Orlando: A neighbourhood guide


Amy Rosoman for British Airways

Title photography by RosaIreneBetancourt 10 / Alamy Stock Photo

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April 2018

Ride riveting rollercoasters in Disney’s theme parks and Universal StudiosTM, or explore the hype of International Drive. From gliding through the lush Everglades and splashing in water parks, to shopping in Orlando’s premium outlets – everyone can play in The City Beautiful.

International Drive

Venture to I-Drive for a hub of fun – escape rooms, mini golf, savvy shopping and more, this resort area is full of variety for entertaining days out.

Stay

Location is key for an Orlando holiday, and the Rosen Inn International offers great value accommodation, close to all the action. You can easily walk to plenty of shops and restaurants, or hop on the I-Ride Trolley to venture further. A free shuttle also runs to Universal Orlando Resorts™, Wet N Wild waterpark and SeaWorld. When you need a break from all the adventure, kick back by the pool and head to the Topsy Turvey Lounge for a nightcap.

Open your eyes to the wondrous creatures at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, take a ride on the wild side, then explore Pandora – The World of Avatar

Eat

When dining in the abundance of Orlando’s International Drive restaurants, you should order the ‘big eat’ classics. Dig into a bulging breakfast at Denny’s, with pancakes the size of your head, served up with bacon and all the works, in addition to drool-worthy omelettes and hefty Belgian waffles. For a night of big bites and drink delights, head to Applebee’s. Tuck into a whiskey bacon burger, a gigantic plate of ribs, chicken platters and creamy pasta dishes. For a refreshing way to wash down your meal, order an epic margarita mix.

Do

There’s no shortage of activities on International Drive. Spend sunny days playing adventure mini golf, or gather your wits to beat the clock during an escape room challenge. Turn thrilling moments into unforgettable memories on Universal parks rides, or drop by SeaWorld’s Aquatica to whirl around rapids and catch surfs in the wave pool. Orlando outlets are famous, so treat yourself and pop into the shops, where you’ll find an array of designer clothes, sportswear, perfumes and more. You could easily spend a whole day here.

  • The Incredible Hulk Coaster, Universal's Islands of Adventure. ©Universal Orlando

    Loop, roar, rocket and ride

    Feel the rumble of the Hulk rollercoaster, made of strength and speed, as you soar up into the skies.

    Stay at the Rosen Inn International

Kissimmee

Moments away from theme park extravaganzas, Kissimmee is a gateway to the Everglades. This destination will suit families looking for off-the-beaten-track experiences.

Stay

Soak up the family-friendly vibe at villas within Championsgate Platinum Homes, close to all things Disney. Enjoy a spacious home away from home, with the perks of a clubhouse, resort pool, waterslide and lazy river. Sports enthusiasts can squeeze in a game of tennis or 18 holes of golf at the on-site facilities. The lavish villas are also located near nature trails, Universal Studios™, Gatorland and quirky Old Town Kissimmee. To unwind, treat yourself to a pampering spa treatment or savour an evening tipple at the poolside Tiki Bar.

Eat

If your inner chef becomes inspired by the local cuisine, cook your own creation in the villa’s spacious kitchen. Other nights, discover the taste-bud tingling, dining delights within Kissimmee. You can’t go wrong with a lobster feast at Red Lobster, but shrimp dishes and fresh fish will satisfy seafood lovers too. There are ‘land’ based options for other diners – and don’t forget to check out the kids’ menu for children aged 12 and under. For a unique dining experience, stride into the Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament castle. You’ll sit on the edge of your seat during your 4-course meal, as knights joust on horseback, clash in battle and set falcons in flight.

Do

Relish the warm Kissimmee weather and soak up Old Town Kissimmee’s classic old school vibes. Go for a spin on the Old town’s iconic Ferris Wheel, and watch free weekly live entertainment like car shows and karaoke. Speed through the Everglades on an air boat with Marsh Landing Adventures. During slower interludes, you may spot alligators in the mesmerising marshes. For big-wheel off-roading ventures, head to Gatorland. Adrenaline seekers can zip-line over big tooth crocs and gators. Although Kissimmee has plenty of outdoor fun on offer, Disney and Universal are convenient enough for days at the theme parks.

