Answers from Our Experts (3)
Orlando is known around the world for one thing: the theme parks. Disney World, Universal Studios and SeaWorld take the spotlight for the best attractions. Don’t get me wrong — those are the best things to do when you’re in Orlando and on vacation. However, how about for those who come to Orlando not looking to go to the theme parks?
Orlando, aside from the theme parks, is growing in culture every day. Most people don’t know that Orlando is home to one of the best state-of-the-art arenas in the country: the Amway Center. This venue hosts musical acts, hockey, basketball games and much more, and is located in Downtown Orlando, another great area for visitors. Downtown has a multitude of bars, restaurants and shops to keep guests busy all day and all night. Take a walk around the famous Lake Eola or take a swan ride in the lake. Another great area to visit is the historic Park Ave., which consists of upscale boutiques and restaurants on an old-fashioned brick road. This area attracts a great crowd for leisure, art festivals, concerts and much more.
Obviously Walt Disney World Resort, the 40-square-mile mecca of merriment, will top most visitor’s bucket list, and justifiably so. With four theme parks, two water parks, plus a dozen more fun happenings at Downtown Disney, a trip to WDW can easily eat up an entire weeklong vacation. That being said, there’s one attraction that is, in my books at least, even better: Discovery Cove. As the sister property to SeaWorld, you’ll expect to see dolphins and tropical fish; what’s surprising is that you’ll be swimming with them. Guests are outfitted with wetsuits and snorkels upon arrival and then they spend the entire day in Discovery Cove’s various wet zones, swimming with fish, wading with rays, and floating along a lazy river that passes through a free-flight aviary. It’s an unforgettable Orlando experience that’s limited to just 1,300 guests each day. Finally, you can’t come to Orlando without a visit to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter inside Universal's Island of Adventure. Even if you’re not fan of the outrageously popular book series, you’ll still appreciate the attraction’s epic rides and crafty recreation of J.K. Rowling infamous locales.
Orlando's status as the "Theme Park Capital of the World" is well deserved, however after waiting for the 3 o'clock parade, chances are you'll want to cool off from the sweltering Florida heat. That makes the various water parks around town some of the best attractions in Orlando. A personal favorite is Disney's Typhoon Lagoon, where you can take on such thrilling slides as the Humunga Kowabunga or just relax and drift along in their lazy river. Listen out for the shipwrecked Typhoon Tilly to announce the top of the hour and the impending tsunamis in the enormous wave pool.
If you happen to prefer history to roller coasters, then consider making the 45-minute drive over to the coast for a visit to Kennedy Space Center. Here you'll find rocket exhibits, Imax movies, and a ride based on the game Angry Birds. You can even have lunch with an astronaut, all of which is designed to give visitors an up close and personal look at the history of America's space program.