Flights to Orlando
You might call Orlando America’s playground, but it’s more formally known as “The Theme Park Capital of the World.” One of the most popular tourist destinations in the country, it’s home to Walt Disney World, the Universal Orlando Resort and SeaWorld among other attractions.
As the largest inland city in the Sunshine State, Orlando has been a popular resort area since the early part of the 20thcentury. By far the biggest boon to the city’s industry and economy was Walt Disney’s decision to build his resort there in 1965. Though Miami and Tampa were both considered to host the park, Disney ultimately chose Orlando thanks to its inland location, which afforded it some shelter from hurricanes.
Orlando’s thriving downtown is today home to a number of businesses in the hi-tech, entertainment and healthcare industries. And it may come as a surprise that it’s also a breeding ground for rock music, having produced acts including NSync, Backstreet Boys and Matchbox Twenty. And while you might come to Orlando for the theme parks, you’d be wise to consider staying for the rest of the city. Its downtown historic district, mainly centered around beautiful Lake Eola, features brick streets lined by century-old oaks and contains some of the oldest homes in Orlando. The city also boasts a rich performing-arts scene, museums, gardens and nature preserves. And its steadily progressing dining scene has recently seen touts by Wine Enthusiast and the New York Times.
Flying into Orlando International Airport means flying into the ninth busiest airport in the country. It’s well equipped with bars, restaurants, cafes and shopping. Unlike at many other airports, the food court is actually “before” security, so both travelers and non-travelers can enjoy meals together. Orlando International Airport also features a major collection of permanent artwork. Within its broad architectural expanses, most of which are filled with light and green foliage, the public artwork creates a warm welcome for arriving passengers and even helps them wayfind around the airport.
- Because Orlando International Airport is a major hub for the entire Central Florida region, there are a number of ways to get out and on your way.
- Of course, taxis, car rentals and limo service are all available.
- Lynx, the local metro area public transportation system, also offers bus service to downtown Orlando.
- If you’re traveling to Walt Disney World, the resort provides complimentary motor coach transportation to all of its hotels.
- And if you’re on the first leg of a cruise, make sure to check with your cruiseline, which may operate motorcoach transport to Port Canaveral, a major launching point.
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. Though Walt Disney World is practically a city unto itself at 40 square miles, it’s divided into four main parks: the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, the Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios.
The Magic Kingdom is the resort’s original park with its iconic Cinderella Castle. Throughout the park, rides and attractions draw inspiration from American cities, far-off lands, fantastic places and different periods throughout history.
Epcot, with its famous world showcase, has been described as a sort of “permanent World’s Fair,” with attractions that celebrate innovation and human achievement. The Animal Kingdom is a 580-acre zoo built around the natural environment and focused on animal conservation. And Hollywood Studios celebrates show business, from film and TV to music and theater.
Orlando’s other major theme park, Universal Orlando, is smaller and more pedestrian-friendly than Disney. It features six themed areas all centered around a lagoon. One of the most popular is the recently added Wizarding World of Harry Potter, immortalizing even further the world J.K. Rowling created.
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 in the mid-70s°F in the winter and mid-80s°F in the summer.
In recent years, the culinary scene in Orlando has exploded with a growing collection of restaurants and award-winning chefs. It’s also, incidentally, the city with the most food trucks per capita. You’ll find that the city has a number of restaurants serving cuisines including Thai, Indian, Japanese, African and Scandinavian among many others.
ARTS AND CULTURE
For art lovers, a monthly gallery hop is sponsored by the Downtown Arts District. You’ll also find impressive collections at both the Orlando Museum of Art and the Cornell Fine Arts Museum. For an educational afternoon, stop by the Orlando Science Center for its engaging interactive exhibits. And catch renowned performers from pop, rock and jazz to dance and Broadway at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts.
Whether you’re visiting Orlando as a family, a couple or a group of friends, you’ll easily find a hotel that fits the vacation you’re planning.
The funky and family-friendly Cabana Bay Beach Resort at Universal Studios offers standard rooms and family suites at affordable prices. Designed in the style of 1950s and 60s beach resorts, the resort features two huge pools, a waterslide, lazy river, 10-lane bowling alley and also includes early park admission to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
Looking for a more romantic getaway? Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort has two-bedroom, two-bathroom bungalows complete with private plunge pools. Many accommodations have views of the nightly firework display.
If you’d rather stay in Orlando amidst the buzz and glow of the downtown area, Aloft Orlando Downtown is where the cool kids go. Located directly across the street from the Dr. Philips Center for the Performing Arts, it offers easy access to bars, restaurants and nightlife.
Orlando has two basic seasons each year. Its hot and rainy season lasts from May through late September and its warm and dry season runs from October through April. During the humid summer season, high temperatures hover in the low to mid 90s°F. During the cooler part of the year, humidity is lower and temperatures are more moderate. In January, the average daily temperature is 60°F.