If anyone tells you not to believe the hype about Orlando, ignore them.
The world theme park capital keeps every extravagant promise it makes and then some. Magical for younger kids, end-to-end teen excitement and fantastic for multi-generational family holidays, Orlando’s also cultured, creative and works well beyond Disney, Universal and SeaWorld.
The city’s just over an hour by road from Cape Canaveral and beach resorts on the east coast. The gorgeous Gulf Coast’s under two hours to the west. And swamps, forests, national parks and huge lakes are easy day trips if you want to mix a little wild Florida in with the manmade thrills.
Year round direct flights from several UK airports to Orlando with flying time of just over eight hours.
Central Florida’s warm and sunny all year round with average temperatures of 19˚ in December and January, rising to 30˚ and above in July and August.
Disney has 14 themed resorts in Lake Buena Vista, 25 minutes from Orlando Airport.
There are over 400 hotels in the Orlando area and most have theme park tickets and accommodation deals.
Orlando has some of the USA’s largest and deepest discount designer outlet malls.
Green Swamp Wilderness Preserve, Kissimmee Chain of Lakes and Ocala National Forest are all within 40 minutes drive of Orlando.
Cape Canaveral, the only place in the world to see rocket launches, is an hour from Orlando, on the east coast.
Lake Buena Vista sits to the west of Orlando Airport and it’s where you’ll find all Disney’s resort hotels, Disney theme parks and waterparks. There are a few other attractions and the area likes to say it’s, ‘more than Disney’, but could just as easily claim, ‘not much more than Disney’. If you’re up for immersion in the brand but want to be within easy reach of other Orlando behemoths like SeaWorld and Universal Studios, Lake Buena Vista should be your first choice.
Just 25 minutes from Orlando Airport, Kissimmee is a small, friendly city and the best place to base a family holiday if you want to be close to theme parks but not surrounded by them. The choice of accommodation here’s vast and covers everything from five-star resorts to budget apartments and hotels.
South Orlando’s main drag stretches for 17 non-stop, dazzling kilometres. If you can think of a US food chain, it’s here: from the world’s largest McDonald’s to six different varieties of Subway, Taco Bell in triplicate to Sushiology and Starbucks every which way. It’s the highway for outlet malls or designer discount stores and SeaWorld, Madame Tussauds, Coca Cola Orlando Eye, Ripley’s Believe It or Not and Wet ‘n’ Wild are just a few I-Drive’s iconic big ticket attractions.
Take a theme park breather and go visit Downtown Orlando. It’s one of the largest urban centres in the US and the place for museums, science centres, galleries, non-outlet shopping, chic restaurants and some very pretty parks and gardens. Even just walking around for an hour or two is good fun.
Don’t miss: Orlando Science Centre, Orlando Museum of Art, Mennello Museum of American Art, swan boats on Lake Eola and the Amway Centre.
If you want to see more than the theme parks in and around Orlando, hire a car. Like most states in the US, Florida’s designed for driving and relying on public transport is time-consuming and limiting. The weather’s hot and humid in summer, so always carry bottled water, plan your route before heading off and don’t forget to keep an eye on fuel if you’re using air-con.