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.

Getting In, Getting Around Orlando


If you're visiting Orlando for the first time, you obvioiusly won't know the best ways to get around the city. The following tips should help.

From the Airport

Car rental: Orlando has a large rental car market. All the major rental companies are based at or close to Orlando International Airport. When reserving your vehicle, check to see if the rental company is located at the airport or if you have to take a courtesy shuttle to an offsite location. The car rental desks are located on Level 1 on both A and B areas, and signs are clearly posted to help direct you.

Most rental companies are just a few minutes ride from the airport, and they provide a shuttle service for convenience with departure points well marked with signs. When picking up your rental vehicle, make sure to get a map of the area and ask the agent to mark the best route to your destination.

Getting out of Orlando International Airport isn't easy if you're a stranger, mainly because several major roads converge on the airport. Drive slowly so that you have time to get into the right lane to exit the airport.

Taxi: Taxis are available, with well-posted signs located throughout the airport. Taxis are allowed to carry up to nine passengers, and the metered rate is irrespective of the number of passengers. Expect to pay $12 from the airport to an airport hotel, $35 to downtown Orlando, $50 to $60 to Kissimmee, and $60 to Walt Disney World. Limousines normally have fixed rates so agree on the fare before you set off.

Public transportation: Shuttle vans operate from the airport and go to downtown Orlando and all the main tourist destinations. They're a little cheaper than taxis, and it is cheaper to buy a roundtrip ticket. Expect to pay about $10 per person one way from the airport to airport hotels and $15 for a roundtrip ticket; $15 one way to International Drive and downtown and $25 for the roundtrip; and $23 one way to Kissimmee and $41 for the roundtrip. 

Lynx Orlando Transit Authority provides bus service from the airport to downtown Orlando. Buses are available on Level 1 of the airport's main terminal on the B Side at commercial lane spaces B12-14. Expect your ride to downtown Orlando to take 40 minutes and your ride to International Drive to be about 60 minutes. Fare cost is $1.50 per person.

Driving In

Rush hour: Interstate 4 is best avoided during rush hours -- 7 am to 9 am and 4:30 pm to 6:30 pm. Traffic is heaviest heading west in the mornings and is almost always backed up heading east in the evenings. When it's raining, everything slows down even more. If you have to travel on main roads during these times, give yourself an extra 30 to 45 minutes if driving more than 10 miles.

Rules of the road: Most Florida drivers don't know their vehicles have traffic indicators because they never seem to use them. A large number also ignore traffic lights, so great care should be taken at all intersections. Drivers regularly continue moving even though the traffic light is red. Unless posted otherwise, motorists are able to make a left turn on a red light -- provided it is safe to do so.

Getting Around

Public transportation: Lynx offers a bus service with routes to downtown, major attractions, and several neighborhoods. The standard one-way fare is $1.50, and a seven-day pass costs $12. You must have a pass or the exact fare. Passes can be bought at scores of Lynx Pass Partner outlets throughout Greater Orlando.

International Drive is serviced by I-Ride Trolleys from 8 am to 10:30 pm. They operate every 20 minutes; the single fare is $1, and a one-day pass is $3. You can get on and off where you please, but you must have either a pass or the exact fare.

I-Ride Trolleys run along International Drive between 8 am and 10:30 pm for just a dollar a ride.
©2006 Orlando CVB
I-Ride Trolleys run along International Drive between
8 am and 10:30 pm for just a dollar a ride.

Taxis, on foot, or by bike: Taxis are plentiful, but for a late-night treat in downtown Orlando, you can also take a horse-drawn carriage or rickshaw ride. Carriage rides are available in downtown Orlando beginning at 7:30 pm, so pick up one on Church Street.

Rickshaws are available in the evening along International Drive and the downtown area. They carry three to four people and are free for up to two miles, but keep in mind that the drivers work for tips only. Longer rides are negotiable. You can hail them or ask staff at your hotel or restaurant to call one.

Bicycles can be hired at many locations, but are best used in resort areas away from main roads. Because of the distances between hotels, attractions, malls and so on, it is usually best to drive to your destination.

Now that you know how to get around, where will you go first? See the next section for some suggestions on special events and attractions.

Orlando Special Events & Attractions

Most people come to Orlando for its theme parks, which just keep growing. The Walt Disney World Resort area now includes the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom, and Disney-MGM Studios. It also operates two water parks, more than 20 resorts, Downtown Disney, and Disney's Boardwalk.

Anheuser-Busch operates SeaWorld and the more exclusive Discovery Cove, where you can swim with the dolphins. Just up the road are Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure, and sandwiched between is City Walk with its nightclubs, themed restaurants, shops, and theaters. All of these parks stage several annual events such as Universal's Halloween Horror Nights and Epcot's International Flower and Garden Festival.

Insider's Guide: The Best of Special Events & Attractions in Orlando

Orlando has a multitude of attractions and theme parks to visit. The key is to know how to experience them without wearing yourself out or putting a dent in your pocketbook.

Orlando is not a cheap destination, but there are several ways to save money. You can buy discount tickets for attractions in advance, either online or at one of the many licensed outlets. This will help you save money and avoid long lines at attractions. Pick up discount coupon books available everywhere to save even more money.

Remember that planning is important if you want to get the most out of your visit. Download maps of the different attractions and decide what you want to see and then how best to do it. At SeaWorld Orlando (707 SeaWorld Drive), for instance, many people plan the Shamu (the killer whale) Show for the end of their visit, so you should do it first.

At Epcot, most tourists visit Future World first because it's just inside the entrance, and then they make their way to World Showcase with its national pavilions. Visit the pavilions first and there will be fewer crowds both there and when you get to Future World later.

Plan to go to Disney's Animal Kingdom early because the animals sleep or take shelter from the sun during the hottest parts of the day, so there's less to see. This theme park has more than 1,000 animals roaming on a 500-acre complex and offers shows and Expedition Everest, its latest thrill ride.

The best theme park for families with young children is Disney's Magic Kingdom (off of Interstate 4). If you love the movies, you should to visit Universal Studios Florida (100 Universal Studios Plaza) or Disney-MGM Studios, which mixes film themes and characters with rides and shows.

SeaWorld Orlando (707 SeaWorld Drive) is a mix of marvelous marine exhibits and an adventure park. It is also the park where you have to do the most planning because there are great shows running throughout the day and you need to work out an itinerary in order to see them all and still take in all the other exhibits. One of the true pleasures of SeaWorld is that you can touch many of the creatures, especially dolphins and giant sting rays. It also offers a couple of scary rides, but there's a lot more to see and do if this isn't your thing.

