Orlando is a large city located in Orange County, Florida.
Orlando, for most people, conjures up the image of theme parks, mainly Walt Disney World, but it has a lot more to offer than that. (In fact, Disney World is not in Orlando, but is in nearby Lake Buena Vista). With the estimated 52 million tourists a year, Orlando and many other areas in the region have developed a lot to offer the less theme park minded (or theme park exhausted) traveler.
Other cities in the metropolitan area include Altamonte Springs, Davenport, Kissimmee, and Winter Park.
When people think of Orlando, most think of theme parks and a vast urban sprawl. However, the city proper contains none of the major theme parks (Disney World, Universal Studios, Sea World), dinner attractions (Arabian Nights, Medieval Times), or even most small theme parks (Gatorland, Holyland Experience, Ripley's Believe-it-or-not, etc.). However, since Orlando is the larger city associated with most of these popular attractions, you will find details and descriptions of them below.
The car is omnipresent in Orlando, and it is a very easy and convenient (if not congested) way to get to your destination. Orlando is a sprawling city with most attractions lying far to the south of the CBD and into adjacent cities like Kissimmee. The roads are all wide and easy to drive on with all major attractions well signed, but traffic jams around downtown are common in the afternoons, and around the touristic areas on Friday nights and all day Saturday. Orlando ranks 8th in the nation in terms of traffic congestion, and there are numerous ongoing construction projects on area expressways. Traffic information is available from electronic signs over roadways, most local radio stations, and also by calling 511 (a free, automated service which provides current traffic info).
As with most urban areas in the U.S., there are plenty of drivers who prefer to speed and drive aggressively. The Orlando area receives over 50 million visitors each year, many who drive while in town, while home to just 2 million residents. The combination of these two types of drivers can make Orlando's roads a bit hectic at times. Speed limits in the Orlando area are higher than some parts of the U.S., with a speed limit of around 45-50mph on major roads. The speed limit on Interstate 4 and tollroads is 65mph, with urban sections close to downtown posted at 55mph. Drivers in the left lane tend to drive 5-15mph faster than the speed limit. While it is the law to keep right except to pass, this is not strictly enforced.
The main highway through Orlando, and the only interstate serving it, is Interstate 4 (commonly called "I-4") which runs diagonally from northeast to southwest across the Orlando area. In recent years major construction on it has widened it through areas south of S.R. 528 making it a commuter-friendly highway (except for traffic during rush hours and Friday and Saturday evenings). Downtown Orlando; International Drive; Amway Arena; the Mall at Millenia; Arabian Nights dinner theater; and theme parks such as Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, Sea World, Discovery Cove, the Holy Land Experience, and Wet n' Wild are all conveniently located along I-4.
Other major highways include the Beach Line Expressway (S.R. 528), a toll road known until recently as the Bee Line, which runs east from I-4 (exit 72) towards the Space Coast beaches and Kennedy Space Center, Cocoa Beach, and Port Canaveral. S.R. 528 is, like all Orlando area expressways (which doesn't include I-4), a toll road. While tolls are modest for short trips within Orlando, tolls can quickly add on long cross-town trips. Bypassing Orlando on S.R. 417 is $5.50 for 55 mi (89 km). The Central Florida GreeneWay (S.R. 417) starts at I-4 just west of SR-192/Disney World. It takes you north, passing both the Orlando International Airport and the Orlando-Sanford International Airport. It ends at I-4 in Sanford, FL. S.R. 408 starts at SR-50 on the East side of Orlando, by the University of Central Florida and takes you past the west side of Orlando to the city of Ocoee, FL. It ends at the Florida Turnpike. S.R. 429 starts in Apopka, FL at U.S. 441 and takes you past the Florida Turnpike and Disney World. It ends at I-4, just west of SR-192/Disney World. Florida's Turnpike starts in Miami, FL at I-95 and takes you north through Orlando and ends in Wildwood, FL at I-75.
In Orlando, the main tourism area is International Drive, a strip of road that runs parallel to I-4 for about 10 miles (16 km). Many tourist-focused shops, restaurants, and attractions are to be found along this road; therefore, it is excruciatingly hard to drive on and find parking along this road on weekends, especially in the summer and from Thanksgiving to New Year's Day, and excursions to this area are best by bus during such times. Other major roads include: U.S. 192 in Kissimmee (fronted by thousands of small shops and attractions), Orange Blossom Trail (US 17/92/441...a North-South alternative to I-4), John Young Parkway (which can be an alternative to US-441), & S.R. 50 (E-W route towards the CBD).
A few local laws to keep in mind:
- Lights on when raining. It is the law in Florida to have headlights on when it is raining.
- Seatbelt use is mandatory.
- Move over when passing stopped emergency vehicles. Florida has a so-called "Move over" law, which compels drivers to move out of the lane closest to stopped emergency vehicles (police cars, ambulances, fire trucks). If it is not safe to do so, drivers must slow down 20 mph below the speed limit to pass parked vehicles (this is higher than any other U.S. state with such a law, where it's normally 5-15 mph below the speed limit).
