There's more to this Central Florida metropolis than worlds of make-believe.
It’s impossible to overlook Orlando’s fairytale castles and movie-magic charm when talking about the Theme Park Capital of the World. Sixty-eight million people visited Orlando in 2016—the most of any U.S. city. Sure, the majority probably came for photo ops with Harry Potter and Han Solo, but there’s more to this Central Florida metropolis than worlds of make-believe. More than 100 lakes dot its landscape, the jewel of the bunch being Lake Eola, home to dozens of swans (including rentable, swan-shaped paddle boats) and providing the backdrop to pretty much every photo of downtown Orlando. Aviation, aerospace, technology and manufacturing industries help make Orlando one of the fastest growing high-tech centers in the nation. More business means more construction, and with each new project—luxury apartments, a new soccer stadium and the city-within-a-city Creative Village—Orlando inches farther away from its roots as a sleepy, citrus-growing swampland. The city is still a Southern gentleman at its core, though, so whether you’re after a pair of Mickey Mouse ears or a close-up with Florida’s infamous alligators, expect them to be delivered with a side of hospitality.
When to go
Spring break—late March to April—marks the beginning of busy season at Orlando’s theme parks, so anticipate longer waits. And remember to pack a light jacket: Temperatures this time of year hover around 70 degrees.
Late May to Labor Day is the city’s busiest season. It’s also the hottest, with highs in the 90s, and wettest: July racks up about 20 days of rain on average.
Halloween is a big deal at the parks. The fear barometer ranges from seriously scary, adult-only events at Universal Studios to innocent fun for the kids at Magic Kingdom, LEGOLAND and SeaWorld. It’s also when Epcot holds its annual International Food & Wine Festival, which runs September through early November.
Winter brings mild weather and smaller crowds. The parks get into the holiday season by decking out attractions and offering holiday shows.
Renting a car is the way to go in Orlando. Roads are tourist-friendly with lots of signage, and Interstate 4 serves as the jumping-off point for most of the main attractions. If you don’t have a car, Orlando’s public transportation system, LYNX, runs buses from downtown Orlando to Disney World, SeaWorld, Universal and both airports.
- Orlando is a casual town. Case in point: Flip-flops are often an acceptable part of “business casual” attire.
- College football is sacred here, with locals’ loyalty split between the University of Florida Gators, the Florida State University Seminoles and the University of Miami Hurricanes.
- Though theme parks are the draw, Orlando is a daytripper’s dream. A half hour north of the city you’ll find Wekiwa Springs State Park, a lush, watery haven popular with canoers, while Daytona, Cocoa and other amazing beaches are about an hour drive east.
where to stay
You can’t beat the convenience of a free shuttle to Universal Studios Orlando Resort and Walt Disney World Resort when you stay at the Country Inn & Suites by Radisson Orlando. The hotel offers a variety of amenities including free hot breakfast, gift shop, on-site destination expert, and an outdoor pool.
The complimentary shuttle offered to and from the MCO airport makes it easy for guests at Country Inn & Suites by Radisson Orlando Airport to get to their rooms. The free hot breakfast, in-house restaurant, outdoor pool, and fitness center make this an exciting place for the entire family.
Only a two-minute drive from Walt Disney World Resort, Radisson Hotel Orlando – Lake Buena Vista makes it easy for families to get to the park with the complimentary shuttle service. The hotel boasts an outdoor pool, hot tub, and guest services desk where Walt Disney World Resort tickets are available for purchase.