Orlando, seat of Orange county central Florida, is situated in a region dotted by lakes, about 60 miles (95 km) northwest of Melbourne and 85 miles (135 km) northeast of Tampa. The city is the focus for one of the state’s most populous metropolitan areas.
Orlando’s history dates back to 1838 and the height of the Seminole Wars. The U.S. Army built Fort Gatlin south of the present day Orlando City limits to protect settlers from attacks by Indians. By 1840, a small community had grown up around the Fort. It was known as Jernigan, named after the Jernigan family, who had established the first permanent settlement in the area. Jernigan had a post office, established May 30, 1850.
Six years later with the settlement expanding northward, the community officially changed its name to Orlando. In 1857, the U.S. Post Office adopted the name change. The Town of Orlando was incorporated in 1875 with 85 inhabitants, 22 of whom were qualified voters.
History is not as clear on where the name Orlando originated. There are four stories that are told. One involves Judge James Speer, who worked hard in getting Orlando as the county seat, naming Orlando after a man who once worked for him. Another is that Speer named it after a character from Shakespeare’s, “As You Like It”.
A third version has Mr. Orlando on his way to Tampa with a caravan of ox. It is said that he got ill, died and was buried, and that folks would come by and say, “There lies Orlando”
The final theory is about a company of soldiers on duty during the height of the Seminole Wars. After battling Indians back into the swamps on the east side of Lake Minnie (now Cherokee), the military troop settled there for the night. Sentinel Orlando Reeves was guarding the camp when he spotted a log floating toward him. Recognizing the Indian disguise and wanting to warn his fellow soldiers, he fired his gun.Arrows felled the poor fellow as the Indians came out to ambush the camp. The Indians were chased back again, and the south side of Lake Eola was chosen to bury Orlando Reeves.
Prior to the American Civil War, the area was a cotton and cattle centre. After the war, citrus became a leading industry. The South Florida Railroad arrived in 1880 and was extended to Tampa in 1883. The development after 1950 of the Cape Canaveral aerospace complex, 50 miles (80 km) east, spurred population and economic growth, which were further boosted when Walt Disney World opened in 1971 about 20 miles (30 km) southwest. The construction of other attractions followed, and the city acquired a National Basketball Association franchise (the Orlando Magic) in 1987.
The Disney complex alone covers 47 square miles (122 square km). In addition to its several large resorts, Walt Disney World has a variety of attractions, including the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney MGM Studios, and Animal Kingdom. Universal Orlando Resort includes the Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure theme parks. The latter features the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, an attraction based on the popular book series by J.K. Rowling. Also in the Greater Orlando area are Sea World of Florida (a marine-animal park) and Wet ’n Wild (a large water park). Loch Haven Park contains art, science, and history museums. Gatorland, just to the south, is home to alligators and crocodiles.
Tourism, conventions, and trade shows are the basis of the city’s economy. Manufacturing, especially of aerospace and missile systems, high-technology industries, and the citrus industry are also important.
Experience the best Orlando attractions in Florida. Either you just want to enjoy the heart pounding thrills or enjoy the serenity of nature, Orlando offers a dazzling array of attractions guaranteed to provide you and your family an unforgettable experience. Visit Orlando, home to more than 95 attractions and theme parks, and experience this wonderful destination guaranteed to provide a lifetime of priceless memories that you and your family will never forget.
1. Kennedy Space Center (KSC)
Experience a rocket launch from the Firing Room Theater, view real shuttle pads and walk beneath a moon rocket. Meet a real astronaut, enjoy Mad Mission to Mars view IMAX films and the world’s largest collection of astronaut memorabilia, exhibits, hands-on activities and simulators.
About an 1 hour's drive form Orlando, the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is one of the most popular day trips from Orlando. It gives tourists the unique opportunity to see one of NASA's best known operations centers. Here, you will find the Heroes and Legends exhibits, which introduce guests to the lives and careers of those who made the space program possible, from engineers to early space explorers. This also includes the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame, as well as the Rocket Garden where you can see the rockets from some of NASA's most famous flights, including the Apollo and Gemini programs. Other exhibits include lunar exploration, mock astronaut training, the shuttle launch experience, and an IMAX theater. If you time your visit right, you can even watch launches from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
Visit online at www.kennedyspacecenter.com and purchase the KSC Explore Tour Ticket.
On this behind the scenes KSC bus tour, you will be joined by a space expert on a tour of America’s Spaceport. The Explore Tour takes visitors beyond the standard Kennedy Space Center Bus Tour, making several stops to capture once in a lifetime photo opportunities. See icons of spaceflight operations like the Vehicle Assembly Building, historic Launch Complex 39 and disembark at different locations to capture iconic photo opportunities.
