Orlando is a very popular tourist destination and is the most suitable city for family recreation in the United States. There is no other place in the world that provides such an abundance of options for leisure and entertainment for families.
The turning point in the development of Orlando’s tourism was in 1971, following the opening of Walt Disney World. Orlando quickly developed from a quiet town to an international tourist attraction.
Orlando has branches of famous theme parks; Universal Studios, Sea World, the water park Wet and Wild and others. For a short trip Orlando may be chosen as the main destination, simply because it has everything. In the center of Florida there are over 1200 lakes and dozens of nature parks. The John F. Kennedy Space Center is also close to the city. Unlike other big cities like New York, living expenses in Orlando are relatively cheap and fit any budget, from cheap motels to lavish villas at attractive prices.
Thanks to Orlando’s geographical location in the Southwest, Orlando’s weather is suitable for travel during all seasons. Although Orlando has been hit by several hurricanes in recent years, its location in the center of the state and far from the sea meant that the hurricanes’ effects were not extensive.
Maps and up-to-date details can be received at tourist centers around town.
Pamphlets and handbooks with details on sites and events can be found at hotels, restaurants and tourist centers. Those may also include coupons.
This article provides details on the largest amusement park in the city. In addition to those, there are dozens of enjoyable family attractions including special museums, alligator parks, hovercraft sailing in the swamps, mini golf centers and more.
Walt Disney World
This majestic kingdom is located in Lake Buena Vista, 35 kilometers southwest of Orlando. The huge complex includes four main parks – Magic Kingdom, Epcot Center, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom. In addition to those huge parks are two water parks: Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Bleach. Other leisure and entertainment sites are located at Downtown Disney, which combines shopping and restaurants with many attractions and live shows. A very successful (yet expensive) show at Downtown Disney is Cirque du Soleil’s La Nouba.
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Disneyworld also has many hotels, a camping site, many lakes, a spa, live shows, sports competitions and golf courses. Despite Disneyworld’s immense size, it is very easy to get around thanks to the clear-cut signposting that directs private car owners to well-organized parking lots, from which there are free shuttles right up to the parks’ gates. Remember where you parked your car; each area at the parking lot has a different name or color. There are many forms of transportation between parks, including the monorail, ferries and buses. Next to the entrance for each park is an information center, where one can obtain a detailed map of each park and its attractions, performances and bathrooms. It is advisable that each adult member of the family should carry their own private map.
All the parks open at 9:00, while the closing times change according to season. Animal Kingdom may open as early as 8:00 on certain times of year.
You can find detailed information on opening and closing times, special performances, prices and ticket types, detailed interactive maps of the parks, height and health restrictions, new attractions, etc. at Disney’s official website.
This is the first park opened in Disneyworld, and is the twin park to California’s Disneyland and Disneyland Paris. The differences between Orlando’s Magic Kingdom and its twins in California and Paris are very small, and it is recommended that those who have been to the other parks lately should focus on other attractions in Disneyworld.
The entrance to this magical kingdom is through Main Street USA, which looks like a typical 19th century boulevard with cafes, shops, street musicians and horse-drawn carriages. At the street you can meet many of Disney’s famous characters; Mickey, Minnie and their friends. Don’t linger at this street, you will be able to . Pick up the show schedule at the City Hall and go ahead to each of the lands; Adventureland, Frontierland – where you can find Liberty Square, Tomorrowland and Fantasyland.
The creators of Disneyworld thought about all the tiny details, and aside from the different attractions each land has its own unique design. Frontierland looks like a wild west town during the gold rush, Fantasyland has a fairytale theme, and so on. Everything is very clean and well-kept, surrounded by green and organized.
This is the most interesting park of all the attractions Disneyworld has to offer. It presents a mix of the fun and imagination of Disney with research of the wonders of the real world. EPCOT is the abbreviation of “Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow”. Its goal is to teach and expend horizons through enjoyable experiences and entertainment. Epcot is split into two segments – Future World and the World Showcase. Epcot Center is twice as large as the Magic Kingdom, so it is recommended to dedicate two days to exploring its two parts.
Future World represents most advanced technologies, while the World Showcase presents 11 different countries from around the world through their history, traditions and architecture, including ethnic restaurants, street performances and souvenir shops.
Every night, before the park closes, an impressive firework and laser show named Illuminations takes place in the large lake in the middle of the World Showcase. Don’t miss it! Take a good spot along the lake at least half an hour ahead of the show.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios
This theme park focuses on famous movies and the ways they were made, with a special focus on MGM Studios, the film company that produces many Disney movies. Disney’s Hollywood Studios is very different from Universal Studios, which focuses on completely different movies and has different attractions. It is recommended to visit both. The amount of live shows in this park is much larger than in the other Disney parks, which allows for some rest and relaxation.
This is the newest park in Disneyworld, opened in 1998. The imagination of Disney and the most advanced technologies will take you to journey through the mysteries and wonders of animals: real, imaginary and extinct.
