Orlando, Florida is a must-visit destination on many travelers’ lists, and for good reason! “The City Beautiful,” as it is affectionately known, truly is beautiful, with many wonderful experiences to offer its visitors, including the famous, family-friendly theme parks. Here are some of the city’s best attractions.
The Magic Kingdom
No list of Orlando attractions would be complete without the main attraction – Disney’s The Magic Kingdom. It has been a staple of the city’s tourist scene since it opened in 1971, and it’s where you can meet your favorite classic characters like Mickey and Friends, as well as all the princesses.
The Magic Kingdom, 1180 Seven Seas Drive, Lake Buena Vista, FL, USA, +1 407 939 5277
Hollywood Studios is an oft-overlooked Disney park, but since the resurgence of interest in Lucasfilm’s Star Wars franchise (and Disney’s purchase of the movie company), the park has seen a spike in popularity. The Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, Star Tours, and The Great Movie Ride are just some favorites at this film lovers’ paradise.
Hollywood Studios, 351 S Studio Dr, Lake Buena Vista, FL, USA, +1 407 939 5277
Disney’s Animal Kingdom
If you love animals, then you can’t miss a visit to Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park. Covering more than 500 acres, it is Disney’s largest park in the entire world. The reason? It’s a vast, safari-style expanse featuring all kinds of different animals and the famed “Tree of Life.”
Disney’s Animal Kingdom, 2901 Osceola Pkwy, Orlando, FL, USA, +1 407 939 5277
Epcot is the fourth of Disney’s four main parks in Orlando and is the land of grown-ups. Although it has rides and attractions that kids will enjoy, it’s known for its adult-oriented festivals, such as the 2.5-month-long Food & Wine Festival. Either way, Epcot is a good low-key option when the crowds at the other parks might be getting too big.
Epcot, 200 Epcot Center Dr, Orlando, FL, USA, +1 407 824 4321
Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon
Looking for a way to beat the Central Florida heat? It’s Disney to the rescue, yet again! Typhoon Lagoon is a beach-style water park, complete with a wave pool that boasts huge swells and a special, shallow area reserved for the little ones.
Take a break from the parks and check out the newly redesigned Disney Springs. Once known as “Downtown Disney,” the company recently overhauled the area, adding in some great specialty shops (including a vegan bakery). It’s a perfect place to walk around and relax after a day at the parks.
Disney Springs, 1486 Buena Vista Dr, Orlando, FL, USA, +1 407 939 6244
If you’re not into the Disney characters, Universal Orlando™ is a great place to visit. The classic park features rides like the Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit® and the E.T. Adventure®. You can even meet some new favorite characters – like Despicable Me‘s minions.
Universal Orlando, 6000 Universal Blvd, Orlando, FL, USA, +1 407 363 8000
Islands of Adventure®
If thrill-seeking is your speed, Islands of Adventure® is a must-visit. Filled with roller coasters and thrill rides, this destination features the newly minted Wizarding World of Harry Potter™, where fans are now flocking to in order to get a chance to visit Hogwarts.
Islands of Adventure, 6000 Universal Blvd, Orlando, FL, USA, +1 407 224 4233
Universal CityWalk™ is similar to Disney Springs. There are restaurants serving great food and (sometimes) playing live music, plenty of shops, plus some fun family activities, including bowling.
Hours: Open 24 hours
Orlando Science Center
Contrary to popular belief, there is a lot to do in Orlando besides remaining on theme park property. One of the city’s best attractions is the Orlando Science Center, which has a rotating list of experiences and exhibits – sure to please any science or history buff.
Hours: Mon–Tues 10am–5pm; Wed closed; Thurs–Sun 10am–5pm
Orlando Science Center, 777 E Princeton St, Orlando, FL, USA, +1 407 514 2000
The Coca-Cola® Orlando Eye
The Orlando Eye is one of the city’s newest and most celebrated attractions. The Eye is 400 feet tall (122 meters) and features glass capsules for guests to ride in (complete with air conditioning), giving you a sweeping, bird’s-eye view of Orlando.