There are a few gas stations that prey on unsuspecting travelers returning rental cars to the airport. This includes Suncoast Energys and Sun Gas on Semoran Blvd near the airport entrance. Prices at these stations are often more than $2/gal above typical market price. Look before you pump! Plan ahead to have enough time before your flight to drive an extra mile or so up Semoran to the cheaper stations. There are also stations around Disney World that have similar practices.
By rental car
Orlando is the largest rental car market in the world and is known as the capital of car rental companies, with all major car rental companies accessible. Operating directly within the airport are Alamo, Avis, Budget, Dollar, Enterprise, E-Z Rent-a-car, L & M Car Rental, National, and Thrifty; courtesy shuttles are available for transport to other rental companies.
If you arrive by air via Orlando International Airport and pick up a rental car there, you can go through the north exit and head to SR-528 West to get to International Drive, Universal Orlando and SeaWorld. This will require $1.75 in tolls. Alternatively, you can take a direct route to Walt Disney World through the south exit to SR-417 South, following it to Exit 5, and taking SR 536 straight into Disney. This requires $2 in tolls. Toll booths along this expressway uses open road tolling: see note above in box. Be careful when you return your rental car, the gas stations within 2 miles of the airport do not advertise their prices and cost over $5 per gallon. The prices 3 miles out are standard.
Orlando's public transportation is the LYNX bus service. Approximately 60 routes serve the metro Orlando area and costs $2 per ride (transfers included) except for the free Lymmo bus service downtown.
- Lymmo Bus, 1-841-LYNX. This free service operates frequently in a circuit in downtown, from City Hall to the Centroplex and back. The Lymmo has a dedicated lane and stations with streetcar type control signals and modified buses that allow passengers to enter the bus without climbing. M-Th 6AM-10PM, F 6AM-midnight, Sa 10AM-midnight, Su 10AM-10PM.
LYNX buses of interest to visitors include routes 8, 42, 50, and 111 -- e.g., bus 8 or 42 for Universal, bus 8 for SeaWorld, and bus 50 or 111 for Disney. Seven-day standard passes are $16. Check out GO LYNX to plan your trips.
- SunRail, +1-855-RAIL-411 (7245-411). It is limited to a north-south route through the center of the area, with an initial southern end at Sand Lake Road, and northern end in DeBary. Bus connection is provided from Orlando International Airport to the Sand Lake Road station by Links 11, 42 and 111; and from Orlando-Sanford International Airport to the Sanford station by Link 46E.
Base one-way fare is $2.00, with an addition of $1.00 for each county line crossed. An all-day pass costs $4.50.
Direct rail connections to OIA and the attractions areas are currently being studied for possible future expansion.
There is currently no service on weekends and some federal holidays.
- I-Ride Trolley, +1 407-248-9590. Along International Drive and Universal Blvd, this trolley primarily serves tourists in the attractions area, operating daily from 8AM to 10:30PM. While the service is advertised as a trolley, the trolleys are in fact modified buses traveling in traffic with many stops, which makes for a slow ride. There are 85 stops along the main (Red) route on International Drive and 22 stops on the (Green) route that serves less congested Universal Blvd. The fare is $1.25 per ride for adults, 25¢ for seniors, and free to kids younger than 12; exact change is required. There's an unlimited 1-day pass available for $4 per person. One-day and multi-day passes, not sold on the bus, are available in many locations. However, because of the very limited route coverage of I-Ride - it goes nowhere near Disney - the better choice for many visitors is to use LYNX buses (e.g., bus 8, 42, 50, or 111).
Orlando is visited by millions of tourists each year and there are dozens of taxi companies that are operational in the region. It will not be a problem to find transportation from The Orlando Airport to your hotel or from the hotel to a theme park, restaurant or mall. Unfortunately, some of those companies do not have any license or insurance, and operate illegally. If you are not planning to rent a car, you probably should do some research and arrange your transportation before arriving to Orlando.
The Go Orlando Card is very useful.
Gardens & Parks
- Arboretum, University of Central Florida, 4000 Central Florida Blvd, ☎ +1 407 823-3146. An arboretum and botanical garden covering 80 acres (32 hectares), containing more than 600 species of plants (including more than 100 bromeliads) in cultivated gardens. Its cultivated areas currently include a Conservatory Compound, a Bromeliad Sanctuary, Cycad Garden, Fern Garden, Palm Collection, Rose Garden, Swamp Habitat, and Wetland Plants Display. Free.
- Harry P. Leu Gardens, 1920 N Forest Ave, ☎ +1 407 246-2620. Beautiful landscaped gardens and lakes set in nearly 50 acres of land, featuring flora gathered from around the globe since 1936, including the largest rose garden in Florida and America's largest camellia collection outside of California. The Leu House, Harry P. Leu's former home set within the grounds and dating back to the 1880's, has tours every 30 minutes around its museum illustrating Florida living at the turn of the 20th century (closed during July). You can get married in various places in the gardens and there are special events held throughout the year. 9AM-5PM daily except Christmas Day. Last garden admission at 4PM. Admission $7 (free Mondays, 9AM-noon).
