fireworks over Orlando

Orlando International Airport (MCO)

Ready your camera for a trip to Orlando because between Disney World and Universal Studios, you're in for a photo-op filled trip. Beloved characters like Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Spongebob Squarepants, Shrek and Curious George are waiting to meet and greet and strike a pose with you.

Within these massive theme parks are distinct, smaller parks known the world over. Disney has EpCot with it's famous world showcase, the Magic Kingdom (it's a small world, after all), the Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios plus water parks. Universal Studios recently added the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, immortalizing even further the world J.K. Rowling created.

More Magic in Town

What’s less well-known is that downtown Orlando has become a hot spot for trendy restaurants, cool bars and prestigious cultural events. The scene’s gotten so enticing in recent years that Orlando’s movers and shakers have quietly moved themselves out of their suburban homes and into sky-high condos that circle the iconic Lake Eola Park downtown.

Swans gracefully glide on Lake Eola, swimming around the giant fountain and up to the Walt Disney Amphitheatre which was donated to the city in 1989. The loop around the lake is a breezy 0.9 miles, making it easy to plan a daily run, and the weather generally complies as well with lots of sunshine and temperatures hovering at the mid-70s in the winter and mid-80s in the summer.

For art lovers, a monthly gallery hop is sponsored by the Downtown Arts District and for foodies, four-star restaurants offer practically any type of cuisine, from steak to sushi. So if you find yourself looking for something to do after you’ve spent some time with the mouse, for something a little less theme-parky and a little more grown up — head downtown and enjoy Orlando like a native.

Book It to Orlando

Orlando may be famous for its proximity to some of the world’s biggest theme parks, but its hip and happening downtown is also drawing crowds these days.

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