Orlando City Guide
Did you know Orlando is the most visited city in the USA? Set in the Sunshine State of Florida, with some of the best theme parks the world has to offer, amazing shops and outlet malls and beautiful beaches and rivers perfect for outdoor activity, it's easy to see the appeal.
I've been to Orlando 3 times now and have probably seen every part of the city (not just the tourist spots!) so I've put together a city guide of the places I enjoyed the most in case anyone was thinking of travelling there.
Where to Stay
If you're visiting for the first time I would say the best place to stay is on International Drive (I-Drive). This is where I stayed and it's pretty much in the middle of everything you want to get to. Also, if you're travelling by public transport you can pick up buses along this road then go to most tourist spots.
Another good place to stay is Downtown Orlando. This still has lots to offer without being too touristy so if you've visited before or you want to avoid the tourist traps this is a nice area.
Lastly there is Disney which is great if you're a Disney freak or just love the theme parks. But even if you're not a huge Disney fan their properties are always amazing, you get brilliant service and will never been disappointed with what they have to offer.
What to Do
Obviously there's the theme parks; Disney has 6 and there is Universal, Wet n Wild, and Sea World. I've been to Universal and Disney Hollywood Studios. I'm not a massive Disney fan myself but I do love a good theme park ride. They also have lots of simulator rides especially in Universal which is good fun.
If you have a car and want to get out of Orlando you can join the Florida Turnpike and drive all the way down to West Palm Beach, Miami or The Keys. We drove to Miami and it took just over 3 hours.
Orlando (very late to the game) decided to get their own Orlando Eye which offers sights of the whole of the city. Even if you don't want to ride it there's still lots to do around the area.
If you don't want to fork out for the theme park tickets but still want to see a bit of Disney you can visit Disney Springs free of charge. There's lots of souvenir stores and eateries around here, Disney Themed of course. Oh and a beach!
As I mentioned above, Florida has lots of beaches and rivers where you can enjoy outdoor activities such as kayaking, paddle boarding, canoeing and wakeboarding. We did kayaking at Wekiva Springs.
If you want some down time from the madness of tourist spots then visit Baldwin Park which is a fancy residential estate that have their own supermarket and a huge lake to walk around.
Similar to Baldwin Park you have Celebration which is the same sort of thing but owned by Disney so a whole lot fancier!
If you have rented a car and want to get out of Orlando for the day you can visit Tampa or St Pete. We went to St Pete and onto the island off of it called Clearwater which as it's name suggests has the clearest water around. This place has amazing sea food and great for skate/long boarding. In Tampa you will find a historic Cuban city called Ybor City which has lots of Spanish influences.
Finally I couldn't leave America without visiting a rodeo so we drove up to Kissimmee which is about an hour from Orlando and went to the rodeo here. It's $25 to get in or $15 for Florida residents and the show lasts about 2 hours with an interval for food including cheese fries!
If you want clubs and bars then head to Downtown and specifically Church Street.
Where to Eat
If you're looking for good coffee I really like Wawa (which is a petrol/gas station) and Panera Bread.
Auntie Anne's do pretty good pretzels with a choice of dipping sauces.
They have an abundance of good sushi places so if you like sushi you won't be disappointed. My favourite is Bayridge Sushi.
Being a vegetarian I always find it slightly harder to eat in the US although they are improving from a few years back. This time I found an amazing vegan place called The Dandelion and I could literally eat there everyday!
If you like a good farmer's market you're going to love the farmer's markets in Orlando. Most of them open on a Sunday and offer typical America and Spanish cuisine all freshly made in front of you. I tried my first funnel cake here and wasn't disappointed!
Steak and Shake do the best milkshakes around. I can't comment on the steak being veggie but Oh My Word the shakes! I had a caramel pretzel one for my sins.
In addition to the farmer's markets, if you're not a morning person then you may prefer the food truck festivals that take place weekly. We visited one in the Milk District called Tasty Tuesdays where I had truffle fries and a crepe!
If you love a good America style breakfast then you have to visit Denny's. It's a chain restaurant that's been around for yonks but it serves the typical America style food; pancakes, grits, milkshake. Yum!
If you're a fan of The Big Bang Theory then you probably would have heard of The Cheesecake Factory. They legit do a whole menu dedicated to cheesecake and I was hooked. I think I honestly visited there about 4 times! Their food is okay but I like going to the cheesecake bar and getting a takeaway slice. My favourites being the Oreo Extreme and the Red Velvet.
Peach Valley Cafe is another great American style breakfast joint as is the Maitland Breakfast Club.
If you want to experience a taste of the South (Texas, Tennessee, Oklahoma etc) then Cracker Barrel is a cool place to visit. It's a restaurant with a shop at the front and outside they have a row of wooden rocking chairs to sit in whilst you wait. Here you'll find grits, biscuits (different to ours) and lots of eggs.
Where to Shop
The Mall at Millenia is probably my favourite mall. This is where you go to visit all your favourite makeup stores, cloth shops and techy stuff (I bought my Macbook Pro here).
If you're looking for a bargain (and we all love a bargain!) then make sure to hit up the outlet malls. I believe there are two but they pretty much have the same stores and the discounts are HUGE!
If you want to stock up on American makeup brands then the shops I would recommend are CVS, Sephora, Ulta and Walgreens. You can see what I bought here.
Another great store for pretty much everything is Target. I love the sports clothes and bikinis they do here and it's all super affordable.
Have you visited Orlando? Did I miss anything?
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