10 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions & Things to Do in Orlando
The city of Orlando is located in one of the world's most visited tourist regions, which draws tens of million visitors every year. Among its principal tourist attractions are Walt Disney World, SeaWorld Orlando, and Universal Orlando. Within easy reach, too, is the Kennedy Space Center on Cape Canaveral. The establishment of these mega-amusement parks has encouraged other investors, and there are tens of thousands hotel and motel beds in the Orlando area, thousands of restaurants, countless golf courses, and numerous other attractions great and small.Orlando has a subtropical climate with hot and rainy weather from May to October and cooler temperatures from November to April that brings less frequent rainfall. The city is also at risk for hurricanes due to its location.
See also: Where to Stay in Orlando
1 Walt Disney World
Walt Disney World is Florida's most popular family attraction and has been for many years. Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Epcot Theme Park, and MGM Studios are just some of the highlights that have long entertained children and parents. There is enough to see and do to keep families occupied for days on end. Additions such as Downtown Disney now cater to a more adult crowd, with shopping, restaurants, theaters, and music venues.
Orlando's SeaWorld, with its huge aquariums, dolphin and whale shows, touch pools, and extensive list of rides, draws a large family crowd. It also allows opportunities for close up encounters with dolphins and other residents. SeaWorld in Orlando is among the world's largest marine parks.
3 Universal Studios
Universal Studios offers a look at the film studio of Universal studios, but also offers all kinds of other attractions and entertainment. This combination theme park and working studio was designed in consultation with Steven Spielberg to give visitors an interactive experience with the movies. As a result the attraction is designed to entertain adults and children and draws a large number of families.
There are two different theme parks at Universal; Universal Studios Florida, and Universal's Islands of Adventure. Each of these offers something a little different. The first offers a look at the studios and Islands of Adventure is where visitors will find theme areas with rides and eye catching sights. Many visitors spend much more time here than they had anticipated.
City Walk, also part of Universal, is a huge entertainment complex, featuring dining, shopping, movies, and other day and night entertainment.
4 Discovery Cove
Located next to SeaWorld Orlando, Discovery Cove is one of the areas premier attractions. Visitors can experience some of the mysteries of the sea in an island resort setting. Some of the options including swimming with the dolphins, snorkeling along a reef, and wading among stingrays. On land you can relax in lounge chairs in the tropical setting.
Visitors can purchase an all inclusive one day pass but due to the extreme popularity of Discovery Cove you are best off booking a reservation well in advance during peak season.
Address: 6000 Discovery Cove Way, Orlando, FL 32821-6000, United States
5 Typhoon Lagoon
Typhoon Lagoon is one of Disney's most popular water parks, with all kinds of slides and rides, a wave pool for surfing, and areas for small children to enjoy themselves. Shark Reef gives visitors an opportunity to swim with leopard and bonnethead sharks, along with sting rays and other fish.
6 Islands of Adventure
Located at Universal Orlando, Islands of Adventure has five unique islands, each designed in their own theme, complete with rides and various other forms of entertainment.
7 Wet 'N Wild
One of Florida's first water parks, Wet 'N Wild contains enough fun and thrill rides to entertain people all day long. On site are a wave pool, water slides, chutes, raft rides and flumes. There are both individual and multi-person rides. Some of the highlights include "The Surge", a six-story speed slide, and "Bomb Bay" where the rider is dropped in a capsule from a great height.
For those looking for a little less adventure but just as much fun there is a Lazy River where you can drift down a man made river in an inner tube.
8 Orlando Science Center
The Orlando Science Center showcases several branches of science from mechanics to biology and applied technology. There are a variety of themed exhibits. Among the top favorites is "Kids Town". Kids Town is available to children under 48 inches tall with stimulating interactive exhibits. There are also laser shows and large format films at the Dr. Phillips CineDome.
In addition to the exhibit galleries the Science Center presents touring exhibits from across the country.