Epcot is a lot tamer with few white-knuckle rides but lots of great attractions that offer glimpses into the future world of technology. Its national pavilions provide interesting information on the culture, cuisine, and characters of 11 countries.

If you're a roller coaster freak, however, you should go to the Islands of Adventure (1000 Universal Studios Plaza), which features innovative thrill rides galore, such as the Dueling Dragons, the world's first inverted, dueling roller-coasters that pass within inches of each other. The most popular rides include Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man, Storm Force Acceleration, Incredible Hulk Coaster, and Jurassic Park River Adventure.

Discovery Cove (6000 Discovery Cove Way) allows you to swim with dolphins, stingrays, and tropical fish. Numbers are limited, and everything, including unlimited food and drink, is included in the price.

The Holy Land Experience (4655 Vineland Rd) is Orlando's latest attraction. The 15-acre "living Biblical museum" features replicas of historic Jerusalem buildings and multimedia musical presentations. Visitors can stroll through the Jerusalem Market, watch a re-enactment of Jesus' ministry, or visit the Dead Sea Quamran Caves, a replica of where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found in 1947.

In addition to biblical re-enactments, The Holy Land Experience offers replicas of historic buildings in Jerusalem and musical presentations.
©2006 Orlando CVB
In addition to biblical re-enactments, The Holy Land Experience offers
replicas of historic buildings in Jerusalem and musical presentations.

If you want to get a look at some extraordinary items, make sure to stop at Ripley's Believe It or Not! Orlando Oddities (8201 International Drive). You can see a Rolls Royce made in 1901 with 63 pints of glue and more than 1 million ordinary matchsticks, or a portrait of Van Gogh made from 3,000 postcards depicting 115 different Van Gogh paintings and drawings. Hundreds of unusual and entertaining exhibits are on display in 16 galleries.

Ever see an upside-down building? You can explore one at Wonderworks (9607 International Drive). This museum has more than 100 hands-on exhibits that are unusual, unexplainable, and mind boggling. It also lays claim to the world's largest extreme laser tag arena/arcade.

If go-carts and arcades are more your speed, you should visit the Fun Spot Action Park (5551 Del Verde Way). Its 10,000-square-foot arcade holds many popular and new games, four tracks are available to test your go-cart driving skills, and rides like a 100-foot Ferris wheel or bumper boats will keep you entertained.

If you have any interest in space exploration, you should drive over to the Kennedy Space Center. Exhibits tell the story of the U.S. Space Program. Visitors also can explore a Shuttle and touch a piece of moon rock.

Apart from being great fun, a day at a major attraction can be pretty grueling with so much to see and do, especially if you have young children. It's best to plan to visit an attraction one day followed by a more relaxing day, perhaps visiting a museum in the morning, and shopping in the afternoon before returning for a swim before dinner.

While most visitors come for the major attractions we noted in this section, there are many other things to enjoy in Orlando, such as the city's arts and culture. See the next page for information on Orlando's arts scene.

Orlando Arts & Culture

Orlando is so well known for its over-the-top theme parks that its rich artistic and cultural heritage is often overlooked. However, Greater Orlando boasts some world famous museums and art galleries. In fact, the Morse Museum of American Art has the largest collection of works by American artist Louis Comfort Tiffany.

Orlando has its own opera and ballet companies, and local theaters regularly host visiting companies. Orlando-based University of Central Florida stages the Shakespeare Festival every year and now has a permanent theater downtown.

The nearby city of Winter Park hosts two major outdoor festivals every year, including the three-day annual Sidewalk Art Festival in March with more than 1,400 artists showcasing their work, and the Autumn Art Festival in October, featuring artwork, entertainment, and events for the entire family.

View the largest collection of works by Louis Comfort Tiffany at Orlando's Morse Museum of American Art.
©2006 Orlando CVB
View the largest collection
of works by Louis Comfort Tiffany
at Orlando's Morse
Museum of American Art.

Insider's Guide: The Best of Arts & Culture in Orlando

The city of Winter Park (just north of Orlando off of Interstate 436) and downtown Orlando's Lock Haven Park (900 E Princeton St) are the area's two major cultural centers. Winter Park has the Rollins College's Cornell Fine Art Museum (1000 Holt Ave), with impressive collections of American and European Art, and the Morse Museum of American Art (445 N Park Ave), which in addition to its Tiffany collection has an outstanding collection of American arts and crafts. Winter Park's Rollins College Knowles Memorial Chapel (1000 Holt Ave) is home of the annual Bach Festival, which attracts both musicians and visitors from around the world.

Loch Haven Park houses the Mennello Museum of American Folk Art (900 E Princeton St), famous for its permanent collection of paintings by Earl Cunningham, and the Orlando Museum of Art (2416 N Mill Ave), which features many famous 19th- and 20th-century American artists. This museum has permanent and touring exhibits under three main collections -- American Art, African Art, and Art of the Ancient Americas.

The American Art Collection features American artists from the 18th century to the present, but the Ancient American Art collection is more fascinating with ceramic, jade, stone, cloth, gold, and silver artifacts from more than 30 different groups, including the cultures of the Anasazi, Aztec, Zapotec, Inca, Monche, and Nazca.

The Orlando Science Center (777 E Princeton St), is a fun hands-on learning center geared primarily toward children. The 207,000-square-foot facility shows how science can be experienced up close and personal through exhibits. You'll also find a large domed theater featuring 3-D films and planetarium shows.

The Maitland Art Center (231 W Packwood Ave, Maitland) near Lake Sybelia is a great place to view some of the area's best artwork and a bronze bust of the center's founder, artist Jules Andre Smith. The building's unique architecture, carved by Smith, is considered art itself with its Mayan and Aztec designs and gardens and courtyards. Admission is free, but donations are welcomed.

The Orlando City Hall Mayor's Gallery (400 S Orange Ave) features local artists' creations with an accent on folk art. Special exhibits are displayed, too, and rotate every three months.

Leu Botanical Gardens (1920 N Forest Ave), established by industrialist Harry P. Leu more than 100 years ago, is also worth a visit both for the plants and the sculptures that are to be found throughout the gardens. Most of the sculptures have a gardening theme such as "Man and Wheelbarrow."

There are miles of paved walks through the different gardens, which include the largest Camellia collection in America outside California, and the largest formal rose garden in Florida. The house is now a museum and has been meticulously restored to the period when Harry Leu lived there. It's a wonderful display of turn-of-the-20th-century Florida living. Conducted tours are available.

Orlando's skyline has changed dramatically in recent years. Find out about the city's architecture and landmarks on the next page.