- Historic Bok Sanctuary, 1151 Tower Blvd, ☎ +1 863 676-1408. Lake Wales. The Bok Sanctuary features acres of intricately landscaped gardens filled with an exotic array of flowers and trees. The gardens are home to a colony of wood ducks and many other wild birds. In the middle of the gardens sits the Bok Tower, with its 60-bell carillon playing music daily at 3PM. 8AM-6PM daily with last admission at 5PM. Visitor Center 9AM-5PM daily. Admission $10.
- Torii Shinto, College Park, ☎ +1 407-484-6099. Torii Shinto is a private tropical garden. To visit the garden you must make an appointment as the garden is a private residence that is open to garden club tours, wedding and commitment ceremonies and for private tours to enthusiasts of horticulture. The garden hosts rare palms, bromeliads, heliconias, orchids and thousands of other plants from around the world. The species you will discover in this garden include: Carpoxylon Palm or Aneityum Palm - Carpoxylon macrospermum, Tahina spectabilis (discovered in Madagascar in 2007, described in 2008) thus this Tahina is a small specimen seedling (about 3'), Flame Thrower Palm - Chambeyronia macrocarpa, White Elephant Palm, King Thai Palm - Kerriodoxa elegans, Foxy Lady Palm - Wodyetia X Veitchia bifurcatum x arecina to name a few. Hercules, a 21.5' diameter Live Oak provides protection from the few cold days that Orlando hosts, Hercules is listed at the ninth largest Live Oak in Florida on the Live Oak Society registry. The garden hosts a view to a bald eagle nest in a neighboring pine. The garden is divided into several outdoor rooms with fountains, hand carved Bali lanterns and hand carved volcanic stone statuary. The owner is a landscape architect and indicates that tours for plant enthusiasts are always welcome. Free.
- A World of Orchids, 2501 Old Lake Wilson Rd. Kissimmee. Closed since mid-2012. Do not believe the large signs on the highway.
- Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art, ☎ +1 848-1933. Houses the world's most comprehensive collection of the works of Louis Comfort Tiffany including Tiffany art glass, leaded-glass windows, lamps, jewelry, pottery, paintings, and the chapel interior he designed for the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. The Museum's holdings include a major collection of American art pottery and representative collections of late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century American paintings, graphics, and decorative arts. $3 adults, students, and free for children under 12. Free between 4PM-8PM Nov-Apr each F.
- Cornell Fine Arts Museum, 1000 Holt Ave, ☎ +1 407 646-2526. Tu-F 10AM-4PM, Sa Su noon-5PM. Winter Park. Rollins College. Features items from Cornell's renowned permanent collection. $5.
- The Orlando Museum of Art. Ongoing exhibitions of American portraits and landscapes, American impressionist works, and art of the ancient Americas.
- The Orlando Science Center. A 207,000 ft² (19,000 m²) hands-on learning center with hundreds of interactive exhibits for visitors of all ages. Images surround visitors on the giant screen of the Dr. Phillips CineDome. Other attractions include the Body Zone, teaching health and fitness, as well as an observatory. The center has the largest refracting telescope in Florida.
- Orange County Regional History Center, 65 E Central Blvd, ☎ +1 407 836-8500, toll-free: +1-800-965-2030. M-Sa 10AM-5PM, Su noon-5PM. Features exhibits and artifacts from the earliest days of the region to the modern day. Includes information on everything from the time of the Seminole Indians to the founding of the city to the Civil Rights era to the Disney period to today. $9-12.
- International Trolley and Train Museum. Features 14 model railroad trains with sound and lighting traveling through an indoor garden with 12 ft (4 m) high mountains, waterfalls, and more than 30 trestles and tunnels. Also on display are toy trains from the 1920s to the present. Visitors can catch a ride in a California Victorian-style half open/half closed trolley or the 5/8-scale replica of an 1880 locomotive (a Mason Bogey) with its passenger cars.
- Ripley's Believe It or Not! Orlando Odditorium, 8201 International Dr, ☎ +1 407-363-4418. Located in a building artfully constructed to appear as if it were collapsing to one side. Visitors can explore bizarre artifacts, strange collections, weird art/hobbies (for example, check out the 3/4-scale model of a 1907 Rolls Royce Silver Ghost automobile made entirely of matchsticks and glue), and interactive exhibits in sixteen odd galleries. Seriously schlocky, yet fun.
Orlando is one of the biggest tourist destinations because of the nearby theme parks and resorts. Close to International Drive is Universal Orlando, which includes two theme parks, three hotels and a large shopping district. SeaWorld Orlando is a marine theme park featuring Kraken, the only floorless rollercoaster in the Orlando area, as well as Believe, the new Shamu adventure. About 35 minutes southwest of downtown Orlando is Walt Disney World. Comprising four theme parks, two water parks, dozens of hotels, two shopping and dining districts, five golf courses, and much more, it is the largest privately managed tourist destination on the planet. Not far from Disney World lies the Alligator Capital of the World: Gatorland.
