Welcome to MetroGuide Networks' overview of Orlando-area attractions. The Greater Orlando
area is full of attractions for all ages.
Famed worldwide as the land of Mickey Mouse, multifaceted Orlando thrives with dozens of powerhouse attractions unrelated to fabled Disney entertainment. As for size, Orange County's Walt Disney World Resort alone covers 47 square miles, theoretically allowing New York's Manhattan to fit inside twice. Walt Disney spring-loaded Orlando tourism, yet historians credit Dick Pope Sr., who in 1936 opened what was known as Cypress Gardens, as Florida's first “Father of Tourism.” Actually, groundwork for Orlando as a leisure destination was laid even earlier, after a devastating 1895 freeze, when citrus grower John B. Steinmentz converted his packing house into a skating rink, built a toboggan slide into nearby springs, and added a picnic area and bathhouse. Cattle and cotton, of course, were Orlando's first hot commodities. Originally named Jernigan after Georgia settler Aaron Jernigan in 1843, Orlando developed around Fort Gatlin, an abandoned Army post.
An 1857 name change honored Orlando Reeves, a U.S. soldier killed by an arrow in 1835 while serving sentinel duty at what is now downtown's Lake Eola Park. Cuban demand for beef spurred Orlando's cattle industry prior to 1863, and with that came widespread rustling, which led to gunfights downtown just like in the old wild west. Cotton gained popularity as a less risky enterprise. But after the Civil War took away pickers and an 1871 hurricane battered crops, it dawned on homesteaders that growing citrus was a better bet. A century after people got orange fever, along came mouse fever with the 1971 opening of Disney's Magic Kingdom Park, followed by the 1973 debut of SeaWorld Adventure Park. WDW expanded, Universal Studios arrived in 1990, and attractions have mushroomed ever
since. Hometown Orlando film and television celebrities include Anthony Perkins of Psycho, Buddy Ebsen, the late Beverly Hillbilly, Delta Burke of Designing Women, and comedian Wayne Brady, who got his start at a downtown club. Pop stars Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera and Justin Timberlake launched careers at Orlando's Disney's Hollywood Studios, and long before that Orlando witnessed plenty of other hot stuff. It was at Disney's Contemporary Resort during a newspaper editors convention, on Nov. 17, 1973, that Richard Nixon delivered his memorable “I am not a crook” speech. Laser technology used worldwide by plastic surgeons to zap wrinkles and tattoos was pioneered in Orlando by Schwartz Electro-Optics. Even so, Orlando's sizzle centers on tourism, to the tune of $20.9 billion in annual economic impact. No vacancy signs rarely flash, given Orlando's 110,000 room inventory. Going hungry is also
unlikely, with more than 4,500 restaurants serving up continental and ethnic cuisine at bargain prices. Shoppers delight in more than 52 million square feet of retail nirvana, plus outlet centers, flea markets and wholesale barns. More than 300 lakes, springs and rivers provide for boating, fishing, and swim fun. For golf and tennis, more than 150 courses and 800 courts await. Drawing more than 43 million visitors annually, it's
safe to say Orlando has more attraction power than any other amusement park destination in America.
Below is a list of some suggested things to do in the Orlando Metropolitan Area,
with links to more details when available.
- Arabian Nights
Arabian Nights brings a fairy tale to life on horseback as more than 60 of the world's most beautiful Arabian horses combine with special effects and incredible stunts in a spectacular Broadway-style production that includes a three-course dinner with unlimited beverages. Guests choose from prime rib of beef, grilled chicken breast, chicken tenders or vegetable lasagna, and all entrees are served with a fresh garden salad, garlic mashed potatoes, fresh vegetables, roll and butter, and dessert, with house beer, wine, or Coca-Cola products.
3081 Arabian Nights Boulevard, Kissimmee. (800) 553-6116
- Cirque du Soleil
Cirque du Soleil, in Downtown Disney West Side, features its renowned blend of acrobatics and special effects with more than 70 artists from around the globe performing in a custom-designed, 1,671-seat theater.
1478 East Buena Vista Drive, Lake Buena Vista. (407) 939-7600
- Congo River Golf & Exploration Co.
