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Local Area Guide: Things to do / Activities / Attractions

Orlando, for most people, conjures up the image of theme parks, mainly Walt Disney World, but it has a lot more to offer than that. (In fact, Disney World is not in Orlando, but is in nearby Lake Buena Vista). The region sees an estimated 52 million tourists a year, and downtown Orlando is developing significantly under this tourist boom. Other cities in the metropolitan area include Altamonte Springs, Davenport, Kissimmee, and Winter Park.

Gardens & Parks

  • Arboretum, University of Central Florida<4000 Central Florida Blvd, +1 407-823-3146. An arboretum and botanical garden covering 80 acres (32 hectares), containing more than 600 species of plants (including more than 100 bromeliads) in cultivated gardens. Its cultivated areas currently include a Conservatory Compound, a Bromeliad Sanctuary, Cycad Garden, Fern Garden, Palm Collection, Rose Garden, Swamp Habitat, and Wetland Plants Display. Free.
  • Harry P. Leu Gardens, 1920 N Forest Ave, +1 407-246-2620. Beautiful landscaped gardens and lakes set in nearly 50 acres of land, featuring flora gathered from around the globe since 1936, including the largest rose garden in Florida and America's largest camellia collection outside of California. The Leu House, Harry P. Leu's former home set within the grounds and dating back to the 1880's, has tours every 30 minutes around its museum illustrating Florida living at the turn of the 20th century (closed during July). You can get married in various places in the gardens and there are special events held throughout the year. 9AM-5PM daily except Christmas Day. Last garden admission at 4PM. Admission $7 (free every Monday 9AM-noon).
  • Historic Bok Sanctuary, 1151 Tower Blvd, Lake Wales, +1 863 676-1408. The Bok Sanctuary features acres of intricately landscaped gardens filled with an exotic array of flowers and trees. The gardens are home to a colony of wood ducks and many other wild birds. In the middle of the gardens sits the Bok Tower, with its 60-bell carillon playing music daily at 3PM. 8AM-6PM daily with last admission at 5PM. Visitor Center 9AM-5PM daily. Admission $10.

Museums

  • Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art — Houses the world's most comprehensive collection of the works of Louis Comfort Tiffany (1848-1933) including Tiffany art glass, leaded-glass windows, lamps, jewelry, pottery, paintings, and the chapel interior he designed for the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. The Museum's holdings include a major collection of American art pottery and representative collections of late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century American paintings, graphics, and decorative arts. $3 adults, $1 students, and free for children under 12. Free between 4PM-8PM Nov-Apr each F.
  • Cornell Fine Arts Museum,1000 Holt Ave, Winter Park, +1 407-646-2526. Rollins College. Features items from Cornell's renowned permanent collection. Tu-F 10AM-4PM, Sa Su noon-5PM. $5.
  • The Orlando Museum of Art —  Ongoing exhibitions of American portraits and landscapes, American impressionist works, and art of the ancient Americas.
  • The Orlando Science Center —  A 207,000 ft² (19,000 m²) hands-on learning center with hundreds of interactive exhibits for visitors of all ages. Images surround visitors on the giant screen of the Dr. Phillips CineDome. Other attractions include the Body Zone, teaching health and fitness, as well as an observatory. The center has the largest refracting telescope in Florida.
  • Orange County Regional History Center 65 E Central Blvd, +1 407-836-8500, toll free +1 800-965-2030. Features exhibits and artifacts from the earliest days of the region to the modern day. Includes information on everything from the time of the Seminole Indians to the founding of the city to the Civil Rights era to the Disney period to today. M-Sa 10AM-5PM, Su noon-5PM. $9-12.
  • International Trolley and Train Museum — Features 14 model railroad trains with sound and lighting traveling through an indoor garden with 12 ft (4 m) high mountains, waterfalls, and more than 30 trestles and tunnels. Also on display are toy trains from the 1920s to the present. Visitors can catch a ride in a California Victorian-style half open/half closed trolley or the 5/8-scale replica of an 1880 locomotive (a Mason Bogey) with its passenger cars.
  • Ripley's Believe It or Not! Orlando Odditorium — 8201 International Dr, +1 407-363-4418. Located in a building artfully constructed to appear as if it were collapsing to one side. Visitors can explore bizarre artifacts, strange collections, weird art/hobbies (for example, check out the 3/4-scale model of a 1907 Rolls Royce Silver Ghost automobile made entirely of matchsticks and glue), and interactive exhibits in sixteen odd galleries. Seriously schlocky, yet fun.

Orlando is one of the biggest tourist destinations because of the nearby theme parks and resorts. Close to International Drive is Universal Orlando Resort, which includes two theme parks, three hotels and a large shopping district. SeaWorld Orlando is a marine theme park featuring Kraken, the biggest rollercoaster in the Orlando area, as well as Believe, the new Shamu adventure. About 35 minutes southwest of downtown Orlando is Walt Disney World. Comprising four theme parks, two water parks, dozens of hotels, two shopping and dining districts, five golf courses, and much more, it is the largest privately managed tourist destination on the planet. Not far from Disney World lies the Alligator Capital of the World: Gatorland.

