Orlando has a little bit of everything and is the best of both worlds; if you’re looking for a sunshine-filled, family-friendly or romantic adults-only vacation, Orlando is worth considering. Closer to most Canadian gateways than Caribbean islands, Orlando has all of the allure of a resort vacation, but so much more on top.
Its main attraction is Disney World and Universal Studios, but the Orlando tourist attractions offer much more: home to over a dozen theme parks, this is a perfect destination for those looking to go, go, go! With family friendly theme parks and waterparks, and only a 20-minute drive south to Kissimmee where you’ll find more attractions to make a splash in and sunshine-filled relaxation, this is your go-to for a vacation any month of the year. But that’s not all: golf and relaxing spas, great shopping, and a perfect location to access plenty of Central Florida towns, Orlando is a great destination for mom and dad to visit without the kids, for a girls (or guys!) getaway, or for the couple looking to escape their everyday routine. Take a swing at Orlando…there’s so much to do we’re almost certain you won’t be disappointed!
Who will like Orlando?
Start your Orlando vacation by deciding which of the area’s theme parks you’re hoping to visit, and making a list of the attractions that are must-see stops for your trip. Orlando is a great destination for families – no matter how old your children are (Harry Potter world is great for teenagers), adventure-seekers and adrenaline junkies, while race car lovers may want to make the hour trip north east to Daytona Beach to catch a race.
Don’t have kids? Orlando is becoming known for its top accommodations at great prices, golf and spas and attractions for luxury travellers. Escape to Orlando for that relaxing vacation you deserve; whether you’re looking to be treated like a princess at Cinderella’s castle, or looking to skip the theme parks and treat yourself. With plenty of attractions, activities, and parks to choose from, Orlando really does offer something for everyone.
What to do in Orlando
Disney World: If you’re travelling with children or even if you’re not, make a stop at Disney World and experience the magic of Disney’s famous characters and park. Visit everyone’s favourite mouse, Cinderella’s castle, catch the magnificent firework displays that happen over the castle’s tower or let your fairy tale dreams come true with character meet and greets and parades. Educate yourself about the rest of the world by visiting Epcot, or go on a safari at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. With approximately 50 rides, Disney will excite children and ignite laughter and fun in adults. (Don’t forget to pick up a Mickey Mouse ears hat!) Looking to score a deal, but still want to visit Disney? Travel during low season and you might find an “eat free” accommodation/dining plan for your visit.
SeaWorld: Make a splash in your Orlando vacation itinerary by visiting SeaWorld. Get up close and personal with dolphins, beluga and killer whales, sharks, stingrays, and parrots, among others. An animal-lovers paradise, SeaWorld is host to animal exhibits and shows, rides, and interactive and educational activities for children of all ages. Take part in SeaWorld’s attractions by watching the Sea Lion show which will have you laughing at the sea lions, walruses, and otters, or meet the belugas in the Beluga Interaction will have you in the water getting kisses from the gentle giants. Finally, end your day with an exhilarating roller coaster ride on the Journey to Atlantis (we recommend this at the end of the day: you might end up wet!)
Universal Studios: Adrenaline junkies will be comfortable in Universal Studios, with two theme parks, a waterpark, and fan favourites like Harry Potter World. Universal Studios is a whole new world of action, fun, and thrills…depending on how daring you are. Visit your favourite movie characters at Universal Studios, or travel through your favourite comic books and cartoons at Universal’s Islands of Adventure. Consider paying extra for the “front of the line” Universal tickets, and save time and energy and skip the lines at most rides.
Orlando Eye: Orlando tourist attractions range from high energy to relaxing, and a bird’s eye view of Orlando is a perfect way to wind down your vacation. The Orlando Eye is the tallest observational wheel on North America’s east coast. With views of downtown Orlando, and the Kennedy Space Centre (on clear days), the wheel has 30 air conditioned capsules fitting 15 people in each. Say cheese and take advantage of a great photo opportunity and view of your home away from home.
Don’t forget to make a trip to Winter Haven, just 45 minutes away, to please the LEGO-lover and young architect: LEGOLAND Florida is complete with building centres, LEGO cars, a water park, rides, shows, and countless LEGO constructions. Also in the Orlando area is the new Madame Tussaud’s wax museum, Busch Gardens Tampa, the Kennedy Space Centre, Ripley’s Believe it or Not!, and I-Drive NASCAR Indoor Kart Racing, among others (and don’t forget, great Florida beaches for a relaxing day after all that energetic fun are only about an hour away!). With so many attractions, parks, and options for things to do in Orlando, your vacation will be jam-packed and fun-filled. Call a travel agent at 1-800-665-4981 to plan your Orlando vacation, or plan your days with these sightseeing and day-trip packages.
Where you should stay
Choose from a range of accommodations in Orlando, from Orlando Vacation Homes and rentals, to Disney-themed resorts or a higher-end hotel for that romantic getaway and fewer children by the pool. Stay on site at Disney at one of the themed resorts, take advantage of early park entrance times, and have a magical vacation from the moment you rise until your head hits the pillow at night, or stay in downtown Orlando or the surrounding area to experience the city beyond the theme parks.