Guests are invited to explore two 18-hole courses set in a tropical environment with caves, waterfalls, and 25 live alligators.
4777 West Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway, Kissimmee. (407) 396-6900
- Discovery Cove
Across from SeaWorld Adventure Park, this tropical paradise provides for discovering tropical fish in a coral reef, snorkeling with stingrays, and interacting with birds in an aviary, as well as swimming and playing with dolphins during a half-hour dolphin encounter. Reservations are required.
6000 Discovery Cove Way. (407) 370-1280
- DisneyQuest Indoor Interactive Theme Park
The five-story DisneyQuest Indoor Interactive Theme Park combines Disney's magic with cutting-edge technologies. Guests board a river raft on Virtual Jungle Cruise, ride a roller coaster of their own design on Cyber Space Mountain, and become part of a human pinball game in Mighty Ducks Pinball Slam. Some events require a separate admission charge.
1486 Lake Buena Vista Boulevard, Lake Buena Vista. (407) 828-3800
- Disney's Blizzard Beach
Disney's Blizzard Beach water park features one of the world's tallest, fastest free-fall speed slides, smack in the middle of sunny Florida. As the largest of Disney's water parks, it has 22 water slides and fast "icy" bobsled runs that stay comfortably warm.
1801 West Buena Vista Drive, Lake Buena Vista. (407) 828-3800
- Disney's ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex
ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex annually hosts more than 100 Amateur Athletic Union events, Atlanta Braves spring training, Orlando Rays minor league baseball and the Pop Warner Super Bowl. Spectator fun awaits with 200 acres of courts and fields for more than 30 sports.
700 South Victory Way, Kissimmee. (407) 363-6262
- Disney's Hollywood Studios
A theme park within a motion picture and television studio, attractions include Who Wants To Be A Millionaire - Play It!, Playhouse Disney - Live on Stage!, Rock 'n' Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith and The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.
Epcot-Downtown Disney Exit (exit 26) from Interstate 4. (407) 824-4321
- Downtown Disney Pleasure Island
Pleasure Island Entertainment Complex closed on September 28, 2008 to undergo a two-year renovation project, which is still in progress. Some of the old associated entertainment and nightlife venues were closed permanently, but a few restaurants and shops, such as Raglan Road Irish Pub & Restaurant and Orlando Harley Gear Store remain open throughout the renovation.
1590 Buena Vista Drive, Lake Buena Vista. (407) 827-2281
- Disney's Magic Kingdom Park
Magic Kingdom's seven magical lands are filled with attractions, restaurants and shops based on favorite Disney themes of fantasy, yesterday and tomorrow. Popular attractions include The Magic Carpets of Aladdin, Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain, Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Haunted House, and Space Mountain.
Main entrance, U.S. 192, Interstate 4, Exit 25. (407) W-DISNEY
- Disney's Miniature Golf Courses
Disney's Fantasia Gardens Miniature Golf Course, a 36-hole adventure featuring Fantasia Gardens, has 18-holes with a theme from Disney's classic film "Fantasia," and Fantasia Fairways, and an 18-hole challenge course with strategic bunkers and hazards. Disney's Winter Summerland Miniature Golf Course is an interactive experience with two 18-hole elf-sized courses. One course has a snow-clad Florida look reminiscent of Disney's Blizzard Beach Water Park, while the other goes tropical with holiday ornaments hanging from palms.
Fantasia Gardens, across from Disney's Hollywood Studios. (407) WDW-GOLF
Summerland, next to Disney's Blizzard Beach. (407) WDW-GOLF
- Disney's Typhoon Lagoon Water Park
Big among locals, Disney's Typhoon Lagoon Water Park, open year around, offers twisting tides, roaring rapids and relaxing rivers. Whether navigating the nine water slides, swimming with sharks and tropical fish or conquering waves in the nation's largest wave pool, this exotic paradise promises maximum adventure in water heated to a pleasant 75-80 degrees year around.
1195 East Buena Vista Drive, Lake Buena Vista. (407) 828-8915
- Epcot Theme Park
Fascinating cultures and numerous wonders of the world are celebrated through dazzling shows, interactive experiences and attractions. Epcot showcases the power of human imagination with The Circle Of Life, Ellen's Energy Adventure and the Making of Me. Kids' favorites include Cranium Command and Food Rocks! By night, IllumiNations is a kaleidoscope of sky artistry with more than 1,100 pyrotechnic bursts, accompanied by music.