Orlando Architecture & Landmarks


If you look at a photograph of Orlando's skyline five years ago and compare it with today, you wouldn't recognize it. So much construction is taking place that downtown Orlando has been fully transformed -- and for the better.

With more high-rise condominiums being built, more people have moved back into the city, and that has encouraged more businesses, restaurants, shops, and theaters to cater to them. Many fine old buildings have been protected and restored. Greater Orlando, however, is really a city of separate communities, and many of these have buildings that are architectural gems.

College Park has changed little over the last decades, and its historic homes nestle among towering oaks. The nearby city of Winter Park boasts many Spanish-style buildings in and around the campus of Rollins College, which was founded in 1885 and is the oldest recognized college in Florida.

New residential developments, such as Baldwin Park and Thornton Park in Orlando, are models of how contemporary architecture and nature can blend.

Orlando's skyline has changed dramatically in recent years.
©2006 Orlando CVB
With many condos and other
buildings being built downtown,
Orlando's skyline has changed
dramatically in recent years.

Eatonville, north of Orlando, is one of the oldest all-Black towns to be formed after the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 and was the first to be incorporated. The town features the Zora Neale Hurston Monument (200 block of East Kennedy Blvd), a marker honoring the hometown woman who was an anthropologist, folklorist, and distinguished writer during the Harlem Renaissance. Every winter the town stages the Zora Neale Hurston Festival of the Arts in memory of the writer who was born there.

Insider's Guide:
The Best of Architecture & Landmarks in
Orlando

The best view of Greater Orlando is seen from the top of SeaWorld Orlando's Sky Tower (7007 SeaWorld Drive). The passenger capsule takes six minutes to climb to the top of the 400-foot landmark. As it ascends, the capsule also rotates slowly to show its passengers a complete bird's eye view.

Numerous interesting buildings can be seen at ground level in downtown Orlando if you go on a scheduled or self-guided tour.

Visit the Well's Built Museum of African American History formerly called the Wells Built Hotel (511 W South St at Division St, 407-245-7535). Dr. William Wells, Orlando's first African-American physician, built the hotel in 1926 to provide lodging to African Americans during segregation, and famous former guests include Duke Ellington and Ray Charles.

Stop by the Old Orlando Railroad Depot (100-102 W Church St), a 21/2-story bricking building made for 19th-century railroad and hotel magnate Henry B. Plant during large-scale development in the area. The building is unique with its three-story corner tower and three-story open porch. The railroad reached Orlando in 1880, and the South Florida Railroad built this depot in 1889.

The Old Orange County Courthouse (65 E Central Blvd) was completed in 1927 at a cost of $1 million. It's the finest example of Beaux Arts architecture in the city. Rumor states that the building is home for two ghosts -- an 8-year-old girl who died close by and a prisoner who killed himself while being held in a jail cell awaiting his criminal sentence. The building also is home to the Orange County Regional History Center.

The City of Celebration (on Interstate 4 south of the Walt Disney World Resort) is a fast-growing Disney development that set out to capture the best of the old in a new town. Homes have front porches where neighbors sit out and wave to each other. You can walk to the shops, restaurants, parks and town center. Visit Market Street, which is the heart of the new "old" city.

The Historic Waterhouse Residence and Carpentry Shop and Museum (820 Lake Lily Drive, Maitland) features a fully-restored 1884 Victorian home. Its educational programs and period-correct buildings are designed to teach visitors about the Victorian period in America.

Need a break from the landmarks and architecture of Orlando? Check out the next page for suggestions on where to shop in Orlando.

With more high-rise condominiums being built, more people have moved back into the city, and that has encouraged more businesses, restaurants, shops, and theaters to cater to them. Many fine old buildings have been protected and restored. Greater Orlando, however, is really a city of separate communities, and many of these have buildings that are architectural gems.

College Park has changed little over the last decades, and its historic homes nestle among towering oaks. The nearby city of Winter Park boasts many Spanish-style buildings in and around the campus of Rollins College, which was founded in 1885 and is the oldest recognized college in Florida.

New residential developments, such as Baldwin Park and Thornton Park in Orlando, are models of how contemporary architecture and nature can blend.

Orlando's skyline has changed dramatically in recent years.
©2006 Orlando CVB
With many condos and other
buildings being built downtown,
Orlando's skyline has changed
dramatically in recent years.

Eatonville, north of Orlando, is one of the oldest all-Black towns to be formed after the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 and was the first to be incorporated. The town features the Zora Neale Hurston Monument (200 block of East Kennedy Blvd), a marker honoring the hometown woman who was an anthropologist, folklorist, and distinguished writer during the Harlem Renaissance. Every winter the town stages the Zora Neale Hurston Festival of the Arts in memory of the writer who was born there.

Insider's Guide:
The Best of Architecture & Landmarks in
Orlando

The best view of Greater Orlando is seen from the top of SeaWorld Orlando's Sky Tower (7007 SeaWorld Drive). The passenger capsule takes six minutes to climb to the top of the 400-foot landmark. As it ascends, the capsule also rotates slowly to show its passengers a complete bird's eye view.

Numerous interesting buildings can be seen at ground level in downtown Orlando if you go on a scheduled or self-guided tour.

Visit the Well's Built Museum of African American History formerly called the Wells Built Hotel (511 W South St at Division St, 407-245-7535). Dr. William Wells, Orlando's first African-American physician, built the hotel in 1926 to provide lodging to African Americans during segregation, and famous former guests include Duke Ellington and Ray Charles.

Stop by the Old Orlando Railroad Depot (100-102 W Church St), a 21/2-story bricking building made for 19th-century railroad and hotel magnate Henry B. Plant during large-scale development in the area. The building is unique with its three-story corner tower and three-story open porch. The railroad reached Orlando in 1880, and the South Florida Railroad built this depot in 1889.

The Old Orange County Courthouse (65 E Central Blvd) was completed in 1927 at a cost of $1 million. It's the finest example of Beaux Arts architecture in the city. Rumor states that the building is home for two ghosts -- an 8-year-old girl who died close by and a prisoner who killed himself while being held in a jail cell awaiting his criminal sentence. The building also is home to the Orange County Regional History Center.

The City of Celebration (on Interstate 4 south of the Walt Disney World Resort) is a fast-growing Disney development that set out to capture the best of the old in a new town. Homes have front porches where neighbors sit out and wave to each other. You can walk to the shops, restaurants, parks and town center. Visit Market Street, which is the heart of the new "old" city.

