leaving highs in the mid-high 80s until mid-October. The first cold front of the season will usually pass between mid and late October, plunging highs into the 70s and lows into the 50s and high 40s. The cooling trend continues into November and December, with highs falling into the 70s by late December and lows into the 50s, affected only by the occasional cold front which can plunge highs into the 60s (Nov) and 50s(Dec) and lows into the 40s(Nov) and as low as freezing (32ºF/0ºC) by mid December.
Winter is much the same as November and December. Highs are in the 70s, lows in the 50s, affected every week or two by cold fronts. Following a cold front, highs can drop into the 50s, lows into the 30s.
The airport is structured as such that there is a central "landside" terminal (A and B), containing airline counters, baggage claim, rental agencies, numerous shops, and a hotel, which is connected via trams to four other terminals (known as "Airside 1-4") with the airplane gates. There are plenty of shops in both the central terminal and the airsides, but most restaurants are located in the airsides.
Security screening is performed in the central terminal before taking the tram to the airsides and, as in all US airports, only ticketed passengers are allowed past security. Security lines can become extremely long (1 hour), especially during the summer tourist season and near holidays. Combined with long check-in lines, it is advisable to arrive 2-3 hours before your scheduled departure.
Almost every medium to high priced hotel in the city offers transfers. Orlando is the rental car capital of the world and as such there are several car rental agencies offering a wide range of vehicles for rental.
Other regional airports (within an hour and a half drive) include: Daytona Beach International Airport (served by Delta via Atlanta and US Airways via Charlotte) & Melbourne International Airport(served by Delta via Atlanta and Baer Air via Freeport, Bahamas). In addition, Orlando area visitors who plan on visiting the Gulf Coast may consider flying into Tampa International Airport, about 80 miles (130km) west of Orlando or just over an hour's drive, as it is less crowded and a bit easier to access via road.
All persons flying via general aviation should consider arriving via Orlando Executive Airport which is six miles east of downtown and about 10 or so miles north of Orlando International Airport. Orlando Executive serves general aviation (95%) and air taxi (5%) exclusively. Additionally, Orlando Sanford International serves general aviation alongside its commercial use.
Orlando has an Amtrak station that provides service to other destinations such as Miami, but also connects to other points as far north as New York via the Silver Star and Silver Meteor lines.
In nearby Sanford, the southern terminus of the Amtrak Auto Train which carries passengers and automobiles between Sanford and Lorton, Virginia, effectively serving as a car-rail link from Orlando to the Washington, D.C. Metro Area.
The car is omnipresent in Orlando, and it is a very easy and convenient (if not congested) way to get to your destination. Orlando is a sprawling city with most attractions lying far to the south of the CBD and into adjacent cities like Kissimmee and Lake Buena Vista (this section include those areas). The roads are all wide and easy to drive on with all major attractions well signed, but traffic jams around downtown are common in the afternoons, and around the touristy areas on Friday nights and all day Saturday. Orlando ranks 8th in the nation in terms of traffic congestion, and there are numerous ongoing construction projects on area expressways (all aimed at alleviating this, but only causing congestion in the meanwhile). Traffic information is available from new Dynamic Message Signs, most local radio stations, and also by calling 511 (a free, automated service which provides current traffic info collected from hundreds of traffic cameras as well as police reports.)
The main highway through Orlando, and the only interstate serving it, is Interstate 4 (referred to as "I-4", running NE-SW). In recent years major construction on it has widened it through areas south of SR528 making it a well signed and commuter-friendly highway (except for traffic during rush hours and Friday and Saturday evenings). Downtown Orlando; International Drive; Amway Arena; the Mall at Millenia; Arabian Nights dinner theater; and theme parks such as Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, Sea World, Discovery Cove, the Holy Land Experience, and Wet n' Wild are all conveniently located along/near I-4.
