This is a sponsored Orlando vacation post written by me on behalf of CORT. All opinions are 100% mine.
Tips for Planning The Perfect Orlando Vacation
I’ve lived in Orlando, Florida for the vast majority of my life, but I’ve only come to appreciate this city’s amazing features in recent years. When you grow up next to Mickey Mouse, you think that every city has world-class hotels, incredible entertainment, amazing foodie spots, and endless parking lots, but as I’ve learned from years of traveling, that just isn’t the case. My husband and I recently purchased our first home in Orlando, and I thought it was the perfect time to share a list of the 10 best things to do in Orlando. Whether you’re headed to Orlando for a vacation, or you’ve just moved to the city, these 10 destinations need to be on your to-do list!
1. Disney Springs
Everyone loves the magical world of Disney, but if you haven’t visited Disney Springs just outside of the parks, you’ve been missing out on a slice of magic. Disney Springs features man-made springs modeled after Florida’s natural springs in addition to the most amazing selection of stores, restaurants, and entertainment. Even if you’ve made the rounds at all of the local shopping malls, you’ll still find unique stores in Disney Springs that aren’t available anywhere else in the city. Some of my favorite stores include Uniqlo, Sugarboo & Co, Zara, Lilly Pulitzer, MAC, Sephora, Anthropologie, Sperry, Origins, and the Coca-Cola store (3 stories of Coca-Cola themed products), but you’re also guaranteed to love the 16,000 square feet of Disney merchandise found at the World of Disney store.
In addition to fabulous shopping opportunities, Disney Springs is home to some of the best restaurants in Orlando. I highly recommend grabbing a meal at Morimoto Asia, STK Orlando, Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin’, The Polite Pig, Paddlefish, or Blaze Pizza, and you’ll definitely want to grab a massive caramel apple at Disney’s Candy Cauldron and a cupcake at Sprinkles bakery.
As if the selection if the shopping and dining options weren’t enough, Disney Springs is also home to one of the best movie theaters in Orlando (including dine-in-theaters), House of Blues, and Splitsville (coolest bowling alley in the world). If you’re looking for a novelty experience, you can also ride a hot air balloon to get a 360-degree view of Orlando. Oh, and did I mention that there’s free and convenient parking available? I know it seems silly to get excited about free parking, but if you’ve even been to a theme park, you know that free parking that doesn’t require a 30-minute walk is an amazing deal.
Overall, Disney Springs is one of the best sources of free and low-cost entertainment in the city. Whether you’re shopping, dining, taking in a concert, or simply strolling around the lake, you are guaranteed to have an incredible time.
2. Leu Gardens
Leu Gardens is a lesser-known gem of Orlando that’s tucked away near Winter Park. I’ve lived in Orlando for 25 years of my life, and I only recently discovered this gorgeous botanical garden. After purchasing a low-cost ticket ($10/day for adults and $3/day for children), you can walk around the manicured gardens for hours and take in all of the natural beauty.
Leu Gardens features everything from a tropical oasis to a feminine rose garden, and you’ll also find vegetable gardens, butterfly gardens, and even gardens themed around specific colors. Due to the seasonal weather changes, no trip to Leu Gardens will be the same. Every time you step onto the property, there’s a new variety of flower blooming.
I only live a few minutes away from Leu Gardens, so I fully intend on buying an annual pass. It’s such a lovely place to unwind and enjoy nature, and I couldn’t think of a more gorgeous place for a date night or an afternoon reading a good book in the shade. If you need to escape the noise of the theme parks, take the time to explore Leu Garden’s tranquil and breathtakingly beautiful environment.
3. Park Avenue
As an alumni of Winter Park High School, there’s no way that I can’t brag about Park Avenue in Winter Park. Across from Rollins College, Park Avenue is one of the most popular spots in all of Orlando. This gorgeous strip of curated boutiques, restaurants, and gardens has everything you could ever want, and I guarantee that you’ll be inspired by the stunning architecture and pretty vistas scattered throughout this area.
If you’re looking for fabulous food, Park Avenue is a great place to start. You’ll find amazing eateries like Bosphorous, Boca Kitchen Bar Market, Hamilton’s Kitchen, and Umi, along with charming bakeries, candy stories, and ice cream shops. The restaurants on Park Avenue are so popular that you’ll find locals waiting in line every single day for popular spots like Briarpatch. In addition to one-of-a-kind food options, you’ll find the cutest boutiques and most fashionable stores in addition to stunning hotel accommodations at The Alfond Inn. No matter what your interests may be, Winter Park’s Park Avenue is one of the best things to do in Orlando!
4. Great Local Restaurants
When I was a child, most of the restaurants in Orlando boasted generic menus catered to tourists, but I’m happy to say that Orlando has blossomed into an amazing foodie destination. In every area of the city, you’ll find world-class restaurants in every price range!
Let me know if you’d like me to put together a comprehensive list of my favorite restaurants in Orlando, but for now, let me recommend a few stars of the area. If you’re looking for a taste of the South, check out Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin’ in Disney Springs or one of the Four Rivers smokehouse locations scattered around the city. Middle Eastern food fans will love Bosphorous, and my fellow sushi lovers should check out Umi or Kabooki Sushi. If you’re craving Italian food, there’s no place better than Bice at the Loews Portofino Bay Hotel. And finally, if you have a sweet tooth, you’ve got to check out Jeremiah’s Italian Ice!
