Once upon a time, Orlando was a small town surrounded by cow pastures and citrus fields. With the development of Walt Disney World and Universal Studios Florida , SeaWorld Orlando and a host of smaller attractions, those cow pastures turned into planned communities that house a wide range of residents, from Disney's 55,000 cast members to sports celebrities and millionaires.
Walt Disney World
Walt Disney World is so large that it can be considered its own district. You will find everything from hotels to shopping, restaurants, sports and nightlife within this huge park. Pebbles Restaurant and Fulton's Crab House are among the many fabulous restaurants. There are also thousands of hotel rooms to fit a wide range of budgets, and all provide shuttle transportation that gets you to its many theme parks. Disney's Typhoon Lagoon , Disney's Blizzard Beach , Disney's Animal Kingdom , Disney's Hollywood Studios and Epcot are all here. Visit the nearby Magic Kingdom . A monorail zips passengers to many destinations; boats and buses serve all the others, and the wait is rarely more than a few minutes for transportation.
Kissimmee is a nice city along the U.S. 192, which is a long strip of highway along an east-west route from the small but sprawling towns of Kissimmee and St. Cloud to Walt Disney World and beyond. You can find nice discounts in the city as well as interesting attractions, such as Green Meadows Petting Farm . There are also inexpensive restaurants including Golden China .
When Universal Studios moved in to compete ear-to-ear with the Mouse, a community of hotels, restaurants and all the rest grew up around it. Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville , Emeril's Restaurant and the Citywalk attract visitors year-round. While Universal's parks do not yet begin to rival Walt Disney World in size, the surrounding area is growing fast.
Yes, there is a downtown Orlando, although few who come to Orlando ever see much of it. Downtown is one of the prettiest parts of the city, blessed with tree-lined neighborhoods, attractive older homes and its fair share of (but not too many) shops, restaurants, lounges and entertainment areas. An excellent meal can be had at Hue or Kres Chophouse . The History Center and the UCF Center are popular with visitors.
At first glance, Orlando would appear to be the world nucleus of the fast food industry. On seemingly every thoroughfare, in and around every theme park, mall and neon neighborhood, they are there. However there is a lot more than fast food, including fine cuisine and theme restaurants.
Walt Disney World
There are many options within the park to satisfy your appetite. Casual American options include Hemingway's and Pebbles Restaurant , where the Porterhouse is divine, while Italian can be found at Citricos and Mediterranean treats like Braised Lamb are on the menu at Spoodles . Try tropical Polynesian at 'Ohana , and some of the best sushi at Dragon Court , which features an all you can eat option. For something equally as exotic, try Maya Grill , which has contemporary South American dishes on its menu.
Universal Studios' response to Disney's entertainment center is Citywalk , which packs 'em in every night. Sprawling across 30 acres, CityWalk is a lively cluster of dining, shops, cinemas and entertainment options ranging from the popular Hard Rock Cafe/Live . Famed chef Emeril Lagasse's dining spot, Emeril's Orlando , whisks up a roux to create Creole cuisine straight from the Louisiana bayous.Margaritas and "Cheeseburgers in Paradise" pour from the bar and kitchen at singer Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville , and everybody gets into the groove at a club called, well, The Groove . Salsa and samba reign at the Latin Quarter, where dance is abetted by food and entertainment from 21 Latin American nations. Racecar fans revel in the Nascar Cafe and basketball fans flock to NBA City to immerse themselves in National Basketball Association memorabilia.
Although not as visited as the amusement parks, downtown Orlando has much to offer those staying in the area. The menu at Lac-Viêt Bistro features colorful Vietnamese cocktails and traditional noodle dishes. Charley's Steak House is among the top ten steakhouses in the country. The Citrus Restaurant is a favorite among locals for its welcoming, friendly atmosphere. Located in a Sheraton hotel lobby, Sixty South Bar & Trattoria is a low-key place to enjoy drinks with friends in the evening. Johnson's Diner specializes in Southern, fried favorites, while the Celt Irish Pub serves delicious pub fare and a wide variety of beer on tap. Don't miss the views of Lake Eola at Spice Modern Steakhouse .
Orlando is best known for its status as one of America's best theme-park destinations; however many visitors are surprised to find that there's more to the city than Disney.
Walt Disney World
Exploring all that Walt Disney World has to offer takes at least a weekend. With the Magic Kingdom , Epcot , the Animal Kingdom and Cirque du Soleil , plus tons of fantastic restaurants, like Baskerville's , you're sure to be kept entertained.
Orlando Science Center
Visit the Orlando Science Center , which contains several interactive exhibits and a planetarium. The Harry P. Leu Gardens is filled with hundreds of trees and large, lush rose gardens, while the nearby Howell Branch Nature Preserve , a quiet sanctuary for birds, is worth exploring. Admire the architecture of the Calvary Assembly Of God , then grab a burger at 310 Park South .
Visit Universal Studios , with its two parks, and the nearby Citywalk . Also in this area, you'll find SeaWorld , Cypress Gardens and Wet 'n Wild . There are also many good restaurants to choose from, such as the classy Morton's of Chicago .
Orlando Museum of Art
Downtown, the Orlando Museum of Art and the Mennello Museum of American Folk Art both house substantial collections, while the smaller Thomas Kinkade Signature Gallery focuses on work by the famous artist. Admire the architecture at the First Presbyterian Church of Orlando , then enjoy a hearty meal at Harvey's Bistro .
Orange County Regional History Center
Adjacent to the Heritage Square Courtyard is the Orange County Regional History Center , which contains pieces dating as far back as the Seminole Wars. The nearby Lake Eola Park provides picturesque trails. When you're through, walk over to the bustling Wall Street Plaza and dine at the European Globe cafe.
If you want to take a guided tour there are a lot of options. Glide along in an airboat, relax on the deck of a boat, or fly high in a balloon. There are many different ways to see Orlando.
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