The visitors can go by boat, by safari cars and by foot to discover real exotic animals and animas from the distant past. The entrance area is called The Oasis and is filled with tropical greenery, lakes, waterfalls and animals such as kangaroos, iguanas, etc.. The kingdom is split between six segments; Discovery Island, DinoLand USA, Asia, Africa, Cape Minnie Mickey and Rafiki’s Planey Watch. In this park you will meet real animals, as well as the famous Disney characters dressed in safari clothes.
Typhoon Lagoon: a water park built as a Caribbean lagoon, with sandy beaches, colorful fish and turquoise waters. The park has several water slides, a long river surrounding the entire park for a relaxing tube ride and the top attraction: a giant wave, one of the largest in the world.
Blizzard Beach: An attractive water park built entirely as a snowy ski resort. All the water slides at the park look like skiing ramps, and there are ski lifts that allow towatch over the entire park, and a water playground for small children filled with “icicles”.
An interactive indoors theme park, including five floors of computer games and simulators based on 3D technology. The site has over 180 advanced video games and 14 interactive attractions like a virtual jungle cruise, a flight simulator on a flying carpet and a rollercoaster simulator where you pick the number of turns, angles and rattles.
The park is also suitable for creative visitors, who will enjoy an entire area dedicated to digital creation, including an Animation Academy where they will learn how to draw Disney characters and create an animated character. Visiting Disney Quest is very suitable for rainy days because it is entirely indoors.
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Major Attractions Outside of Disneyworld
Aside from the magical worlds of Disneyworld, there is plenty to do and see in Orlando, starting with giant theme parks and water parks and ending with small, delightful museums.
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Universal Studios Orlando
A giant theme park, the younger brother of the original Universal Studios park in Los Angeles. For those who go to California, it would be best to visit the original park because, in addition to the attractions and shows, it includes a ride around the actual filming sites of the most famous Hollywood movies of all time. However, those who won’t reach California should not miss the park in Orlando.
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Universal Studios is one of the most updated parks in the world. Every year, new attractions are added to the park, each one more impressive than the previous, using the newest and most advanced special effects and technology. It is definitely a must see for visitors of all ages. The park has rides and simulators of famous movies, like Back to the Future, E.T., Terminator and Shrek. The park has many stages where live shows take place several times a day.
Islands of Adventure
One of the newest theme parks in Orlando, it belongs to Universal and is located right next to Universal Studios. The park is very suitable to families that like action and adrenaline, and less for the little ones. It is a very impressive theme park, split into six areas with a lake in the center. The areas are Port of Entry, Jurassic Park, The Lost Continent, Toon Lagoon (filled with wet rides), Marvel Super Hero Island, Seuss Landing (based on the stories of Doctor Seuss) and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
The park has many amazing roller coasters, wet rides, a freefall tower and several shows with special effects.
A place for leisure, entertainment and restaurants that belongs to Universal and is located between Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure.
This is the biggest park of its kind of the world that is dedicated in its entirety to the sea and the sea creatures: dolphins, walruses and seals, whales, penguins, sharks and many other sea animals. Sea World has many other branches around the United States, the most famous one being the San Diego branch. There are many live shows in the park, taking place according to a schedule handed out at the entrance.
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The most famous show is the one featuring killer whales nicknamed “Shamu”. In a giant stadium surrounding a giant pool, the killer whales and their trainers perform a variety of jumps, dives and stunts. The first 14 rows are called the Splash Zone, and those who sit there usually get completely soaked. For (cold) water lovers, this is a fun experience, but those who would rather not get wet would probably want to sit at the top section of the stadium.
A theme park combined with a Caribbean wildlife reserve. This park is right next to sea world and would be of interest to fish and dolphin lovers. In this park, which is reminiscent of a tropical island, the main attraction is close encounters between the park visitors and the various aquatic creatures in it. The park is home to many dolphins, fish of every shape and size, manta rays, sharks, and exotic birds. A visit to the park includes swimming with dolphins, diving and snorkeling among the many tropical fish at the coral reef, and relaxing at exotic beaches and pools with waterfalls and rivers. The park is never overcrowded as the number of visitors is limited to 1000 people a day. The entry price varies according to the package you choose: Swimming with dolphins, meals, snorkeling equipment, photos, use of facilities, etc. At any rate, prices are high. Despite the steep fees, however, the park is highly popular and often booked out, so you should book your tickets way ahead of time.
This is relatively new water park which belongs to Sea World and located right next to it. Entry to this one is separate from entry to Sea World, however. The park has 36 water slides, including some unique to this park such as a see-through slide that goes though a dolphin tank, two wave pools (each in a different style and with varying wave sizes), six rivers, sandy beaches, and a tropical fish lagoon.
Wet N’ Wild
An enormous water park with a huge variety of slides, a wave pool, tubing rivers (fast and slow), and a large area of pools and water games for young children. The selection of slides is huge, including some which you never knew existed and some that are quite scary… the place is clean and well looked after. Open daily. Opening hours change according to the season.