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With 233 sunny days a year, thrilling theme parks, exciting sports and world-class spas, it’s no wonder Orlando, Florida was recently named the number one most visited city in the U.S. by Travel Pulse. To really grasp all that the city has to offer, install the Visit Orlando App, but in the meantime, here are our top 11 reasons why you should make Orlando your next vacation destination.
While there is nothing quite like seeing the magic through a child’s eyes, even grown-ups can be kids again at one of Orlando’s many theme parks. Walt Disney World® alone boasts four uniquely different parks, while thrill seekers and Harry Potter lovers alike will marvel at Universal Studios and Universal Islands of Adventure™. SeaWorld® Orlando’s more relaxed pace and animal exhibits make it an ideal option for families, big and small. And for those who are looking to escape the heat, cool off at one of the many water parks, such as Universal’s brand-new Volcano Bay™. Orlando has something for the kid in everyone!
This year marks the arrival of several highly anticipated attractions at Orlando’s theme parks. Universal Orlando Resort™ recently opened Volcano Bay™. The park, which combines thrills and relaxation in an island paradise, will allow guests, via the wearable technology TapuTapu, to hold their spot in line virtually and go to the ride once the device alerts them. At Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon™ at Universal Studios™, get ready for a wild and hilarious ride as a Tonight Show audience member. At Walt Disney World’s® Animal Kingdom Resort, a new Avatar-inspired land called Pandora -The World of AVATAR features floating mountains, bioluminescent rainforests, and new nighttime entertainment.
If you happen to be at Walt Disney World’s® Epcot® between August 31, 2017, and November 13, 2017, expect to be taken on a gastronomical experience as flavors of the countries come alive. Sample delicacies and libations from around the globe, attend a beverage boot camp or the Eat to the Beat concert series. But you don’t have to visit Epcot to taste a variety of cuisine from around the world.
Nearby, International Drive plays hosts to a variety of restaurants such as the Greek, Taverna Opa; Ethiopian, Nile Ethiopian Restaurant; or the Brazilian Pão Gostoso Bakery. With such amazing culinary experiences on offer, it’s no surprise that WalletHub recently named it the Best Foodie City in the nation.
If you are looking to immerse yourself in the many cultural offerings of the City Beautiful, catch live music, Broadway shows, ballet, orchestra and even dance performances at the elaborate Dr. Philips Center for the Performing Arts. Or head to one of the many museums such as the Orlando Museum of Art or the unique Museum of Osteology.
Not only does Orlando offer a bevy of entertainment and attractions but an abundance of natural beauty as well. From pristine beaches, a little over an hour away to the more nearby nature parks, experience the untouched beauty that the city has to offer.
See what Florida was like years ago when the Timucuan Indians roamed the lands at the Wekiwa Springs State Park. Here you can swim in the crystal clear waters of the springs, which stay at a refreshing 72°F (22.2°C) year-round. Or head to the nearby Wekiva Island, rent a cabana and spend the day kayaking, listening to live music and grabbing a cold beer at Tooting Otter, the islands indoor/outdoor bar.
Adventure lovers can come up close and personal with live gators, the touristy way, at Gatorland, or experience these majestic creatures in their own environment at Black Hammock Adventures. If you prefer exploring along waterways, the Winter Park Boat Tour is a great way to see some of the area’s most beautiful, and pricey, real estate.
The much-anticipated 25,500-seat Orlando City Soccer Stadium, home of Orlando City SC’s Major League team, the National Women’s Soccer League’s Orlando Pride, and Orlando City B, recently made its debut in the city. U.S. Tennis Association (USTA) has also opened a new National Campus in the Lake Nona area of Orlando. The 65-acre complex is the largest tennis facility in the world, according to the USTA, encompassing 100 courts (hard and clay) and a multi-use building that includes a pro shop, fitness center, locker rooms, cafeteria and players’ lounge. But for those who would rather participate than be spectators, Orlando is home to over 170 golf courses. And, if you are really looking for a white-knuckled experience, get behind the wheel of a NASCAR race car at the Richard Petty Driving Experience at the Daytona International Speedway.
In 2016, Forbes Magazine named Orlando the most affordable destination in the country. Indeed, the city offers plenty of ways to save, including a free Visit Orlando App (available in Apple App and Google Play stores) with deals, assistance and even games to enhance any trip. There is also a host of activities in Orlando that range from free to under $25; these include Kings Bowl Orlando, The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art, Ripley’s Believe It or Not!® Orlando Odditorium, SAK Comedy Lab, Madame Tussauds, and The Coca-Cola® Orlando Eye.
Travel Pulse recently named Orlando an up-and-coming destination for multi-generational travel in 2017. Many of Orlando’s accommodations have family suites, including Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort, whose suites can accommodate up to six guests and feature a kitchenette. In order to provide all the comforts of home, the brand-new Grove Resort & Spa offers two- and three-bedroom residential-style suites that come with full kitchens, washers and dryers, plus multiple bathrooms.
Orlando’s attractions also offer something for everyone in the family. Universal Orlando Resort’s™ new Skull Island: Reign of Kong and Walt Disney World® Resort’s newly revamped Soarin’ Around the World at Epcot® aren’t wild rides, yet both of these attractions and many others at the parks are exciting fun for all.
Orlando is widely recognized as a must-see destination for families, but couples can find romance and memorable experiences just for them. In fact, Orlando was one of the top two Best Places to Get Married in 2017, according to WalletHub. Ivanhoe Village, named one of the top five most romantic main streets in the U.S., lies just two miles (3.2 kilometers) from downtown Orlando. Start your evening with dinner at Mesa 21 and catch the sunset over Lake Ivanhoe; grab a craft beer at The Thirsty Topher, and end the night with a seductive and decadent journey at Better Than Sex, the adult café offering sweet treats and chocolate-dipped wine glasses. If your journey takes you downtown, enjoy an intimate meal at newcomer DoveCote, an inviting French-style brasserie.
Say om because according to WalletHub, Orlando is one of the top five Best Cities for an Active Lifestyle for 2017. That may surprise many people, but the destination offers a plethora of unique ways to explore the city while also recharging and focusing on improving physical fitness. From tennis lessons at the new USTA national training campus and paddleboarding in a natural habitat to biking the West Orange Trail and enjoying a signature spa treatment at the Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World® Resort, there is a lot to make anyone happy. Orlando’s dining scene also offers a variety of healthy and fresh farm-to-table fare, so even vegetarians, vegans, and diet-conscious visitors can find something to elevate their Orlando experience.
Whether your idea of a night out consists of swanky cocktail bars, dancing the night away or a cozy pub, Orlando has a copious amount of options. If you are looking to stay near the resorts, grab a pint at Raglan Road™ Irish Pub at Disney Springs or dance to two levels of music at the lavish ultra lounge, the Red Coconut Club™ at Universal CityWalk™.
Venture to downtown Orlando’s Church Street District and grab an expertly made cocktail at the swanky Bosendorfer Lounge, or for the budget conscious, don’t miss out on Cahoots, home of nickel beer Wednesdays. But for the “real” Orlando experience, see where the locals hang; the Mills 50 District packs an enclave of bars, such as Wally’s Mills Avenue Liquors, The Guest House, and The Thirsty Topher, in a walkable couple of miles.