Kennedy Space Center
2. Sea World
SeaWorld’s Orlando Florida theme park offers roller coasters, rides, shows, tours, attractions & family-friendly activities for thrill seekers and animal lovers. View the amazing marine life like you have never seen before! One of Orlando’s favorite attractions.
Orlando's SeaWorld is known for its massive aquariums, dolphin shows, touch pools, and many exciting rides. Although guests may no longer feed the dolphins, you are still able to reach into the interactive dolphin pool and pet these beautiful, intelligent creatures. Those who want to get even more hands on can sign up for an up close tour with the dolphins, sea lions, penguins, or sharks. Other special tours include a behind the scenes look at SeaWorld operations and tours of the manatee rehabilitation center or the dolphin nursery, where the park's youngest dolphins are cared for. In addition to the plethora of sea life, the park has many exciting rides for all ages, including several water rides that are refreshing on a hot Florida day. The park's most popular thrill rides are its roller coasters, including the Mako hyper coaster, the Manta Coaster, and the Kraken Virtual Reality Coaster.
Sea World Orlando
3. Universal Studios Orlando
Universal Studios Florida is a combination theme park and working studio that was designed in consultation with Steven Spielberg to give visitors an interactive experience with the filmmaking industry. Universal's Islands of Adventure has seven themed island parks that are each dedicated to a film franchise. These include Seuss Island, The Lost Continent, Toon Lagoon, Jurassic Park, Skull Island, and Marvel Superhero Island. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is the park's newest addition, complete with Hogwarts Castle and Hogsmeade. Diagon Alley extends into the Universal Studios park, where visitors can join Harry's escape from Gringotts bank. Universal Studios also has regular events and celebrations for the whole family. City Walk, also part of Universal, is a huge entertainment complex, featuring dining, shopping, movies, and other day and night entertainment.
Universal Studios Orlando
4. Orland Helicopter Tours
Take to the skies in a helicopter and see Orlando from a whole new perspective. Enjoy views of Orlando as you have never seen them as you fly high over the famous theme parks and attractions including SeaWorld, Universal Studios and the Walt Disney World Resort. With a choice of 6 different routes, you will be sure to see the best sites in Orlando!
Itinerary: Flight Options:
• SeaWorld Helicopter Tour
• SeaWorld/Universal Helicopter Tour
• Disney Resort Helicopter Tour
• Disney/SeaWorld Helicopter Tour
• Grand Helicopter Tour
• Celebrity Grand Tour
USD 43.4 per person
10:00am to 5:00pm
(First come first serve)
12651 International Dr, Orlando, FL 32821, USA
Orland Helicopter Tour
5. Walt Disney World Parks
Walt Disney World is Florida's most popular family attraction and has been for many years. Of its 4 parks, Magic Kingdom is the most iconic, with Cinderella's Castle standing at the center of the park.
Epcot's Spaceship Earth geosphere stands at the entrance of this exposition-style park, which includes Future World and the World Showcase, an around the world experience that gives visitors a chance to peek at different cultures and meet popular international Disney characters like Mulan, Belle, and Mary Poppins.
The Hollywood Studios park gives visitors the opportunity to see into the world of movie magic, with exciting stunt and special effect shows and even tours through actual studio space. The most anticipated attraction to rescently come to Disney’s Hollywood Studios is the 14 acre Star Wars themed land, called: Galaxy’s Edge. The massive new land transports you to the village of Black Spire Outpost on Batuu, a remote trading planet that acts as one of the last stops before Wild Space. Step into this exciting planet. Explore exotic shops, restaurants, back alleys, hidden Resistance rendezvous areas and even a First Order base. Sample curious concoctions at the local cantina, snack on favorite galactic foods, shop for ancient antiquities and build your own customized droid or lightsaber. Gather your crew and take control of the fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy on Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run. Blast off into hyperspace and experience an adventure beyond your dreams. On Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance you join the Resistance in an epic battle against the First Order. This massive, multi-platform, new ride is unlike anything you have ever experienced at Walt Disney World Resort… or anywhere else in the galaxy!
The Kilimanjaro safari experience at Animal Kingdom is an amazing way to see African animals run free in a natural habitat, and the massive Tree of Life makes the perfect backdrop for family photos.
Fireworks and parades are nightly events throughout the parks, and there are special events year round. Although lines for the top attractions and rides are notoriously long, there are Fast Pass options that can help you get the most out of your visit. If you are going to be visiting multiple parks, leave a minimum of one day for each and be sure to use a park map to plan ahead.
