48 Hours In: Orlando

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Jump on board for a rollercoaster ride through Florida's theme park capital. Chris Leadbeater swings by rope courses, laser games and adventure golf

Travel Essentials

Why go now?

Florida's theme-park capital is preparing for another high summer of speedy ups and downs – but there is more to this sometimes unappreciated city than rollercoasters.

Its excellent Museum of Art (1) at 2416 North Mills Avenue (001 407 896 4231; omart.org) has collections of modern American painting, African art and contemporary graphics, with an exhibition entitled "Geolocation: Tributes to the Data Stream" running until 1 September. Open noon to 4pm at weekends, 10am to 4pm weekdays (except Monday), $8 (£5.25).

Touch down

Orlando Airport (2) (001 407 825 2001; orlandoairports.net) lies six miles south-east of Downtown. I flew with Virgin Atlantic (0844 209 7777; virgin-atlantic.com), which has daily flights from Gatwick and Manchester, and twice-weekly services from Glasgow. A week's stay at the International Palms Resort (3) in August costs £5,716 for a family of four (two children under 18), room only, with flights from Gatwick and car hire – via Virgin Holidays (0844 557 4321; virginholidays.co.uk).

British Airways (0844 493 0787; ba.com) flies to Orlando daily from Gatwick. Buses 11 and 51 head to Downtown in 40 minutes, and 42 runs to International Drive in an hour for $2 (£1.30).

Orlando Airport Van (001 866 204 4000; orlandoairportvan.us) offers transfers to International Drive for $10 (£6.70) per person each way. Cabs to the same destination cost about $40 (£26), and take 20 minutes.

Orlando is sizeable and a car is useful for seeing the theme parks. A week's rental in July (pick up and drop off at the airport), costs £135 through Alamo (0871 384 1086; alamo.co.uk).

Get your bearings

Orlando sits almost at the geographic heart of Florida, surrounded by lakes in an area of wetland lushness. It fans out around central Downtown, with the major theme parks and International Drive to the west, and the intriguing area of Winter Park to the north-east. Lynx buses (001 407 841 5969; golynx.com) are the key public transport option, with some 60 routes crossing the city. A one-day pass costs $6.50 (£4.30). The Official Visitor Center (4) stands at 8723 International Drive (001 407 363 5872; visitorlando.com), open daily 8.30am to 6.30pm. It dispenses the free "Magicard", which offers discounts on some 40 attractions. For more information, go to visitflorida.com.

Check in

A three-star family option with pool at 6515 International Drive, the International Palms Resort (3) (001 800 354 8332; internationalpalms.com) has doubles for $100 (£66), room only.

Nearby, at 9801 International Drive, the Peabody Orlando (5) (001 407 352 4000; peabodyorlando.com) is a five-star, with doubles from $460 (£307), room only.

The Park Plaza Hotel (6) is a chic boutique option at 307 South Park Avenue in Winter Park (001 407 647 1072; parkplazahotel.com) – doubles from $225 (£150), room only.

 

Day One

Take a hike

International Drive stretches for 12 miles, but the tourist heartland is the two-mile strip north from the Peabody (5). The giant Orange County Convention Center (7), at No 9899, is hard to miss, but business turns to pleasure at 9101 with the Pointe Orlando (8) complex of fashion stores and restaurants (001 407 248 2838; pointeorlando.com). Continue to Wonderworks (9) (001 407 351 8800; wonderworksonline.com), an indoor theme park at 9067, with rope courses and laser games (open daily 9am to midnight, adults $25/£16.70, children $20/£13).

At 8969, Hawaiian Rumble Adventure Golf (10) (001 407 351 7733; hawaiianrumbleorlando.com) has water-themed putting (daily 9am-11.30pm (midnight Friday and Saturday); $10 (£6.70), under 4s free.

Take a ride

Orlando's two core resort areas need little introduction. Walt Disney World resort (11) (0800 16 90 730; disneyworld.disney.go.com) is laid out around World Drive, 20 miles from Downtown. Its four parks include the Magic Kingdom, with its fairytale castle. There is a huge range of tickets, but a basic one-day pass to one theme park costs $95 (£63) per adult, $88 (£58) for three to nine year-olds. Hours vary.

Closer to the centre at 6000 Universal Boulevard, Universal Orlando (12) (0800 408 4834; universalorlando.com) has two parks: Universal Studios Florida; and Islands Of Adventure, with its Hogwarts recreation at The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter. One-day, one-park passes cost $100 (£67) per adult, $94 (£63) per child (3-9). Open daily in July 9am to 10pm.

Lunch on the run

Both resorts have food and retail areas open without entrance fee. Downtown Disney has the Earl Of Sandwich (13) (001 407 938 1762; earlofsandwichusa.com) at 1750 East Buena Vista Drive – where The Earl's Club (turkey, bacon, cheese) costs $6 (£4).

Universal Citywalk at 6000 Universal Boulevard has Nascar Sports Grille (14) (001 407 224 7223; nascarsportsgrilleorlando.com). A Pit Road Burger (beef, pork, cheese) is $14 (£9.30).

