For many people, Orlando is synonymous with theme parks, and it’s possible to spend your entire trip happily encapsulated in one of those magic, self-sufficient bubbles. But the secret side of Orlando (away from the thrill rides and make-believe) has its own wonders to share. Take the time to seek out its hidden treasures and you’ll be richly rewarded.
Flights from Orlando
Most people who fly from Orlando travel from Orlando International Airport (MCO), which is the second busiest airport in Florida. Almost 35 million people pass through here each year. MCO is a hub for AirTran and a Focus City for Jetblue and Southwest, which makes it easy to find cheap flights from Orlando almost any time of the year. There’s a comprehensive range of public and private ground transportation options, and if you’re booked into any of the Disney hotels or resorts, you can hop onto the free “Magical Express” shuttle and get your experience started right away.
Orlando Sanford International Airport (SFB) is an alternative which sees 1.7 million passengers annually. If you’re planning to rent a car during your visit, you may also want to check flights into Tampa International Airport (TPA) which is about an hour and a half drive from Orlando, or Daytona Beach International Airport (DAB), an hour’s drive away.
Stuff to do in Orlando
Either before, after, or instead of visiting the world-famous theme parks, consider exploring Orlando’s quieter but charming attractions. The gorgeous Wekiwa Springs State Park offers guided tours, cheap campsites, and affordable kayak and canoe rental: it’s a cool and lovely oasis away from the crowds.
The arts scene here is top-notch, with many lively venues and world-class museums. The Orlando Museum of Art provides free events and classes for kids and adults year-round, and the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts hosts ballet, musicals, opera, plays and much more.
Advice to Tourists Visiting Orlando
The best time to visit Orlando depends on your plans, but in general high summer can be a trial. Huge crowds and the kind of heat and humidity that will wilt any adventurer are the norm: expect highs in the 90s from late June until early September.
If you don’t have to work around school holidays, try January through April. You’re likely to enjoy 70 degree highs in the daytime and a lot less rain.
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