Disney's many resort hotel complexes make the experience complete and offer a full range of themed destinations from budget resorts to a more adult crowd, with shopping, restaurants, theaters, and music venues.
Walt Disney World Parks (The Hollywood Studios park)
6. Discovery Cove
Located next to SeaWorld Orlando, Discovery Cove is one of the area's premier attractions. Visitors to the park can interact with the natural ocean life, including snorkeling along a coral reef, exploring underwater with a full dive helmet, wading among stingrays, and swimming with the dolphins. There is also a large aviary where you can interact with exotic birds, a relaxing river that you can explore and snorkel in, and a tropical swim area where you can splash in the pools or relax in a lounge chair on the sandy beach. Visitors can purchase an all-inclusive, one day pass, and due to the extreme popularity of Discovery Cove it is best to book a reservation well in advance during peak season.
7. Typhoon Lagoon
Typhoon Lagoon is Disney's biggest and most popular water park. There are a wide variety of attractions for all ages, including kiddie rides and swimming and splash areas, like Ketchakiddee Creek, a play area designed for young children. Surfers will love the huge wave pool, and those who want to give it a shot can sign up for surfing lessons. Other attractions include a peaceful ride down the lazy river, whitewater adventures on Miss Adventure Falls, and thrill rides like Humunga Kowabunga. There are also multiple waterslides throughout the park for various age levels, and even a sandy beach where kids can play while parents relax. An alternative water park is Disney's Blizzard Beach, which has a ski-resort theme and features a long, winding river that circles that park, as well as a variety of water rides for the whole family.
8. Volcano Bay
Volcano Bay is Universal's water theme park, and like the other area resorts, there are play and stay options for those who want to truly immerse themselves in the experience. Krakatau sits at the center of the park and houses the popular Aqua Coaster thrill ride. Waturi Beach faces the volcano, where guests can relax on a sandy beach and swim in the large wave pool. Here, guests can use one of the provided lounge chairs, upgrade to padded loungers, or even rent a cabana. Exciting park attractions include huge waterslides, tubing, and thrill rides, and there are also plenty of areas dedicated to younger guests, including a zero entry wading area. As an added convenience, the park has introduced the TapuTapu, a waterproof wearable device that allows guests to electronically get "in line" for one ride at a time, and then spend their wait time relaxing instead of standing in the hot sun in a line. The device is free and given to each guest upon entrance.
Gatorland has thousands of alligators, crocodiles, and other reptiles, some of which perform in daily shows and demonstrations. The "Alligator Jumparoo" show and "Gator Wrestlin'" are two examples. The facility is also home to rare leucistic alligators, which are white. A small train does rounds on the grounds, and an observation tower provides views of the breeding marsh and surrounding region. One of the more recent additions to Gatorland is the zipline that runs over the top of alligators and crocodiles. For the less adventurous there is still the self guided swamp walk, and kids will enjoy the Gator Gully Splash Park.
10. Wet 'n Wild
One of Florida's first water parks, Wet 'N Wild contains enough fun and thrill rides to entertain people all day long. On site are a wave pool, water slides, chutes, raft rides, and flumes. There are both individual and multi-person rides. Some of the highlights include "The Surge," a six-story speed slide, and "Bomb Bay," where the rider is dropped in a capsule from a great height. For those looking for a little less adventure but just as much fun, there is a Lazy River where you can drift down a man made river in an inner tube.
Wet 'n Wild
11. Exotic Animal Experience
Orlando's Exotic Animal Experience offers visitors the chance to have personal encounters with some of the world's most interesting animals. Residents at the park include several species of kangaroos and lemurs, owl monkeys, kinkajou, deer, and two-toed sloths. All visits are by reservation only, and guests have the choice of a group experience, private visit, and special packages that allow you to spend extra time with the animals. There is also a "Simply Sloths" option for those who want to spend all their time hanging out with the world's most adorable critters.
Quinlan Street, Orlando
Exotic Animal Experience
12. Orlando Balloon Rides
Are you ready for the experience of a lifetime? Orlando Balloon Rides has grown to be one of the world's largest operators of commercial hot air balloons. As North America's leading hot air balloon company, Orlando Balloon Rides is committed to capturing the imagination, attention and memories of our customers.
View Florida above as you have never seen before! An Experience for any Occasion! All Orlando Balloon Rides conclude with: Champagne / Sparkling cider toast, Light refreshments and Commemorative flight Certificate.
SPECTACULAR MORNING FLIGHTS!
Seven days a week
Allow 3.5 hours
Flight Time: You will be in the air 45-60 minutes or longer depending on weather.
