Orlando is the gateway to Florida’s Walt Disney World, and this is what most people think of when considering a holiday in the Orlando area. In actual fact, Disney World is actually situated in the nearby town of Lake Buena Vista, but many people come via one of the two international airports in Orlando.
Disney World has grown and grown since the Magic Kingdom first opened here in 1971. Three other theme parks have since opened – Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios (formerly MGM) and Disney’s Animal Kingdom as well as a variety of water themed parks too. We could write several books on the visitor attractions at the Walt Disney World Resort, but suffice it to say that even if you don’t have children, this is one of those places which you must visit at least once in your life!
Following the success of Disney, the Orlando area has now become one of the theme park capitals of the world as numerous others have opened up too. If you’re not staying in a hotel near Disney (such as nearby Kissimmee) you may well be staying in one on International Drive. This 10 mile long street runs into the city and is the main tourist part of Orlando. On International Drive you’ll find literally hundreds of restaurants and hotels, as well as attractions like Wet n Wild (a water park), Ripley’s Believe It Or Not and Universal Resort.
Universal Orlando Resort is the other major player in the theme park game in Orlando. It includes Universal Studios which is a movie and TV based theme park including behind the scenes tours, backlots and numerous rides, and Universal Islands of Adventure which is a large thrill ride oriented theme park based on movies and TV. Other theme parks in the area include Sea World Orlando, Gatorland and Discovery Cove.
Downtown Orlando is now becoming quite a tourist hot spot itself. A decade or so ago there wasn’t an awful lot here to attract the tourists – Church Street Station was probably the biggest pull, a recreated old western style attraction with shops, restaurant and bars. Now the area around Orange Avenue has filled with bars, clubs and restaurants as well as concert venues and theatres, making this a very popular area.
Many people come to Orlando for the year-round golf, and the area has so many golf courses that you could easily play a different one every day of your holiday! Another popular pastime is shopping. There are many malls here including the huge Florida Mall as well as a number of outlet centres where you can pick up designer-name clothes at knock-down prices.