The longer I live in Orlando, the bigger it becomes—and I don’t mean in the physical sense. Even on familiar streets, I continually discover areas I haven't stumbled upon before. When I first arrived as a high school graduate, my Orlando was defined by three areas: downtown, the theme park corridor, and the area surrounding the University of Central Florida. Fifteen years have passed, and my definition of the city is ever changing.
Orlando is hard to pin down, even for locals. We’re caught in a tempting tug-of-war between our favorite haunts and the latest opening. It’s nearly impossible to see the best of Orlando in a single visit, but here’s how to make the most of your first three days.
Shorts and T-shirts are the year-round norm in this hot and humid city.
If you only have time for one thing, visit Mills 50 District.
Let’s not beat around the Mickey Mouse–shaped bush. You’ve almost certainly booked a flight to Orlando to experience the world-renowned attractions due south of downtown. If you’re not visiting a theme park, spend your first day exploring International Drive’s walkable epicenter of fun, ICON Park.
Home to indoor and outdoor activities including SEA LIFE® Orlando Aquarium, Madame Tussauds Orlando, and The Wheel at ICON Park, you’ll find plenty of excitement, rain or shine. Feel like splurging? Take a short cab ride to Kissimmee and end the night with an unforgettable helicopter tour over the city and theme parks.
A short drive from the theme parks—yet feeling worlds apart—is downtown Orlando, the heart of The City Beautiful. Get to know some of our favorite local hangout spots on a sightseeing tour through downtown, Lake Eola, and Winter Park. Public transportation is primarily limited to bus travel, but short ride shares will help you explore nearby neighborhoods such as Audubon Park and College Park.
Discover the city’s paranormal side during a spooky interactive walking ghost tour through downtown—if you’re brave enough! Don’t worry, the many bars along Orange Avenue have liquid courage to spare.
Central Florida has outdoor splendor to spare. Trade the crowded queues at the outlet malls for the serene sights waiting in our many lakes, canals, and natural springs.
Head to Apopka and hop in a glass-bottom kayak for an eco tour of Rock Springs or south to Kissimmee instead and get to know the “locals” with a manatee swimming encounter in the Crystal River.
Spot other indigenous wildlife while on an exciting airboat ride through the wetlands just south of the city. Worried about a chance of showers? Take your rental car on a self-guided drive-through safari.