(18 mi S of downtown in Lake Buena Vista). The acclaimed gold standard of theme parks on the planet. Hours vary by park and season.
- Universal Orlando Resort, International Dr, ☎ +1 407 363-8000. 9AM-closing times varying from 6PM-10PM. Top-ranked challenger to Disney, with two theme parks -- the original Universal Studios Florida and the second theme park, Islands of Adventure -- a nightclub and restaurant complex, CityWalk, and three resort hotels. Discounts are given for purchasing tickets online.
, SeaWorld Dr, ☎ +1 407 351-3600, toll-free: +1-800-327-2424. 9AM-closing times varying from 6PM-10PM. A beautifully landscaped 200-acre marine theme park featuring fantastic shows, thrilling rides, and fun exhibits - a more laid-back alternative to Disney and Universal. Variety of discounts may be available by purchasing tickets online.
- Aquatica, 5800 Water Play Way. Hours vary by season. Opened in 2008 water park by Sea World. Newest ride is Ihu's Breakaway Falls, a breakaway slide in which the rider is placed in the box and dropped down to slide.
- Discovery Cove, 6000 Discovery Cove Way (9AM-5:30PM (until 9PM on selected evenings)), ☎ +1 407 370-1280. A unique companion to Sea World, it is often sold out as admission is limited to 1000 guests per day but admission does include all your equipment, food, drink and 30-minute interaction with the dolphins in the water. $259-279, $159-179 for non-dolphin package.
- Holy Land, 4655 Vineland Rd. Closed Tu. Either inspirational or kitschy, depending on your proclivities, this biblical-themed park is designed to look like Jerusalem. Discount on tickets purchased online.
- Gatorland, 14501 S Orange Blossom Trl, ☎ +1 407 855-5496, toll-free: +1-800-393-JAWS (5297). 9AM-5PM daily. A small alligator and reptile themed park.
- Wet 'N Wild, 6200 International Dr, ☎ +1 407 351-1800, toll-free: +1-800-992-WILD (9453). Hours vary by season. Waterpark (Permanently closing at the end of 2016)
- Fun Spot America - Orlando, 5700 Fun Spot Way (Just off the Kirkman Rd or Sandlake Rd I-4 exits), ☎ 407 363-3867NOCC. 10:00-24:00. Small amusement park with rollercoasters, go-karts and thrill rides.
, 8300 Vineland Ave, ☎ +1 407 239-6600. This extravagant Catholic church has become a tourist attraction in itself, thanks in part to the millions of Catholics from around the world who visit it and the rest of Orlando every year. Note: It is not a parish and therefore it cannot perform weddings, funerals, or baptisms.
- Florida EcoSafaris at Forever Florida (Zipline Safari), 4755 N Kenansville Rd, ☎ +1 407 957-9794, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Reservations required. Journey deep into Forever Florida, a 4700 acre eco-ranch and wildlife conservation area, preserved just as nature intended. This beautiful site boasts 9 distinct Florida ecosystems and an endless array of natural flora and fauna including alligators, black bears, nearly two hundred species of birds and the endangered Florida panther. Choose your own fully-guided adventure: Coach Safari, Horseback Safari or, soar through the treetops on the Zipline Safari.
- Orlando Watersports Complex, 8615 Florida Rock Rd, ☎ +1 407 251-3100. A cable park for watersports. Offers lessons and two separate cable systems, a beginner and an advanced. A perfect way to experience Orlando's reputation as the watersport capital of the world.
- Revolution: The Off Road Experience. Offers 4-wheeling, 4x4, dune buggying and more.
- Enzian Theater. A cinema for the indie/alternative crowd that also offers food and alcoholic beverages.
- Discovery Cove. A 30-acre tropical retreat with beaches, snorkeling and relaxation.
- Orlando Magic (Amway Center), 400 W Church St, ☎ +1 407 89-MAGIC (62442), e-mail: email@example.com. Member of the National Basketball Association (NBA), the Magic is the city's only member of the big four.
- Orlando Predators (Amway Center). Member of the Arena Football League (AFL).
- Orlando City SC (Citrus Bowl), toll-free: +1-855-ORL-CITY (675-2489). Member of Major League Soccer (MLS) as of 2015. The team plans to move into the new Orlando City Stadium near the Amway Center in the last half of the 2016 season.
- Orlando Pride (Citrus Bowl), toll-free: +1-855-ORL-CITY (675-2489). Women's soccer team owned and operated by Orlando City SC and joining the National Women's Soccer League in 2016. They're sharing the Citrus Bowl with Orlando City, and will also move into Orlando City's new stadium.
- UCF Knights. The teams representing the University of Central Florida—with the largest undergraduate enrollment of any single university campus in the country - compete in NCAA Division I sports, currently as members of the American Athletic Conference. UCF has heavily invested in athletics facilities in recent years, with the most notable example being the football team's home of Bright House Networks Stadium.