5. Orlando Eye
The Orlando is a spectacular new entertainment option in Orlando. Located on International Drive, the Orlando Eye is a humongous ferris wheel on steroids. Each pod is completely enclosed, fully air-conditioned, and even features a full bar with drink and snack options. No matter where you sit, you’ll get the best view of Orlando- guaranteed.
If you’re not a fan of heights like me, please don’t worry. The pods move slowly, and this ride is not meant for thrills. It will simply allow you relax and enjoy the best views that Orlando has to offer. It also doesn’t hurt that this attraction is close to the Sand Lake and International Drive area, where you’ll find tons of incredible restaurants and entertainment options.
6. Hotels Near The Parks
One of my favorite things to do in Orlando is to explore the lavish hotels near or at the theme parks. Disney and Universal Studios are home to some of the world’s most beautiful hotels, and you can spend hours exploring the grounds, which features stunning landscaping, fun shopping, and amazing restaurants.
Even if you don’t want to splurge on a stay at one of these hotels, I’d highly recommend spending a day strolling around a Disney or Loews hotel at Universal. You will be blown away by the detail put into these one-of-a-kind resorts, and you’ll feel just as relaxed as if you were vacationing there.
7. Baldwin Park
I’ve been a fan of Baldwin Park since it was built, and I’m an even bigger fan nowadays. This planned community features some of the most beautiful houses in Orlando in addition to dozens of scenic parks and fabulous restaurants.
If you’re looking for a place to bike, skate, or run, Baldwin Park is the perfect choice. You’ll find a variety of beautiful bike paths to explore, and you can easily connect to Cady Way trail, which runs all throughout Orlando. Don’t be surprised to spot quite a few ducks and bunnies during your afternoon run! If you’re looking for a more relaxing activity, consider spending a day in the one of the area’s parks or make a reservation at one of Baldwin Park’s signature restaurants. You won’t be disappointed after a dinner at The Osprey Tavern or Seito Sushi.
8. Universal CityWalk
Universal CityWalk is truly one of the best things to do in Orlando. This area is in front of Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, and Florida residents can score free parking after 6pm. If you’re looking for entertainment, CityWalk is home to one of the city’s best movie theaters, and many of the restaurants feature amazing live entertainment. Plus, you can see musicians and dancers perform in the open areas or head to one of the clubs as the night progresses.
Universal CityWalk is constantly bustling with high-energy fun, and you can also indulge in a delicious meal on your trip. I’d highly recommend looking into Emeril’s Orlando and Toothsome Chocolate Emporium.
9. Mall at Millenia
If you’re a shopaholic, the Mall at Millenia will be your oasis in Orlando. This serene and stunningly beautiful mall is my ideal shopping destination. It features a fantastic mix of affordable and luxury stores, and the brilliant planning of this mall makes it extremely quick and easy to navigate. Despite being one of the most popular destinations in Orlando, you’re guaranteed to feel relaxed at Millenia. The soothing music and airy architecture give the mall a relaxing and open feel even during the busiest seasons.
If you’re looking for luxury goods, you can find Chanel, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, and more at Millenia, but you’ll also be able to shop at more affordable destinations like Banana Republic, Express, and Macy’s. Plus, this mall is home to quite a few restaurants, so you can stay here all day long. If you have a shopping bug on your trip, I guarantee that you won’t be disappointed after a trip to the Mall at Millenia.
10. Walt Disney World and Universal Studios
Of course I couldn’t leave the world’s most famous theme parks off this list. No matter what you may think, a trip to Walt Disney World or Universal Studios or Island of Adventure is truly one of the best things to do in Orlando. As an Orlando native, I’ve gone to the parks dozens of times, and I can safely say that each trip is just as magical as the previous one – no matter what my age may be. My husband and I are approaching thirty, and we still feel the magic when we walk into the Magic Kingdom or step in Harry Potter World. These theme parks earned their reputation for a reason; they’re impeccably designed and constantly evolving.
Both parks feature a variety of rides for thrill-seekers and relaxation-junkies alike, so there’s something for everyone to love. In addition to amazing rides, you’re guaranteed to find world-class entertainment, incredible dining options, fun shopping spots, and a million and one photo opportunities!
And there you have it – the top ten things to do in Orlando. Whether you’re planning a vacation to this sunny city or settling into your new home in Orlando, I think that you’ll have a blast at any of these ten popular destinations. Orlando is filled with international residents from across the globe in addition to quite a few people with mobile lifestyles. With the affordable cost of living in Orlando and the convenience of today’s technologies, travel in and out of Orlando is extremely affordable. That means you don’t have to be tied down to one place for your entire life.
If you’re new to Orlando or exploring the idea of moving here, I’d highly recommend looking into CORT‘s services. They can help you craft the mobile lifestyle you desire by helping to find a place for you to live, to navigate your new hometown, and to furnish your place for the exact time frame that you need furniture. Plus, you can rent furniture on-demand, so it’s there when you need it and gone when you don’t. After years of lugging around our furniture from one city to the next, I wish that I knew about CORT Furniture Rental sooner. They deliver your furniture to your door, set it up for you, and take it away when you no longer need it. Seriously, it’s GENIUS.