Aggressive drivers are abundant in the Greater Orlando area not only on major highways but also on surface streets in the Downtown District. Speed limits are for the most part ignored in and around the city, even though on I-4 the speed limit is only 50 mph in the Downtown area and ranges between 55 and 65 mph near the attractions, it is not uncommon to be tailgated if you travel less than 80 mph in the left lane. If you are unfamiliar with the area, it is much easier and safer to drive in the far right lane, as road signs will direct. <
BEWARE: Open road tolling is either used or being constructed along Orlando's toll roads such that drivers with a Sun Pass transponder and prepaid account (which accounts for almost no tourists) continue straight along the road at the speed limit, while drivers paying cash (almost all tourists) must follow signage that diverts them to toll booths constructed off the right of the highway. In this example photo a tourist paying the toll in cash deviates off the right side of the road, pays the cash toll, then merges back onto the road:
Other major highways include SR528, the Beach Line Expressway although known until recently as the Bee Line, which runs east from I-4 (exit 72) towards the Space Coast beaches and Kennedy Space Center, Cocoa beach, and Port Canaveral. SR528 is, like all Orlando area expressways (not including I-4), a toll road. While tolls are modest for short trips within Orlando, tolls can quickly add on long cross-town trips (bypassing Orlando on SR418 is $5.50 for 55 miles). See this convenient toll calculator online: .
In Orlando, the main tourism area is International Drive, a strip of road that runs parallel to I-4 for about 10 miles. Many tourist-focused shops, restaurants, and attractions are to be found along this road; therefore, it is excruciatingly hard to drive on and find parking along this road on weekends, especially in the summer, and excursions to this area are best by bus during such times. Other major roads include: US 192 in Kissimmee(fronted by thousands of small shops and attractions), Orange Blossom Trail (US 92/441...a North-South alternative to I-4), SR50 (E-W route towards the CBD).
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 accessible. Operating directly within the airport are Alamo, Avis, Budget, Dollar, Enterprise, E-Z Rent-a-car, L & M Car Rental, National, and Thrifty; courtesy shuttles are available for transport to other rental companies.
If you arrive by air via Orlando International Airport and pick up a rental car there, you can go through 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. Alternatively, you can take a direct route to Walt Disney World through the South Exit to SR 417 South, following it to Exit 5, and taking SR 536 straight into Disney. This requires $2 in tolls. Toll booths along this expressway uses open road tolling: see note above in box.
Orlando's public transportation is the Lynx bus service. Approximately 60 routes serve the metro Orlando area and costs $2 per ride (transfers included) except for the free Lymmo bus service downtown. Check out Go Lynx for routes and fares.
*Lymmo Bus, 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.
*I-Ride Trolley, +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 $1.25 per ride. Per-day and multi-day bus passes are available from many locations.
Arboretum, University of Central Florida, 4000 Central Florida Boulevard; 407-823-3146. An arboretum and botanical garden covering 80 acres (32 hectares), containing more than 600 species of plants (including more than 100 bromeliads) in cultivated gardens. Its cultivated areas currently include a Conservatory Compound, a Bromeliad Sanctuary, Cycad Garden, Fern Garden, Palm Collection, Rose Garden, Swamp Habitat, and Wetland Plants Display. Free.
Harry P. Leu Gardens, 1920 N Forest Ave; +1 407-246-2620, . Beautiful landscaped gardens and lakes set in nearly 50 acres of land, featuring flora gathered from around the globe since 1936, including the largest rose garden in Florida and America's largest camellia collection outside of California. The Leu House, Harry P. Leu's former home set within the grounds and dating back to the 1880's, has tours every 30 minutes around its museum illustrating Florida living at the turn of the 20th century (closed during July). You can get married in various places in the gardens and there are special events held throughout the year. Open daily 9AM-5PM except Christmas Day. Last garden admission at 4:00PM. Admission $7 (free every Monday 9AM-noon).
Historic Bok Sanctuary, 1151 Tower Blvd., Lake Wales, FL 33853; 863-676-1408, . The Bok Sanctuary features acres of intricately landscaped gardens filled with an exotic array of flowers and trees. The gardens are home to a colony of wood ducks and many other wild birds. In the middle of the gardens sits the Bok Tower, with its 60-bell carillon playing music daily at 3PM. Bok Tower Gardens is open every day of the year from 8AM to 6PM with last admission at 5PM. The Visitor Center is open from 9AM to 5PM. Admission $10.
World of Orchids, 2501 Old Lake Wilson Rd Kissimmee, FL 34747, . Featuring thousands of blooms in an enclosed tropical rain forest, World of Orchids is a working greenhouse shipping orchids and other plants nationwide. A greenhouse covers nearly an acre (4,000 m²), and in this controlled climate of warm, humid air some 1,000 orchids are displayed in a natural jungle setting, with streams, waterfalls, and squawking parrots. World of Orchids also has a 1,000 foot (300 m) long boardwalk meandering off into nearby wetlands. Open Monday through Saturday, 9:30AM to 4:30PM. Closed: Sundays, New Year's Day, July 4th, the 3rd and 4th week in July, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and December 26. Admission free.
Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art — Houses the world's most comprehensive collection of the works of Louis Comfort Tiffany (1848-1933) including Tiffany art glass, leaded-glass windows, lamps, jewelry, pottery, paintings, and the chapel interior he designed for the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. The Museum's holdings include a major collection of American art pottery and representative collections of late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century American paintings, graphics, and decorative arts. Admissions is $3 for adults, $1 for students, and free for children under 12. Free Admission between 4-8pm on Fridays November through April.
Cornell Fine Arts Museum,1000 Holt Avenue, Winter Park, FL 32789; 407.646.2526, . Rollins College. Features items from Cornell's renowned permanent collection. Open 10AM to 4PM Tuesday through Friday, and 12 to 5PM Saturday and Sunday. Admission is $5.
The Orlando Science Center — A 207,000 square foot (19,000 m²) hands-on learning center with hundreds of interactive exhibits for visitors of all ages. Images surround visitors on the giant screen of the Dr. Phillips CineDome. Other attractions include the Body Zone, teaching health and fitness, as well as an observatory. The center has the largest refracting telescope in Florida.
Orange County Regional History Center, 65 E. Central Blvd.; (407) 836-8500 Toll Free (800) 965-2030. Features exhibits and artifacts from the earliest days of the region to the modern day. Includes information on everything from the time of the Seminole Indians to the founding of the city to the Civil Rights era to the Disney period to today. Open Monday-Saturday: 10AM - 5PM; Sunday: noon - 5PM. Admission $9-$12.
International Trolley and Train Museum — Features 14 model railroad trains with sound and lighting traveling through an indoor garden with 12 foot (4 m) high mountains, waterfalls, and more than 30 trestles and tunnels. Also on display are toy trains from the 1920s to the present. Visitors can catch a ride in a California Victorian-style half open/half closed trolley or the 5/8-scale replica of an 1880 locomotive (a Mason Bogey) with its passenger cars.
The Holy Land Experience 4655 Vineland Road, . This biblical theme park, a ministry of the Trinity Broadcasting Network, also has exceptional museum exhibits, e.g., Scriptorium and Jerusalem Model A.D. 66.
Ripley's Believe It or Not! Orlando Odditorium — 8201 International Drive, +1 407 363-4418, . Located in a building artfully constructed to appear as if it were collapsing to one side. Visitors can explore bizarre artifacts, strange collections, weird art/hobbies (for example, check out the 3/4-scale model of a 1907 Rolls Royce Silver Ghost automobile made entirely of matchsticks and glue), and interactive exhibits in sixteen odd galleries. Seriously schlocky, yet fun.
Orlando Magic (NBA)
Orlando Predators (AFL)
Orlando Sharks (MISL)
University of Central Florida Knights (NCAA Division I FBS)
Universal Orlando Resort will experience two significant changes in the near future. First of all, Universal Studios is building a customizable, multi-sensory coaster called the Hollywood Rip, Ride, Rockit, for a 2009 opening. Secondly, Islands of Adventure is building a new theme land, Wizarding World of Harry Potter, scheduled for a 2010 opening. SeaWorld Orlando is building a themed flying coaster, Manta, scheduled for a 2009 opening.
Orlando is one of the biggest tourist destinations because of the nearby theme parks and resorts. Close to International Drive is Universal Orlando Resort, 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 new Shamu adventure. About 35 minutes southwest of downtown Orlando is Lake Buena Vista and the world famous 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. Just northeast of Universal is the Holy Land Experience. Also, don't forget about water park Wet 'N Wild, located right on International Drive.
Walt Disney World — The acclaimed gold standard of theme parks on the planet is actually located 18 miles south of downtown Orlando, in a city called Lake Buena Vista. Hours vary by park and season.
Universal Orlando Resort, International Drive, +1 407-363-8000. Top-ranked challenger to Disney, with two theme parks -- the original Universal Studios Florida and the second theme park, Islands of Adventure -- a nightclub and restaurant complex, CityWalk, and three resort hotels. Open from 9AM, with closing times varying from 6PM-10PM. Discounts are given for purchasing tickets online.
