Orlando Florida

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Orlando is one of the biggest tourist destinations in the world, especially for family vacations. Besides having an almost year-round perfect climate, the city is best known for its many theme parks and resorts in the area, in particular Walt Disney World Resort in nearby Lake Buena Vista. Other notable area attractions include SeaWorld, Universal Orlando Resort, Gatorland, and Wet n’ Wild.

Downtown Orlando, centered on Orange Avenue, has lost of worthwhile attractions to see such as fascinating museums, and it is packed with bars, clubs, and restaurants, theaters and concert venues. Shopping areas in Orlando have as much variety as the local attractions. Orlando is also known for its wide array of golf courses, with numerous courses available for any level of golfer. A mere one hour drive away is the beautiful Cocoa Beach located next the Kennedy Space Center.

Beaches

Cocoa beach is the closest beach on the Atlantic Ocean. It is 97 km from Orlando, only 60 minutes away. If you are lucky enough to be there on a day that there is a launch, you can watch a shuttle propel into space right on the beach since it is next to the Kennedy Space Center.

Swim, snorkel or scuba dive at Blue Spring State Park, De Leon Spring State Park, Moss Park/Split Oak and Sebastian Inlet State Park.

Climate

Orlando and Cocoa Beach have a warm and humid subtropical climate, with two distinct seasons: hot and rainy, lasting from May until October, and the other cooler and drier, from November through March. Much of the cities' weather is affected by the movement of the Gulf Stream. In the summer the daytime average temperature is 32 C and strong afternoon thunderstorms occur almost daily. During the winter season, average lows are around 10 C and the highs average near 22 C.

Mother Nature haunts this area year round: summertime is plagued with a considerable hurricane risk, and in winter there is often a wildfire hazard.

Temperature in CelsiusJFMAMJJASOND
Maximum222225283132333331282522
Minimum101012161921222222181310
Rainfall (mm)213236273165817268401721

Geography

The city is located more or less in the middle of the state of Florida. Olando lies about 80 km from the Atlantic to the east, 120 km from the Gulf Coast to the west, and about 600 km from the tip of the Florida Keys.

The city of Orlando is the county seat of Orange County. With a population of around 221,000, Orlando is the sixth largest city in Florida. Orlando is the hub city of Greater Orlando, formed by the four counties of Orange, Osceola, Seminole and Lake.

History

It is said that the city’s name comes from Orlando Reeves, operator of a sugar mill and plantation living back in the 1830s. Pioneer settlers simply found his name carved into a tree and assumed it was a marker for his grave site. They then referred to the area as Orlando's grave and later simply Orlando. Most pioneers did not arrive until after the Third Seminole War in the 1850s. Most of the early residents made their living by cattle ranching.

Orlando remained a rural backwater during the American Civil War. The period from 1875 to 1895 is remembered as Orlando's "Gilded Era," when it became the hub of Florida's citrus industry, until the great freeze of 1894-1895.

Orlando, as Florida's largest inland city, became a popular resort during the years between the Spanish-American War and World War I. In the 1920s Orlando experienced a large housing boom. Land prices soared. The boom ended when several hurricanes hit Florida in the late 20s and by the depression. During World War II, a number of Army personnel were stationed here. Some stayed in Orlando to settle and raise families. In 1956 an aerospace/defence company established a plant in Orlando. Later came Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Center.

In 1965 Walt Disney announced plans to build Walt Disney World and the famous vacation resort opened in October 1971, ushering in an explosive population and economic growth for the Orlando metropolitan area. Tourism became and remains the centerpiece of the area's economy.

Nature

The Arboretum of the University of Central Florida contains more than 600 species of plants, including more than 100 bromeliads, in cultivated gardens. Its cultivated areas currently include a Conservatory Compound, a Bromeliad Sanctuary, Cycad Garden, Fern Garden, Palm Collection, Rose Garden, Swamp Habitat, and Wetland Plants Display.