Hours: Mon–Thurs 10am–10pm; Fri–Sat 10am–12am; Sun 10am–10pm
Coca-Cola® Orlando Eye, 8401 International Dr #100, Orlando, FL, USA, +1 866 228 6438
Lake Eola Park
Lake Eola Park is one of the city’s most peaceful locations, with the lake itself in the heart of downtown Orlando. The park hosts several fairs and festivals throughout the year, as well as a weekly farmer’s market. Mingle with the locals who love to visit the park, and when the weather is pleasant, take a ride on a swan boat.
Hours: Mon–Sun 6am–12am
Harry P. Leu Botanical Gardens
The Harry P. Leu Botanical Gardens (or just Leu Gardens, as it’s known to locals) is a huge, botanical expanse covering approximately 50 acres, and its mission is to inspire visitors to learn about plants. The gardens are one of Orlando’s favorite places to host events, including business gatherings and weddings, and provide a beautiful area to walk through.
Hours: Mon–Sun 9am–5pm
Harry P. Leu Botanical Gardens, 1920 N Forest Ave, Orlando, FL, USA, +1 407 246 2620
After a long day of exploring, you may want to stop and have a cold one, and Orlando Brewing is an excellent option. Formerly “Orlando Brewing Company,” this organic taproom is a city favorite. As the weather is almost always perfect in sunny Central Florida, they often host live music on their outdoor patio.
Hours: Mon–Thurs 3pm–10pm; Fri–Sat 1pm–12am; Sun 1pm–9pm
Orlando Brewing, 1301 Atlanta Ave, Orlando, FL, USA, +1 407 872 1117
WonderWorks™, located on Orlando’s famed International Drive (I-Drive to the locals) at the Pointe Orlando commercial complex, is a dream for those who love and want to learn about science and play with it all at the same time. WonderWorks™ features hands-on science exhibits and attractions for everyone. The best part? The building is upside down.
Hours: Mon–Sun 9am–12am
La Nouba™ by Cirque du Soleil®
La Nouba™ by Cirque du Soleil® is hosted at Disney Springs. If you’ve never seen a Cirque du Soleil performance, you are in for a treat. And if you have, La Nouba™ will still surprise and delight you. The 90-minute show, similar to other Cirque du Soleil performances, features amazing acrobats, great music, and feats of athleticism that will have you holding your breath.
Marketplace, 1478 Buena Vista Dr, Orlando, FL, USA, +1 407 939 7600
Orlando International Premium Outlets®
You can’t leave Orlando without doing some serious shopping, and Orlando International Premium Outlets® is a great place to get all the best from your favorite designers and brands at a reduced rate. The venue is designed like a strip mall: open air, lots of room to walk, and plenty of opportunities to enjoy the beautiful Florida sunshine.
Hours: Mon–Sat 10am–11pm; Sun 10am–9pm
Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary, Queen of the Universe
The Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary, Queen of the Universe is a unique attraction in a place that’s filled with bright lights and theme parks. Originally built to provide a home for worship for Catholic tourists visiting the Orlando area, this Latin Rite basilica has become a tourist attraction. And while it still holds services, many visitors to the city head there just to see the beautiful architecture.
Kennedy Space Center™
While the Kennedy Space Center™ isn’t in Orlando proper, it’s still an amazing attraction to see while you’re in the Central Florida area. A NASA junkie’s dream, you can tour through memorabilia from various missions and astronauts and see shuttle launch simulations, all while making your inner nerd happy.
Hours: Mon–Sun 9am–7pm
Kennedy Space Center™, SR 405, Titusville, FL, USA, +1 877 404 3769
Think you can’t travel back to a simpler time? Think again because in Orlando, anything is possible. Old Town is one of the area’s lesser-known attractions; it’s reminiscent of small-town America in the ’50s and ’60s, and retro enthusiasts will love the classic car shows and old-fashioned candy shop. It’s a different experience for the Central Florida area.
Hours: Mon–Sun 10am–12am
Old Town, 5770 W Irlo Bronson Memorial Hwy, Kissimmee, FL, USA, +1 407 396 4888