1320 Avenue of the Stars, Lake Buena Vista. (407) W-DISNEY
- Fantasy of Flight
Fantasy of Flight invites exploration of flight nostalgia in self-guided "immersion" experiences zooming through early aviation history. The North Hanger displays part of the world's largest private collection of vintage aircraft. Also on tap are flight simulators and daily tours, including the Back-Lot Restoration Shop Tour. Weather permitting, rare aircraft take to the skies for Aircraft of the Day demonstrations.
1400 Broadway Boulevard Southeast, Polk City. (863) 984-3500
- Florida EcoSafaris at Forever Florida
Florida EcoSafaris offers a variety of zipline, horseback, coach and hiking safaris through the wilds of Florida, based at the Forever Florida park, and sponsors a number of fun events throughout the year.
4755 North Kenansville Road, Saint Cloud. (866) 854-EVER
- Fun Spot Action Park
Fun Sport Action Park, with free admission, free parking and free rides for children with a paying adult, lets guests "Drive the Ride" on multi-level go kart tracks. Fun Spot has 17 hands-on action rides and more than 100 games in a 10,000 square-foot arcade.
5551 Del Verde Way. (407) 363-3867
- Fleaworld and Funworld
Fleaworld in Sanford has more than 50 amusement rides and attractions, mini-golf, midway games, batting cages, go-kart tracks, a 350-game arcade, and the Funworld Pavilion which hosts many concerts and other events.
4311 South Orlando Drive, Sanford. (407) 330-1792
Gatorland is home to thousands of alligators and crocodiles, a few wangling appearances in movies, television shows and commercial spots. The 54-year-old park combines a petting zoo, bird sanctuary, mini-water park, eco-tour and action-packed outdoor entertainment, including daily alligator wrestling.
14501 South Orange Blossom Trail, Orlando. (800) 393-JAWS
- Green Meadows Petting Farm
Green Meadows Petting Farm provides a two-hour guided tour of 300 farm animals, allowing opportunity to pet animals, milk a cow, take train and hay rides, and ride a pony. Picnic grounds are available.
1368 South Poinciana Boulevard, Kissimeee. (407) 846-0770
- Holy Land Experience
The $16 million, 15-acre Holy Land Experience re-creates the city of Jerusalem and its religious importance between the years 1450 B.C. and A.D. 66 through themed costume characters, dramatic enactments and high-tech presentations. Biblical home to the Scriptorium, the museum has a collection of antiquities dating to 2200 B.C.
4655 Vineland Road. (407) 367-2065
- iFly Indoor Skydiving - Vertical Wind Tunnel
Part of the SkyVenture Free Fall Skydiving Adventure chain of vertical wind tunnels, Orlando's site offers indoor skydiving as adventurers float on a column of air. No parachute, no jumping and no experience is necessary. The tunnel creates the exact sensation of free falling during a skydive, giving participants 120 m.p.h thrills.
6805 Visitors Circle. (407) 903-1150
- John F. Kennedy Space Center
On Florida's Space Coast about 45 minutes from Orlando and south of Daytona Beach, it's possible to tour launch areas, see giant rockets, train in spaceflight simulators, and much more. The Visitor Complex is open every day except Christmas and certain launch days. Apart from the Astronaut Hall of Fame, Space Center bus tours run every 15 minutes with stops at an observation gantry and the Apollo / Saturn V Center. Other guided tours include NASA Up Close, Cape Canaveral: Then and Now, and Lunch With An Astronaut. Combo tickets offer maximum access admission, plus one guided tour.
Follow signs from State Road 405 and State Road 3, east of Titusville. (321) 449-4444
Featuring 300 animals, including a pair of Himalayan bears born in 2002, plus leopards, tigers, lions, and more, Jungleland has gator wrestling and a petting zoo. The seven-acre zoo also has a nearly mile-long path winding around a natural lagoon with black swans and white ibis.
