With 66 million overnight visitors, Orlando is the number-one destination in the world. Once a hub for citrus and cattle, Orlando was put on the map as a tourist destination in 1971 with the opening of Walt Disney World. Today, Orlando is the world’s theme park capital with the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom, Universal Studios, Universal Islands of Adventure, SeaWorld Orlando, Gatorland and LEGOLAND Florida. Famous Florida sunshine and a mild winter make Orlando popular year-round, whether it’s visiting the attractions or riding on an airboat to spot alligators, playing a round of golf and sighting manatees at the natural springs.
Because the theme parks have attracted employees from all over the world, Orlando is a melting pot of cultures and boasts one of the country’s largest LGBT communities. Around the city, visitors and locals can enjoy interesting art, ethnic restaurants and a lively nightlife. Entertainers and artists come for the day jobs but pursue creative outlets after hours. Locals and visitors benefit from this constant influx of talent, whether at Cirque du Soleil and Blue Man Group, both with permanent shows, or the local symphony, ballet, Orlando Museum of Art, Shakespeare theater and the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts in Downtown Orlando.
Walt Disney World is the place “Where Dreams Come True.” The theme parks have created fantasy lands where children can meet their favorite characters, dress up like Cinderella, become a Jedi knight or play Quidditch on a flying broomstick with Harry Potter. Disney Springs and Universal CityWalk feature live shows, high-end retail and upscale dining. International Drive bustles with dinner theaters, nightclubs, restaurants and family-friendly attractions like Madame Tussauds, Ripley’s, Wonderworks and the Coca Cola Orlando Eye. Visitors will also discover award-winning golf courses, posh resorts and spas, and three designer outlet malls along with Mall at Millenia and Florida Mall, featuring an American Girl.
Lake Eola is the heart of Downtown Orlando with a weekly farmers market, walking trails and swan boats. Just north, Winter Park is an upscale enclave known for its lakes, the Morse Museum of American Art, Rollins College, and trendy eateries and shops on Park Avenue. Near Disney, Celebration is a utopian community with renowned architecture, scenic boardwalks and quaint shops and restaurants along the lakefront. In Dr. Phillips, Sand Lake Road has been dubbed Restaurant Row for its sheer number of upscale restaurants and high-end steakhouses. Outside of town, visitors can enjoy Florida’s natural beauty in places like Kissimmee, Blue Spring State Park and Bok Tower Gardens.