Located in the heart of Central Florida, Orlando provides an abundance of experiences that make for an unforgettable holiday – whether for families, couples or single travellers. “The City Beautiful” has a lot to offer: with an average of 236 days of sun annually, don’t you think an Orlando winter getaway is something you should add to your calendar? Consider that as you read our top 5 things to do in Orlando.
Have a blast at world-famous theme parks
Orlando’s famed theme parks are a big reason why it’s one of the world’s top tourist destinations.
Walt Disney World is America’s most popular theme park, drawing more than 17 million visitors each year. Located approximately 20 miles southwest of Orlando, if you stay at a Disney Resort hotel, there is a complimentary motor coach – Disney’s Magical Express – that takes you from Orlando International Airport to your hotel. With more than 40 major attractions and many smaller ones, Disney World is a place that touches everyone with its magic. Newer attractions include Star Wars Launch Bay, featuring a wealth of replica props, models, and costumes that have become cherished pieces of movie history, and The Boathouse, an upscale seafood restaurant which also features amphibian car tours.
Universal Orlando Resort was launched in 1990, an extension of Universal Studios Florida, featuring plenty of rides and spectacular shows based on movie themes. The park really took off after a 1999 make-over added the Islands of Adventure park, and brought in the immensely popular attractions Men in Black: Alien Attack, the multi-media event Terminator 2: 3-D and the family-oriented Woody Woodpecker’s KidZone.
If you’ve got Muggles in your household, then you’ll want to visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Launched in 2010 with Hogsmeade at Universal’s Islands of Adventure, the Potter world has expanded to include Diagon Alley, which you can get to only by the Hogwarts Express (arriving on Platform 9¾, naturally) and its major attraction, the 3-D adventure Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts. True Potter fans will want to be there for A Celebration of Harry Potter, the annual three-day event held during the last weekend of January.
Go beyond at the Kennedy Space Center
Since 1967, the Kennedy Space Center has been one of the most popular tourist destinations in Florida. Less than an hour east of Orlando near Titusville, it draws more than 1.5 million people each year to get a glimpse into mankind’s efforts to explore beyond Earth. With everything from exhibits to IMAX experiences and simulated space rides, it’s an amazing place to spend a day. It also has two prime viewing locations for rocket launches – a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience!
Play golf at top-rated courses
Orlando is a golfer’s heaven. It’s home to more than 170 public, semi-private and resort courses, more than 20 golf academies, some of the world’s most celebrated tournaments, and more pros than any other city on the planet. It boasts a wealth of magnificent courses designed by the likes of Nicklaus, Fazio and Dye, offering a golfing experience you won’t find anywhere else. Among its top courses are Bay Hill Club & Lodge, Reunion Resort, the Waldorf Astoria Club and Grand Cypress Resort.
Get pampered at world-class spas
If you’re planning a romantic weekend getaway or maybe a girls’ vacation with your besties, Orlando’s world-class spas are the perfect place for relaxation and pampering. Try the amazing facials at the 24,000-square-foot Waldorf Astoria Spa by Guerlain at the Waldorf Astoria Orlando, the Poseidon Spa’s heated shell massage at the Grand Bohemian Hotel, or the citrus-based treatments at the Ritz-Carlton Spa, Orlando, Grande Lakes.
Take an Everglades airboat ride
Located in the centre of the state not far from Orlando, Florida’s Everglades represent one of the world’s most diverse ecosystems – and the absolute best way to experience them is by airboat. Propelled by a gigantic fan, these flat-bottomed boats glide above grasses and shrubs as you race along the inland waterways. Try Florida Dolphin Tours [7011 Grand National Dr., #104], where your 17-passenger boat is piloted by a certified US Coast Guard captain and naturalist who’s an expert at spotting local wildlife. You’ll likely see some gators nesting in the grasses. But part of the excitement is the ride itself, with your pilot’s deft manoeuvring and quick turns revving up the adrenaline factor – speeds can reach over 70 km per hour!
Get the free Visit Orlando Destination App from the city’s official tourism association to help you create your own personalized Orlando experience. Its features include Smart Search that helps you discover recommendations for hotels, restaurants and things to do, an “Around Me” interactive map to locate points of interest, a Personal Concierge that puts you in touch with one of Visit Orlando’s Destination Specialists, access to tickets, deals and discounts, and more.
Visit Orlando also offers an Orlando Holiday Planning Kit and their website features deals made specifically for Canadians. If you pick up a Go Orlando Card, you can save up to 55% on admission to many of the big theme parks, skip the line at certain attractions and get insider tips and discounts on dining and shopping. The card is available online and at many popular retail outlets in the States.