Less than half a century ago, Orlando was nothing more than swamplands in the Everglades; today, “The City Beautiful” buzzes with the sounds of award-winning attractions, live performances and exhilarating nightlife. One of the most visited cities in the world, Orlando is a family favorite that also entices a more mature crowd with a towering list of international restaurants, lively nightclubs and exclusive hotels in the ever-transforming Central Business District.
Hearing “Orlando” likely conjures images of mouse-ear-wearing children at Walt Disney World© and wand-waving muggles at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios© theme parks. The association is inescapable at the “Theme Park Capital of the World”: Orlando is a traveler’s paradise thanks to Walt Disney’s enchanting fantasy park, the cinematic rides of Universal Studios© and the mesmerizing Shamu performances at SeaWorld Orlando©.
REASONS TO GO:
- Food Tours: With restaurants owned by Emeril Lagasse, Donna Scala, Todd English and Roy Yamaguchi dotting the Orlando food scene, a memorable meal is not hard to come by. You can also tantalize your taste buds by dining on Restaurant Row, the highest concentration of restaurants in the city.
- See Art Orlando: Take a selfie with each of the eight contemporary public art sculptures throughout the city. Some of the sculptures, including Union, Cedar of Lebanon and Take Flight, are brilliantly lit at night for a new experience.
- Shopping: You’ll feel like a celebrity with a new Gucci bag from the upscale Mall at Millenia and new Coach accessories from the Florida Mall. If you love a good deal, though, don’t miss the numerous outlet malls.
- Nightlife: Spend the night out on International Drive. The wide variety of options, including a blues club, a rum bar, luxurious lounges and sports bars, makes I-Drive the top destination for late-night fun.
- Athletic Events: With Orlando Magic basketball, Orlando City soccer, Atlanta Braves spring training and more, the city has a new game each season. Every March, the Arnold Palmer Invitational hosts the biggest names in golf at the Bay Hill Club and Lodge.
- OCCO: The second-largest convention center in the U.S., the Orange County Convention Center’s event calendar always offers entertaining expos, concerts and more.
- Interactive Experiences: Become part of the show by swimming with dolphins at Discovery Cove®, or hit the manicured fields at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex and leave feeling like a superstar athlete.
WHEN TO GO:
Orlando’s subtropical climate gives the city a summertime feeling throughout much of the year. The sun is a regular companion, perfect for shopping at the Orlando International Premium Outlets or attending annual events like Lake Eola’s Fiesta in the Park and the Orlando Fringe Festival for art.
Even during the dry winter, temperatures average in the 60s and 70s. If you do feel a chill, head to the Mills 50 District (“Little Vietnam”) to warm up with a bowl of steaming pho.
The best time to go amusement park hopping is on weekdays from January through March—after the winter holidays but before spring break. Plus, visiting at this time may also put you in the city for the annual Citrus Bowl in January or Braves spring training games in March and April.
If you need some inspiration for your next outing, check out #Orlandoing on your favorite social media site.