Orlando City Guide

Simply put, Orlando is the world's top tourist destination. You can enjoy year-round sunshine at world-class resorts and attractions, but there's so much more to see and do. Greater Orlando has many fine museums and galleries, wonderful parks where you can walk or picnic, and places to see spectacular wildlife.

There are beautifully restored historic districts boasting fine old buildings. Downtown Orlando is enjoying a renaissance and comes alive in the evening with restaurants, bars, and nightclubs. And, if you enjoy a little more action during the day, there are countless sporting opportunities from skydiving and snorkeling, to golf and horseback riding.

Enjoy the major attractions but make sure to explore the many delightful places that most tourists do not visit to really appreciate why Orlando is known as the City Beautiful.

Disneyworld and other major theme parks are one of the main reasons about 48 million tourists visit Orlando each year.
©2006 Disney
Disneyworld and other nearby
theme parks are a huge draw for
Orlando, bringing in about
48 million tourists each year.

The Best of Orlando

Every year about 48 million people from around the world
visit Orlando to enjoy its spectacular theme parks, wonderful resorts, and glorious weather. You would have to spend a lifetime of holidays to experience everything that Orlando and Central Florida have to offer. The major theme parks -- Walt Disney World, SeaWorld, and Universal -- are constantly adding new attractions and are world famous.

Less well known is the fact that Greater Orlando also is a
city of gardens and galleries, visual and performing arts, history
and heritage, and outdoor recreation and cultural treasures. Winter Park is a cultural Mecca with world-class museums and galleries and magnificent and historic lakeside homes. Orlando's Loch Haven Park is home to award-winning museums with hands-on exhibits that will delight all
members of the family.

Florida's state parks -- voted in 2005 as the best state park system in the nation -- is one of its best-kept secrets. One of the most spectacular state parks -- Wekiwa Springs -- is an 8,000-acre natural oasis surrounded by Greater Orlando's urban sprawl and offers a great day of hiking, canoeing, swimming, and sunbathing.

Nine major shopping malls sell everything from the most exclusive designer labels to basement bargains. You also can choose between scores of antique shops and fleas markets. When you're shopped-out, you can dine in one of the many hundreds of restaurants offering cuisines from around the world. Whatever your age or interest, Orlando has something for you.

Fast Facts & Info

Geography and landscape: Central Florida is mostly flat -- much of the area is below sea
level -- but you'll need good walking shoes if you plan on doing a lot of exploration on foot. It's also very hot so you need to drink lots of liquids if outdoors a lot, especially if you're exercising.

The landscape is very diverse as the hardwood forests of the north merge with the tropical forests and mangrove swamps of the south. There are more than 2,000 named lakes in the Greater Orlando area. The region also has a very rich wildlife, including black bear and alligator, and the endangered Florida panther and manatee.

General orientation: Interstate 4 is the major artery running through Greater Orlando and can be used to reach almost all the main attractions, malls, and downtown areas, although it is best avoided during rush hours, which are 7 am to 9 am and 4:30 to 6:30 pm.

To the south is Kissimmee and Walt Disney World; travel north to reach SeaWorld and Universal and the upscale Mall at Millenia, and then a little farther for downtown Orlando. A little way to the north is the historic city of Winter Park and Altamonte Springs with its shopping malls and restaurants.

An hour's drive to the east takes you to the Atlantic Coast, Daytona Beach, and Kennedy Space Center, while just more than an hour's drive west delivers you to the magnificent beaches of the Gulf of Mexico.

Just east of Orlando, toward the Atlantic Ocean, is Kennedy Space Center.
©2006 Orlando CVB
Just east of Orlando, toward the Atlantic Ocean, is the Kennedy Space Center.
See more pictures of Orlando.

Safety: Most of the main tourist areas are relatively safe with police and security guards on duty day and night. However, it is advisable not to wear expensive jewelry or flash large amounts of money, or to leave valuable items in plain view in your car.

As in all major cities, there are some areas where it's best not to venture late at night but these are mostly well off the main tourist routes. South Orange Blossom Trail, which runs from downtown Orlando south to Kissimmee, is best avoided late at night. If you get lost while driving, keep going until you find a busy gas station or convenience store where you can stop and ask for directions.

Population: While Orlando's population is around 220,000 residents, the population of Greater Orlando is about 1.7 million.

Climate/weather: Central Florida enjoys a subtropical climate with two seasons -- very hot summers and warm winters. Average summer temperatures are in the high 80s and low 90s with winter temperatures averaging in the high 60s. Winter frosts are rare.

Central Florida also is the lightening capital of the world with spectacular thunderstorms and torrential downpours that can end as quickly as they start. Hurricane season is from June 1 to November 30 and the last few seasons have been more active than normal. If a hurricane threatens, listen to the local news for advice about whether to evacuate, or move to an emergency center.

With so much to see and do in Orlando, you'll want to know how to get around town quickly and easily. In the next section, learn helpful tips about getting to and from the airport, using public transportation, and more.