SeaWorld Adventure Park Orlando, SeaWorld Drive, +1 407-351-3600, 1-800-327-2424. A beautifully landscaped 200-acre marine theme park featuring fantastic shows, thrilling rides, and fun exhibits -- a more laid-back alternative to Disney and Universal. Open from 9AM, with closing times varying from 6PM-10PM. Variety of discounts may be available by purchasing tickets online.
Discovery Cove, 6000 Discovery Cove Way. A unique companion to Sea World, it is often sold out as admission is limited to 1000 guests per day but admission does include all your equipment, food, drink and 30 minutes interaction with the dolphins in the water. $259-279 ($159-179 for non-dolphin package). Open 9AM-5:30PM (open until 9PM on selected evenings). +1 407-370-1280, .
Holy Land, 4655 Vineland Road. An educational, inspirational, biblical-themed park designed to look like Jerusalem. A ministry of Trinity Broadcasting Network. Check hours online; closed on Tuesdays. $5 discount on tickets purchased online.
Florida EcoSafaris at Forever Florida (Zipline Safari), 4755 N. Kenansville Rd. +1 407 957 9794 email@example.com . Journey deep into Forever Florida, a 4700 acre eco-ranch and wildlife conservation area, preserved just as nature intended. This beautiful site boasts 9 distinct Florida ecosystems and an endless array of natural flora and fauna including alligators, black bears, nearly two hundred species of birds and the endangered Florida panther. Choose your own fully-guided adventure: Coach Safari, Horseback Safari or, soar through the treetops on the NEW Zipline Safari. Reservations Required.
Mary, Queen of the Universe Shrine, 8300 Vineland Avenue, +1 407-239-6600, . This extravagant Catholic church has become a tourist attraction in itself, thanks in part to the millions of Catholics from around the world who visit it and the rest of Orlando every year. Note: It is not a parish and therefore it cannot perform weddings, funerals, or baptisms.
Despite the proximity of theme park haven Lake Buena Vista, the city 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 theaters and concert venues. The main strip on Orange Avenue is closed most nights because of the large volumes of pedestrians. 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 theater, where tourists and locals alike can see a version of the Nutcracker every year in December. Swan-shaped paddle boats are available for rental as well. Taking over for Church Street as the main night time hot spot is Wall Street. It is a small pedestrian only alley off of Orange Avenue that houses several restaurants and bars. They also have frequent concerts on Wall Street, they set up staging for bands to play for everything from Cinco de Mayo to the Capital One Bowl celebration week.
Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate call (407) 390-6664, (800) THE-OMNI or visit . Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate offers 720 rooms surrounded by 1,200 acres of wetlands, the International and National golf courses and hosts the world headquarters of the David Leadbetter Golf Academy.
Bay Hill Club & Lodge, 9000 Bay Hill Blvd, (407) 876-2429. Two courses: 18 holes, over 7,205 yards with a par of 72 (Private Non-Equity); 9 holes, over 3,409 yards with a par of 36 (Private Non-Equity).
Boggy Creek Golf Club, 3650 8th St, (407) 857-0280. 9 holes, over 3,250 yards with a par of 36 (Public).
Country Club of Orlando, 1601 Country Club Dr, (407) 425-2319. 18 holes, over 6,591 yards with a par of 72 (Private Equity).
Cypress Creek Country Club, 5353 Vineland Rd, (407) 351-2187. 18 holes, over 7,014 yards with a par of 72 (Public).
Dubsdread Golf Course, 549 West Par St, +1 407-246-2551. 18 holes, over 6,055 yards with a par of 72 (Municipal).
Eaglewood Golf Club, 5800 Pga Blvd, (407) 351-5121. 18 holes, over 2,516 yards with a par of 58 (Public).
EastWood Golf Club, 13950 Golfway Blvd, (407) 281-4653. 18 holes, over 7,176 yards with a par of 72 (Public).
Fairways Country Club, 14205 E Colonial Dr, (407) 282-7535. 18 holes, over 5,332 yards with a par of 70 (Public).
Faldo Golf Institute By Marriott, 12001 Avenida Verde, (888) 463-2536. 9 holes, over 2,308 yards with a par of 32 (Public).