Harry P. Leu Gardens has landscaped gardens and lakes, featuring flora gathered from around the globe since 1936. Here you will find the largest rose garden in Florida and America's largest Camellia collection outside of California. The Leu House dates back to the 1880's. Tours are offered every 30 minutes.

An interesting visit is the World of Orchids, which features thousands of blooms in an enclosed tropical rainforest. This is a working greenhouse shipping orchids and other plants nationwide. There is also a long boardwalk meandering off into nearby wetlands.

The Central Florida Zoological Park is home to a butterfly garden, herpetarium, and numerous tropical animals.

Unique to Here

The Kennedy Space Center, a mere 45 minutes from Orlando, offers visitors a unique opportunity to tour launch areas, see giant rockets, try modified spaceflight simulators, and much more. The center may not be open on certain launch days so call ahead.

There is also the Astronaut Hall of Fame and a Space Center bus tour with stops at an observation gantry and the Apollo / Saturn V Center. Other guided tours include NASA Up Close, Cape Canaveral: Then and Now, and Lunch With An Astronaut.

  • Airport :
    Orlando International Airport
  • Airport Tax :
    Departure tax is usually included in your ticket price, inquire on booking.
  • Distance from Airport :
    15 km to downtown Orlando, 35 km to Walt Disney World
  • Tourist Office :
    8723 International Drive, Suite 101, Orlando. Phone: 407-363-5872.
  • Tourist Season :
    Year round but peak season is from June through August; as well as Christmas, New Year week, March spring break and Easter week.
  • Festivals & Events

    January - Annual Capital One Bowl and CompUSA Florida Citrus Bowl, Zora Neale Hurston Festival of the Arts and Humanities, Walt Disney World's Indy 200

    February - Silver Spurs Rodeo, Bach Festival hailing the birth of composer Johann Sebastian Bach, Mount Dora Arts Festival, Central Florida Fair

    March - Kissimmee Blue Grass Festival, St. Patrick’s Day Party, International Orchid Fair, Disney's Easter Parade

    April - Orlando International Fringe Festival, JazzFest Kissimmee, Rajuncajun Crawfish Festival

    May - Orlando Carnival, International Flower and Garden Festival

    June - Fulton's Crab House Seafood Alaska Festival, Florida Film Festival

    July 4th - Kissimmee Old Fashioned Celebration or Lake Eola Picnic in the Park

    August - Summer Music Games World Championships

    September - Osceola Art Festival, Annual Mexican Fiesta

    October - Polish Fest, Halloween Horror Night, International Food and Wine Festival, Walt Disney World/Oldsmobile Golf Classic

    November - Festival of Trees, Annual Candlelight Processional

    December - Christmas in the Park at Winter Park’s Charles Hosmer Morse Museum for the annual lighting of century-old Tiffany windows, Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Parade and Party, Orlando Citrus Parade

    Transportation

    Most visitors arrive at the Orlando International Airport. There are several shuttle companies running from the airport to various points, including Kissimmee, theme parks, and the cruise port at Port Canaveral. If you are staying at a Walt Disney World Resort hotel there is a complimentary shuttle and luggage delivery service. Prior reservations required. Some charter flights arrive at Orlando-Sanford International Airport.

    The Amtrak train station provides service to Miami or points north up to New York. Greyhound provides commercial bus service between different cities in Florida.

    Orlando is the largest rental car market in the world and is known as capital of car rental companies, with all major car rental companies easily accessible from the airport. A rental car is the easiest and most convenient way to get around. The roads are all wide and easy to drive on with all the major areas signposted, but traffic jams are common in the afternoons.

    Taxis are generally expensive, but available at almost any time and place. Along International and Universal Drive, the I-Ride Trolley primarily serves tourists in the attractions area. The trolleys are in fact modified buses. Per-day and multi-day bus passes are available from many locations. Orlando's public transportation is the Lynx bus service. Approximately 60 routes serve the metro Orlando area. The Lymmo Bus service operates frequently in a circuit in Downtown Orlando, from City Hall to the Centroplex and back.