Disney Grand Floridian: 5 star
This 5-star resort is complete with a white sand beach, live orchestra and character dining for the full Disney experience. With complimentary monorail transportation to the Disney parks, the Grand Floridian is just one stop from the Magic Kingdom, for your little prince and princess’ dreams to come true. This resort is a great choice for families, as it boasts a 181-foot waterslide, waterfalls, walking bridge, and large, family-friendly pool, as well as courtyard pool, whirlpool spa and kiddie pool. Mom and dad can relax in the on-site spa after a busy day at Disney. For the full list of onsite Disney World hotels, see our Disney hotel packages for your complete Disney vacation.
Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center: 3 star
Mom and dad, this resort is for you. This luxury hotel known for its service and amenities is a great choice in the Orlando area if you’re not travelling with kids, and looking for a break from the chaos of theme parks and family-friendly Orlando (though kids are welcome to stay here). With rooms ranging from guest rooms with 1 King bed to deluxe bedroom suites, your stay at the Gaylord Palms Resort will be full of relaxation. Close enough to the theme parks for a fun afternoon, the Gaylord is a great option for the traveller looking to experience all that Orlando has to offer. Just 10 minutes from the Disney gates, pamper yourself with the full service spa, pool, and fitness centre on your vacation.
Holiday Inn Orlando SW Celebration Area: 3 star
Located in the midst of the excitement in Orlando, between Disney and Universal, you’ll find comfort and rest at the Holiday Inn Orlando SW Celebration Area. If you’re looking for a leisurely vacation, and a stop at the area’s theme parks, this hotel is an economical and comfortable option. Enjoy the 2 onsite pools, bar, a la carte restaurant and food cart, and fitness centre during your vacation for the complete experience.
If you’re looking for something more budget-friendly, but still tourist-oriented, consider Kissimmee accommodations, a quick drive from downtown Orlando. If you’re looking to stay for a longer vacation, or want something that feels more like a home-away-from home, a vacation home or condo rental might be the type of accommodation you’re looking for. Staying in an Orlando vacation home means you’ll have the freedom to prepare meals and snacks for long-days out with the family, and have ample space for your vacation needs.
When should I go and for how long?
Orlando is a popular destination year-round with mild to moderate temperatures ranging from 21C (December) to 33C (July). High season for tourists in Orlando ranges from December (Christmas break) to March Break with families and school children visiting for the countless theme parks, rides, and activities that the area is known for. While summer months may be warmer, travellers will see fewer tourists and stand in fewer lines.
We recommend visiting Orlando for 1-2 weeks, depending on your interests. If you’re looking to visit all 4 Disney parks, in addition to Sea World, Universal, and other area activities, you might want to consider a 10-14 day vacation. Three to five days is plenty if you’re looking for a relaxing vacation away and some fun-filled activities, or if you’re just looking to hit the best of Disney.
Orlando is easy to get around, whether you’re looking to rent a car (though parking fees at theme parks may be high), or rely on public transit (LYNX Services). Many area hotels offer shuttle service to popular theme parks and attractions, including Disney World, SeaWorld, and Universal. Whether you’re planning to spend your whole vacation at Disney, or want to make your own perfect vacation, tripcentral.ca agents can help you navigate tickets, passes, and recommended allotted time for each park.
Getting around Orlando
Many hotels in Orlando offer shuttles to major theme parks, including Disney and Universal Studios. If you’re looking for ease with your vacation, make sure your accommodations include this service, making your travel to- and from- each day smooth. Another option for travelling between the theme parks, and amongst most hotels (along International Drive) is the I-RIDE Trolleys, offering a fun, easy commute and hop-on hop-off service. If you’re looking to hit several theme parks, explore downtown Orlando, and travel to Kissimmee or Daytona Beach for time at the beach, you might want to consider renting a car to avoid the hassle of public transportation with children.
Getting in from the airport
By bus: Before leaving home, find out if your hotel offers complimentary airport shuttles to ensure your arrival goes stress-free (your travel agent can help sort this out). If you’re looking to hop on public transport for the airport, you have plenty of options. Shuttle vans are available outside the baggage claim doors, while travellers getting the full Disney experience can take advantage of Disney Resorts’ complimentary Magical Express motor coach from the airport to hotels, with luggage drop off.
By car: Orlando is easy to access from the airport or from another area of Florida, if you’re visiting on a larger trip. With several major highways flowing in Central Florida from the rest of the state, you’ll find transportation by car easy. Take the Martin Andersen Beachline Expressway west from the airport to find yourself on International Drive and amid most major hotels. A taxi ride from the airport to International Drive ranges from USD$30 to $39, while the local bus will cost $2.
Expect to pay between $80 and $300 per night for a 3 or 4 star hotel, with Disney hotels on the higher end. Direct flights from Toronto and Montreal run year-round and average $500 per person, while flights from Buffalo average $2-300 per person. Flights from Halifax operate during high season (December – April) and offer connecting flights the remainder of the year, while flights from Vancouver have daily departures on connecting flights, average $6-700 per person.
Orlando travel information
Currency: United States Dollars.
Useful tourist information: Visit Orlando’s tourism website for a full list of Orlando apps to help make your vacation stress-free, including an official guide (with GPS-enabled maps!) to Disney World, SeaWorld, and Universal Orlando.