Wherever you might be coming from, Orlando is a place to escape to — it’s like being on another planet. And we want to let you know about some of the best escapes that you can get up to. We all know about the theme parks, the giant shops, and the great weather — but did you know about the quiet serenity of the Harry P. Leu Gardens? Or Orlando’s connection to medieval literature? Read on for all the details!
1. Disney World
Disney World is the single biggest holiday destination in the entire world, with a million people a week coming through the gates to its magical kingdom. A true touchstone of American culture — how many other destinations have invented a new kind of holiday, transformed a city’s economy, and been parodied on The Simpsons? No matter what your take on it, you can’t truly understand the USA until you’ve been to Disney World.
2. Universal Orlando
Universal Orlando is the Pepsi to Disney World’s Coke. Universal Orlando Resort is a smorgasbord of rollercoasters, water rides, restaurants, movies, concerts, and more. The resort will also be celebrating thirty years of entertainment next year — so expect fireworks and celebrations, as the resort goes from strength to strength.
Orlando Legoland is a great place for adults and kids alike, all dedicated to your favourite Danish building blocks. A great option if you don’t want to commit yourself to the crazy-super-mega-extreme-o-coaster rides that predominate at many of the other Florida theme parks. Plenty of kid-friendly activities, and many millions of lego bricks to play with.
4. Harry P. Leu Gardens
Maybe all these theme parks are all a bit much for you. If so, make sure to spend some time at the fifty acres of verdant landscapes that make up the Harry P. Leu Gardens. The park is open year-round and has plants and animals from around the world in a truly astonishing collection. Make sure to take a look at the fifty-foot flower clock, or stick around for one of their legendary open-air jazz concerts or movie nights.
5. Wekiwa Springs State Park
If you need a real change of scene, then the Wekiwa Springs State Park north of Orlando city is a real treat. Get a canoe or kayak and spend the day paddling, picnicking, and peeking at everything that the river scenery provides. There are also miles of walking trails and plenty of other adventures throughout the park, so make sure to stick around for it all.
6. Orlando Skydiving Center
Maybe you’ve already been to all the theme parks, and you just need more — so what could be a bigger thrill than getting thousands of feet up above everyone else, and jumping out? The Orlando Skydiving Center offers tandem skydiving to let you experience plummeting and then floating through the air. Truly hair-raising.
7. Winter Park Boat Ride
Winter Park is a hidden treasure of Orlando. Amid all the bustle, it’s a real treat to take a spectacular boat ride across the lake, and give yourself a break from the intensity of the city’s commotion for a while. The lake area also has many of the city’s best small cafes and restaurants.
Get up-close and personal with some of Florida’s most legendary inhabitants — the swamp alligators. Gatorland has been showing off these fearsome snappers for decades, and you can come to see them being fed, learn about the different species, and watch them wrestle. You can even take a train ride through the swamp — just make sure to keep your hands inside the carriage!
9. Kennedy Space Center
The Kennedy Space Center is around an hour from downtown Orlando and is a feast for the senses for anyone curious about the history and future of space travel. Relive the moon landings, the space race, the shuttle era, and look ahead to the possibility of landing on Mars. Get ready for blast-off.
10. Orlando Shakespeare Theater
Shakespeare might not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about Florida, but the bond between the city of Orlando and the city of Avon is strong — after all, the city is named after the character of Orlando in As You Like It. So have a change of pace and soak up some culture at the Orlando Shakespeare Theater.
We hope you have a wonderful time in Orlando. If you need to quickly and easily hire a car while you’re there, Sixt has you covered: Sixt has locations at Orlando Airport, Kissimmee near Disney World, and Lake Buena Vista.
(Written by Tom O’Doherty)