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Home to a multitude of theme parks and adrenaline-inducing attractions, Orlando knows how to have fun. Walt Disney World and Universal Studios Florida are globally famous, in addition to the buzzy Church Street District and a dizzying portfolio of world-class resorts. Yet while vibrant entertainment might be Orlando’s biggest claim to fame, you don’t need to look very hard to discover it’s also home to an array of other activities. Ecotourism experiences, manicured gardens, picnic-perfect parks, Victorian architecture, and family-friendly science centers are all part of this Central Florida city’s diverse make-up.
The easiest way to reach Orlando is by flying into Orlando International Airport (MCO). Downtown is approximately 11 miles away, depending on where you’re staying. Getting there takes around 40 minutes by Lynx Bus, which runs every 30 minutes six days per week and every hour on Sundays and holidays. By car, you can arrive in just 25 minutes.
It’s also convenient to fly into Orlando Sanford International Airport (SFB). At about 25 from downtown Orlando, it’s a little farther, but you can still reach it in 30 minutes by rideshare, rental car, or taxi.
With 233 sunny days per year, it’s no wonder that Florida is called the Sunshine State. While it’s possible to take advantage of Orlando’s outdoor offerings year-round, keep in mind that summers are not for the faint of heart: July’s average is a sweltering 92 degrees Fahrenheit, and the subtropical climate means dense humidity. The most pleasant weather is from February to May, when the temperature is consistently in the mid-70s. Good walking shoes, breathable clothes, and a just-in-case poncho for surprise showers are staples for a prepared wardrobe. One other important weather note: Fall is hurricane season.
Lake Eola Park is situated in the middle of downtown Orlando and boasts greatly accessible nature. The glistening lake, which was formed by a natural sinkhole is surrounded by a wide walking path and grass with skyline views, making it one of the city’s most popular picnic spots, and a hub for birders. Live performances and concerts light up the park at the outdoor Walt Disney Amphitheater.
In 1961 a business magnate’s former estate was transformed into a 50-acre botanical garden. Now it’s an exotic living museum, with more than 40 plant collections from around the world. See everything from flowering trees to tropical philodendrons, and make sure to stop and literally smell the roses. Educational placards describe the history of each variety, and concerts bring the space to life. The former residence is on the National Register of Historic Places and there’s also a welcome center which features permanent and rotating art exhibits.
This lively district is deeply rooted in Orlando’s history. It’s home to Church Street Station, a historic railway depot from 1889 that’s now a popular retail and entertainment complex. A corridor of restaurants with al fresco dining and live music are two good reasons to stay well into the evening.