    Activities & Sports

    Hike, swim, go boating, canoe, kayak, bicycle, snorkel, or scuba dive in one of the many surrounding parks. Try the Blue Spring State Park, De Leon Spring State Park, Hontoon Island State Park, Lake Eola Park, Lake Louisa State Park, Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, Moss Park/Split Oak, Sebastian Inlet State Park, Tomoka State Park and Wekiwa Springs State Park.

    A few places offer horseback riding tours, like the Grand Cypress Equestrian Center, Horse World Riding Stables and Westgate River Ranch.

    At last count, Orlando counted around 170 golf courses. This could be considered a golfer’s paradise for sure. Here are some favorite public courses to help you pick which to play when you visit:

    Boggy Creek Golf Club, Cypress Creek Country Club, Dubsdread Golf Course, Eaglewood Golf Club, EastWood Golf Club, Fairways Country Club, Faldo Golf Institute by Marriott, Grand Cypress Resort: Four Courses, Grande Pines Golf Club, Lake Orlando Golf Club, MetroWest Golf Club, Ritz Carlton Golf Club, Shingle Creek Golf Club, Stoneybrook Golf Club, and Ventura Country Club

    Local sports teams include the Orlando Magic (NBA) basketball team and the Orlando Predators (AFL) football team. The Florida Citrus Bowl is a stadium in Orlando built for American football and its main events are the Capital One Bowl and the Champs Sports Bowl.

    Archaeology

    The Orange County Regional History Center has exhibits and artifacts from the earliest days of this region, the Seminole Indians, to the modern day history, including the Civil Rights era and the Disney period.

    Attractions & Sights

    Disney World is THE famous attraction. The Walt Disney World resort is the area's largest attraction with its many facets such as the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney-MGM Studios, Disney's Animal Kingdom, Typhoon Lagoon, Blizzard Beach, and Downtown Disney. There are also dozens of hotels, plenty of shopping and dining districts, and eight golf courses.

    Next in fame is Universal Orlando Resort, comprised of Universal Studios, CityWalk, and the Islands of Adventure theme park.

    SeaWorld Orlando, is a large adventure park that features numerous zoological displays and marine animals alongside an amusement park with roller coasters and water park. Right across the street is Discovery Cove, which lets you get even closer to the sea life by allowing you to swim with fish, stingrays and the park's main attraction, Bottlenose dolphins. Only 1,000 visitors are admitted daily so it is often sold out, even with its steep admission fee.

    Gatorland houses thousands of alligators and crocodiles. The park combines a petting zoo, bird sanctuary, mini-water park, eco-tour and outdoor entertainment, including daily alligator wrestling.

    There are many, many more theme parks and family attractions such as: Wet 'N Wild water park, Cypress Garden Adventure Park, Dinosaur World, Green Meadows Petting Farm, Ron Jon Surfpark, Silver Springs, and Wonderworks.

    Downtown Orlando has a lot to offer on its own. Orange Avenue is packed with bars, clubs, and restaurants, so it is closed most nights to cars for pedestrians. Nearby Lake Eola is a picturesque park containing a light fountain that has been established as an icon of the city and a historic outdoor shell theater. The Mary, Queen of the Universe Shrine Catholic church gets many visitors as well.

    Several wonderful museums are worth visiting, such as the Cornell Fine Arts Museum, the International Trolley and Train Museum, the Orlando Museum of Art, the Orlando Science Center, and the Morse Museum of American Art located in nearby Winter Park. Two unusual attractions are the Holy Land Experience, a biblical theme park and museum, and Ripley's Believe It or Not! Orlando Odditorium where visitors can explore bizarre artifacts, strange collections, weird art/hobbies and interactive exhibits.

    The nearby town of Kissimmee has a few attractions of its own. The Old Town has a classic car show on the weekends, lots of shops and a couple restaurants, and a ferris wheel as well as other rides. The Warbird Air Museum specialises in restoring WW2 aircraft to flying condition. Guided tours are available of the work shops and hangers.