The Historic Waterhouse Residence and Carpentry Shop and Museum (820 Lake Lily Drive, Maitland) features a fully-restored 1884 Victorian home. Its educational programs and period-correct buildings are designed to teach visitors about the Victorian period in America.

Need a break from the landmarks and architecture of Orlando? Check out the next page for suggestions on where to shop in Orlando.

Orlando Shopping


Greater Orlando has nine major shopping malls and hundreds of other shops, factory outlets, bargain boutiques, and flea markets. The largest malls have huge parking lots, so make sure you know where your car is located and which entrance you need to use to get back to it! All the malls also have extensive food courts so you can shop and eat all day long.

The theme parks and attractions have their own shops and offer a pick-up service so you can collect your purchases as you leave the park at the end of the day. This is helpful if you don't want to carry bags or packages around.

Insider's Guide: The Best of Shopping in Orlando

The Mall at Millenia (4200 Conroy Road, South Orlando) is the most upscale shopping mall in the area, hosting 150 world famous stores such as Bloomingdale's, Cartier, Dior, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Jimmy Choo, and Tiffany's. You can receive help from the mall's full-service concierge or take advantage of valet parking.

For upscale shopping at Cartier, Jimmy Choo, and the like, visit the Mall at Millenia in South Orlando.
©2006 Orlando CVB
For upscale shopping at Cartier, Jimmy Choo, and the like,
visit the Mall at Millenia in South Orlando.

Altamonte Springs Mall, just north of Orlando, (451 E Altamonte Drive, Altamonte Springs) also offers hundreds of different retail outlets with usually ample parking. The mall has a broad range of retail stores, including Abercrombie & Fitch, Banana Republic, Victoria's Secret, and Sears.

The nearby city of Winter Park's tree-lined and charming Park Avenue offers boutiques, galleries, and shops from the casual chic of Synergy (202-B Park Ave South), to the trendy fashions of Tuni (301 Park Ave South), and the eclectic Shou'Ture (339 S Park Ave South), where you can find top designer shoes and get a pedicure at the same time.

If you're interested in antiques, you should visit Antique Row on North Orange AvenueLake Ivanhoe in Orlando. This three-mile stretch of small shops and galleries offers a wide range of art and antiques for the serious collector and the bargain hunter. Many of the shops are owner-operated so hours can vary, but most are open from 10 am to 5 pm.

These outlets offer brand-name products including clothes (stores such as Burberry, Armani, Anne Klein, Kenneth Cole, and La Perla), shoes, electronics, cameras, housewares, music, toys, and souvenirs. You can save even more money by going online and joining Prime Outlets Orlando 1Club and Orlando Premium Outlet's VIP Shopper Club, which gives savings of 10 to 35 percent at selected stores.

Market Street in the City of Celebration (on Interstate 4 south of the Walt Disney World Resort) is also worth visiting for its shops. The variety of stores available here include upscale jewelers, such as Jewel Box Fine Jewelers, and gift shops like the Market Street Gallery. Nottingham's also offers old-world antiques, reproductions, and furniture.

Renninger's Twin Markets (20651 US Highway 441) in Mount Dora is a good off-the-beaten-path location for antique shopping less than an hour from Orlando. More than 180 shops are located inside Renninger's 40,000-square-foot air-conditioned building. Shoppers can find antique furniture, dolls, art, pottery, fishing items, and more.

After spending the day with your kids at Orlando's theme parks and such, chances are you'll be ready for a night out -- adults only. Go to the next page to find out about all the best hotspots for entertainment and nightlife in Orlando.

Orlando Nightlife & Entertainment

The Florida sun is hot, but the Central Florida nightlife is even hotter. You can dine and dance the night away at Universal City Walk and Downtown Disney's Pleasure Island. City Walk boasts the world's largest Hard Rock Cafe while a single ticket to Pleasure Island gives you access to seven clubs. Both venues have clubs offering different styles of music.

Downtown Orlando has a wide range of bars, clubs, and discos, while the clubs on International Drive stay open until the late hours. Most clubs have a cover charge, and most stay open until 1 or 2 am. At that time of the night, the police in downtown Orlando are not generally sympathetic to noisy or rowdy behavior.

There are 465 movie screens in theaters throughout Greater Orlando, including the 24 screens at Downtown Disney's West Side or the 18-screen AMC Theater (433 E Altamonte Drive) in Altamonte Springs.

Maitland's Enzian Theater (1300 S Orlando Ave) is Central Florida's only alternative cinema, hosting six annual film festivals and screenings for independent and cult classic films.

Numerous dinner shows are available with unique entertainment. At Orlando's Sleuths Mystery Dinner Shows (8267 International Drive), you can use your investigative skills to solve a murder while enjoying a quality meal. At Kissimmee's Arabian Nights Dinner Theater (6225 W Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway), you can watch spectacular horsemanship in the world's largest indoor equestrian arena.

Insider's Guide: The Best of Nightlife & Entertainment in Orlando

Downtown Disney is also home of Cirque du Soleil La Nouba, which is part circus, part theater, and simply sensational. The eclectic 90-minute show, which includes clowns, trapeze artists, cyclists, and aerial ballerinas, will leave you breathless, and the memories will stay with you forever. It's simply fantastic, and you cannot afford to miss out.

Cirque du Soleil La Nouba is an incredible show, with aerial ballerians, trapeze artists, and more wowing audiences.
©2006 Orlando CVB
Cirque du Soleil La Nouba is an incredible
90-minute show that never fails to wow audiences.

The hottest new nightclub is the Red Coconut Club (at Universal CityWalk, 200 Universal Studios Plaza). The club features a house band that plays any music from Frank Sinatra to John Mellencamp, and also alternates its entertainment schedule with live guest groups and DJs. Music is played daily from 6 pm to 2 am. The club is also noted for its signature martinis.

The most eccentric club is Orlando's Parliament House (410 N Orange Blossom Trail), where pretty much anything goes. It has six bars, and between dancing to the latest hits, you can take in the female impersonator review, go country in the Western bar, or sing-along in the piano bar.

For a night of laughs and improv, you should spend an evening at the Sak Comedy Lab (398 W Amelia St) in downtown Orlando. The Lab is a 200-seat improv comedy theater that performs nightly Tuesday through Saturday. It stages a number of stand-up acts and shows, including the Duel of Fools, in which comics compete and the audience picks the winner.

For a girl's night out, go to Mako's (27 W Church St). It's one of the hottest nightclubs in town with some of the best DJs around. It doesn't really liven up until after 11:30 pm, but always expect it to be crowded.