- Downtown Orlando Information Center, 201 S Orange Ave, ☎ +1 407-254-INFO (4636). Ste 102. Has two interactive kiosks and electronic message boards with information about local Downtown eateries, retailers, accommodations, special events, etc. M-F 9AM–6PM.
Despite the proximity of theme park haven Lake Buena Vista, the city has a lot to offer on its own. Downtown Orlando is a growing area centered around Orange Avenue that is packed with bars, clubs, and restaurants, as well as theaters and concert venues. The main strip on Orange Avenue is closed most nights because of the large volumes of pedestrians. Just a few blocks over is Lake Eola, a picturesque park situated around a swan-filled lake. In the middle of the lake is a lighted fountain that has been established as an icon of Orlando, and on one side of the lake stands the historic outdoor shell theater, where tourists and locals alike can see a version of the Nutcracker every December. Swan-shaped paddle boats are available for rental as well. Taking over for Church Street as the main night time hot spot is Wall Street. It is a small pedestrian only alley off of Orange Avenue that houses several restaurants and bars. They also have frequent concerts on Wall Street, providing a stage for bands to play for everything from Cinco de Mayo to the Capital One Bowl and Citrus Bowl celebration weeks.
- Bay Hill Club & Lodge, 9000 Bay Hill Blvd, ☎ +1 407 876-2429. Two courses: 18 holes, over 7,205 yards with a par of 72 (Private Non-Equity); 9 holes, over 3,409 yards with a par of 36 (Private Non-Equity).
- Boggy Creek Golf Club, 3650 8th St, ☎ +1 407 857-0280. 9 holes, over 3,250 yards with a par of 36 (Public).
- Country Club of Orlando, 1601 Country Club Dr, ☎ +1 407 425-2319. 18 holes, over 6,591 yards with a par of 72 (Private Equity).
- Cypress Creek Country Club, 5353 Vineland Rd, ☎ +1 407 351-2187. 18 holes, over 7,014 yards with a par of 72 (Public).
- Dubsdread Golf Course, 549 West Par St, ☎ +1 407 246-2551. 18 holes, over 6,055 yards with a par of 72 (Municipal).
- Eaglewood Golf Club, 5800 Pga Blvd, ☎ +1 407 351-5121. 18 holes, over 2,516 yards with a par of 58 (Public).
- EastWood Golf Club, 13950 Golfway Blvd, ☎ +1 407 281-4653. 18 holes, over 7,176 yards with a par of 72 (Public).
- Fairways Country Club, 14205 E Colonial Dr, ☎ +1 407 282-7535. 18 holes, over 5,332 yards with a par of 70 (Public).
- Faldo Golf Institute By Marriott, 12001 Avenida Verde, ☎ +1 888-463-2536. 9 holes, over 2,308 yards with a par of 32 (Public).
- Ginn Reunion Golf Resort, 1000 Reunion Way, toll-free: +1-888-418-9611. Reunion. 54 holes, 3 championship golf courses designed by Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson (Private).
- Grand Cypress Resort, 1 N Jacaranda St, toll-free: +1-800-835-7377. Four courses: 18 holes over 6,773 yards with a par of 72 (Public); 9 holes over 3,462 yards with a par of 36 (Public); 9 holes over 3,521 yards with a par of 36 (Public); 9 holes over 3,434 yards with a par of 36 (Public).
- Grande Pines Golf Club, 6351 International Golf Club Rd, toll-free: +1-800-371-1165. 18 holes, over 7,012 yards with a par of 72 (Public).
- Lake Nona Golf Club, 9801 Lake Nona Rd, ☎ +1 407 851-9091. 18 holes, over 7,011 yards with a par of 72 (Private Non-Equity).
- Lake Orlando Golf Club, 4224 Club House Rd, ☎ +1 407 298-1230. 18 holes, over 6,803 yards with a par of 72 (Public).
- MetroWest Golf Club, 2100 S Hiawassee Rd, ☎ +1 407 299-8800. 18 holes, over 7,051 yards with a par of 72 (Public).
- Orange Tree Golf Club, 7540 Woodgreen Dr, ☎ +1 407 351-2521. 18 holes, over 6,968 yards with a par of 71 (Private Non-Equity).
- Rio Pinar Golf & Country Club, 8600 El Prado Ave, ☎ +1 407 277-5121. 18 holes, over 6,929 yards with a par of 72 (Private Equity).
- Ritz Carlton Golf Club, 4048 Central Florida Pkwy, ☎ +1 407 393-4900. 18 holes, over 7,122 yards with a par of 72 (Public).
- Shingle Creek Golf Club, 9939 Universal Blvd, toll-free: +1-866-996-9933. 18 holes, over 7,213 yards with a par of 72 (Public).
- Stoneybrook Golf Club, 2900 Northampton Ave, ☎ +1 407 384-6888. 18 holes, over 6,820 yards with a par of 72 (Public).