4580 West Highway 192, Kissimmee. (407) 396-1012
- Kissimmee Air Museum and Warbird Adventures Flights
Fly the real thing, not a simulator. First time fliers and experienced pilots alike can experience flying in classic military aircraft, whether seeking a sightseeing adventure, or riding in an acrobatic performance, this is a unique and thrilling attraction.
Kissimmee Gateway Airport, 233 North Hoagland Boulevard, Kissimmee. (800) 386-1593
- LEGOLAND Florida
Designed for children 2 through 12, Florida's version of Ole Kirk Christiansen's famous amusement park features the popular Lego brick animals, amusement rides, shows, shopping and dining options, and lots of hands-on educational activities to fill your visit.
1 Legoland Way. Winter Haven. (877) 350-LEGO
- Magic Sunrise Ballooning
Hot air balloon flights around Orlando's Disney World start at sunrise every day. The three-hour adventure includes a pre-flight briefing before heading to any of 30 launch sites, depending on wind, for balloon inflation. Flights last an hour, followed by a champagne toast upon landing, and a buffet breakfast at the Black Angus Steak House. Reservations are a must.
7514 West Irlo Bronson Highway (behind the Black Angus Steak House), Kissimmee. (866) 606-RIDE
- Magical Midway
Magical Midway features International Drive's only elevated go-kart tracks for extreme action with corkscrew turns and high-speed jolts, along with classic midway rides like bumper boats and bumper cars. The snack shop features fresh hand-tossed pizza.
7001 International Drive. (407) 370-5353
- Old Town
Eight affordable restaurants, 15 amusement park rides and 75 shops make Old Town's brick-lined streets a retail and entertainment destination with family fun. Classic car shows every Friday and Saturday feature hundreds of vintage automobiles. Admission and parking are free.
5770 West U.S. Highway 192, Kissimmee. (407) 396-4888
- Orange County Regional History Center
The History Center in downtown Orlando features 12,000 years of Central Florida history, spanning from the Seminole Indians to the present. Four floors of exhibits are in the renovated 1927 courthouse building.
65 East Central Boulevard. (407) 836-8500
- Orlando Hauntings
Orlando Hauntings Ghost Tours tantalize with ghoulish stories as guides in period costumes carrying lanterns spin tales. The 90-minute walking tour features "true" ghost stories tied to local history. Tours depart from Guinevere's Cafe on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m.
37 South Magnolia AVenue. (407) 992-1200
- Pirate's Cove Adventure Golf
Pirate's Cove Adventure Golf has two locations for fine-tuning skills in a setting of lush landscaping and swashbuckling pirate themes. Putt through mountain caves, over footbridges and under waterfalls. At each site, all ages choose from three courses: Blackbeard's Challenge, Captain's Course, or the 36-Hole Adventure Course.
Crossroads at Lake Buena Vista, 12521 S.R. 535, Lake Buena Vista. (407) 827-1242
8501 International Drive. (407) 352-7378
- Pirate's Dinner Adventure
Have dinner with the Pirates, as Buccaneers sword fight in a replica of an 18th century Spanish galleon anchored in a 300,000 gallon indoor lagoon, and enjoy aerial acrobatics, comedy and delicious food.
6400 Carrier Drive. (407) 248-0590
- Ripley's Believe It or Not! Orlando Odditorium
Ripley's Believe It or Not! Orlando Odditorium looks as if it fell victim to one of Florida's infamous sinkholes, since it's housed in a building that appears decidedly whopper-jawed and on the slide. Explore artifacts, collections, weird art/hobbies and interactive exhibits in 16 odd galleries. For more than 40 years, Robert Ripley traveled the globe collecting the unbelievable, inexplicable, and one-of-a-kind. His collections are housed in 27 museums in 10 countries.
8201 International Drive. (407) 363-4418
- SeaWorld Adventure Park
SeaWorld Adventure Park features 200 acres of sea-themed rides, including Kraken, Orlando's longest, tallest, fastest floorless roller coaster. Visitors find themselves face-to-face with a shark in Sharks Deep Dive at Shark Encounter. Shows and animal exhibits include polar bears, killer and beluga whales, manatees, sea lions, penguins, dolphins and more.