For the best martinis in Orlando, pop in to Ybor's (41 Church St). Dim lights and an opulent setting make this nightclub a great place to hang out, sip martinis or a vintage scotch, or enjoy a fine cigar. Martinis and other drinks are cheaper between 5 pm and 7 pm, and the place is best avoided on weekends when it gets packed. For a taste-bud treat, try the club's super-sized Platinum Martini.

At last count, there were about 90 nightspots in the Greater Orlando area offering every kind of music and catering to every taste. The Calendar in Friday's Orlando Sentinel newspaper has information about all the latest acts and show times.

Although Orlando is mostly known for theme parks that have wild, over-the-top attractions, there also are plenty of more tranquil things to do. In the next section, we'll tell you how to relax and unwind while visiting Orlando.

Relaxing & Unwinding in Orlando

There is nowhere better to unwind than Orlando. Play a leisurely round of golf, enjoy a poolside champagne brunch, or picnic in one of Orlando's beautiful parks. Away from the bustle of the major attractions, there are sanctuaries of peace and quiet.

Lake Enola and Loch Haven Park in Orlando offer gentle walking, waterside benches for picnics or people-watching, and breathtaking panoramic views of the city. There are spas to be pampered in and resorts with Olympic-size pools, surrounded by palm trees and tropical vegetation, where you can laze the day away. And, just a short drive away are the magnificent beaches of the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf Coast.

Insider's Guide: The Best of Relaxing & Unwinding in Orlando

Spend a leisurely day at Wekiwa Springs State Park (1800 Wekiwa Circle), just north of Orlando in Apopka. It's where many of the locals hang out on the weekend, so go during the week when it's less busy. You can sunbathe or swim in the spring that remains warm year-round, or walk along 13 miles of gentle trails through Florida vegetation that hasn't changed for thousands of years.

If you take a canoe trip along the Wekiva River, you might spot river otters, black bears, and alligators. Admission to the park is $5 per car, so it's one of the best value deals around. You can also rent canoes or kayaks at the park for $12 for two hours, and barbecue grills are provided.

A great way to relax and unwind is to spend a few hours next to the pool (every resort has one) or at a nearby beach. Within a 45-minute drive of Orlando is Cocoa Beach with its white sand beaches, or drive a little farther north to New Smyrna Beach and Daytona Beach. 

Golf in Orlando is as good as it gets. More golf courses are located in the Greater Orlando area than anywhere else on earth. You should play early or late in the day when the sun isn't so warm. The Kissimmee Golf Club (3103 Florida Coach Drive, Kissimmee) is a challenging 18-hole course with the additional hazard of lots of wildlife.

Other good public 18-hole courses are the Wekiva Golf Club (4100 Wekiva Club Ct, Longwood) and the Hawk's Landing Golf Club (8701 World Center Drive). No matter how you do on the links, each course has a clubhouse to relax in afterward.

Relax on an hour-long, narrated Winter Park Scenic Boat Tour, an 18-passenger boat ride on three of seven lakes and two narrow, manmade canals in the small city north of Orlando. The boats leave every hour from the end of Morse Boulevard at Lake Osceola in the city of Winter Park.

Spend a few hours exploring Lake Eola at Lake Eola Park (195 N Rosalind Ave) in the heart of downtown Orlando. The city was originally situated on the west side of the lake, and residents swam and fished in the lake and picnicked along its banks.

This striking fountain is part of Lake Eola Park in downtown Orlando.
©2006 Orlando CVB
This striking fountain is part of Lake Eola Park in downtown Orlando.

Today, the city has encircled the lake, and a walk around the water's edge offers panoramic views of Orlando's skyline. The park is beautifully landscaped, rich in wildlife, and has a spectacular fountain in the center of the lake.

Just east of Lake Eola is Thornton Park, one of Orlando's trendiest new areas that has some great restaurants and cafes, such as Mobil Two-Star Hue (629 E Central Blvd), which offers gourmet fare and killer martinis.

If you are interested in people-watching, grab a table at Houston's (215 S Orlando Ave) in Winter Park between 5 pm and 7 pm any weekday or sit at Bahama Breeze (499 E Altamonte Drive) in Altamonte Springs around the same hours. You can eat and drink, but most people go to see and be seen.

Are you ready for something a little more active? In the next section, you'll find suggestions on how to take in all the sights of Orlando on organized tours.

Orlando Organized Tours Overview


Orlando has many choices for organized tours, from whale watching along the Atlantic Coast with Melbourne Beach's Fun Day Eco-Tours (1905 S Atlantic St), to a romantic dinner cruise aboard a steamship on the St. Johns River through Rivership Romance Tours (433 N Palmetto Ave) at Monroe Harbor Marina in Sanford.

You can take airboat rides through swamps looking for alligators with the Boggy Creek Airboat and Wildlife Safari Rides (2001 E Southport Rd) in Kissimmee, or sip champagne during a sunset hot air balloon ride offered through Orlando Hot Air Balloons (1461 Park Lake St) in Orlando.

What could be more romantic than a sunset hot air balloon ride?
©2006 Orlando CVB
What could be more romantic than a ride in a hot air balloon at sunset?
This is just one of the many organized outings available in Orlando.

Horseback riding tours to suit all skill levels are available through Horse World Riding Stables (3705 S Poinciana Blvd, Kissimmee). If guided hiking and canoeing trips are more your style, explore Wekiwa Springs State Park in Apopka with help from Wekiwa Springs State Park Nature Adventures (1800 Wekiwa Circle).

You might like to take a coach tour to the Kennedy Space Center, which is where the astronauts blast off, with Orlando Sightseeing Tours, or you could go on a moonlight history tour at Orlando's Greenwood Cemetery (1603 Greenwood St), visiting about 100 graves of notable people in the city's history.

Where will you lay your head at night after a fun-filled day of sightseeing in Orlando? Go to the next section for some lodging suggestions.

Orlando Hotels Guide


Greater Orlando has 113,000 hotel and motel rooms in a wide range of categories -- from ultra-luxurious to budget, mid-scale, or pretty basic.

From luxurious accommodations to basic rooms, the lodging options in Orlando can suit any need.
©2006 Orlando CVB
From luxurious accommodations to very basic rooms, the lodging
options in Orlando can suit any need. And, yes, most hotels
have pools so that you can fully enjoy the hot Florida sun.

During the high season (Thanksgiving to Easter), most hotels have high-occupancy rates, but at other times you can cruise around and find bargains, especially along Highway 192 in Kissimmee, which is just southeast of the Magic Kingdom. You can always ask to see your room and if it doesn't meet your standards, ask to be moved.

