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.
©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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
Cornell Fine Arts Museum
Key's Service Station
Leu Botanical Gardens
Old Orange County Courthouse
Orange County Regional History Center
Orlando Museum of Art
Orlando Science Center
Rollins College Knowles Memorial Chapel