16 passengers max.
$199 / Person
$125 / Child (ages 6 - 14)
Orlando Balloon Rides
1. Orlando International Premium Outlets
Orlando International Premium Outlets is arguably the city’s most popular shopping destination, offering discounts between 25% and 65% on an enormous range of designer brands. The purpose-built complex has rows and rows of shops all being outdoors, with several lanes and plazas connecting each area. While this International Drive venue remains the biggest and most visited in the city, the same company has a second location down the road called Orlando Vineyard International Outlets, which is more or less the same thing, just on a smaller scale.
2. Florida Mall
3. The Mall at Milenia
Orlando International Premium Outlets
1. Crowne Plaza Hotel Orlando-Universal
2. Universal's Hard Rock Hotel
Amplify your Florida vacation when you visit Hard Rock Hotel at Universal Orlando, a show stopping hotel and resort in the heart of all the thrills and excitement. The hotel is attached to Universal Studios
Located on-site at Universal Orlando Resort, the Hard Rock Hotel is in the heart of the excitement of Universal Studios Florida, Universal's Islands of Adventure, and Universal CityWalk. Guests of this hotel enjoy exclusive theme park benefits. Skip the regular lines at most attractions with free Universal Express Unlimited ride access - a benefit worth $89 per person, per day. You will also be able to take advantage of Early Park Admission one hour before the theme park opens, and more!
Universal's Hard Rock Hotel
AVIS Car Rental
Located at Universal's Hard Rock Hotel
book on avis.co.uk
Crystal River is the only place in Florida where you can swim with manatees. During the winter months, hundreds of manatees head to the bays to warm up and escape the colder temperatures throughout the Gulf of Mexico. If you would like to see manatees up close, here is everything you need to know about experiencing these “gentle giants.”
Which months are best for seeing manatees?
The peak season for observing manatees is November through April, and the local manatee population swells to its largest size between December and February. You can spot manatees in Crystal River's waterways all year round, but the population is much smaller during the summer months.
What time of day is best for swimming with manatees?
When planning your trip, consider visiting the springs in the early morning and during the middle of the week. Local springs will be less crowded on weekdays and the manatees are most active and playful in the mornings.
Where can you go to see manatees?
Manatees typically live and play near the warm waters of natural springs. Three Sisters Springs and Homosassa Springs are two of the best places to find manatees. Local tour operators and nature guides provide a variety of options for experiencing these awesome sea creatures. From swimming, kayaking, and paddleboarding to snorkeling and diving, there are many ways to meet a manatee while you are visiting Crystal River.
Can you touch the manatees?
Yes you can touch the manatees but there are rules and guidelines for interacting with them. Since manatees are an endangered species, they are protected by law. If you head out on a swimming tour, then your guide will share all the do’s and don’ts for interacting with these precious creatures. Swimmers and divers should minimize noise, avoid splashing, and make slow, deliberate movements. Manatees are very curious and social and they will frequently approach humans in the water. While you may touch a manatee gently on the back or stomach with one hand, it is illegal to touch them with two hands at a time.
Can you see manatees without getting in the water?
There are many ways to meet manatees without taking a swim. You can view manatees at the Homosassa Springs State Wildlife Park, which serves as a refuge for rehabilitating captive born manatees and helping them return to the wild. The park’s daily educational programs are open to the public. The Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge is another location where you can swim with or observe manatees. You may also find a local tour guide to set up a boat tour, kayak tour, or paddleboarding trip.
Crystal River offers the best location to see and interact with the Florida manatee, a subspecies of the West Indian manatee, also known as gentle giants. Unlike other areas of Florida, the Federal Government allows for "passive observation" in the water between manatees and people in Kings Bay. This allows face to face interaction with manatees.
Embark on your journey with a Coast Guard Certified Master Captain who will be your chaperon, educator and photographer. Your tour will run 3 hours and everything you will need is included for one price. You will begin at their full service tour facility, where you will be educated about the animals in a classroom type setting and receive tips for your snorkel tour to make the most of your day. You will be taught the in’s and out’s of ‘passive interaction’ as this ensures that the animals enjoy the experience as much as we do! You will then be suited up and transported to the dock, where a covered pontoon will be waiting for you.
This rich estuary will amaze you, with birds, fish and wildlife abound! Submerge yourself in the manatee’s world! Finish your adventure by viewing your photos back at their facility. Their well informed staff will direct you to other local attractions, restaurants and answer all of your questions before you are on your way.
Masks, snorkels, and wetsuits are included in the tour. Bottled water is provided on board.
Photo package are available at the end of your tour.