Some options to consider are the Mobil Three-Star Crowne Plaza Hotel Orlando-Universal (7800 Universal Blvd) and the Mobil Four-Star The Peabody Orlando (9801 International Drive), both located near several theme parks, or the Mobil Two-Star Doubletree Hotel (8629 International Drive) with its castle theme evident throughout the property.

Finding a place to eat that everyone in your traveling group agrees on can often be a challenge. The restaurants guide on the next page will be of help.

Orlando Restaurants Guide


Greater Orlando has many restaurants and eateries to suit all tastes and budgets. Virtually every cuisine in the world is represented, and dining experiences range from gourmet establishments in the top hotels to all-you-can-eat buffets.

Popular Orlando dining spots include Universal's CityWalk (2000 Universal Studios Plaza) and Disney's Boardwalk (Walt Disney World), but the many restaurants in both locations can become very busy with long waits.

Whether you prefer fine dining or all-you-can-eat buffets, Orlando has plenty of eateries to please your taste buds.
©2006 Orlando CVB
Whether you prefer fine dining
or all-you-can-eat buffets,
Orlando has plenty of eateries
to please your taste buds.

As downtown Orlando continues to develop, more new restaurants are opening in such areas as trendy Thornton Park or College Park. Or if you fancy cuisine from foreign countries, you can find good Thai food at the Thai House (2101 E Colonial Drive), traditional Chinese dishes at Chan's (1901 E Colonial Drive), and Vietnamese delicacies at Viet Garden (1237 E Colonial Drive).

Visit the chic casual Houston's Bistro (390 N Orange Ave) for New England pot roast that's cooked to perfection and served with sour cream mashed potatoes.

For fun with Italian cuisine, try Mobil Three-Star Antonio's (611 S Orlando Ave, Maitland). The tables are among the aisles of this Italian deli, but the food is great and you can get up and select your own wines from the shelves. Try the Pollo Pizzaiola if you have a hearty appetite, or the chicken breast sauteed with capers, basil, and oregano served over linguine.

To experience the best burgers in the area, stop at Altamonte Springs' Back Yard Burger (290 SR 434). You won't be able to eat inside because food is served from a window, but there are plenty of tables if you want to eat al fresco.

For the best steak and lobster, grab a table at Mobil Three-Star Del Frisco's (729 Lee Road) in Orlando. The steaks are aged corn-fed beef straight from the Midwest, never frozen, and cut to order. The lobsters are flown in from Australia daily. The bill will be a little expensive, but every bite will be worth every penny.

For the ultimate in gourmet dining, you'll be delighted at the Mobil Four-Star Victoria & Albert's located inside Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa (4401 Floridian Way) in Lake Buena Vista. The restaurant's setting is luxurious, and the menu is exquisite. Try the fixed price six-course dinner, but be aware that the ingredients change daily according to the season.

The average tip in Orlando is 15 to 20 percent of the bill if you experience very good service.

Now that you know Orlando has a lot more to offer than just the obvious theme parks, you may be wondering how you'll fit everything into your trip. Don't worry -- the suggested itineraries on the next page will help you organize your time.

Suggested Itineraries for Visiting Orlando


There are an amazing number of things to do in Orlando. Just finding enough time to visit all the major theme parks can be trying. And if you want to explore some of the other treasures in this great city, such as Loch Haven Park or the Orlando Museum of Art, you'll really need to come up with a plan. The following itineraries will assist you, whether you have one, two, or three days to spend in the Orlando area.

1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Special Events & Attractions in Orlando

Where do we begin? Orlando's attractions are world famous, from Disney's Magic Kingdom to SeaWorld. Here are some ideas for getting the most out of Orlando's must-see attractions:

1 day: You need at least one full day to visit one of the major theme parks, such as Magic Kingdom (off of Interstate 4) if you have small children or adults who are still young at heart, or Epcot if you want to visit four continents and enjoy the culture and cuisines of 11 nations. Whichever theme park you choose, pick up the map with show times as soon as you arrive so you can plan your day.

There are many restaurants and cafes to choose from, and it's a good idea to eat lunch early or late to avoid the longest lines. In the Magic Kingdom, Cinderella's Royal Table in Cinderella's Castle offers a magical dinner venue if you're traveling with children, but you should make a reservation in advance. At Epcot, don't miss Les Chefs de France in the French Pavilion, with a menu created by many of France's most famous chefs. Also, remember to drink lots of liquids if it's hot because the sun will dehydrate you.

If you want to take a break or put the kids down for an afternoon nap, you can leave the park. But be sure to get your hand stamped for re-entry. You can also leave the park late in the afternoon to eat and then return for the evening shows, which include the laser and music SpectroMagic show and the Wishes Fireworks Spectacular.

2 days: Head for Islands of Adventure (1000 Universal Studios) for another action-packed day. This theme park features many roller coasters and thrill rides, although some aren't suitable for smaller children. Make sure to read the warning notices before getting in line for a ride. If you need a quick pit stop, dive in to Circus McGurkas Cafe Stoo-pendous for a fun feast. It offers a buffet-style counter service with fried chicken, spaghetti, pizza, and salads.

The Incredible Hulk Coaster is just one of the wild rides you'll find at the Islands of Adventure.
©2006 Orlando CVB
The Incredible Hulk Coaster is just one of the wild rides
you'll encounter at the Islands of Adventure.

3 days: Visit the variety of marine animal exhibits and shows at SeaWorld Orlando (707 SeaWorld Drive). Check out Key West at SeaWorld with its noisy and entertaining sea lions, the Penguin and Manatee exhibits, and the magnificent dray horses in the Clydesdale Hamlet. This isn't unusual considering Anheuser-Busch owns the park. If you're old enough (21+), you can sample their products for free in the hospitality lounge.

1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Arts & Culture in Orlando

Take a break from the theme parks and enjoy all of the arts and culture Orlando has to offer. Here are suggestions on how to plan your days:

1 day: Spend the day at downtown Orlando's Loch Haven Park (900 E Princeton St) and enjoy a picnic by the water's edge between visits to the museums. Visit the Orlando Museum of Art (2416 N Mill Ave) first because of its numerous permanent and touring exhibits. Then visit the Mennello Museum of American Folk Art (900 E Princeton St) with its collection of contemporary American artists. Try a picnic lunch beneath the magnificent old oaks and enjoy the lakeside views before heading for the Orlando Science Center (777 E Princeton St) and its fun, interactive exhibits. While you're there, check out BodyZone where you can find what your body does to food and what food does to your body, or the Light Power Exhibit Hall, where you can discover the secrets behind lasers and more.

