I love Orlando. I went last year with family and I had a blast. Although, we did go to Universal and I must say that will be the first and last time I ever go there.
Orlando may be famous for its theme parks, but there’s a lot more to do in this vibrant city. If you like nature and wildlife, there are plenty of places that will pique your interest. If you like to soak in the arts and culture, then Orlando has the museums and historical sites you’ll love. If you’d prefer to soak up the sun, then its amazing beaches are waiting just for you.
I really think in the future, I would move to Orlando. What is Florida? Beaches, tacky tourist traps, humidity beyond belief? Actually, it’s more than that. Orlando is full of character, fantastic food, wonderful people, and small town wonders.
Orlando has 125,000+ hotel rooms, just behind Las Vegas if you can believe it, so the toughest part about choosing where to stay is just that… choosing.
We stayed at staySky Suites I-Drive Orlando, which wasn’t that bad. It was in the perfect location with a lot of restaurants and shops around and Universal was only a few minutes away. However, we did get there 5 hours early because most check-In is 4pm and they rushed to clean our room and I had a chemical smell for the first few hours. Also we were harassed a little bit over attending a presentation for park tickets. That was annoying.
Ride the Orlando Eye, a 400-foot tall observation wheel on downtown Orlando’s International Drive, that gives you a bird’s-eye view of the city, including its theme parks and also numerous lakes and green areas. We didn’t get to go on this. The line was extremely long and we didn’t have the time.
Visit Harry P Leu Gardens, which contains 50 acres of mainly tropical plants as well as accessible meandering walkways. The garden also has a reputation for encouraging gardening among those with disabilities; this can be seen in the Abilities Garden here, which features raised areas of grass and planting beds that wheelchair users can easily transfer to.
Head for CityWalk at Universal Studios to enjoy dinner as well as soak up some of the atmosphere of the theme park based around a working movie and television studio. There is no admission fee for City Walk, a pedestrian area featuring restaurants, bars, nightclubs and other entertainment options, such as a bowling alley and a 19-screen IMAX theater.
Parking is in the main Universal Studios enclosed garage, where accessible parking is available and wheelchairs can be rented. It is about a 15-minute walk to CityWalk from the main parking area. Or, valet parking will leave you just a few-minutes walk from the CityWalk entrance.But the best bet is to try to take a shuttle or bus from your hotel, many of which meet accessibility standards; this way you will not have to worry about parking. You can find many fun and themed eateries that are also wheelchair accessible at CityWalk, such as Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville, NBC Sports Grill (which is really good) and the Hard Rock Cafe.
After dinner, take in a show at The CityWalk theater. There is wheelchair-accessible seating scattered throughout the venue, as well as assistive listening and descriptive narration devices for those who are blind, have low vision, or are deaf or hard of hearing.Top Tip: It is best to make a reservation or get tickets in advance. Also we went on Memorial Day weekend and it was packed, go in the off season
Ok, Ok now you have two options. You can either go to Universal or off the beaten path. For the sake of this post. I will talk about not going to the theme parks.
Although, going to Jurassic Park at Universal was pretty cool. It’s one of my favorite movies.
$8 for Butterbeer…not worth it. Plus Harry Potter Land or whatever it was called, was ok. I’ve never read any of the books or seen the movies, so I didn’t know what anything was.
Kick-off your Sunday at East End Market– a neighborhood market filled with local food options. People rave about the pastries and croissants from Olde Hearth Bread Co, or if you’re in the mood for something lighter, order a fresh juice or smoothie from SkyeBird. Next start your day with a hot air balloon ride over Orlando at sunrise. You can check out the services offered by Orlando Balloon Rides. The view is spectacular, so there’ll be tons of Instagram snaps for the taking.
After the hot air ballon (no thanks..I rather stay on the ground) head to Lake Eola Park gives a great view of the downtown Orlando Skyline, and it’s such a pretty park for a walk. I’m always weary of downtown areas because you never know about the crime and also because parking is typically a nightmare, we lucked out getting a spot close, but you can google “Lake Eola Parking” like we did and it will show you different garages and streets you can park on!
We didn’t get the chance to see this mural, but I thought it was a really cool way to show tribute to the people harmed in the Pulse night club shooting. I think what I like the most about this art piece is that despite such a hate-charged tragedy, they put up love. It’s also very surreal to be in a place that experienced something like that.
Also check out Sugarboo&Co …One of my favorite stores EVER! Such a cute store, but expensive.
Time for tacos! Orlando has some great Mexican restaurants that have popped up in recent years. Hunger Street Tacos is a favorite for authentic, creative tacos and Reyes Mezcaleria is super cute and has a great tequila/mexcal list!
End your night with drinks at The Matador– a popular spot that has a dive bar feel with plenty of seating and a fun cocktail list.
Side Note*** We also drove to Daytona Beach, which is 45 minutes from Orlando and we spent the day on the beach and getting sun burn, but that trip was fun.
I hope this guide helps anyone traveling to Orlando and not wanting to visit the theme parks- or I think doing a day at the parks and a day in Winter Park/Orlando would be perfect! Shiloh and I would love to know if you have any other must-dos in Orlando or the nearby areas- let me know in the comments!