Address: 777 East Princeton Street, Orlando, FL 32803-1291, United States
9 Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary, Queen of the Universe
Mary, Queen of the Universe Shrine was built in the 1980s. This large church can seat 2,000 people and is adorned with impressive stained glass windows. The church contains an 8 ft marble statue of Mary, created by sculptor Jill Burkee. In the outdoor chapel is another sculpture of the Mother and Child by Jerzy Kenar.
On site is a museum with religious sculptures, paintings, and a relic of Saint Desiderius. Also of interest is the Pilgrimage Center, offering information on the history of the Christian Pilgrimage.
This Catholic Church serves the many visitors to the Orlando area as a place of worship.
Address: 8300 Vineland Avenue, Orlando, FL 32821, United States
Gatorland has thousands of alligators, crocodiles and other reptiles, some of which perform in daily shows and demonstrations. The "Alligator Jumparoo" show and "Gator Wrestlin'" are two examples. The facility is also home to rare leucistic alligators which are white.
A small train does rounds on the grounds and an observation tower provides views of the breeding marsh and surrounding region.
One of the more recent additions to Gatorland is the zip line that runs over top of alligators and crocodiles. For the less adventurous there is still the self guided swamp walk, and kids will enjoy the Gator Gully Splash Park.
Address: 14501 South Orange Blossom Trail, Orlando, FL 32837, United States
Where to Stay in Orlando for Sightseeing
Most first-time visitors to Orlando come to visit the famous theme parks: SeaWorld, Walt Disney World, and Universal Studios, about 10 to 20 miles from the downtown area. A short drive from the theme parks, the popular tourist area around International Drive is home to large outlet malls, water parks such as Wet 'n' Wild, and other tourist attractions. Below are some highly-rated hotels, with swimming pools, in convenient locations for visiting Orlando's top tourist sites and outlet shopping malls:
- Luxury Hotels: Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort, in a gated community at the namesake theme park, ensconces guests in serene rooms and suites with views of the fireworks and an array of enticing spa services. Waldorf Astoria Orlando is another top luxury option, a five-minute complimentary shuttle ride from Walt Disney World. Guests can use the facilities at the more affordable yet still top-notch Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek next door, including a three-acre lazy river pool and waterslide. Also close to the Disney theme parks, as well as outlet shopping malls, Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress is another family-friendly and more affordable luxury option.
- Middle-Range Hotels: A free shuttle whisks you to Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure from Drury Inn & Suites, a good value mid-range option. Close to Walt Disney World and outlet shopping, Marriott's Cypress Harbour has two-bedroom suites and villas with fully-equipped kitchens that are great for families, while Homewood Suites Orlando/International Drive/Convention Center sits in a convenient location 15 minutes by car from Walt Disney World and only 10 minutes by car from Universal Studios and SeaWorld.
- Budget Hotels: In a fantastic location, about four minutes by car from Walt Disney World, Hampton Inn Orlando/Lake Buena Vista offers great value with free parking and a complimentary shuttle to the park. From the Fairfield Inn & Suites Orlando Universal Studios, you can take advantage of the free shuttle to Universal Studios or walk to the park in about 15 minutes, and the Comfort Suites near Universal Studios offers large, clean rooms within walking distance of restaurants.
Tips and Tours: How to Make the Most of Your Visit to Orlando
- Helicopter Tour: One of the most unique ways to see Orlando and the surrounding area is from the air. A Helicopter Tour from Walt Disney World Resort Area offers a chance to gain a bird's-eye view of the theme parks and get a true picture of their size and layout.
- Day Trip to Kennedy Space Center: One of the biggest attractions in Florida can be easily visited on the Kennedy Space Center Day Trip with Transport from Orlando. This comprehensive tour allows plenty of time to explore the many exhibits at this large complex and includes IMAX films, a tour of NASA's Launch Headquarters, a private tour of the Space Shuttle Atlantis exhibit, and hotel pickup and drop-off. For a slightly shorter and more economical tour with a few less perks, try the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral Tour.