2 days: Winter Park (just north of Orlando off of Interstate 436) is a delightful nearby city with a European-style downtown. Tree-lined Park Avenue includes outside cafes and bistros and wonderful shops and boutiques, but make sure to head for the Morse Museum of American Art (445 N Park Ave) first for its wonderful Tiffany collection. If you explore Park Avenue, enjoy a leisurely lunch at the Mobil Two-Star Park Plaza Gardens (319 S Park Ave, Winter Park) and try the five-onion soup followed by the spinach, endive, and blue cheese salad.

Drive over to the east coast, which is about a 45-minute drive from Orlando, to visit Cocoa, a charming town with antique shops and galleries to explore in its downtown Cocoa Village. Local jazz and classical music groups often perform in Myrtice Tharpe Square on Brevard Avenue. Visit the R L Lewis Art Gallery (234 King St, Suite 150), which specializes in the very collectible Highwaymen paintings. The art gallery's owner is also a highwayman painter.

The Art Vue Galerie (225 King St) features the work of more than 40 award-winning artists and is worth a visit. Then dine at the Mobil Three-Star Cafe Margaux (220 Brevard Ave), which serves French and northern Italian cooking in a New Orleans setting. Try their excellent lump crab cakes on black-eyed pea relish with orange and ginger chutney mayonnaise and dried cranberries, followed by a main course of braised veal with calvados baked apples.

3 days: The Orange County Regional History Center (65 E Central Blvd) is located in the Old Orlando Courthouse -- itself an architectural gem -- and houses thousands of exhibits on its five floors tracing the history of Greater Orlando back 12,000 years. Learn about the first Indian settlers, the Spanish colonists, and then the citrus farmers and cattle ranchers who opened up the area.

Travel a little north to Leu Botanic Gardens (1920 N Forest Ave), which are magnificent at any time of the year. The camellias are at their best from November to March and the rose garden, the largest formal rose garden in Florida, is magnificent in December and January, April, and May, then again in October and November. The main house is now a museum and has been restored to show the Florida lifestyle at the end of the 19th century. One of the pleasures of strolling through the gardens is coming across the many sculptures depicting gardening themes.

Leu Botanic Gardens features such natural treasures as the largest formal rose garden in Florida and incredible camellias.
©2006 Orlando CVB
There are a number of natural treasures at Leu Botanic Gardens.

A short drive away is the White Wolf Cafe (1829 N Orange Ave), which offers relaxed Bohemian dining among the antiques. Everything on the menu is good, but try the Mango-Mango Mahi or the Eggplant Rolatini.

1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Architecture & Landmarks in Orlando

Check out the old and the new of Orlando's architectural marvels and landmarks. Here are some tips on how to catch some of the best buildings in the city:

1 day: Enjoy a stroll around downtown Orlando and see how the old is blending with the new. Orlando no longer has room to sprawl so skyscrapers now dwarf the many historic 19th- and early-20th-century buildings. As many buildings are pulled down to make way for new ones, historic displays are being created to remind us of the past. These can be seen in many of the lobby's downtown, such as in the Barnett Bank (390 N Orange Ave) and Nations Bank Building (111 N Orange Ave). A display in the lobby of the Clayton Life Center at First Presbyterian Church of Orlando (500 E Princeton St) depicts the 123-year history of the church.

2 days: Take a trip to Kissimmee and the City of Celebration. Kissimmee is a city full of motels, hotels, and restaurants that cater to tourists, but still retains its roots as a cattle town, especially with a weekly rodeo nearby. Visit Main Street and Broadway, which are the heart of its downtown restoration area.

The Key's Service Station (on the corner of Broadway and Drury Avenue in Kissimmee) has been faithfully restored with furnishings, including a replica 1926 gas pump. It houses the Key's Welcome Center, which has information about Kissimmee and its history. The City of Celebration (on Interstate 4 south of the Walt Disney World Resort) is a new town designed on the best features of many other turn-of-the-20th-century communities. Stroll down Market Street and enjoy the varied architecture.

3 days: Head farther afield and drive to Historic Cocoa Village in downtown Cocoa. The Sur Le Parc building (501 Florida Ave) is the oldest wooden commercial building in the village. Built originally in 1888 at 415 Delannoy Ave, it was moved to its present site in April 2006. Stop in at the neo-classic Porcher House (434 Delannoy Ave), which incorporates coquina block construction in its design. Edward Postell Porcher, a pioneer in the citrus industry, built the home. The oranges were brought from the groves by boat to the dock at the back of the house. You can obtain more information about the city's history from the Tebeau-Field Library (435 Brevard Ave) in the old Federal building in Cocoa Village.

1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Shopping in Orlando

From outlet malls to designer boutiques, Orlando has it all for the shopaholics among us. Use these itineraries to help you plan your shopping excursions:

1 day: If you can afford it or just want to see how the other half lives, spend a day at the upscale Mall at Millenia (4200 Conroy Road, South Orlando). The shops and boutiques are fabulous, and there is a huge choice of restaurants and eateries if you need to take a break between spending. If you've never been to New York, it's your chance to visit Macy's and Bloomingdale's and then lunch at the Brio Tuscan Grille for fabulous Tuscan cuisine such as Tuscan-grilled pork chops.

Or take a drive north to the city of Winter Park's Park Avenue, where you can stroll down the European-style tree-lined avenue and shop to your heart's content. Enjoy an al fresco lunch at one of the many bistros and cafes. Try the Park Plaza Gardens Restaurant (319 S Park Ave) and order the Coriander Crusted Ahi Tuna served with sweet chili sauce, wasabi cream, and pickled ginger. Or visit the elegant Cafe de France (526 S Park Ave) for a taste of its European cuisine, such as steamed Prince Edward Island mussels and the grilled marinated lamb chop served with an herb Bordelaise sauce.

2 days: Spend the first day at either the Mall at Millenia (4200 Conroy Rd, South Orlando) or The Florida Mall (8001 South Orange Blossom Trail, South Orlando), depending on how much you're prepared to spend. The second day you should visit the outlet malls, such as Orlando Premium Outlet (8200 Vineland Ave), to snap up some real bargains. It has 110 outlets, including Barneys New York Outlet, Burberry, Coach, Fendi, Gap Outlet, Armani, Lacoste, Nike, and Ralph Lauren.

The city of Kissimmee also has a number of great places to shop, including Old Town (5770 W Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway) and plenty of other stores for budget shoppers. The Osceola Flea and Farmers Market (2801 East Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway) features hundreds of inside stalls offering everything imaginable.

