Insider tips: Explore Orlando like a local
Megan & Aram is a travel blog that focuses mostly on travel in the Nordics and Eastern Europe with the occasional trip beyond those regions. We love coffee, promoting small businesses, and sports.
What should I do on my first trip to Orlando?
Orlando has a plethora of diverse things to do, and many of them are some of the world's most famous theme parks! First (and most famously) is Walt Disney World. This iconic theme park is home to different parks, including Disney's Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom, Epcot, and Magic Kingdom. There are several resorts associated with it and it is the perfect playground for kids and adults both! Universal Orlando Resort is another top spot as it is home to Universal Studios Florida and Universal's Islands of Adventure (where you will find the Wizarding World of Harry Potter). However, there are plenty of fun things to do in Orlando beyond the theme parks! You can take a day trip to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, enjoy an airboat ride on nearby wetlands, or play a round of golf at one of the city's many courses.
What are some hidden gems to see in Orlando?
In a way, anything that is not a theme park in Orlando can be considered a 'hidden gem' as the other attractions and places to visit in the city are often forgotten about. The 50-acre Leu Gardens is a top spot away from the parks that warrants a visit. Situated north of the downtown, you can find the largest rose garden in Florida there. Orlando is situated on Lake Eola and the picturesque lake has swan boats that are a great way to chill out and enjoy the skyline (and it is the perfect activity for children). Also be sure to check out some of the city's markets, such as the Orlando Farmers' Market in Lake Eola Park and the East End Market.
How much time should I spend in Orlando?
The amount of time you should spend in Orlando is completely dependent on how much time you're looking to spend at an amusement park there. If you're visiting Disney or Universal, you will need a week (minimum) to enjoy the parks to their fullest. This will also allow you downtime to visit other key places like SeaWorld Orlando and do some of the top day trips from the city.
If you're not keen to spend time at any of the amusement parks, you can see Orlando's main attractions within a long weekend.
What food is Orlando known for?
Many cities have a particular food associated with it, but Orlando is an exception. While the Florida city does boasts a lot of delicious food, there is not a particular dish that stands out. You can enjoy some foods that are popular in Florida there, however. Fried alligator, Cuban cuisine, and fresh seafood are ever-present. You can also find conch fritters at some establishments. If you're visiting Disney, be on the lookout for a Dole Whip. It is delicious and a good treat to escape the heat.
What is the best way to get around Orlando?
Orlando is best visited with a rental car. However, the city does have a pretty decent public transportation system throughout and if you're staying along International Drive, you can walk between restaurants and activities if you're looking to get some extra steps in! In addition, many of the hotels have shuttles to the theme parks so you can avoid paying the parking fees at them.
If you are looking to take public transportation around, the SunRail is a passenger rail system in Central Florida. It runs for 61.5 miles and connects 4 counties as well as Orlando. You can also take the LYMMO bus which is a free bus downtown. It has 21 stops and is great for the budget traveler.
What are the best months to visit Orlando?
Orlando enjoys a humid subtropical climate and the weather is fairly warm all year round (with winters being milder). But, not all seasons are created equally! The winters tend to have less rain and more tolerable temperatures than the summer months. During summer, you can expect rain anywhere from 13-15 days a month. With the rain comes the mosquitoes. So, while there is not a bad time to visit Orlando, the winter months are milder in temperature and experience less rain.
What are the best neighborhoods to visit in Orlando?
If you're shying away from the theme park area and looking to really enjoy the city itself, you can start in Winter Garden which is situated about 25 minutes from the downtown area. There are plenty of cultural activities and delicious restaurants there. Also be sure to check out South Eola, Winter Park, Celebration, Lake Nona, and College Park. And of course, be sure to check out the Downtown area where you'll find Lake Eola Park and plenty of unique cocktail bars and restaurants.
What are the best neighborhoods for shopping?
While there is not one specific place to go shopping in Orlando, you can find several shopping centers and outlet malls throughout various parts of the city (and not particularly inside of a neighborhood specifically). The Mall at Millenia is a large, indoor shopping mall with several upscale stores such as Neiman Marcus and Louis Vuitton. It also has a food court with a variety of options. For those looking for outlet mall shopping opportunities, check out the Orlando Vineland Premium Outlets and the Lake Buena Vista Factory Stores.
What neighborhood should I stay in when I visit Orlando?
Since most people visiting are looking to spend a lot of time at theme parks, it is recommended to stay somewhere close to the parks! Universal and Disney both have resorts affiliated with the parks that offer easy access, but many large hotels in the area have shuttles to the parks, which will save you money on parking. If you're wanting to stay somewhere with plenty to do for the kids, opt for a hotel close to International Drive (or 'I-Drive' as locals will call it). There are many chain food options along the thoroughfare, but it will certain satisfy all taste buds.
What's are 4 best tips for a person traveling to Orlando?
1) The parks are expensive! Plan ahead. If you can afford express passes, they will save you time at the park and allow you to ride as many rides as possible. But, they come with a price! So, if you are unable to purchase for the entire family, you may need to set aside an additional day in the park you are visiting. Also - be sure to purchase a multi-day ticket if you're planning to spend more than one day in the park. These can save a little bit of money.
2) Try to plan an extra couple of days in Orlando if you're a beach lover. Clearwater Beach is one of the nation's top beaches and it is an easy day trip from Orlando. The area also has some fantastic seafood and boat excursions for adults and children!
3) Food lovers can find some fantastic food options in Orlando but you will also find a lot of chain restaurants. Do a little research on Google and steer clear of I-Drive if you're looking for some of these places. You can find fantastic hot spot, Korean BBQ, and Venezualan arepas if you are willing to drive down the road a bit.
4) Visiting in the summer months? Expect a little rain! In the evenings, especially, it is not uncommon to get a storm or some heavy rain. It doesn't usually last too long, but it will help cool things off for a bit (and then bring the muggy aftermath). Bring an umbrella or be ready to head under cover during these times.
What should people avoid doing in Orlando?
I know this goes without saying for any trip, but Orlando really needs to be planned ahead. So, avoid a last minute trip if you can help it. The parks are bustling and can create more stress than fun if you don't know what to expect and wait until the last minute to plan your trip. Also, don't leave Orlando without taking a day trip outside of the city and its parks! There are so many day trips including beaches, the Everglades, Kennedy Space Center, Tampa Bay, and the springs (including snorkeling with manatees).
What are your top 5 favourite GetYourGuide experiences in Orlando?
1) Orlando: Boggy Creek Airboat Ride with Options
2) Orlando: Universal Studios Park to Park Ticket
3) Orlando: Walt Disney World Resort Admission Base Tickets
4) Orlando: 3-Hour Manatee Encounter by Kayak
5) Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex: Admission Ticket
What is one thing that surprised you about Orlando?
I have been traveling to Orlando since I was a kid and although I have never been to Disney (even still today!), I always find so much to do that I could spend weeks there. But one thing that never ceases to amaze me is how many cool things exist within a days' drive of the city. Definitely rent a car and take advantage of this - or you can book trips through GetYourGuide for day excursions as I did on my last trip (I went to Clearwater and the Kennedy Space Center).