7007 Sea World Drive. (888) 800-5447
- Stallion 51 Corporation
Stallion 51 Corporation provides the opportunity to sign up for an orientation flight that lets guest pilots fly the TF-51 Mustang fighter plane. Guest pilots are invited to take over controls for most of the flight for an authentic experience.
3951 Merlin Drive. (407) 846-4400
- Thompson Aire Hot Air Balloon Rides
Enjoy a birds eye view of the Disney theme park area from a hot air balloon at sunrise each morning, including a pre-flight briefing, Champagne toast, buffet breakfast, one-hour flight, first flight certificate, and more.
7769 West Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway, Kissimmee. (407) 421-9322
- Trainland International Trolley and Train Museum
The museum features 14 model railroad trains with sound and lighting traveling through an indoor garden with 12-foot high mountains, waterfalls, and more than 30 trestles and tunnels. Also on display are toy trains from the 1920s to the present. Catch a ride in a California Victorian Style half open/half closed trolley or the 5/8 replica of an 1880 locomotive (a Mason Bogey) with its passenger cars.
8990 International Drive. (407) 363-9002.
- Universal Studios
Universal Studios takes guests beyond the screen and into the world of television and film to "ride the movies," with Men in Black, Alien Attack, Jaws, Twister, Back to the Future, and Shrek 4-D. Experience an 'Earthquake', Jimmy Neutron's Nicktoon Blast and many other attractions. The 444-acre park also has a maze of stage sets with reproductions of New York and San Francisco street scenes, and there's even an opportunity to get slimed at Nickelodeon Studios.
1000 Universal Studios Plaza. (407) 363-8000
- Universal's Islands of Adventure
Universal's Islands of Adventure invites guests to "live the adventure" with technologically advanced thrill rides and attractions, including The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man, Jurassic Park River Adventure, The Incredible Hulk and the Dueling Dragons coasters. Cat in the Hat provides a journey through Dr. Seuss's popular book. Also hot Shrek 4-D, with that charming green ogre.
From Interstate 4 and Florida's Turnpike, take Exit 30 to Kirkman Road. (407) 363-8000
- Walt Disney World Resort
World-renowned Walt Disney World Resort sets ever higher standards for theme parks, encompassing the Magic Kingdom Park, Epcot Theme Park, Disney's Hollywood Studios, Disney's Animal Kingdom Theme Park, Disney's Blizzard Beach, Disney's Typhoon Lagoon Water Park, Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort, Downtown Disney's West Side, Downtown Disney's Marketplace,
ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, Disney's Oak Trail Golf Course, and five championship golf courses.
Exit 25 off Interstate 4, on US. 192. (407) 824-4321
- Wet ‘n Wild
Wet ‘n Wild features a wide variety of waterslides, a wave pool, water playground, child-size versions of the most popular rides, and mini-golf. Among attractions are The Storm, The Bomb Bay, Blue Niagara, Knee Ski and Wild One.
6200 International Drive, Orlando (407) 351-1800
- The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Newly opened in Summer 2010, Universal's Islands of Adventure theme park at Universal Orlando Resort has created an incredibly accurate replica of Hogwarts, complete with classrooms and corridors, Three Broomsticks restaurant with its Hog's Head pub, and thrilling rides like Dragon Challenge, Flight of the Hippogriff and Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.
1000 Universal Studios Plaza, Orlando (407) 363-8000
WonderWorks, within an eye-catching three-story house that appears to have landed, upside down, atop a 1930s-era brick warehouse, has more than 100 hands-on interactive exhibits utilizing sophisticated audio and graphic techniques. Guests can design their own roller coaster and then ride it, go hang gliding in the Grand Canyon, or play in the world's largest laser tag arcade. Visitors experience the trembling of earthquakes and hurricane-force winds.
9067 International Drive. (407) 351-8800
- World of Orchids
Featuring thousands of blooms in an enclosed tropical rainforest, World of Orchids is actually a working greenhouse shipping orchids and other plants nationwide. A greenhouse covers nearly an acre, and in this controlled warm, humid air some 1,000 orchids are displayed in a natural jungle setting, with streams, waterfalls, and squawking parrots. World of Orchids also has a 1,000-foot-long boardwalk meandering off into nearby wetlands. Admission is free.
2501 Old Lake Wilson Road, Kissimmee. (407) 396-1887