Orlando is to little children as NYC is to young adults. A paradise playground of sorts where memories are created and nostalgia thrives. It’s certainly a place to visit multiple times when you’re young and to take your kids on vacation, but as someone who doesn’t necessarily love massive crowds, Orlando is now a city I try to avoid. What once was majestic is now just plain tacky, but don’t let me stop you from visiting, if you’re the amusement park enthusiast type.
How do I get around?
Getting to, from, and around Orlando will require a car, and you’ll need a sturdy pair of tennis shoes for the long days of walking around the parks. There are really no other options for transportation other than the shuttle to/from your hotel.
A note on the Orlando airport! It’s fine to fly into, but I HIGHLY RECOMMEND flying out of Daytona, Tampa, or Ft. Lauderdale, if you can swing it. The Orlando airport has some of the most overpriced concession stands I’ve ever come across, it doesn’t feel clean, and the security line is a downright mess. Once you get past the TSA who check your boarding pass and license, it’s like a free-for-all funnel to get to the scanners and not a good situation to find yourself in when your plane is set to leave in 30-60 minutes.
Where should I stay/eat?
As one of the most tourist-y destinations of the U.S., you have to be ready to give in to the higher-than-normal hotel and restaurant prices. Just sink into it and splurge on nice accommodation and hefty meals. If you have any family that lives in the area, then you’re already ahead than most on saving a huge bundle of money. For the rest of us, any of the Disney hotels are a good option as they have shuttles that run back and forth between the parks.
There are certainly a number of budget hotels available as well, but be prepared for a bit of a drive, cheap accommodation, and not always the cleanest rooms.
As for food, try to avoid eating big meals at the parks. Eat a substantial breakfast before the day begins, and when you get hungry, go for a cheap and healthy snacks, and save the nice dinner for somewhere off site. If your hotel has a refrigerator, stock up on snacks at the grocery store. You’ll be thankful you did after a full day in the sun.
When is the best time to visit?
Orlando is a popular destination all year round. The heavy tourist season usually begins in May and runs to September, but it’s always the default vacation spot for families who have little kids and live somewhere with some frigid winters who are looking for a little relief. Your best chances for avoiding the long lines and intense summer heat would be to visit between January through March.
Places to Go/See
- Swim with dolphins at Discovery Cove
- Go see the La Nouba-Cirque Du Soleil show
- Step outside Disney for a day to explore Epcot, Magic Kingdom, or Animal Kingdom
- Cool off at Typhoon Lagoon or Blizzard Beach
- Disney World is obviously the most well-known theme park that people flock to Orlando for
- Harry Potter World at Universal Studios (my personal favorite)
- Disney-MGM Studios
- If you get tired of people walking around in cartoon character costumes, go explore JFK Space Center
- Disney Boardwalk – Home of the House of Blues and an expensive, 20-minute hot air ballon ride overlooking Orlando (another personal favorite)
- For all the dads, there are golf clubs galore
No matter when you visit Orlando, it’s crucial to remember to stay hydrated, take breaks to sit down if you need it, and take deep breaths often. It can get frustrating real quick with sweaty, whining children, standing in line for the majority of your day, and roasting under the sun. Don’t try to fit in too much stuff into your short visit. That’s the best way to run yourself into the ground.
“This City” Sundays will introduce you to a new city every week, showcase what I’ve learned and love about that city, and attempt to persuade you to visit on your travels.