- Ventura Country Club, 3333 Woodgate Blvd, ☎ +1 407 277-2640. 18 holes, over 5,467 yards with a par of 70 (Public).
- Orlando Tennis Center, 649 W Livingston St, ☎ +1 407 246-2161.
- Lake Cane Tennis Center, 5108 Turkey Lake Rd, ☎ +1 407 254-9170.
- Fort Gatlin Recreation Complex, 2009 Lake Margaret Dr, ☎ +1 407 858-3290.
- Orange County Convention Center (OCCC), 9860 Universal Blvd, ☎ +1 407 685-1061. With 2.1 million-square feet of exhibition space, the OCCC serves as the area's convention and meeting center.
- Universal Orlando Meetings & Events, 1000 Universal Studios Plaza, toll-free: +1-888-266-2121. From 20 to 20,000 guests, a Universal event ensures that you will give your attendees something truly out of the ordinary.
The Florida Mall — The largest mall in Orlando located at the crossroads of Orange Blossom Trail and Sand Lake Road, about a mile north of the Orange Blossom Trail/Florida Turnpike/Beachline Expressway interchange. Home to over 200 shops including Macy's,American Girl Dillard's, JC Penney, and Sears. You can go an entire day in this mall and still not finish. Popular among international tourists wishing to stock up on cheap American goods, but of better quality than found at the many outlet malls/stores.
The Mall at Millenia — This is Orlando's most upscale and beautiful mall. Find everything from Tiffany's to Hugo Boss and Gucci. Also home to upscale department stores like Macy's, Bloomingdales and Neiman Marcus. This also features Apple and Sony Style selling computers and related products. This mall is part of the very new and trendy Millenia area of Orlando. Conroy Road exit off of I-4 a few miles south of downtown.
Orlando Fashion Square &mdash, E Colonial Dr and Macguire Blvd, more than a mile NE of downtown.
Orlando Premium Outlets - Vineland Ave — Home to the biggest designers such as Armani, Fendi, Burberry, Ferragamo, Lacoste, Coach. Also home to Tommy Hilfiger, Nike, Polo, Nautica and many more. Located off of 535 and visible from I-4 closest to the Disney World area. This is the best mall to pick up bargains from all the name brands and designer wear.
Orlando Premium Outlets - International Drive (formerly Beltz/Prime Outlets) — Home to many designers such as Polo, DKNY, Nike, Reebok, and Liz Claiborne. The mall has completed a major renovation recently, resulting in a beautiful outdoor mall with a wide variety of stores.
Lake Buena Vista Factory Stores — Select from over 300 designer and name brands such as Gap, Reebok, Carters and Eddie Bauer. Stores offer factory direct, quality merchandise at savings up to 75%. Off of SR-535 near International Dr and Disney.
Little Saigon, East Colonial Dr (around N Mills). Here you will find Vietnamese and Asian grocery stores, gift shops, and a few herbal healing stores, which stock items from China, Vietnam, Hong Kong, etc. Also home to many good inexpensive Vietnamese and other Asian restaurants.
Little India area — This area is a bit spread out. You will find many Indian stores in the South Orange Blossom Trail area on the main streets and side roads. Starting with Lancaster Road, which houses a video store and Indian restaurant, and then traveling south you will see a few Indian shops in clusters every mile all the way to 417 where you end at the local Indian movie theater
Little Brazil, the north end of International Dr. Several Brazilian restaurants, bakeries, stores, hairdressers, imports and exports shops. Some are hiding on the back of strip malls, some others are easy to find right up front flying the Brazilian flag.
A wide variety of restaurants can be found in CityWalk at Universal Orlando, including Margaritaville, Hard Rock Cafe, Pastamore, NASCAR Cafe and much more. Parking is $14 during the day and $3 after 6PM (except during holidays or special events, such as Halloween Horror Nights). Much choice can also be found in Disney Springs, including Rainforest Cafe, Planet Hollywood, and Wolfgang Puck Cafe. Texas de Brazil, is a Brazilian steakhouse in the heart of downtown, serving beef, chicken, lamb and pork in many preparations.
- 310 Lakeside. Classic American cuisine overlooking Lake Eola.
- A Land Remembered, 9939 Universal Blvd, ☎ +1 407 996-9939. A legendary Orlando steakhouse named after Patrick Smith's rich novel featuring Florida's historical moments and landscapes. Serving a variety of cuisine and accompanying wine list as succulent and filling as its namesake. Proudly serving Harris Ranch all Natural Prime Black Angus Beef, as well as menu items catering to all tastes.
- Boston's Fish House, 6860 Aloma Avenue, Winter Park, ☎ +1 407 678-2107. People drive from hours away to this charming family-owned restaurant that brings the fish and flavors of Boston to Orlando. Authentic New England Clam Chowder, Cod, steak tips and more. A hidden gem away from the hustle of all the theme parks, and worth the wait for a fresh meal made to order.
- Bubbalou's Bodacious BBQ, 3 locations. BBQ ribs, sandwiches and other smoked delights. Atmosphere has a home-style feel and plenty of pig companions.