  • Gatorland, Alligator wrestling. ©david sanger photography / Alamy Stock Photo

    The size of those nashers

    Take a peek at professional gator trainers, as they take on these snappy creatures.

    Plan your trip
  • The Quixote dining room at Columbia Restaurant, Celebration. ©Columbia Restaurant

    Tuck into yummy food and tasty pitchers

    It's all about scrumptious big bites in the US and Orlando is one for some some top-notch grub.

    Find flights to Orlando
  • Meet Cinderella at the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World Resort. ©Disney

    As pretty as a princess

    Don't be shy, go and say hi to your favourite characters at Walt Disney World.

    Book a stay at Clarion Inn Lake Buena Vista

Lake Buena Vista

Take a break in Lake Buena Vista, an Orlando paradise in the centre of everything Walt Disney World. The area simply oozes with sparkle and theme park magic.

Stay

The idyllic Clarion Inn Lake Buena Vista sits in the heart of Disney. Whilst here, make the most of the free shuttle service which runs to Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando Resort™ and SeaWorld. You will enjoy brilliant value when you plunge into all-you-can eat buffet breakfasts and dinners at the Boardwalk Buffet Restaurant. Back at the hotel, you can unwind in a choice of two pools after adventurous days, or play video arcade games in the games room, if you still have energy.

Eat

If you fancy a change from dining at your hotel, Downtown Disney’s appetising restaurants and bars are just a five-minute journey away. The House of Blues soothes the soul with food and music. Tuck into meals inspired from the South: pulled pork, fried chicken, beef brisket and other smokehouse favourites. Then hit the bar for a tasty cocktail blend. For a belly-busting meal, eat at Planet Hollywood in Disney Springs. From whopping stacks of nachos and burgers packed with mac-n-cheese, to colourful monstrous milkshakes served up with sweets and candy floss – you’ll want to try a bite of each dish.

Do

A visit to Walt Disney World is an absolute Orlando must. Explore the enchanting Magic Kingdom by catching a parade of your favourite Disney characters and watching Cinderella’s Castle light up at night, haloed by fireworks. Discover the world and beyond at Epcot or explore the lights, camera and action at Disney’s Hollywood studios. Open your eyes to the wondrous creatures at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, then explore Pandora – the World of Avatar. Grab your swimmers and take to the water slides of Disney’s Blizzard Beach, or float along the lazy river at Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon before unwinding on the sandy beach.

Book your Orlando park tickets for Walt Disney World

Celebration

Close to the thrills of Disney, and a great halfway point between Universal and the Everglades, Celebration is a pretty pastel-coloured town for the perfect break.

Stay

Choose the Ramada Hotel Gateway, which offers an ideal location at great value, with nearby theme parks, enticing eateries and a cute downtown area. Walt Disney World Resort is just along the road, with Universal Orlando, Kissimmee and International Drive a little further away. Limited shuttle services run to the parks from here, so be sure to check the daily schedule. When you want to relax after hectic days, sunbathe poolside or take a dip. Conveniently, there are a couple of restaurants at the hotel that serve up breakfast waffles, and allow diners to stay in for an early night.

Eat

Make sure to venture out for Lake Buena Vista’s scrumptious eats, kickstarting your morning at Keke’s Breakfast Café with granola crunch waffles, banana-chocolate chip pancakes or French toast sprinkled with cinnamon. But just in case you begin your day late, the breakfast menu is on until 2:30 pm, so make it a brunch date instead. For an evening of tapas and sizzling cocktails, book a table at the Columbia Restaurant. Sip on a tango mango or a citrusy IPA, as you polish off a mix of tapas plates, fresh fish dishes or more meaty mains. For a more indulgent meal, feast on paella over pitchers of sangria.

Do

Simmer down for a well-deserved break between the energetic theme park excursions in Celebration. For fresh air, walk to Celebration Lakeside Park with a picnic assembled from fresh farmers market ingredients. Hire a bicycle and meander through the downtown area with a pit stop at the town’s playful fountains. Visit the toy-like town’s Market Street for quirky boutiques and galleries. Travellers with a sweet tooth will especially enjoy discovering all things chocolate dreams are made from at the Chocolate Kingdom. Follow your nose on the factory tour, and spot the Mystical River of Chocolate… This place is a chocoholic’s dream.