Orlando, Florida: a city that’s renowned for its theme parks, cool downtown area and thriving tourism.
While my sister and I were travelling around the US in 2016, we naturally had to add Orlando to the list.
Why? Well, we’d already been as children. But we wanted to see what the place could offer us as adults (in addition to the opportunity of getting to relive our youth at the theme parks!).
And trust me, we weren’t disappointed.
How to Get to Orlando
First things first, getting to Orlando from the UK is easy seen as though it’s such a tourist hotspot.
Southerners can fly there direct from London-Gatwick airport via British Airways. Then Northerners can fly there direct from Manchester airport via Delta, KLM, Virgin Atlantic and Air France.
Everyone’s a winner!
How to Get Around Orlando
In terms of getting around Orlando, renting a car is the best option by far.
Why? Well, it’s very easy to drive around Orlando.
If you don’t drive or would prefer not to, there are also the following methods of transportation available:
- A trolley service around the International Drive resort area, including Seaworld, Sealife Orlando Aquarium, Ripley’s, Titanic Artifact Exhibition and the outlet malls (single tickets are $2.00 for adults and $1.00 for children and a one-day pass is $5 per person)
- Free shuttles from Disney resorts to the Disney theme parks (and vice versa)
Note that the transfer between theme parks is difficult but doable. That said, the easiest option is to do one park per day.
Where to Stay in Orlando
Figuring out to stay in Orlando can be overwhelming due to the abundance of choice.
If you’re focused on attending more than one theme park, it makes sense to stay on International Drive where there are many hotels.
Alternatively, consider one of the following areas.
- Downtown – Along with being 20 minutes from the amusement parks, downtown Orlando provides travellers with plenty of restaurants, a top-class comedy club (SAK Comedy Lab) and a Science Centre.
- South Eola – This quieter suburb of Orlando is perfect for people who want to keep away from the hustle and bustle. It features many cafes and micro breweries and has a pretty park with a pond.
- Kissimmee (Kis-sem-mee) – Ideal for those on a budget, the accommodation in this area is cheaper given that it’s about 20 minutes south of Orlando. There are also several shops and restaurants to keep the average tourist satisfied.
The choice is yours!
Top Things to Do in Orlando
Let’s just get one thing straight before we dive in to the top things to do in Orlando as an adult. This section is going to be extremely Harry Potter heavy.
(Sorry, not sorry.)
1. Check Out Downtown Orlando
Firstly, be sure to have a wander around the downtown area.
Most tourists only know about International Drive, the gateway to the theme parks, but downtown Orlando is a hub of amazing cafes, restaurants and shops.
And do you know what else? It’s always buzzing, day or night.
2. Have a Day in Lake Eola Park
Lake Eola and its neighbouring park still lie in the downtown area, admittedly. But that doesn’t make them any less lovely.
Grab a picnic and you can quite easily spend a sunny day lounging or walking around the lake with ice-cream. (And all for hardly any money!)
Bonus points for if you manage to be there on Fourth of July. Americans really do go all-out for their Independence Day celebrations. In Orlando, in particular, it’s quite cute as people gather around the lake with their deckchairs, picnic blankets and snacks to watch the fireworks.
We found a classic All American hot dog stand so followed suit by stretching out on the grass with our root beers and hot dogs in hand. Bliss!
3. Visit the Mall at Millenia
Are you a shopaholic like me? Great – you’re going to love the Mall at Millenia.
Situated towards the north of International Drive, it has two levels of high street stores and designer boutiques. I’m talking everything from Sephora and H&M to Gucci and Rolex.
Once you’ve shopped up an appetite, you can even visit the wonderfulness that is The Cheesecake Factory for a hearty meal. Thank me later.
4. Head to the Beach
Another one of the most popular things to do in Orlando is to drive two hours outside of the city. There, you’ll stumble across a number of beaches.
And yes, they really are as gorgeous as everyone says Florida beaches are.
Thanks to its central location, you can go to either coast. That said, keep in mind that Vero Beach and Cocoa Beach tend to be the most popular.
Just rent a car and away you go! (Not jealous at all.)
5. Go to Disney’s Magic Kingdom, Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure
Okay, so I know that this post is supposed to be for adults. But you really can’t beat the original Walt Disney World (Magic Kingdom) and Universal Studios (with its adjoining Islands of Adventure) when you go to Orlando.
Sure, there are dozens of theme parks that you can choose from, but these classics never disappoint.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is an extra treat thrown in for Harry Potter fans. Diagon Alley is situated in the Universal Studios park and Hogsmeade is located in Islands of Adventure. And both are must-dos.
I mean, the amount of detail that’s gone into building the sets is insane. It’s literally like you’ve just stepped foot into one of the films!
It’s all truly incredible and something that all the Harry Potter fans on this earth should experience.
The Takeaway: Visiting Orlando is a Pleasure at Any Age
The great thing about Orlando is there’s something for everyone to enjoy.
Whether you stick to adult-only activities or embrace being a big kid for a limited time, you’re guaranteed to have a good visit.
Have you been to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter? What did you think about the things to do in Orlando?