Walk in the park

If you like a bit more bite, Gatorland (15) at 14501 South Orange Blossom Trail (001 407 855 5496; gatorland.com), with its snap-jawed beasts, is open 10am- 5pm; adults $25 (£16.70); three-12 $17 (£11). At SeaWorld (16) on 7007 Sea World Drive (001 888 8005447; seaworldparks.com), there are dolphins and sharks (daily 9am- 10pm in July). One-day passes $79 (£53) adults, $71 (£47) three-nine year-olds.

An aperitif

Brick House Tavern + Tap (17) is a classic sports bar at 8440 International Drive. An Orange Blossom Pilsner costs $5 (£3) (001 407 3550321; brickhousetavernandtap.com).

Dining with the locals

The Peabody's (5) fine in-house restaurant, Napa, has cioppino (fish stew) that's nicely spicy for $35 (£23). At the Pointe Orlando complex (8), The Oceanaire Seafood Room (001 407 363 4801; theoceanaire.com) has pan-seared triggerfish for $33 (£22). Also, "Restaurant Row", is a mile chunk of West Sand Lake Road. Chatham's Place (18) does black grouper with spring onion for $33 (£22) at 7575 Dr Philips Boulevard (001 407 345 2992; chathamsplace.com).

 

Day Two

Sunday morning: go to church

Downtown offers a glimpse of local Orlando – not least in the calm form of St James Cathedral (19) at 215 North Orange Avenue (001 407 422 2005; stjamesorlando.org). This Catholic bastion, which dates to 1887, is a mixture of styles: plain and pale on its exterior, a colourful cocktail of murals within. Sunday mass is at 7.30am, 9am and 10.30am.

Window shopping

Orlando specialises in gargantuan shopping temples such as The Florida Mall (20), which has Macy's and Sears among its 200 outlets at 8001 South Orange Blossom Trail (001 407 851 7234; simon.com).

Winter Park is the city's "secret" pocket, where residents meet for coffee. Enticing stores here include The Ancient Olive (21) (001 321 972 1899; theancientolive.com), which sells olive oils at 324 North Park Avenue. Adjacent at 318 North Park Avenue, Tugboat & The Bird (22) (001 407 647 5437; tugboatandthebird.com) has toys and children's clothes.

Out to brunch

Winter Park lunch options include Prato (23) at 124 North Park Avenue (001 407 262 0050; prato-wp.com), a popular Italian eatery with epic fresh pasta, such as buckwheat tagliatelle with pork ragu and spinach for $16 (£10.70).

Cultural afternoon

Morse Museum of American Art (24), at 445 North Park Avenue, is famed for its Tiffany glass (Tuesday-Saturday 9.30am-4pm, Sunday 1-4pm, closed Monday; 001 407 645 5311; morsemuseum.org; $5/£3.30).

In Downtown, the Orange County Regional History Center (25) tells the story of central Florida from Native Americans to the Spanish arrival (Courthouse, at 65 East Central Boulevard; 001 407 836 8500; thehistorycenter.org). Open daily 10am-5pm, Sunday noon-5pm, $9 (£6).

Icing on the cake

For quiet serenity, try a one-hour cruise around three of Orlando's lakes via Scenic Boat Tour (26) (001 407 644 4056; scenicboattours.com), which operates from a jetty at 312 East Morse Boulevard in Winter Park. Sailings depart on the hour from 10am until 4pm; costing $12 (£8).

If you prefer an adrenalin rush, iFly (27), off International Drive at 6805 Visitors Circle (001 407 903 1150; iflyorlando.com), deals in "indoor skydiving". Customers take to the air on gusts of up to 100mph in a vertical wind tunnel. A package of two one-minute flights costs from $60 (£40), with the facility open daily 10am to 10pm.

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
News
i100

Other places that have held independence referendums
Sport
Jonas Gutierrez (r) competes with Yaya Toure (l)
football

Newcastle winger reveals he has testicular cancer - and is losing his trademark long hair as a result

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Blossoming love: Colin Firth as Stanley and Emma Stone as Sophie, in 'Magic in the Moonlight'
film

Actors star in Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'

News
peopleThe Times of India said actress should treat it as a 'compliment'
Arts and Entertainment
Maxine Peake plays Hamlet at Manchester's Royal Exchange
theatreReview: Maxine Peake brings emotional ferocity to Shakespeare's most starring part
News
news

Watch this commuter wage a one-man war against the Circle Line
News
We are phenomenally good at recognising faces; the study showed that humans have been selected to be unique and easily recognisable
science

Human faces unique 'because we don't recognise each other by smell'

Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
lifeShould we feel guilty about keeping cats inside?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
news

Man's attempt to avoid being impounded heavily criticised

Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
Student
The Guildhall School of Music and Drama is to offer a BA degree in Performance and Creative Enterprise
student

Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    IT Administrator - Graduate

    £18000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY FO...

    USA/Florida Travel Consultants £30-50k OTE Essex

    Basic of £18,000 + commission, realistic OTE of £30-£50k : Ocean Holidays: Le...

    Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

    £20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

    Sales Account Manager

    £15,000 - £25,000: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for ...

    Day In a Page

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week