- Calypso Bar and Grill, 6300 Parc Corniche Dr. Great menu with a Key West themed dining experience.
- Everglades Restaurant, 9840 International Dr, ☎ +1 407 996-9840. A one-of-a-kind gourmet dining experience featuring unique regional specialties, served in an enchanting setting dedicated to the Florida Everglades. Periodic Vine & Dine wine dinners featuring gourmet cuisine and fine wines.
- Jack's Place, 9700 International Dr, ☎ +1 407 996-9700. Tantalizing gourmet menu featuring prime steaks and fresh seafood in a whimsical atmosphere featuring the world’s largest collection of autographed star caricatures.
- Gabriel's Subs, 2840 Curry Ford Rd. Excellent hot veggie subs.
- Hamburger Mary's. A gay-friendly burger joint with drag shows and drinks.
- K Restaurant Wine Bar. Upscale American dining.
- Le Coq Au Vin. A modern twist is given to classic French foods at this restaurant.
- Kres Chophouse. An upscale steak house located downtown.
- Luma on Park. American cuisine with an extensive wine list.
- Norman's, 4000 Central Florida Pkwy (at Ritz-Carlton Grande Lakes), ☎ +1 407 393-4333. Chef Norman Van Aken. Prix-fixe $55 and up.
- Ponderosa. An American steakhouse with a wide and varied buffet, from sausages to muffins all day. Great for those with a sweet tooth.
- Uncle Jones BBQ, 1370 E Altamonte Dr, Altamonte Springs. Serving great potatoes, along with lima beans, BBQ pork, corn bread, fried okra, and Texas toast.
- Urban Flats. Flatbreads and wine are the centerpiece of this modern-casual restaurant and wine bar.
- El Inka Grill Ceviche, 4106 Town Center Blvd, ☎ +1 407 730-7979. El Inka Grill serves Peruvian seafood and other Peruvian food. Ceviche is their signature dish.
- Chan's Chinese Cuisine, 1901 E. Colonial Drive (On northeast corner of Colonial Dr. and Meridale Ave.), ☎ +407 896-0093. 11 AM - 9:30 PM every day. Offers authentic Chinese cuisine. Many dishes offered and they are very well presented. This restaurant is in an area with many East Asian restaurants and bakeries. Somewhat expensive.
- Funky Monkey Wine Company. A restaurant featuring a variety of sushi and wine.
- Garden Cafe, 810 W Colonial Dr. Fantastic vegetarian (mostly vegan) Chinese food.
- Khasiyat Indian Cuisine, 852 W Lancaster Rd, ☎ +1 407 888-2147. Vegetarian/Indian cuisine.
- Ming Court. Nightly oriental folk music performances compliment a wide selection of sushi, dim sum and more.
- Mr. Wong's Family Taste Chinese Cuisine, 5076 W. Colonial Dr., ☎ +1 407-440-4609. Open lunch and dinner seven days a week. This restaurant is in the Chinatown shopping area on west Colonial Dr. It specializes in Chinese food. The sign reads in big red letters, "CHINESE CUISINE." Only when you see the menu is the whole name displayed. This is not a fancy place, but it serves excellent authentic Chinese food. The diner is given chopsticks, but silverware is readily available. A very clean place to eat. Reasonable pricing.
- Tokyo Sushi & Grill, 8111 Vineland Ave., ☎ +1 407 465-1188. 11:30AM-10:30PM M-Sat; 12 noon to 10:30PM Sun. Serves very good sushi and tempura. Offers other Asian dishes Moderate expense.
- Sushi Tomi, 8463 S. John Young Pkwy. (In South Park Center), ☎ +1 407-352-8635. 11:30AM-2PM and 5:30-9PM daily. Japanese sushi and other Japanese food. Excellent quality. Moderately priced.
- Pho Saigon Vietnamese & Thai Cuisine, 5100 W. Colonial Dr (Several doors east of 1st Oriental Market), ☎ +1 407-253-7013. M-Th 9AM-9PM; Fr-Sun 9AM-10PM. Serves mainly Vietnamese cuisine. Most food of excellent quality. Inexpensive prices.
- Cala Bella (Creek Beautiful), 9939 Universal Blvd, ☎ +1 407 336-3393. Benvenuto! Cala Bella, Rosen Shingle Creek’s upscale Italian Restaurant features Italian classics, with Mediterranean and American inspiration, accompanied by a diverse list of top quality wines.
- Cuba Libre. A Cuban restaurant that turns into a Latin dance club by night.
- Garibaldi Mexican Restaurant, 929 N Semoran Blvd. The best dishes are chili relleno and cheese enchilada.
- Rolando's Cuban Restaurant, 870 Semoran Blvd, Casselberry. Serves excellent rice, yucca, eggplant, plantains, and guava.
- Rossi's Pizza, 5919 S Orange Blossom Trl (corner of Oak Ridge & Orange Blossom Trl), ☎ +1 407 855-5755. Highly recommend the 12 inch thin-crust pepperoni pizza.
