Your Orlando holiday
If you want to plan a vacation that will entertain the entire family, holidays in Orlando are exactly what you are looking for. With a high concentration of the country’s best amusement parks (including the massive Walt Disney World Resort), cutting-edge restaurants, and world-class golf courses, this central Florida city appeals to the young and old alike.
So make sure to reserve a flight to Orlando today, and you will experience the best entertainment the U.S. has to offer.
Before U.S. settlers began arriving to central Florida in the early 19th century, Native Americans from the Seminole tribe inhabited the area that surrounds present-day Orlando. The U.S. army built Fort Gatlin to the south to protect American settlers in 1838, and a permanent settlement grew from there.
Originally known as Jernigan, the city was renamed Orlando in 1857, in honour of a soldier who died in the Second Seminole War.
Orlando’s early economy thrived on cattle ranches, which unfolded across central Florida to meet the demand for beef in nearby Cuba. Farming of cotton and citrus produce (oranges, etc.) became major industries as well.
However, the brutally humid Florida heat made Orlando an unattractive destination for settlers before the invention of air conditioning. The city’s population remained low until the 1971 opening of the Magic Kingdom spurred the development of a massive entertainment business in the region. The Magic Kingdom eventually grew into Walt Disney World Resort, which covers 40 square miles and includes four theme parks, two water parks, dozens of hotels, and an onsite campground. With the addition of SeaWorld in 1973, and Universal Studios in 1990, tourism became Orlando’s chief industry.
While the population of Orlando proper stands at just over 230,000 people, the number of people residing in the city’s sprawling metropolitan area tops two million.
Top Orlando attractions
Big Tree Park
Located in Longwood—about 15 miles from downtown Orlando—Big Tree Park boasts one of the country’s oldest trees. Scientists estimate that ‘the Senator,’ as the massive tree is nicknamed, is about 3,500 years old.
Entrance is free to the park, and while there, you can check out the area’s natural marshlands. And don’t forget to pack a lunch: Big Tree Park has picnic areas open to visitors.
Located in downtown Orlando, this 100-foot monument to the Tupperware Company’s plastic food storage containers is constructed entirely of Tupperware bowls. Viewing is free.
Lake Eola Park
Rent a paddleboat, take a gondola tour, or admire the splendid swans in this downtown Orlando Park. Check out what is playing at the Disney Amphitheater, or meander through the 43 acres of natural Florida beauty.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom
This giant zoo and entertainment park features exotic animals from different world regions, including Komodo dragons. The park has a number of rollercoaster rides through exotic locales: Expedition Everest takes you up into the Himalayan Mountains and Primeval Whirl through the land of the dinosaurs.
This lively boulevard in the Universal Orlando Resort features an exciting variety of shopping options, plus shows, restaurants, and nightlife.
Designed to be like Hollywood Boulevard in California, Universal CityWalk is packed to the brim with tourists at all hours of the day.
The Epcot Pavilions
Walt Disney himself originally designed Epcot—or Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow—as a utopian, futuristic community, to start with 20,000 houses and expand from there. But the dream died with Walt Disney, and Epcot eventually opened as an educational theme park built with cultural edification in mind.
The park’s two sections, World Showcase and Future World, educate guests on international cultures and space and technology, respectively. Check out the 11 pavilions that feature architecture from countries like Japan, Italy, and Morocco.
Where to stay in Orlando
Hotels in Orlando are a dime a dozen, with everything from campgrounds and budget motels to luxurious resorts catering to tourists of all stripes.
The recently opened hotel Parc Soleil Suites by Hilton Grand Vacations Club is a Mediterranean-style resort, perfect for families, business associates, and young couples alike. You can swim up to the poolside bar and restaurant, relax in a luxury suite, or check out one of the many nearby championship golf courses.
Lake Buena Vista Resort hotel offers shuttle services to the nearby Walt Disney World Resort theme parks, including the Magic Kingdom and Epcot. Spend down time in the hotel pool, or organise a celebration or business function in its exquisite banquet hall.
For those who like to spread out a bit, the hotel Residence Inn by Marriot is a good bet. Choose between one- and two-bed suites, or upgrade to the two-floor penthouse suites. Those on a budget will enjoy their room’s full kitchen and free Internet access. Pets are allowed.
The Doubletree Resort hotel sits on 28 acres of regional palms and native grasses, and provides free shuttle service to Walt Disney World and Universal theme parks, as well as SeaWorld. It is also located advantageously for business travellers who need easy access to the Orange County Convention Center.
How to move around in Orlando
Because of the city’s sprawling design, Orlando car hire is likely to be an attractive option for many travellers. Driving in the city will give you the freedom to go between parks as you please, instead of having to rely on hotel shuttles and taxis.
It will also allow you to check out nearby golf courses and parks at your pleasure.
You can choose from a number of major companies—Budget, Hertz, and Alamo—that will have your car ready for you at Orlando International Airport when you arrive. Just be certain to book in advance to get the make and model you want.
