Around Town: Tour of Orlando
Welcome to Orlando! Also known as the “Theme Park Capital of the World,” the Greater Orlando area is home to more than a dozen amusement parks that draw as many as 72 million visitors each year. But there’s more to The City Beautiful than Disney and Universal. Orlando is full of beautiful scenery, rich history, and delicious food. So, while you’re here, enjoy some of these restaurants and activities.
A short distance from the convention center are some of Orlando’s most well-known attractions.
Disney World has four parks to choose from: Magic Kingdom, where all the classic Disney movies come to life; Epcot, where you can travel the world in one day; Animal Kingdom, where you can experience nature and go on a safari; and Hollywood Studios, where you can go behind the scenes of classic movies and shows, such as Indiana Jones, Star Wars, and The Twilight Zone. There are also two water parks, Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon.
Disney Springs: This outdoor entertainment complex contains a bowling alley, movie theater, live entertainment, 63 dining options, and 110 stores, including World of Disney: the world’s largest Disney merchandise store. With free parking and admission, Disney Springs is a great way to experience the Disney magic without breaking the bank.
Universal: Universal Orlando is separated into two parks: Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. These parks feature immersive experiences with timeless flicks, such as Harry Potter, Jurassic Park, Men in Black, and The Mummy.
Gatorland: For $30, you can tour this gator paradise, housing more than 2,000 gators, including three extremely rare albino gators. You can wrestle a gator, zip-line over hungry gators, feed a gator, and many more gator activities!
ICON Orlando 360: If you’re having trouble deciding what to do, a bird’s-eye view of the city may help. This entertainment plaza is home to the ICON Orlando, a 400-foot Ferris wheel ($28), as well as the Orlando StarFlyer ($10 online).
Once you’re theme-parked-out, International Drive, or I-Drive, has a plethora of restaurants.
Publix ($): It may look like just a grocery store, but don’t be fooled! This is a local’s favorite place to get a Pub Sub, soup, mac ‘n cheese, and fried chicken. They also have the best sweet tea in Florida.
Marlow’s Tavern ($$): A gastropub with a nice atmosphere and something for everyone.
Cuba Libre ($$): Head here from 5-10 p.m. for some good Cuban food that satisfies the soul.
Main Event Entertainment ($$$): With light-up mini golf, billiards, laser tag, bowling, arcade games, gravity ropes, karaoke, virtual reality, rock climbing, appetizers, and comfort food, you’ll be asking yourself, “What don’t they have?!”
Just north of I-Drive lies downtown Orlando, where you can catch a comedy show, city views, or great eats.
SAK Comedy Lab: This improv community is where actor Wayne Brady and “Parks and Recreation” screenwriter Paula Pell got their start. It hosts 250 audience members and offers clean humor for all.
Church Street: A short jaunt from SAK is downtown Orlando’s famous Church Street, which leads to the historic, and still functional, Church Street Station, also known as the Old Orlando Railroad Depot. Along the street you’ll be immersed in a laid-back environment.
Lake Eola Park: At the heart of Downtown Orlando lies Lake Eola, known for its white swans. You, too, can be a swan and ride the swan boats around the lake with up to four other friends for a fee of $15 per half hour. If you’re more of a land animal, you can take a stroll around the lake to explore the peaceful city views.
This main street district is home to some of the best varieties of cuisine, including:
RoyalTea ($): Refresh yourself with fresh fruit tea, cheese mousse tea, popular matcha tea, coffee teas, or bubble tea to go with your French crème brulée.
King Bao ($): A step away from RoyalTea, you can grab some eclectic, fresh steam buns and tater tots from this local favorite.
Dandelion Community Café ($): Sells a variety of fresh organic, vegan food.
Mamak Asian Street Food ($): Enjoy some tapas inspired by the flavors of Malaysia.
Pho 88 ($$): This small restaurant was awarded the Foodie award for two years and Best of Orlando for four years.
Located a stone's throw from Orlando lies an upscale suburb with quaint streets, the beautiful Rollins College campus, and a variety of cuisines.
East End Market: This indoor venue features several markets selling goods, coffee, and some food.
Domu ($$): Located at East End Market, Domu is home to some of the best ramen in the city.
Gideon’s Bakehouse ($$): Located right next door to Domu, this bakery’s moist, ½ pound, chocolatey chunks of heaven have been named the "Earth’s Best Cookies.” True story.
Black Bean Deli ($): Delicious basics, such as Cuban sandwiches, coffee, rice, beans, and empanadas will delight your taste buds at this bright and airy café.
Orlando Art Museum (students $5, adults $15): Explore post-Impressionist pieces by Louis Dewis as well as the Figurative Continuum exhibit and more here.
Harry P. Leu Gardens (adults $10, free on April 1): A 50-acre botanical garden where you can take a peaceful stroll, stop at the gift shop, or participate in geocaching, an activity using GPS devices to hide and seek containers at specific locations around the world).
Rollins College: Ranked in the top 10 most beautiful U.S. campuses by the Princeton Review for 10 consecutive years, this is also the school that the beloved Mister Rogers attended. Also located on campus is the Cornell Fine Arts Museum with free admission (closed Mondays).
Orlando Science Center (adults $21, seniors/students $19): Bring it back to the basics with this trip. Geared toward children or children at heart, you can launch a bottle rocket, learn about prosthetics, feel the rush of 70-mph wind on your face, and play with other physics toys.
LYNX: This local bus service runs routes around downtown Orlando and the surrounding area. For a small fee, LYNX can get you where you need to be.
LYMMO: If you find yourself downtown, LYMMO is the way to get around. This free bus service runs several routes around downtown Orlando and connects many popular downtown destinations to parking and LYNX central station.
I-RIDE Trolley: If you don’t want to venture too far from the conference, the I-RIDE Trolley runs up and down International Drive and is a great way to explore the many attractions and restaurants in the area.
Uber, Lyft, and taxis: All of these options are available but may be a bit pricier than other public transit options.
Swampy, the world’s largest gator, welcomes you to Orlando!