Ginn Reunion Golf Resort, 1000 Reunion Way, Reunion, +1 888-418-9611. 54 holes, 3 championship golf courses designed by Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson (Private).
Grand Cypress Resort, 1 N Jacaranda St, (800) 835-7377. Four courses: 18 holes over 6,773 yards with a par of 72 (Public); 9 holes over 3,462 yards with a par of 36 (Public); 9 holes over 3,521 yards with a par of 36 (Public); 9 holes over 3,434 yards with a par of 36 (Public).
Grande Pines Golf Club, 6351 International Golf Club Rd, (800) 371-1165. 18 holes, over 7,012 yards with a par of 72 (Public).
Lake Nona Golf Club, 9801 Lake Nona Rd, (407) 851-9091. 18 holes, over 7,011 yards with a par of 72 (Private Non-Equity).
Lake Orlando Golf Club, 4224 Club House Rd, +1 407-298-1230. 18 holes, over 6,803 yards with a par of 72 (Public).
MetroWest Golf Club, 2100 S Hiawassee Rd, (407) 299-8800. 18 holes, over 7,051 yards with a par of 72 (Public).
Orange Tree Golf Club, 7540 Woodgreen Dr, (407) 351-2521. 18 holes, over 6,968 yards with a par of 71 (Private Non-Equity).
Rio Pinar Golf & Country Club, 8600 El Prado Ave, (407) 277-5121. 18 holes, over 6,929 yards with a par of 72 (Private Equity).
Ritz Carlton Golf Club, 4048 Central Florida Pkwy, (407) 393-4900. 18 holes, over 7,122 yards with a par of 72 (Public).
Shingle Creek Golf Club, 9939 Universal Blvd, (866) 996-9933. 18 holes, over 7,213 yards with a par of 72 (Public).
Stoneybrook Golf Club, 2900 Northampton Ave, (407) 384-6888. 18 holes, over 6,820 yards with a par of 72 (Public).
Ventura Country Club, 3333 Woodgate Blvd, (407) 277-2640. 18 holes, over 5,467 yards with a par of 70 (Public).
Orlando Tennis Center, 649 W Livingston St, (407) 246-2161.
Lake Cane Tennis Center, 5108 Turkey Lake Rd, (407) 254-9170.
Fort Gatlin Recreation Complex, 2009 Lake Margaret Dr, (407) 858-3290.
Orange County Convention Center, 9860 Universal Blvd, (407) 685-1061, . With 2.1 million-square feet of exhibition space, the Orange County Convention Center (OCCC) serves as the area's convention and meeting center.
Universal Orlando Meetings & Events , 888-266-2121, 1000 Universal Studios Plaza, From 20 to 20,000 guests, a Universal event ensures that you will give your attendees something truly out of the ordinary.
Bubbalou's Bodacious BBQ, . There are three Bubbalou's locations in the Orlando area. Offers BBQ ribs, sandwiches and other smoked delights. Atmosphere has a home-style feel and plenty of pig companions.
CityWalk, — Located 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 Halloween Horror Nights).
Downtown Disney Head to downtown Disney any night of the week for a wide range of restaurants of varying prices and flares. Some notable restaurants there include Rainforest Café & Ghiradelli Chocolate Factory.
Gabriel's Subs, 2840 Curry Ford Rd. Excellent hot veggie subs.
Garibaldi Mexican Restaurant, 929 N Semoran Blvd. The best dishes are: Chili Relleno and cheese enchilada.
Rolando's Cuban Restaurant, 870 Semoran Blvd, Casselberry. Serves excellent rice, yucca, eggplant, plantains, and guava.
Rossi's Pizza, 5919 S Orange Blossom Trl, +1 407-855-5755. Located at the corner of Oak Ridge & Orange Blossom Trail. Highly recommend the 12 inch thin-crust pepperoni pizza.
Stefano's Trattoria , (407) 659-0101, 1425 Tuskawilla Rd, Intersection of Red Bug and Tuskawilla in Winter Springs, Small, family-run, quiet (but still delicious) Italian/Sicilian restaurant five minutes out of Orlando. A local gem! (Best advice on dishes: Ask Stefano to personally make a recommendation, he walks around the restaurant and will tell you exactly what you want to eat!)
Tony's Deli, 1323 N Mills Ave. Best dishes: fava bean salad, hummus and the baklava.
