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Orlando skyline
Orlando skyline

15 Things to Know Before Visiting Orlando, Florida

Picture of Melissa Sherrard
Updated: 18 January 2018

The city of Orlando, Florida, is renowned as one of the most popular vacation destinations for people from all over the world, offering a range of dining, entertainment and lodging options to accommodate all styles, budgets and tastes. First-time visitors to “The City Beautiful” may find planning the trip overwhelming, so to help the process go more smoothly, we look at 15 things to know before visiting Orlando, Florida. Enjoy your time in the Sunshine State!

Weather in central Florida is unpredictable

Orlando is located in a subtropical climate with a rainy season that typically spans from May through October, meaning you should expect an afternoon shower almost every day if you visit during summer. The average temperature at any given time of the year is 72 degrees Fahrenheit, but even the typically mild, dry winters of Orlando can quickly give way to wet, chilly weather for a spell. For your first visit to Orlando, Florida, make sure you’re ready for a wide range of scenarios and take heed of extreme weather warnings for wind, rain and lightning.

Many transportation options

Renting a car or taking cabs are perhaps the easiest ways to see everything you want to in Orlando, Florida, but there are other options for getting around the metro area. Many hotels and resorts offer complimentary shuttles to major attractions and other locations around the city (though you sometimes need a reservation) and public transit options in Orlando include the LYNX bus lines and the SunRail train network.

The major theme parks are close together

The “Theme Park Capital of the World” consists of Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando and SeaWorld Orlando, and all these major attractions are located in about a 15-mile radius in an area nearly 20 miles southwest of Orlando’s downtown metro area.

An international city

On your first visit to Orlando, Florida, don’t be surprised to hear different languages and see types of money from all over the world; just remember only United States currency is accepted at businesses and English is the common tongue.

Buy tickets in advance

You’ll get the best deal on tickets for everything from dinner shows and art exhibits to museum passes and mini golf if you plan when you want to go and buy tickets beforehand. This is also true for the major theme parks, and be sure to schedule special experiences (like Disney character dining) well in advance.

You’re in the “Sunshine State”

You’re bound to experience the Florida sun at some point during your visit to Orlando, so make sure you have plenty of sunscreen and light, protective clothing, including hats, sunglasses and gloves. Don’t forget to stay hydrated!

More than just theme parks

In addition to the famous theme parks, Orlando offers a range of attractions for the whole family, including art institutions, live theatrical and dance performances, exotic wildlife, historical sites and architecture, antique shopping districts and modern outlet malls, and botanical gardens.

 

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Disney Springs, Orlando FL | ©  Rusty Clark / Flickr

Great for sports lovers

“The City Beautiful” is home to the Orlando Magic, the U.S. Tennis Association National Campus, the Orlando City Soccer Club and dozens of golf courses.

Ecotourism is huge

Offering a myriad of landscapes, including canal-connected lakes, bald-cypress swamps, saltwater marshlands and untouched pinewoods, there are many opportunities to see the natural beauty of Florida during your first visit to Orlando.

Check out I-Drive

International Drive (I-Drive) is a go-to for first-time tourists as it offers easy access to hundreds of different attractions, theaters, night clubs and restaurants.

Orlando is landlocked

Orlando’s closest beach, Cocoa Beach, is an hour away to the east, while Clearwater Beach on the western Gulf coast is closer to 90 minutes away.

Affordable sightseeing

Visitors to Orlando can take advantage of GO City Card to see bundles of select attractions at a lower price than buying tickets individually. Also, check with popular sites and attractions to learn if they offer a free or discounted day/evening during the time of your visit.

Know who can accepts tips

Orlando is built on customer service, and while tipping is common in most restaurants, don’t assume that’s the case, as workers at major theme parks, some dinner shows, nightclubs and other attractions can’t accept tips.

Year-round water parks

All of Orlando’s world-class water parks are open all year long, with extreme cold and severe weather being the only things that shut them down, so be sure to bring your bathing suit no matter when you visit!

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Seaworld Orlando Shamu | © David R. Tribble / WikiCommons

Emergency numbers

Just in case, here are some emergency contact numbers:
Orlando City Police Department – (321) 235-5300
Orlando Regional Medical Center – (321) 841-5111
Orange County Sheriff’s Office – (407) 836-4357