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Orlando Attractions

Ironically, for all of Orlando’s association with theme parks, most of the large theme parks are not technically in Orlando but in surrounding suburbs, merely part of the Orlando metropolitan area. Even the smaller attractions are not located within the city limits of Orlando; however, driving distance to these attractions is short and convenient and thus considered part of Orlando’s itinerary.

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Disney World (Lake Buena Vista / Bay Lake)

Disney World is literally a “small world” of a variety of Disney-themed attractions, stores, shows and parks. Walt Disney World features theme park rides, beaches, golf courses, and other resort amenities characterised and united by their love of all things animated. There are actually four major theme parks within the Disney World:

The Magic Kingdom: The Magic Kingdom is the closest to resembling what you may know of Disney Land, and is the oldest and most populated section of Disney World. This is the spot for children’s entertainment as well as the more classic rides and attractions.

Epcot: This park has more in the way of international culture, and is a sort of World’s Fair concentrating on technology, art and imagination. This is also relatively close to Disney’s Boardwalk, a centre of shops, restaurants and nightlife spots.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios: Movie buffs will enjoy Hollywood Studios for its tie-in with television shows and famous Disney, Pixar and the newly acquired LucasFilm canon. This site is also close to the ESPN Wide World of Sports.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom: A zoo but devised in Disney style, with Disney icons as well as theme park rides. This is also nearby Blizzard Beach a “melting ski resort” with water sport attractions.

Downtown Disney: If you admire the scenery but don’t have an incline to play with toys or meet Mickey, you might opt for Downtown Disney, the best spot for nightclubs, shopping centres, restaurants, performances and other “after dark” attractions for adults. This section also has three sections: the Marketplace, Pleasure Island (with attractions for adults, such as cigar bars and upscale dining), as well as Downtown Disney West Side, which features theatre shows including Cirque du Soleil.

Universal Orlando Resort (Universal Boulevard)

Universal Orlando Resort encompasses two theme parks, that of Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. Essentially, this is where you will find every other franchise for American entertainment, from Harry Potter to Transformers.

Universal Studios: This is a firm and TV production facility that offers rides, shows, movie sets and other attractions that let you experience your favorite shows interactively. In addition to Potter, there is a Springfield Simpsons ride as well as tie-ins for Gru and his Minions in Despicable Me Minion Mayhem. Universal Studios also has actual film crews working on projects, so you can watch real entertainment created before your eyes.

Islands of Adventure: “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter” and Diagon Alley complement other Potter-themed spots like Leaky Cauldron, Hogsmeade and Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes. Other attractions include Marvel Super Hero Island, (non-Disney) cartoon characters at Toon Lagoon and even dinosaurs courtesy of Jurassic Park: Lost Continent. Even Dr. Seuss is represented at Seuss Landing.

SeaWorld

The next of the “big” theme parks, SeaWorld features marine themes and an aquarium / zoo featuring killer whales, sea lions, otters, penguins, dolphins, pelicans, sharks and sting-rays, among many others. However, it’s not merely a zoo but a zoo meets a theme park, as there are also rides like the Kraken (the largest rollercoaster in the state), Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin (a recreation of Antarctica), and Manta, an ambitious roller coaster that lets passengers feel like a giant ray that spins, glides, skims and flies. Journey to Atlantis capitalises on the age old myth and takes you a combination of a flume ride and a roller coaster, with dark and intimidating passageways from this ancient sunken city.

Wet N Wild

Wet N Wild competes nicely with SeaWorld and Disney World, bragging that it has the most multi-person rides of any park. With features like Aqua Drag Racer, a race water slide where you fall head first down 350 feet of a twisting water track, the six-storey plunge of Bomb Bay, and The Storm, which is a swirling body coaster so intense it requires a minimum height and strong swimming skills.

Smaller Parks

While everyone is understandably distracted by SeaWorld, Disney World and Universal Orlando Resort, let’s not forget that there are a multitude of small to large parks, all of which are growing in popularity. Discovery Cove provides a more intimate experience appreciating nature, as it limits guests to 1,300 per day and offers more interactivity with dolphins, rays and other tropical fish in exhibits like The Grand Reef, Freshwater Oasis, and the Explorer’s Aviary where guests can feed parrots, toucans and other large birds.

Gatorland lets you embrace your worst fear and confront alligators in a number of interactive exhibits, including Trainer for a Day, Adventure Hour and Screamin’ Gator Zipline and Rookie Gator Wrestling.

LegoLand is not just a giant Lego exhibit—it’s also a water park with attractions like a Wave Pool, Splash Out, Joker Soaker and Build-a-Raft River, where you can actually build a Lego vessel that takes you out on a 1000 foot long lazy river.

Lastly, make time for the most unique attraction of all: the Holy Land Experience on Vineland Road, which is an educational and religious theme park designed to appear as Old Jerusalem, along with various other theatrical performances. A must see for anyone who has faith or who simply wants to see some avant-garde theatre.

Sports and Recreation

There is only one thing Orlando loves more than theme parks and that’s golf. In fact, Orlando has 170 golf courses in total, as well as over 20 academies for the hole in one sport. Little wonder the city is home to more professional golfers than anywhere in the world. Some of the most reputed courses include Arnold Palmer's Bay Hill Club, the Orange County National Golf Center, the Royal St. Cloud Golf Links and the Shingle Creek Golf Club.

While water sports are featured on Orlando’s outdoor attractions, airboat rides and balloon rides, grand prix racing and jet skiing are also commonly highlighted. Kayaking tours, and helicopter rides also round out the list. Fishing sport is handled through fishing charter tours, though even Disney World has its own fishing tour at the Walt Disney World Resort. Eco safaris are also increasing in popularity, as they allow tourists to hide and see wildlife in natural settings, including alligators, black bears and panthers. Eco safaris are safe courtesy of a coach, horseback carriage or even a Zipline Safari option.

Art and Culture

Orlando has much to say in the way of local arts. It is not only the location of the Florida Film Festival, but also hosts a variety of museums. Some frequented museums and cultural attractions to add to your vacation schedule include the Osceola County Welcome Center, History Museum and Pioneer Village, the Harry P. Leu Gardens and the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts.

Lastly, make some time to visit a wonderful historical site on Vineland Avenue called Mary, the Queen of the Universe Shrine, a Catholic Church built upon 17 acres that attracts many for its architectural achievement and religious symbolism.

Shopping

You will have ample opportunity to take home a souvenir, as you can visit four different shopping centres in addition to resort stores. The Florida Mall is the largest of all shopping centres and is remarkably kept as a single storey establishment. It measures 171,800m2 and has over 250 stores, seven department stores, and even a hotel and conference centre tower. It is outside of Orlando’s limits and is currently an unincorporated part of Orange County. The Mall at Millenia is a two-level shopping mall that covers 103,866 m² and a relatively new addition to Orlando, having been constructed in 2007. The Orlando Fashion Square is nearest to the downtown area and has a 14 screen cinema as well as four department stores. Artegon Marketplace on International Drive also has a store and theatre to browse.

 

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.

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Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.