What to Do in Orlando, FL

Orlando, a perfect palm tree paradise.
Orlando, a perfect palm tree paradise. (Image: Thinkstock/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Orlando is the land of the theme park and the home of the most famous mouse in the world, however you're not limited to theme activities when you visit "the city beautiful." Whether you want Disney, a thrilling adventure, a relaxing oasis, a cultural jaunt or anything in between, Orlando, Fla., has something that caters to the every whim of discerning travelers.

Disney Dominates

As one of the top tourist destinations globally, Walt Disney World is a must-visit spot. With four main parks, two water parks, an entertainment complex, golf courses and countless hotels, you could spend weeks here and never get bored. In addition to the normal park festivities, there are several special events throughout the year including Food and Wine and Flower and Garden Festivals at Epcot, and Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party and Night of Joy at the Magic Kingdom. Also stop by to see the Disney-created town of Celebration where you will find a charming downtown with a crystal blue lake front and many shops and restaurants to explore.

It all started with a mouse.
It all started with a mouse. (Image: Kevin Winter/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images)

Where Cartoons and Super Heroes Meet

Spiderman, Popeye, Harry Potter, the Cat in the Hat and many others come together to form an epic adventure experience at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. Spend your days dueling baddies and helping X-Men save the world and your nights at one of the many nightlife attractions, like Hard Rock Live or Red Coconut Club at City Walk. It's a hotspot for locals and tourists alike where you can let loose and be a kid again.

Birdies, Bogeys and Bunkers Oh My

If you love the slice of the ball and the feel of a freshly cut green under your feet, Orlando is a premier destination for you. Professionals, the weekend golfer and everyone in between throw their clubs in the trunk and head out for paradise in 18 holes. Check out the Grand Cypress Golf Club designed by golf great Jack Nicklaus or the newly built Shingle Creek Golf Club. If you really want to blow your budget and experience golf at its finest, visit Arnold Palmer's Bay Hill Club & Lodge, just know you can't get a tee time unless you're a member or staying at the lodge. With almost 200 courses to choose from in the Orlando area, there is something for everyone.

Everything's Waiting for You Downtown

The Orlando downtown may be small, but that's part of the charm. No need for a car here because everything is within walking distance. Watch the Orlando Magic take on basketball's superstars or rock out at a concert at the Amway Arena. Just a block away you'll run into Church Street Station, a bevy of restaurants, bars and nightclubs, including Chillers, Big Belly and the rooftop Latitudes, with three floors of dancing and good times. The party continues on Wall Street where you'll find a blocked off street lined with bars and clubs featuring live bands at the end every weekend night. For a more relaxed time during the day, Lake Eola is the perfect spot for a picnic, a jog or a ride in a swan boat, and there's a farmers market every Sunday with vendors selling fresh produce, gourmet food, crafts and more.

The Wild, the Zany, and Everything Else

If you're looking for something a little different than the big-name fantasy parks, Orlando delivers. Sea World tops the list, where you can see Shamu fly through the air and soak visitors who get too close. If you're in need of a religious moment, the Holy Land Experience makes the Bible come alive with live religiously themed shows. And you couldn't come to Orlando without spending some time with the local wildlife at Gatorland. On hot days, be one of the many to flock to water parks like Wet 'n Wild, or stay dry at Fun Spot where you can launch yourself over 250 ft. in the air on the Sky Coaster. International Drive, or I-Drive, is home to an abundance of attractions, like Wonderworks, the upside-down building full of interactive games and activities. Stop into the Pointe Orlando outdoor shopping center for restaurants like Tommy Bahama. Follow the flashing lights and you are sure to find entertainment for all.

From Broadway to Butterflies

Culture is never far away with so many museums and theaters to choose from. The Orlando Science Center hosts interactive activities like Dino Digs where you can unearth your own fossils. Bob Carr Theater provides a constant schedule of the hottest broadway shows, and Orlando Shakespeare Theater is not just for Romeo and Juliet. There are a plethora of children's plays and contemporary productions as well. Harry P. Leu Gardens awakens your senses at any time of year with blooming roses, fluttering butterflies and countless other local flora varieties, and the Orlando Museum of Art exhibits everything from ancient artifacts to contemporary pieces including works by Andy Warhol and Georgia O'Keeffe.

The Three Rs of Orlando

Relaxation, Resorts and Retail round out a true Orlando experience. For shopping, tourists flock to one of the many outlet malls. If you're looking for ritzy with your retail, head to the Mall at Millenia to empty your wallet at stores like Jimmy Choo and Louis Vuitton. After a long day of spending, it's time to relax at one of the many resorts and spas. Numerous hotels have great on-site spas, including Poseidon Spa at the Grand Bohemian Hotel Downtown, or really splurge and head to the Ritz Carlton for a cabana and spa package. Many of the hotels in the area are attractions themselves with multiple swimming pools and on-site activities and entertainment. The J.W. Marriott has a tropical lazy river and lots of things to do for the kids.

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