- Stefano's Trattoria, 1425 Tuskawilla Rd, Winter Springs (Red Bug and Tuskawilla), ☎ +1 407 659-0101. Small, family-run, quiet (but still delicious) Italian/Sicilian restaurant five minutes out of Orlando. A local gem! (Best advice on dishes: Ask Stefano to personally make a recommendation, he walks around the restaurant and will tell you exactly what you want to eat!) $$.
- Tony's Deli, 1323 N Mills Ave. Best dishes: fava bean salad, hummus and the baklava.
- Vito's Chop House, 8633 International Dr, ☎ +1 407 354-2467. Great cooking and great wine. $15-30.
- Anatolia Orlando, 8 7600 Dr Phillips Blvd, ☎ +1 407 352-6766. 11AM-10PM. Turkish, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern Cuisine with affordable prices. $10-20.
Orlando nightlife away from the theme parks is centered mostly around Central Boulevard and Orange Avenue in downtown Orlando. Here you can walk and find many bars. A short walk away is the tiny Thornton Park District, located near the intersection of Washington and Summerlin. Among the dozens of cafes and pubs, you might stop in for a drink and a quick bite at Dexter's on Washington. For local flair head across the street to Burton's Frosty Mug, or sample the hip urban environment at the trendy HUE at the corner of Washington and Central.
Although most of the downtown Central avenue crowd is comprised of the "twentysomething" generation, for a more 30's and over entertainment experience, one can enjoy live jazz on many nights in the lounge of the Grand Bohemian Hotel located downtown on Orange Avenue. The jazz is excellent and the ambiance is quite comfortable, although drinks tend to be pretty pricey here.
Also, for a more professional crowd with a Latin twist, there is the Samba Room, located on Sand Lake Road, about 3/4 west of I-4. This is a lively restaurant and happy hour type of place. The look is chic and the locals and tourists alike gather here for a quality food, beverage and people watching experience. You should ditch the shorts and flip-flops for a more casual chic look, but if you do you will be rewarded with a nice experience here. If you are traveling west on Sand Lake Road, after passing I-4, The Samba Room is on the left in a large shopping plaza. Latin food, music and mojitos are just some of the specialties here.
Across the street from the Samba Room, on Sand Lake Road, is the Old Vines wine bar, featuring live jazz usually from Thurs. through Saturday nights. The wine selection is extensive and the live jazz is some of the best in town. The jazz is performed in the front of the room by the entrance. There is a divider that separates the more intimate rear portion of the establishment, which is the main dining area.
There are quite a few places to enjoy quality dining and drinks along Park Avenue in Winter Park, an adjacent suburb which is just northeast of Orlando. Winter Park is known for its many older grand homes that dominate the more historic sections of this suburb affectionately referred to by many as the center of Orlando's "old money." Park Avenue is an active pedestrian street featuring trendy shoppes, galleries, restaurants and nightspots. It has recently grown from becoming a one street attraction to more of a district, as several nearby streets have now added similar attractions.
Of particular interest and uniqueness on Park Avenue is the Wine Room, a converted bank featuring literally hundreds of wines available for self serve sampling. The mode of purchasing here is to pre-load a wine "credit card" supplied by the Wine Room. You are then at liberty to peruse the entire building and select any wine you wish to try, merely by inserting your "credit card." Each wine station automatically deducts the value of your current purchase and advises you of your card balance. Dress is very casual here and you are likely to meet both locals and visitors, all sampling and enjoying their vinos of choice throughout the night.
At the theme parks, CityWalk at Universal Studios. For a nominal admission fee, both sites offer numerous venues for libations and entertainment. If you're staying along International Drive, there are plenty of bars, pubs, and clubs.
- Corona Cigar Company's Superstore & Cigar Bar, 7792 West Sand Lake Rd, ☎ +1 407 248-1212. If you're interested in cigars and all the different kinds of cigars, then this place is for you. The Corona Cigar Company allows its customers to sample different cigars. They also serve drinks.
- Howl At The Moon, 8815 International Dr, ☎ +1 407 354-5999. Entertainers perform songs at request all night. A place where people can go to listen to music, dance, drink, and have fun.
- Orena Sports Bar, 6159 Westwood Blvd, ☎ +1 407 370-0303. Orena Sports Bar caters to both locals and tourists. The bar serves food and drinks. Visitors can go to eat, play games, watch sports games and more.
- Velvet Bar at Hard Rock Hotel, 5800 Universal Blvd, ☎ +1 407 503-3463. Sit down, relax and listen to music. Velvet Bar also has live bands.
- Blue Martini, 4200 Conroy Road Suite H246, ☎ +1 407 447-2583. Blue Martini is a very high end martini bar. People can enjoy live entertainment at the bar.
- Dave & Buster's Inc., 8986 International Dr, ☎ +1 407 541-3306. Dave & Buster's is family friendly. Kids and adults can enjoy a great meal and play a variety of games. There is also a bar for the adults where they can sit, order drinks, and watch a sports game.