Uncle Jones BBQ, 1370 E Altamonte Dr, Altamonte Spgs. Serving the best potatoes ever, along with, lima beans, BBQ pork, corn bread, fried okra, and Texas toast.
A Land Remembered classic steakhouse , 407-996-9939, 9939 Universal Blvd., A legendary Orlando steakhouse named after Patrick Smith's rich novel featuring Florida's historical moments and landscapes. Serving a variety of cuisine and accompanying wine list as succulent and filling as its namesake. Proudly serving Harris Ranch all Natural Prime Black Angus Beef, as well as menu items catering to all tastes.
Jack's Place , 407-996-9700, 9700 International Drive, Tantalizing gourmet menu featuring prime steaks and fresh seafood in a whimsical atmosphere featuring the world’s largest collection of autographed star caricatures.
Everglades Restaurant , 407-996-9840, 9840 International Drive, A one-of-a-kind gourmet dining experience featuring unique regional specialties, served in an enchanting setting dedicated to the Florida Everglades. Periodic Vine & Dine wine dinners featuring gourmet cuisine and fine wines.
Cala Bella (Creek Beautiful) , 407-336-3393, 9939 Universal Blvd., Benvenuto! Cala Bella, Rosen Shingle Creek’s upscale Italian Restaurant features Italian classics, with Mediterranean and American inspiration, accompanied by a diverse list of top quality wines.
Khasiyat Indian Cuisine, 852 W. Lancaster Rd, +1 407-888-2147. Vegetarian/Indian cuisine.
Orlando 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. A short walk away is the tiny Thornton Park District, located near the intersection of Washington and Summerlin. Among the dozens of cafés 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, or sample the hip urban environment at the trendy HUE at the corner of Washington and Central.
Although most of the downtown Central avenue crowd is comprised of the "twentysomething" generation, for a more 30's and over entertainment experience, one can enjoy live jazz on many nights in the lounge of the Westin Grand Bohemian Hotel located downtown on Orange Avenue. The jazz is excellent and the ambiance is quite comfortable, although drinks tend to be pretty pricey here.
Also, for a more professional crowd with a Latin twist, there is the Samba Room, located on Sand Lake Road, about 3/4 west of I-4. This is a lively restaurant and happy hour type of place. The look is chic and the locals and tourists alike gather here for a quality food, beverage and people watching experience. You should ditch the shorts and flip-flops for a more casual chic look, but if you do you will be rewarded with a nice experience here. If you are traveling west on Sand Lake Road, after passing I-4, The Samba Room is on the left in a large shopping plaza. Latin food, music and mojitos are just some of the specialties here.
Across the street from the Samba Room, on Sand Lake Road, is the Old Vines wine bar, featuring live jazz usually from Thurs. through Saturday nights. The wine selection is extensive and the live jazz is some of the best in town. The jazz is performed in the front of the room by the entrance. There is a divider that separates the more intimate rear portion of the establishment, which is the main dining area.
There are quite a few places to enjoy quality dining and drinks along Park Avenue in Winter Park, an adjacent suburb which is just northeast of Orlando. Winter Park is known for its many older grande homes that dominate the more historic sections of this suburb affectionately referred to by many as the center of Orlando's "old money." Park Avenue is an active pedestrian street featuring trendy shoppes, galleries, restaurants and nightspots. It has recently grown from becoming a one street attraction to more of a district, as several nearby streets have now added similar attractions.
Of particular interest and uniqueness on Park Avenue is the Wine Room, a converted bank featuring literally hundreds of wines available for self serve sampling. The mode of purchasing here is to pre-load a wine "credit card" supplied by the Wine Room. You are then at liberty to peruse the entire building and select any wine you wish to try, merely by inserting your "credit card." Each wine station automatically deducts the value of your current purchase and advises you of your card balance. Dress is very casual here and you are likely to meet both locals and visitors, all sampling and enjoying their vinos of choice throughout the night.
At the theme parks, 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 virtually 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 traveler's need, whether it be a hostel or a 5-star resort, although many visiting families often prefer to rent their own private villa as they usually provide much more personal space and have their own private facilities. There are also a large number of lodgings in the surrounding cities and towns.
See Also: Davenport, Kissimmee, Lake Buena Vista.
