Welcome to Orlando, Florida!
Area Attractions and Things to Do in Orlando, FL
The Orlando area is home to a wide variety of tourist attractions, including the Walt Disney World resort, SeaWorld Orlando, and Universal Studios Orlando Resort. The Walt Disney World resort is the area's largest attraction with its many facets such as the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney Hollywood Studios, Disney's Animal Kingdom, Typhoon Lagoon, Blizzard Beach, and Downtown Disney. SeaWorld Orlando is a large adventure park that features numerous zoological displays and marine animals alongside an amusement park with roller coasters and water park. Universal Orlando, like Walt Disney World, is a multi-faceted resort comprised of Universal Studios, CityWalk, and the Islands of Adventure theme park. Other popular things to do in Orlando include Gatorland, Kennedy Space Center, Disney's Pleasure Island, Wet 'n Wild Waterpark, Busch Gardens, and much more.
The city of Orlando is well known for the tourist attractions in the area, particularly the nearby Walt Disney World Resort, which is in the Reedy Creek Improvement District . Other area attractions include SeaWorld and Universal Orlando Resort. Despite being far from the main tourist attractions, downtown Orlando has recently seen much redevelopment, with many more projects currently under construction or planned. One of the oldest attractions in this area is Gatorland. Orlando sees an estimated 52 million tourists a year. Orlando is the 2nd largest city in the country for number of hotel rooms.
The city's nickname is "The City Beautiful", though plans are underway to change this title through a local contest. Its symbol is the fountain of Lake Eola.
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Other attractions in the Orlando area include:
* Arboretum of the University of Central Florida
* Blue Spring State Park, which is the winter home of large numbers of Florida manatees that come upstream from the St. Johns River to bask in the warm 72 °F (22 °C) waters of the springs. Canoeing, swimming and fishing are popular activities at Blue Springs.
* Central Florida Zoological Park, located in Sanford on Lake Monroe. This 100 acre zoo is home to a butterfly garden, herpetarium, and numerous tropical animals. The zoo originally started as a collection in the Sanford Fire Department, but grew into a regional zoo in 1975. It is currently in the planning stages of expansion and renaming the facility to "Zoo Orlando at Sanford".
* Church Street Station, a multi-level shopping mall and entertainment center that once featured an abundance of specialty shops, restaurants, nightclubs, and bars. Purchased in the late 1990s by TransContinental Airlines owner Lou Pearlman, it is now virtually defunct, as the area suffered in post-9/11 tourist-industry slump.
* Cirque du Soleil: La Nouba, in Downtown Disney West Side, features its renowned blend of acrobatics and special effects with more than 70 artists from around the globe performing in a custom-designed, 1,671-seat theater.
* Cornell Fine Arts Museum, situated on the campus of Rollins College, features significant loans, recent acquisitions, and items from the Cornell's renowned permanent collection. Admission is free.
* Cypress Gardens Adventure Park
* Discovery Cove, a resort that is part of the SeaWorld Adventure Park complex. Some attraction features are tropical fish in a coral reef, snorkeling with stingrays, and interacting with birds in an aviary, as well as swimming and playing with dolphins during a half-hour session.
* Gatorland is home to thousands of alligators and crocodiles. A few of Gatorland's residents have made wrangling appearances in movies, television shows and commercial spots. The 54 year old park combines a petting zoo, bird sanctuary, mini-water park, eco-tour and outdoor entertainment, including daily alligator wrestling.
* Hard Rock Café is is the Orlando location of the famed restaurant chain with the typical HRC music memorabilia. There is also Hard Rock Live, a 3,000-capacity live music venue, and the Hard Rock Hotel, a resort hotel with a California-style restaurant called "The Kitchen". It is one of eight worldwide, and one of three in Florida. (Miami and Tampa are the other two.)
* International Trolley and Train Museum features 14 model railroad trains with sound and lighting traveling through an indoor garden with 12 foot (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 replica of an 1880 locomotive (a Mason Bogey) with its passenger cars.
* Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is 45 minutes from Orlando and south of Daytona Beach. Visitors can tour launch areas, see giant rockets, "train" in spaceflight simulators, and much more. Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is open every day except Christmas Day and certain launch days. Apart from the Astronaut Hall of Fame, Space Center bus tours run every 15 minutes with stops at an observation gantry and the Apollo / Saturn V Center. Other guided tours include NASA Up Close, Cape Canaveral: Then and Now, and Lunch With An Astronaut. Combo tickets offer maximum access admission, plus one guided tour.
* The Kerouac House, in the College Park neighborhood or Orlando, is where writer Jack Kerouac lived during the time his novel On the Road was published and released, making him a national sensation and Beat Generation icon. He lived in the house with his mother Gabrielle from July 1957 to the spring of 1958, and wrote his three-act play, The Beat Generation, a 51-chorus poem called Orlanda Blues, and the novel The Dharma Bums during his time there. In 1997, the Kerouac Project of Orlando formed, and restored the Kerouac house. It is now a haven for aspiring writers who can live in the house as they create their own work.
* Harry P. Leu Gardens, which is an inner city oasis covering 50 acres and features colorful annuals, palms, an orchid house, a floral clock and a butterfly garden.
* The World's Largest McDonald's PlayPlace, located on the corner of Sand Lake Rd. & International Dr, looks like a fry box from the exterior. The interior features an arcade with 60+ games with prize redemption, a 1950's room, a waterfall and a gift shop. The Bistro Gourmet at McDonald's features chef-prepared food, such as panini & deli sandwiches, pasta, soup, desserts, and hand-dipped ice cream, plus the standard McDonald's menu.
* Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament, in Kissimmee. Six brave knights on horseback compete in tournament games, jousting, and sword fighting while guests dine on a medieval-style banquet.
* The Morse Museum of American Art, located at Rollins College, houses a permanent Tiffany exhibit featuring the world's "most comprehensive" collection of the works of Louis Comfort Tiffany. It includes Tiffany art glass, jewelry, pottery, and the chapel interior designed for the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. There is also an exhibit on the Tiffany home, and American paintings from the 19th century. The museum was founded in 1942.
* Old Town, in Kissimmee, features eight restaurants, fifteen amusement park rides and 75 shops along its brick-lined streets. Classic car shows every Friday and Saturday feature hundreds of vintage automobiles. Admission and parking are free.
* The Orange County Regional History Center 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.
* The Orlando Museum of Art, which has ongoing exhibitions of American portraits and landscapes, American impressionist works, and art of the ancient Americas.
* The Orlando Science Center, is a 207,000 square foot 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.
* The Ripley's Believe It or Not! Orlando Odditorium is located in a building artfully constructed to appear as if it were collapsing to one side, which may be a sly reference to central Florida's infamous sinkholes. Visitors can explore bizarre artifacts, strange collections, weird art/hobbies and interactive exhibits in sixteen odd galleries. It is one of 27 Ripley museums in ten countries.
* Wekiwa Springs State Park, which comprises around 700 acres of wild Florida. The springs pump out 42 million gallons of crystal clear water a day. Popular activities at the park include canoeing, swimming, picnicking and fishing.
* World of Orchids, featuring thousands of blooms in an enclosed tropical rainforest. World of Orchids is a working greenhouse shipping orchids and other plants nationwide. A greenhouse covers nearly an acre, and in this controlled climate of warm, humid air some 1,000 orchids are displayed in a natural jungle setting, with streams, waterfalls, and squawking parrots. World of Orchids also has a 1,000 foot (300 m) long boardwalk meandering off into nearby wetlands. Admission is free.