Orlando has a number of reputable 24-hour taxi services that you can hire by calling directly or arranging through your hotel. Rates vary between companies, but expect an average of $3 to begin, and $2.50 for each additional mile.
Flat rates are available to and from the airport and to some major theme parks, and larger groups can hire limousines and luxurious town cars.
The city’s I Ride trolley system was designed for tourist use, with two convenient lines travelling through Orlando’s hotel and shopping hubs and certain theme parks.
Adult fare is $1.25, with kids age 12 and under riding free and seniors over 65 paying $.25. Exact change is required. Two dollars buys a fare on the Bus Lynx #50 between SeaWorld and Downtown Disney.
Many Orlando hotels offer free shuttle services to the region’s major theme parks and destinations.
As an international tourist destination, Orlando is home to a wide variety of restaurants to accommodate every taste. Whether you are looking for haute cuisine or a place to grab a quick bite between roller coasters, you will never be out of options.
Located on downtown Orlando’s main drag, Citrus (821 North Orange) serves fine American cuisine in an elegant ambience. Sample the Duck Tostados or the Blue Crab Cakes as an appetizer while sipping on a signature cocktail. Make sure to save room for one of the restaurant’s famed seafood platters, like Florida Shrimp & Grits or Pomegranate Grazed Salmon.
Watch skilled Teppanyaki chefs prepare your meal at Shogun Japanese Steakhouse (6327 International Drive). Dine on beef and seafood options, or come early for the all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet.
At the White Wolf Café (1829 North Orange), diners can munch on healthy, Mediterranean and American-style dishes while admiring the vintage antiques that the restaurant has for sale. Located in the Bohemian district at the end of Orange Avenue, you can check out the more than 30 nearby boutiques after polishing off a Red Chile Salmon Burger or a Zesty Cool Shrimp & Avocado Salad. Vegetarians will be pleased with the meat-free options on the menu.
Conveniently situated in the “Downtown Disney” area, Wolfgang Puck Express is a counter-service restaurant that features delicious pizzas and sandwiches from the international gourmet chain. Outdoor seating and a children’s menu are available.
Visit The Magic Kingdom
Open since 1971, the Magic Kingdom is the crown jewel in the sprawling Walt Disney World Resort, and is presently the most visited amusement park in the world.
Interact with characters from Disney movies—Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Snow White, and Princess Jasmine—and check out famous theme rides like “Pirates of the Caribbean” and “It’s A Small World”.
For a bit of Americana, head to “Main Street, U.S.A.”, designed to replicate the main drag of an early 20th century small town in America.
Thrill seekers can ride the park’s hardcore roller coasters like “Space Mountain” and “Splash Mountain”.
Pet Dolphins at SeaWorld
Located just outside of Orlando, this enormous aquatic zoo features sea life, live entertainment, water rides, and roller coasters.
The park’s most famous attraction is Shamu Stadium, where killer whales (orcas) and their trainers put on a live performance every day.
Interact with bottlenose dolphins at the park’s famous Dolphin Cove, or touch giant manta rays at Stingray Lagoon.
At Penguin Encounter, check out the park’s multiple species of penguin in recreations of their natural habitat.
If you prefer to be entertained by human beings, you can see A’lure, a live acrobatics show at The Nautilus Theater.
Ride The Movies at Universal Studios Florida
This entertainment park features rides based on movies like Shrek, Revenge of the Mummy, and Men in Black. The ever-popular attraction “Twister…Ride It Out” employs special effects to recreate the feeling of being in a tornado!
You can also interact with dressed up characters like Jimmy Neutron, Homer Simpson, and Betty Boop.
For live music, check out “The Blues Brothers Live” and “Beetlejuice’s Rock and Roll Graveyard Revue”.
Play a Round of Golf
Orlando is home to 90+ championship golf courses. Dust off the ol’ nine-iron at the exclusive Bay Hill Club and Lodge, host of the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
A more low-key option is a public course, like the Orange County National Golf Center and Lodge.
Health & Safety
Vaccinations and Hygiene
There are no compulsory vaccinations to visit the United States in general, but boosters for standard vaccinations are recommended for general health and safety. For people planning to stay for extended periods, a Hepatitis B vaccination is recommended as well.
The tap water is fine to drink in Orlando.
Assaults are infrequent in Orlando, but visitors should follow common sense precautions. Do not wander around alone at night, in poorly lit areas, or in neighbourhoods with which you are not familiar. Do not wear flashy jewellery or objects that may draw attention to you, such as MP3 devices or cell phones. Beware of offers from strangers who want to buy you food or a drink.
Another tip is to make a photocopy of all travel identification documents to keep with you in case you lose the originals or they are stolen. You can ask the concierge at your hotel about the potential of storing valuable items in a safe in your room or in the hotel itself.
When driving, make sure to obey the speed limit, as enforcement in the United States is stringent and fines for speeding can be steep.
While the state of Florida experiences frequent hurricanes, Orlando’s location in the central part of the state protects it from the most severe damage. Still, if a hurricane does occur, contact your family or the British Consulate as soon as possible.
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