  • Walt Disney World, (18 mi S of downtown in Lake Buena Vista). The acclaimed gold standard of theme parks on the planet. Hours vary by park and season.

  • Universal Orlando Resort, International Dr+1 407-363-8000. 9AM-closing times varying from 6PM-10PMTop-ranked challenger to Disney, with two theme parks -- the original Universal Studios Florida and the second theme park, Islands of Adventure -- a nightclub and restaurant complex, CityWalk, and three resort hotels. Discounts are given for purchasing tickets online
  • SeaWorld Adventure Park Orlando, SeaWorld Dr, +1 407-351-3600 (toll free: +1 800-327-2424). 9AM-closing times varying from 6PM-10PMA beautifully landscaped 200-acre marine theme park featuring fantastic shows, thrilling rides, and fun exhibits -- a more laid-back alternative to Disney and Universal. Variety of discounts may be available by purchasing tickets online.  
  • Aquatica, 5800 Water Play WayHours vary by seasonOpened in 2008 water park by Sea World. 
  • Discovery Cove6000 Discovery Cove Way (9AM-5:30PM (until 9PM on selected evenings)), +1 407-370-1280A unique companion to Sea World, it is often sold out as admission is limited to 1000 guests per day but admission does include all your equipment, food, drink and 30-minute interaction with the dolphins in the water. $259-279, $159-179 for non-dolphin package.
  • Holy Land4655 Vineland RdClosed TuAn educational, inspirational, biblical-themed park designed to look like Jerusalem. Discount on tickets purchased online.

Minor Attractions

  • Florida EcoSafaris at Forever Florida (Zipline Safari)4755 N Kenansville Rd+1 407-957-9794Reservations requiredJourney deep into Forever Florida, a 4700 acre eco-ranch and wildlife conservation area, preserved just as nature intended. This beautiful site boasts 9 distinct Florida ecosystems and an endless array of natural flora and fauna including alligators, black bears, nearly two hundred species of birds and the endangered Florida panther. Choose your own fully-guided adventure: Coach Safari, Horseback Safari or, soar through the treetops on the Zipline Safari. 
  • Mary, Queen of the Universe Shrine, 8300 Vineland Ave+1 407-239-6600. This extravagant Catholic church has become a tourist attraction in itself, thanks in part to the millions of Catholics from around the world who visit it and the rest of Orlando every year. Note: It is not a parish and therefore it cannot perform weddings, funerals, or baptisms. 
  • Orlando Watersports Complex8615 Florida Rock Rd+1 407-251-3100. A cable park for watersports. Offers lessons and two seperate cable systems, a beginner and an advanced. A perfect way to experience Orlando's reputation as the watersport capital of the world. 
Sports Teams

  • Orlando Magic (Amway Arena)600 W Amelia+1 407-89-MAGICMember of the National Basketball Association (NBA), the Magic is the city's only member of the big four.  
  • Orlando Predators Member of the Arena Football League (AFL). 


Downtown

  • Downtown Orlando Information Center, 201 S Orange Ave Ste 102, +1 407-254–INFO (4636). Has two interactive kiosks and electronic message boards with information about local Downtown eateries, retailers, accommodations, special events, etc. M-F 9AM–6PM .

Despite the proximity of theme park haven Lake Buena Vista, the city has a lot to offer on its own. Downtown Orlando is a growing area centered around Orange Avenue that is packed with bars, clubs, and restaurants, as well as theaters and concert venues. The main strip on Orange Avenue is closed most nights because of the large volumes of pedestrians. Just a few blocks over is Lake Eola, a picturesque park situated around a swan-filled lake. In the middle of the lake is a lighted fountain that has been established as an icon of Orlando, and on one side of the lake stands the historic outdoor shell theater, where tourists and locals alike can see a version of the Nutcracker every December. Swan-shaped paddle boats are available for rental as well. Taking over for Church Street as the main night time hot spot is Wall Street. It is a small pedestrian only alley off of Orange Avenue that houses several restaurants and bars. They also have frequent concerts on Wall Street, providing a stage for bands to play for everything from Cinco de Mayo to the Capital One Bowl and Citrus Bowl celebration weeks.


Golf

Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate call +1 407-390-6664, toll free +1 800-THE-OMNI or visit http://www.omniorlandoresort.com/. Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate offers 720 rooms surrounded by 1,200 acres of wetlands, the International and National golf courses and hosts the world headquarters of the David Leadbetter Golf Academy.