3 days: Try driving 25 miles or so northwest from Orlando to Mount Dora for its charming downtown filled with numerous antique shops. Visit Oliver Twist's Antiques (404 North Donnelly St), which houses an abundance of good china, Staffordshire glass, pickle castors, and other older items from around the world. Or try the Princess Antique Mall (130 W 5th Ave), which has a number of stores offering gifts, collectibles, and antiques. When you become tired of shopping, enjoy a quiet moment -- and great steaks -- at Pisces Rising (239 W 4th St).

1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Nightlife & Entertainment in Orlando

Orlando boasts plenty of exciting nightlife venues, including great dance clubs. Here are some suggestions for those who want to boogie the nights away in Orlando:

1 day: If you only have one day, go to Cirque du Soleil La Nouba show at Downtown Disney, then spend the rest of your evening at the complex's Pleasure Island. La Nouba will appeal to all members of the family and thrill you with its artistry, and then you can do your own thing at the numerous dance clubs at Pleasure Island. One ticket allows you access to all the late-night clubs in the complex. You can bump and jump to the latest sounds at Motion or boogie away to the hits of the '70s and '80s at 8 Trax. The Mannequins Dance Palace features a huge revolving dance floor, so care needs to be taken when getting on and off.

Downtown Disney offers a variety of nightlife and entertainment options, including the Cirque du Soleil La Nouba show.
©2006 Orlando CVB
Downtown Disney offers a variety of nightlife and entertainment
options, including the Cirque du Soleil La Nouba show.

2 days: Visit Orlando's Universal's CityWalk (200 Universal Studios Plaza) for fine dining, great live music, movies, and more. Stroll around the 30-acre entertainment complex when you first arrive to check things out. The Red Coconut Club, located in the complex, is the newest nightclub and ultra-lounge with live music and DJs daily. The Groove, also located in the complex, is the hottest dance club featuring the best of the '70s and '80s, dance hits, and alternative rock. When you get hungry, you can order a special cheeseburger or sandwich from the menu at Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville, amid a decor of palm trees, parrots, and wooden tables for a little feeling of paradise.

3 days: Spend the evening enjoying the clubs in downtown Orlando. Well worth visiting are Antigua (46 W Church St), if you love dancing to the latest hits, and Club Paris (122 W Church St), named after the famous hotel heiress in pink. It's one of the most elaborate and largest clubs downtown.

If you fancy a massive martini, go to Ybor's (41 Church St), and if you want somewhere really different, try Screamers (360 State Lane), which is a club that features an eclectic mix of Latin, Indian, hip-hop, and reggae plus metal and punk acts. The Wall Street Cantina (19 N Orange Ave) is a good, affordable, and popular place to eat traditional Tex-Mex, including very good beef chimichangas. It's also known for serving great margaritas, so try the Cantina Rita.

1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Relaxing & Unwinding in Orlando

Take a load off and enjoy a quiet day in Orlando, away from the theme park crowds and bustling nightlife. The following itineraries will make planning your relaxing day (or days) a breeze.

1 day: Spend the day at Wekiwa Springs State Park (1800 Wekiwa Circle). Take a walk on the short nature trail or a longer walk through the woods. Visit the nature center, if it's open, to learn about the animals and plants located in the park. It's a great place for a restful day of sunbathing, swimming, and gentle walking through magnificent scenery. There's a concession stand selling snacks, or bring your own food in and barbecue on provided grills.

2 days: Spend a day being pampered at one of the area's spas like the Mobil Four-Star Canyon Ranch, the spa at the Gaylord Palms Resort (6000 W Osceola Parkway) in Kissimmee. It offers a number of day packages, which you can personalize to best suit your needs. Treatments include everything from grape seed mud wraps and hydrotherapies to Swedish massages and manicures and pedicures. Then hang out by the pool and soak up the sun.

Enjoy a restful boat trip on Lake Tohopekaliga in Kissimmee aboard a pontoon boat available through the Aquatic Wonder Boat Tours (101 Lakeshore Blvd, 407-846-2814). The company offers romantic get-away sunset cruises as well as wildlife watching tours. Or find a bench in Lake Eola at Lake Eola Park (195 N Rosalind Ave) in downtown Orlando in the late afternoon to enjoy the great scenery and, eventually, a magnificent sunset.

For a relaxing dinner, you should head over to chic Harvey's Bistro (390 N Orange Ave). The food is American with European influences, so try the baked brie with mixed berries and the pan-seared chicken piccata.

Stroll among more than 500 animals from North and South Americas, Africa, and Australia at the Brevard Zoo.
©2006 Orlando CVB
Go to the Brevard Zoo to stroll among more than 500 animals
from North America, South America, Africa, and Australia.

3 days: In the morning visit the Brevard Zoo (8225 N Wickham Rd) in Melbourne, which is about an hour's drive from Orlando. The zoo is home to more than 550 animals representing over 165 species from North and South Americas, Africa, and Australia. Stroll around the Wild Florida Exhibit, which features many of the birds and animals seen in the Sunshine State.

Then continue on to Cocoa Beach, with its stunning six-mile long beach of white sand. There are oceanfront parks with restrooms and showers and lots of children's playgrounds. Beach trolleys will take you up and down the beach and into town if you don't want to walk.

The Cocoa Beach Country Club is run by the city and is open to visitors. The club offers 3 nine-hole courses, and each hole is named after a bird that can be seen on the course. Cocoa Beach is known for its restaurants that offer a wide range of cuisines, from American to Thai and German to Cuban. For fun waterfront dining, grab a table to Coconuts on the Beach (2 Minutemen Causeway). Start with local steamed clams, and then try the house Jambalaya packed with chicken, shrimp, and sausage.

You might come to Orlando for the theme parks, but you'll be pleasantly surprised by everything else the city has to offer. Orlando truly has something for everyone, ensuring a great trip for the entire family.

©Publications International, Ltd.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Don Philpott spent 20 years traveling the world on assignment as a senior correspondent with Reuters-Press Association before moving to Florida and becoming a freelance writer specializing in travel, food, and drink. He has written 66 books and has had more than 5,000 articles published in leading newspapers and magazines in the United States and United Kingdom. He now specializes in writing about Florida and the Caribbean and takes his own photos to illustrate his articles and books.


Related Links

Brevard Zoo
Cornell Fine Arts Museum
Enzian Theater
Key's Service Station
Leu Botanical Gardens
Maitland Art Center
Old Orange County Courthouse
 
Orange County Regional History Center
Orlando Museum of Art
Orlando Science Center

Rollins College Knowles Memorial Chapel