Baymont Inn & Suites Orlando, 7531 Canada Ave, +1 407-226-9887, . For the fourth consecutive year, Microtel Inns & Suites has been "Ranked Highest in Guest Satisfaction Among Economy/Budget Hotel Chains"*. (Previously Microtel.)
Suburban Extended Stay South, 9435 Delegates Dr, +1 407-251-1110, . Perfect for a long business trip or a family vacation, this hotel is located minutes away from Sea World and The Orange County Convention Center.
Orlando Hotel & Convention Center on International Drive, 8978 International Dr, +1 407-352-1400, . 244 two-room suites, 10 miles from Orlando Airport MCO, and just minutes from Walt Disney World, Sea World and Universal Studios.
Enclave Suites Resort, 6165 Carrier Dr, 1-800-457-0077, (Fax:+1407-351-2001), . 2 outdoor pools, two "kiddie pools", two whirlpools, tennis court, fitness center, &indoor heated pool and whirlpool. 2/2 suites w/ kitchens, sofa beds, and balcony.
The Howard Johnson Plaza Hotel and Suites, 9956 Hawaiian Ct, South International Dr, 1-800-826-4847, . A "AAA 3-Diamond" award winner, 223 rooms, high-speed Internet access, adjacent to Orlando’s Orange County Convention Center.
Marriott's Cypress Harbour, 11251 Harbour Villa Road, (407) 238-1300 (Toll Free: 1-800-845-5279),. In the heart of South Orlando is Marriott's Cypress Harbour, offering luxurious two bedroom, two bath villas near Sea World.
Marriott Residence Inn Lake Buena Vista, 11450 Marbella Palm Ct, +1 407-465-0075 (Fax:+1407-465-0050), . Features include: location near Walt Disney World, and accommodations for extended stay business visitors, or events at the nearby Orange County Convention Center.
Nickelodeon Suites Resort, 14500 Continental Gateway, . In addition to the Nickelodeon colors and themes, two amazing pool complexes with water park features like slides, flumes and wet/dry play areas. Offers live Nickelodeon entertainment pool side.
Parc Corniche Condominium Orlando Suite Hotel, 6300 Parc Corniche Dr, +1 407-239-7100 (Toll Free: 1-800-446-2721, Fax:+1407-239-8501), . Located on International Drive and minutes away from Universal & Sea World.
In addition to the dozens of hotels on the Disney property, there are a few other luxury hotels in the area:
Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress Orlando Hotel, One Grand Cypress Blvd, . Discover one of Orlando's most inviting escapes. Located adjacent to Walt Disney World, provides golf, tennis, pools, bikes, kyaks, boating, dining, & meeting facilities. (407) 239-1234
Ginn Reunion Resort, 1000 Reunion Way, Reunion, Florida 34747 . Luxurious resort located 6 miles from Walt Disney World. Condos, villas, and private homes available. 3 championship golf courses, Waterpark with lazy river, ANNIKA Academy, dining, and personal concierge service.
The Peabody Orlando Hotel, 9801 International Drive, . Luxury Orlando hotel, contemporary elegance, home to the famous Peabody Ducks and located across the street from the Orange County Convention Center.
Ramada Coop Florida , 866-700-4316, 8427 South Park Circle, Escape to Florida, a beautiful and exotic destination for all your romantic vacations, family holidays, golf getaways and last minute escapes- from the secluded offshore Florida Keys to the energy of Miami Beach, Florida resorts with Ramada Hotels vacation packages.
Ritz Carlton & JW Marriott Grande Lakes, 4040 Central Florida Parkway Orlando, FL 32837, . Two luxury hotels sharing a golf course, decadent spa, creative lazy river pool, and two restaurants. Close to the Orange County Convention Center, Universal, and Sea World.
The Florida Mall, — The largest mall in Orlando located at the crossroads of Orange Blossom Trail and Sand Lake Road, about a mile north of the Orange Blossom Trail/Florida Turnpike/Beachline Expressway interchange. Home to over 200 shops including Saks Fifth Avenue, Macys, Dillards, Nordstrom, JC Penney, Sears, & Apple. You can go an entire day in this mall and still not finish. Popular among international tourists wishing to stock up on cheap American goods, but of better quality than found at the many outlet malls/stores.
The 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 also features Apple and Sony Style selling computers and related products. 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.
Orlando Premium Outlets, — Home to the biggest designers such as Armani, Fendi, Burberry, Ferragamo, Lacoste, Coach. 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 International (formerly Beltz) — 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.