    Nightlife

    The city’s nightlife is centered mostly on Central Boulevard and Orange Avenue in downtown Orlando. Bars and dance clubs abound with urban rhythm. The tiny Thornton Park District has dozens of cafés and pubs. Suggestions include: Mulvaney's Irish Pub, Rhythm and Flow, Dexter's, Burton's Frosty Mug, and HUE.

    At the theme parks, there is Pleasure Island at Disney World and the CityWalk at Universal Studios offering entertainment. There is also Hard Rock Café, Hard Rock Live, and Hard Rock Hotel.

    Dinner theatre is definitely an option here: try Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament, or Arabian Nights.

    Here is one especially for kids: the World's Largest McDonald's PlayPlace is located on the corner of Sand Lake Road and International Drive. The interior features an arcade with over 60 games with prize.

    Cirque du Soleil performs La Nouba in Downtown Disney West Side. Check schedules for the Orlando Ballet, the Orlando Opera, the Orlando Philharmonic, and other performing art venues.

    Side Trips

    A lovely area to check out is Altamonte Springs, a northern suburb of Orlando, Florida. Here you can visit the Cranes Roost Park, a 37 acre lakeside park featuring a long lit boardwalk and covered pavilions, various ornamental plants and huge shade trees. Catch a local event in its 900 seat amphitheatre. There are several more parks to explore or picnic in around: Hermit's Trail, Lake Lotus Nature Park, Lake Orienta Public Boat Ramp and Recreational Area, Sunshine Park, and Turnbull Avenue Park. Golfers can play a round at The Links golf course featuring 9 holes 1,220 yards par 27.

    Busch Gardens, a combined amusement park and top-notch zoo, is a mere 60 minutes out of Orlando. There are rides, shows and the Serengeti Safari Tour.

    If you go spend a day at Cocoa beach, make sure to spend some time at the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral. There are regularly scheduled tours and sites where you can check things out.

    Accommodations

    Orlando has a hotel around virtually every corner. There are hotels to meet every traveler's need, whether it is a hostel or a 5-star resort. There are also a large number of lodgings in the surrounding cities and towns, like Kissimmee and Cocoa Beach.

    Privately owned vacation rental homes are also very popular especially with families and larger groups. They offer more space than hotel rooms, have kitchenettes, and are often times cheaper.

    The Orange County Convention Center offers 2.1 million-square feet of exhibition space and serves as the area's convention and meeting center.

    Eating Out

    Orlando’s theme parks also offer great upscale dining options. A few examples include Sharks Underwater Grill at SeaWorld, Mythos at Universal Studios, or Cinderella’s Royal Table in Disney’s Magic Kingdom. Walt Disney World Resort even organizes meals with some of their famous characters.

    The city itself has over 5,400 restaurants: from fast food joints, across-the-country chain restaurants, ethnic eateries, and gastronomic tables. Top choices include:

    The brunch at La Coquina at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress
    Hue, located in trendy Thornton Park
    Fifi’s Patisserie, also in trendy Thornton Park
    Seasons 52
    Ruth’s Chris Steak House’s
    The Venetian Room, located at the Caribe Royale Resort
    Victoria & Albert’s
    Norman’s at The Ritz-Carlton Orlando Grande Lakes
    Del Frisco's Prime Steak & Lobster
    Luma on Park

    Shopping

    There is no shortage of shopping opportunities in Orlando that is for sure. Visitors will find a number of major malls, outlet factories and ethnic enclaves:

    - Florida Mall is the biggest mall in Orlando.
    - Mall at Millenia is Orlando's most upscale and beautiful mall.
    - Fashion Square Mall
    - West Oaks Mall
    - Orlando Premium Outlets is home to the top designers.
    - Prime Outlets is also home to many designers
    - Lake Buena Vista Factory Outlets
    - Little Saigon has about 100 stores that stock items from China, Viet Nam, Hong Kong, etc, and is also home to many Asian restaurants.
    - Little India area, although a bit spread out, has many Indian stores in the South Orange Blossom Trail area on the main streets and side roads.

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