  • Bay Hill Club & Lodge, 9000 Bay Hill Blvd, +1 407-876-2429. Two courses: 18 holes, over 7,205 yards with a par of 72 (Private Non-Equity); 9 holes, over 3,409 yards with a par of 36 (Private Non-Equity).
  • Boggy Creek Golf Club, 3650 8th St, +1 407-857-0280. 9 holes, over 3,250 yards with a par of 36 (Public).
  • Country Club of Orlando, 1601 Country Club Dr, +1 407-425-2319. 18 holes, over 6,591 yards with a par of 72 (Private Equity).
  • Cypress Creek Country Club, 5353 Vineland Rd, +1 407-351-2187. 18 holes, over 7,014 yards with a par of 72 (Public).
  • Dubsdread Golf Course, 549 West Par St, +1 407-246-2551. 18 holes, over 6,055 yards with a par of 72 (Municipal).
  • Eaglewood Golf Club, 5800 Pga Blvd, +1 407-351-5121. 18 holes, over 2,516 yards with a par of 58 (Public).
  • EastWood Golf Club, 13950 Golfway Blvd, +1 407-281-4653. 18 holes, over 7,176 yards with a par of 72 (Public).
  • Fairways Country Club, 14205 E Colonial Dr, +1 407-282-7535. 18 holes, over 5,332 yards with a par of 70 (Public).
  • Faldo Golf Institute By Marriott, 12001 Avenida Verde, +1 888-463-2536. 9 holes, over 2,308 yards with a par of 32 (Public).
  • Ginn Reunion Golf Resort, 1000 Reunion Way, Reunion, +1 888-418-9611. 54 holes, 3 championship golf courses designed by Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson (Private).
  • Grand Cypress Resort, 1 N Jacaranda St, +1 800-835-7377. Four courses: 18 holes over 6,773 yards with a par of 72 (Public); 9 holes over 3,462 yards with a par of 36 (Public); 9 holes over 3,521 yards with a par of 36 (Public); 9 holes over 3,434 yards with a par of 36 (Public).
  • Grande Pines Golf Club, 6351 International Golf Club Rd, +1 800-371-1165. 18 holes, over 7,012 yards with a par of 72 (Public).
  • Lake Nona Golf Club, 9801 Lake Nona Rd, +1 407-851-9091. 18 holes, over 7,011 yards with a par of 72 (Private Non-Equity).
  • Lake Orlando Golf Club, 4224 Club House Rd, +1 407-298-1230. 18 holes, over 6,803 yards with a par of 72 (Public).
  • MetroWest Golf Club, 2100 S Hiawassee Rd, +1 407-299-8800. 18 holes, over 7,051 yards with a par of 72 (Public).
  • Orange Tree Golf Club, 7540 Woodgreen Dr, +1 407-351-2521. 18 holes, over 6,968 yards with a par of 71 (Private Non-Equity).
  • Rio Pinar Golf & Country Club, 8600 El Prado Ave, +1 407-277-5121. 18 holes, over 6,929 yards with a par of 72 (Private Equity).
  • Ritz Carlton Golf Club, 4048 Central Florida Pkwy, +1 407-393-4900. 18 holes, over 7,122 yards with a par of 72 (Public).
  • Shingle Creek Golf Club, 9939 Universal Blvd, toll free +1 866-996-9933. 18 holes, over 7,213 yards with a par of 72 (Public).
  • Stoneybrook Golf Club, 2900 Northampton Ave, +1 407-384-6888. 18 holes, over 6,820 yards with a par of 72 (Public).
  • Ventura Country Club, 3333 Woodgate Blvd, +1 407-277-2640. 18 holes, over 5,467 yards with a par of 70 (Public).


Tennis

  • Orlando Tennis Center, 649 W Livingston St, +1 407-246-2161.
  • Lake Cane Tennis Center, 5108 Turkey Lake Rd, +1 407-254-9170.
  • Fort Gatlin Recreation Complex, 2009 Lake Margaret Dr, +1 407-858-3290.


Venues

  • Orange County Convention Center (OCCC), 9860 Universal Blvd +1 407-685-1061With 2.1 million-square feet of exhibition space, the OCCC serves as the area's convention and meeting center. 
  • Universal Orlando Meetings & Events1000 Universal Studios Plaza, (toll free: +1 888-266-2121). From 20 to 20,000 guests, a Universal event ensures that you will give your attendees something truly out of the ordinary. 


Ethnic Enclaves

Little Saigon, East Colonial Dr (around N Mills). Here you will find Vietnamese and Asian grocery stores, gift shops, and a few herbal healing stores, which stock items from China, Vietnam, Hong Kong, etc. Also home to many good inexpensive Vietnamese and other Asian restaurants.

Little India area — This area is a bit spread out. You will find many Indian stores in the South Orange Blossom Trail area on the main streets and side roads. Starting with Lancaster Road, which houses a video store and Indian restaurant, and then traveling south you will see a few Indian shops in clusters every mile all the way to 417 where you end at the local Indian movie theater

Little Brazil, the north end of International Dr. Several Brazilian restaurants, bakeries, stores, hairdressers, imports and exports shops. Some are hiding on the back of strip malls, some others are easy to find right up front flying the Brazilian flag.


Credit: Wikitravel.org

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