Lake Buena Vista Factory Stores, — Select from over 300 designer and name brands such as Gap, Reebok, Carters and Eddie Bauer. Stores offer factory direct, quality merchandise at savings up to 75%. Located off of SR 535 near International Drive and Disney.
Little Saigon, East Colonial Drive (just east of downtown, around N. Mills). Here you will find Vietnamese and Asian grocery stores, gift shops, and a few herbal healing stores, which stock items from China, Vietnam, Hong Kong, etc. Also home to many good inexpensive Vietnamese and other Asian restaurants.
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 theater
Never leave children or pets in a parked car for any length of time! Due to high temperature for most of the year, the interior of a parked car can easily heat to lethal temperatures in a short amount of time. During the summer, the interior of a parked car can reach 130-170ºF (55-75ºC) in just 15 minutes, regardless of the color of the exterior or interior, nor whether the windows are open a small amount. You not only risk death, but it is illegal and the consequences are taken VERY seriously...including thousands in fines and even imprisonment.
Orlando is roughly the same as many other large cities, in that there are certain areas of the city which are considerably less safe. Such as:
Parramore District, area in downtown Orlando, is a haven for crime and homelessness.
Orange Blossom Trail, south of Sand Lake Road, this area is known to be an unofficial red light district. Prostitution is not legal in Orlando, you may well be spending a night in jail if you decide to indulge.
Pine Hills, located around Silver Star Road and Pine Hills Road west of John Young Parkway. This area is notorious for high crime. The Greyhound bus station is in Pine Hills and is a place to use caution. Fortunately those areas are away from tourist destinations and easy to avoid.
Orlando is renowned as a tourist destination, with annual tourists (49 million) far outnumbering the regional population (~2million). Many persons are aware of this and keen to turn tourists into victims. Fortunately, following common sense travel precautions goes a long way to prevent crime. In fact most crime commited on tourists are for common, easily-preventable mistakes.
Hotel room invasions do occur, especially open-air hotel and motel rooms when the victim leaves their hotel room unlocked and not dead-bolted. When you are in a hotel room, always lock your doors behind you, even if you expect someone in a minute or two.
Never leave valuable items in your car unattended, get any purchased items to your hotel room as soon as possible.
Never leave small children unattended for any length of time, especially at a pool. Most hotel pools do not have lifeguards.
Due to the unique proximity to two coasts, thunderstorms form everyday from mid-June through September. While some days it may rain for 10 minutes, other thunderstorms will last for a couple of hours. These make central Florida the lightning capital of the western hemisphere. During these storms it is best to remain indoors due to the danger posed by frequent cloud-to-ground lightning, especially on golf courses. A couple of dozen people are killed each year by lightning in Florida and many more spend much time receiving treatment for lightning strikes.
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 but may provide kennels for a fee. Also note above about interior temperatures in parked cars.
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. There are some public pay phones scattered around the city, but they are becoming increasingly rare with the predominance of cell phones. It is not safe to assume you will be able to find a pay phone at any given time.
ZIP codes in and around the city of Orlando begin with 407 or 321.
It is common for many of the larger hotels and lodgings in the area to offer free internet access for their guests.
Within an hour of downtown Orlando:
Lake Buena Vista
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.
A bit further, but good daytrips or next destinations include:
Cocoa Beach— World-famous beach for surfing, but very crowded on summer weekends and holidays like Memorial Day, 4th of July, & Labor Day.
Cape Canaveral— Home to the Kennedy Space Center and location of space shuttle and rocket launches year round (these are visible throughout central Florida, but are more spectacular in Titusville and a trip is recommended for children and first time viewers). Launch schedule:
Daytona Beach— Home of NASCAR and a popular beach.
Canaveral National Seashore 24 miles of undeveloped shore; central Florida's only nude(in one spot) beach; 1000+ year old Indian relics; 58,000 acres for hiking, horseback riding, and biking; but no camping or concessions.
Melbourne (Florida)/Melbourne Beach— Historic downtown and a great but "less touristy" beach than most on the Space Coast, beachfront camping nearby.
Ocala National Forest— Great hiking and camping. Home to many fauna, including black bears and the Florida panther.
New Smyrna Beach— Great beach, but most prone in Florida to shark attacks
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