© Mike Leco / USATourist.com
One of three major theme parks in Orlando, Universal Studio's Toon Lagoon brings cartoon and comic strip characters to life.
Orlando, Florida Travel Guide
Orlando is located in central Florida 75 miles (120 km) northeast of Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater. It is 50 miles (80 km) due west of Cape Canaveral, the Kennedy Space Center and Cocoa Beach. Best known as the home of Walt Disney World, this city is also the center of the largest concentration of family entertainment attractions in the world. Here is information to help you make the most of your Orlando vacation.
Orlando Weather is Semi-Tropical
The climate in central Florida is semi-tropical. Summers are oppressively hot and humid with almost daily afternoon thunderstorms. Winters are pleasantly mild with sunny weather and comfortable temperatures. Hurricane season, between August and December, can produce some unpleasant weather if a tropical storm veers inland. Many US families brave the heat and travel to Orlando during the summer school holidays from the beginning of June until the end of August during the school break. The off seasons in the fall and spring are often the best times to visit Disney World and the other Orlando attractions.
Travelling to Orlando
Two major airports serve Orlando, Florida. Orlando International Airport (MCO) is located 8 miles southeast of downtown. It is the second busiest airport in Florida with over 50 airlines flying in and out of Orlando daily from major cities throughout the USA. Orlando Sanford International Airport (SFB) is situated about 15 miles north of downtown. It serves numerous charter airlines from overseas destinations.
Airport buses provide convenient, inexpensive transportation to the downtown area and an airport van service provides quick transport to the International Drive area hotels. Most major car rental companies are located at the Orlando airport. You can also find local companies offering cars for rent. To save money, look for Orlando car rental discount coupon codes that you can use when booking your vacation.
If you don’t have a car, you can take the I-Ride Trolley. The Red Line runs along International Drive from the shopping outlets to SeaWorld. There are over 70 trolley stops with one usually arriving about every 20 minutes.
Most of the major attractions in the Orlando area are located along a ten-mile stretch of Route 4 southwest of the city. The Disney World Resort Complex is situated along Route 4 ten miles southwest of downtown. Universal Studios Orlando is located just 5 miles southwest of downtown. SeaWorld, WetnWild, plus many other attractions, numerous hotels, hundreds of restaurants and several shopping malls are all located along Route 4 between those two giant theme parks. Check our Orlando Tourist Map to view the locations.
Walt Disney World Travel Information
The Walt Disney World Resort Complex is immense. With over 40 square miles (100 square km.) of land, it is the size of a small country or at least a province. It contains four major theme parks. Each of them is equivalent in size to the Disney parks located in California, France or Japan. The complex also contains two water parks and its own Downtown Disney shopping area. There are also five golf courses, twenty-three themed hotels, hundreds of restaurants, several shopping centers, a vast sports complex, and a wide variety of additional entertainment. Camping is available at their Fort Wilderness Resort. We have more travel information on our Walt Disney World and Disney Tips pages that you’ll want to read before finalizing your Orlando vacation plans.
Best Orlando Attractions
While Disney World is the most popular destination for travelers to Orlando, there are countless others well worth visiting. Universal Studios Orlando contains two major theme parks, Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is the newest addition to the park and has brought thousands of fans from around the world wanting to experience Harry’s world. Within Universal Studios are luxury hotels, assorted restaurants and shopping facilities. Our Universal Studios Orlando Travel Guide has more information.
SeaWorld has a marine theme park with animal exhibits, rides, and live entertainment. Its TurtleTrek has two naturalistic habitats which consist of hundreds of freshwater fish, more than 1,500 saltwater fish and more than a dozen sea turtles. Their 3-D/360-degree dome theater film features the underwater journey of a sea turtle, and a new water park with a dolphin encounter experience is in the works.
At Discovery Cove you can swim with dolphins, snorkel in the Grand Reef with its thousands of exotic tropical fish, or explore the Aviary which is filled with unusual birds from all over the world. Because Discovery Cove is one of Orlando’s most popular attractions and limits the number of guests at the facility, reservations should be made a month or two in advance of your vacation.
LegoLand Orlando is one of the newest theme parks although it’s actually located in Winter Haven, about 45 minutes from Orlando. This park is a vacation destination geared to families with children under age 12. The 150-acre interactive theme park has more than 50 rides, shows and activities, plus their own water park.
WetnWild was one of the first water parks in Orlando and is considered by many to be the best. Open year-round, the pools are heated in cooler weather.
Gatorland is a 110-acre attraction with thousands of alligators and crocodiles, an aviary, petting zoo, nature walk, and unique and fun shows like “gator- wrestling”.
Forever Florida EcoSafaris is a 4700-acre eco-ranch and wildlife conservation area. It is set in the wilderness with natural streams, wetlands and dense cypress forests and adventurers can choose from four safari packages. You can also pedal through the treetops on the Cypress Canopy Cycle or try The Rattlesnake, a zipline rollercoaster.
Theme dinner shows such as Medieval Times provide you with entertainment like jousting tournaments and sword fights while feasting. Other popular dinner shows include Arabian, Pirates, Gangster or Mystery themes.
Hotels at or near Disney World in Orlando
Disney Resorts has over 30 resorts and hotels. Each has a different historic or geographic theme with prices varying from moderate to very expensive. There is no budget lodging at Disney, but all the facilities are very nice and all include free access to the convenient Disney internal transportation system. You can save some money by staying outside the park. Take a look at our Disney Hotel Guide for more information. Lake Buena Vista offers a number of moderate to expensive hotels near the entrance to Disney Resort.
Kissimmee Budget Hotels
The ten-mile stretch of route 192 between Disney World and the town of Kissimmee is lined with moderate and budget priced accommodations along with a wide array of restaurants, shops and entertainment facilities. You can still find hotel rooms in the $25 to $50 range along this highway. Look for hotel discount coupon codes to save even more when booking your Orlando vacation.
There are additional accommodations near downtown Orlando, in the vicinity of the two airports and scattered throughout the area. There are also many Disney vacation home communities that are located just outside the main entrance to the Disney parks.
We’ve put together a list of some of the more popular Disney discount hotels in Kissimmee.
There are great concentrations of souvenir shops, boutiques, specialty stores and shopping malls in the theme-park strip along route 4 southwest of downtown. You will find shops scattered throughout the major theme parks and in the hotel complexes. There are many shops and malls in Lake Buena Vista or along route 192 to Kissimmee and along International Boulevard near Universal Studios. Additional shopping centers are concentrated in downtown Orlando at Church Street and in the suburban communities of Altamonte Springs and Winter Park. The Florida Mall, located on Orange Blossom Trail, is the largest in Orlando with over 250 stores.
For serious shoppers, there are two very large Belz Factory Outlet Malls at West Oakridge Road and along International Drive near Universal Studios. Orlando Premium Outlets and the Lake Buena Vista Factory Stores are outlet malls located near Disney World.
Before deciding where to shop, take a look at our Florida Shopping Guide, which includes a map and more information about Orlando’s Malls.
Written by: Mike Leco
Top Photo Credit: © Mike Leco / USATourist.com
Photo Description: Entrance to Disney World in Orlando, Florida.