Information & Facts
Orlando experiences jolly holiday weather all around, with its subtropical and very humid climate. Summertime temperatures can be uncomfortably hot though. Winter is dry and temperate, and occasionally night time temperatures can plunge surprisingly low. Thunderstorms are common between May and September and tend to be short but heavy, offering some respite from the heat. Summer is also hurricane season from June to November.
Floridian food is a melting pot of flavours, spices and taste sensations owing to the state's geographic position and visitors to Orlando will notice that restaurants boast old American classics as well as fusion cuisine with strong Caribbean and Spanish influences. From fast food to fine dining, Orlando has it all.
Home to 'Floribbean' cuisine which incorporates flavours and styles from the neighbouring Caribbean islands, Cuba, Trinidad and Tobago and even the American Deep South, dining out in Orlando is an experience for the senses where lemongrass, ginger, scallions and fresh tropical fruits like pineapple, papaya and mango are combined with gentle flavours of almond, rum, key lime and coconut milk in many dishes and red curries and seafood can be found on most menus.
Peppered around the city, many of Orlando's restaurants cater to younger children and dines will find kids' menus at most eateries. Head to International Drive for the trendiest restaurants in town, or spend some time in Downtown Disney or Universal's CityWalk where loads of restaurants cater to the tourists. With so many options and types of cuisine, diners will be spoilt for choice when it comes to eating out in Orlando.
Anyone staying at a Disney resort or official Disney hotel need have no qualms about getting around the Orlando magic kingdom. An unlimited free transportation network runs throughout, with buses, monorails, ferries and water taxis connecting all the parks and attractions before, during and for a couple of hours after opening hours. The I-Ride Trolley operates exclusively in the busy International Drive resort area; the fare is $1 per ride, and various passes are available. Those wishing to take a break from the world of Disney and travel elsewhere are advised to hire a car, particularly as during peak holiday seasons, buses are likely to be crowded. Mears Transportation runs a bus service covering all Orlando's surrounding attractions, even as far away as Busch Gardens in Tampa. Taxis queue for passengers in front of most of the resorts in the area; they can also be ordered by telephone. Fares tend to be high, however.
The home of Mickey Mouse, it goes without saying that Orlando is one of the most popular holiday destinations in the United States for families travelling with kids. With plenty of sunshine and boasting such attractions as Sea World, Walt Disney World and Universal Studios, Orlando is a children's playground and very often tops the list of places kids would most like to visit.
Universal Studios is great for older kids too as there are plenty of thrilling blockbuster-themed rides to enjoy as well as games and other interactive activities to enjoy, while the 'littlies' can enjoy a Fieval's playground, Woody Woodpeckers Nuthouse Coaster and a 'Day in the Park with Barney' a live stage production for little ones to sing along to their favourite songs. Kids will also love a visit to Gatorland, a theme park and wildlife preserve that is nicknamed 'the Alligator Capital of the World', where thousands of crocodiles and alligators can be viewed from a boardwalk suspended above the marshy swamps below.
Take the little ones to Water Mania or Wet 'n Wild to cool off in the hot Floridian sun, take them on a historic and educational tour of the Kennedy Space Centre, spend the day hiking and picnicking in the Turkey Lake Park, check out what's happening round Lake Eola or simply let the kids run around in the nearby playground while you take a breather.
With all these options and more, kids will have a fabulous time on holiday in Orlando, but parents should note that during the spring and summer months the main tourist attractions and theme parks are heaving with visitors and a better time to visit Orlando may be during the slightly cooler months of autumn or winter.
English is the most common language but Spanish is often spoken in south-western states.
The US Dollar (USD) is the unit of currency and is divided into 100 cents. Only major banks exchange foreign currency. ATMs are widespread and credit cards and travellers cheques are widely accepted. Travellers cheques should be taken in US Dollars to avoid hassles. Banking hours are Monday to Friday 9am to 3pm.
There is no shortage of shopping opportunities for travellers in Orlando and with luxury department stores and upscale boutiques to antique shops and farmers markets, shoppers will have a hard time deciding where to begin. Many hotels offer free shuttle services to major shopping destinations too - what more could a woman ask for?
Start off at one of the largest single-storey malls in the United States, the Florida Mall, which features more than 250 stores including Macy's Sears, JCPenney, Nordstrom and Saks Fifth Avenue as well as an outdoor shopping plaza where shoppers can enjoy all those sunny days. The Festival Bay Mall on International Drive is home to stores, a skate park, and a theatre, the Waterford Lakes Town Center is an open-air mall featuring large chain stores, small shops, restaurants and even IMAXDigital, and the Mall at Millenia boasts designer names like Betsey Johnson, Chanel and Louis Vuitton.
Antique hunters need look no further than Orlando's Antique Row on Orange Avenue in downtown where a wide variety of collectables can be found, while bargain hunters should head over to Flea World in Sanford and Osceola Flea & Farmers Market in Kissimmee where collectively more than 2,600 wholesale dealers can be found providing everything from fresh fruit and vegetables to old books, leather goods, jewellery, souvenirs and beachwear.
Of course the main souvenirs in Orlando are anything Disney or NASA-related so be sure to pick up your caps and t-shirts from the gift shops before you leave.
Famed for one of the United States' most popular attractions, Walt Disney World, Orlando boasts other noteworthy attractions besides the justifiably iconic Magic Kingdom.
Head a little further into this Floridian city to discover Universal Studios where its two theme parks, an entertainment complex and film sets will keep visitors on the edge of their seats. Visiting during the summer? Wet 'n Wild is a must for cooling off while Sea World has earned itself repute as one of the best marine parks in the world for more than 25 years and is not to be missed.
Florida's second most popular attraction is the Kennedy Space Centre at nearby Cape Canaveral, where visitors can walk through a giant model of the new International Space Station, view authentic rockets and marvel at all the original artefacts from the moon landing.
The Orlando Museum of Art is a must for lovers of fine arts, while adrenalin junkies should make a pilgrimage to the NASCAR Daytona Speedway. For something a little stranger, look no further than the Orlando Odditorium where exhibits of weird and wonderful things, amassed over a period of 40 years by explorer Robert Ripley, can be viewed.
Travellers planning on doing lots of sightseeing might think about buying an Orland Go Card which grants free entrance to various attractions as well as provides a full-colour guide book for as many days sightseeing as you'd like in a three, five or seven day options. Go Cards are available at the Official Visitor Centre or Festival Bay Mall.