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Local Area Guide: Things to do / Activities / Attractions
Whether you have small children, are in search of adrenaline-rush thrills, love nature, shopping or world-class golf, there's no shortage of things to do in Orlando! Our vacation homes are located in the heart of the theme park/attractions area of Orlando, convenient to all of the action! Read our descriptions of all the best things to do below, with tips, tricks, and info you won't find anywhere else!
Walt Disney World: Walt Disney World includes the Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Disney-MGM Studios, and Epcot as its major theme parks, as well as Blizzard Beach, Typhoon Lagoon, Downtown Disney, the Disney Marketplace, and the Epcot Boardwalk.
The Magic Kingdom: This is the home of Cinderella's Castle and the classic Disney attractions of 'It's a Small World,' 'Peter Pan's Flight,' 'Pirates of the Caribbean,' etc. A delight for adults and children the same, this is the park that most people picture when they think of 'Walt Disney World.'
You'll begin your adventure by parking in the main lot and riding the monorail to the Magic Kingdom. Upon entering, you be in Main Street USA, which is setup like a small town of the early 1900's, with lots of shops and eateries. You'll always find a popcorn cart or two here to produce the smell of popcorn, because Walt Disney wanted folks to feel as if they're entering a movie. If you go to the right, you'll see the guest services desk, as well as shops that sell things you might have forgotten to bring- sunscreen, film, disposable cameras, etc. There's also a first aid station in this area. On the platform overheard runs a small train that will take you around to the various areas of the park if you don't feel like walking. Lockers are located here for holding belongings you don't want to carry around.
Straight ahead you'll see Cinderella's Castle, where the main shows of the day take place, and a little known fact is that you can actually eat dinner inside of Cinderella's Castle! The dining room entrance is in the middle of the walkway through the castle on the first floor, and the dining room is upstairs in the middle of the castle. You'll need to make reservations early, because 'Cinderella's Royal Table' fills up quickly. To the right of the castle as you are looking at the front of it, you'll find Tomorrowland. Tomorrowland is the home of Space Mountain, which is a rollercoaster ride. Small children will enjoy Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin, an interactive ride where you earn points by shooting down villains. Ride the people mover system to get a quick ride and tour of Tomorrowland.
Moving counterclockwise around the Castle, you'll encounter Fantasyland next to Tomorrowland. Fantasyland is the home of 'Peter Pan's Flight,' 'It's a Small World,' and the Spinning Teacups, among others. A relatively new feature is 'Mickey's Philharmagic,' an orchestral-themed show presented in 3-D with smell effects. Several Disney movies are interwoven throughout the movie. It's a must-see for those with small children.
To the rear of Fantasyland, you'll find the entrance to Toon-Town, where you can tour the homes of Mickey and Minnie, and ride Goofy's Barnstormer Rollercoaster, an excellent ride that's safe even for small children. Inside the large big-top tent, you'll almost always find your favorite characters waiting to take your picture and sign autographs. Continuing around the castle, you come to Liberty Square next. The giant oak tree, named the 'Liberty Tree' near the entrance of the Haunted Mansion is an original oak tree from the land before the park was built. Shops and attractions here are styled in Colonial American Architecture, and the two digit numbers above every doorway aren't their addresses—put a '19' in front of those numbers and you've got the year that the architecture represents. If you're interested, ask one of the Haunted Mansion attendants to tell you the story of the Haunted Mansion. You'll suddenly realize the reasoning behind many of the peculiarities behind the ride, such as the hanging man at the beginning, the horse carriage and horsehoe prints at the front, and more.
Liberty Square leads right into Frontierland, where you'll feel as if you've stepped into the Wild Wild West. Here you'll find the Big Thundermountain Railroad and Splash Mountain! If you're hungry, pickup a giant roasted turkey leg here. You won't be disappointed!
Adventureland. This is where you'll find the 'Pirates of the Caribbean' ride, which is always fun for the whole family. Another interesting attraction is the Swiss Family Robinson Tree House.
Round out the evening by taking in 'Wishes,' the new fireworks extravaganza. A great place to watch the show is at the exit of Adventureland, in front of the Crystal Palace restaurant. Its usually not too crowded, and you're a little closer to the monorail for when the show is over. On the way out you'll find the Emporium on your right hand side, which is filled with every Disney artifact and souvenir you could ever imagine. If you purchase something earlier on in the day and don't want to lug it around, just ask the cast member who rings you up to have it held at the guest services desk, and you can pick it up at night on your way out.
The times of the shows and fireworks vary according to season, so be sure to grab a brochure when you're entering the park if you don't want to miss anything!
Animal Kingdom: Animal Kingdom is the newest park of Walt Disney World, and besides exotic and amazing animals, its filled with great rides and shows! 'Finding Nemo' is a new live, musical show that will entertain the entire family. Ride the Kilimanjaro Safari to see many exotic animals, including giraffes, zebras, rhinos, and lions. 'Dinosaur' is a great ride for everyone except small children. Not a rollercoaster but certainly not your typical slow ride either, you'll get to see some prehistoric animals up-close and personal! The newest addition to Animal Kingdom, Expedition Everest is a thrilling rollercoaster ride to the top of Mount Everest, in the Himalayas of India.
Epcot: Originally envisioned as the 'Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow' where people would live and work, Epcot is now Disney's second most popular park. Entering the park, you'll see the large white ball that is 'Spaceship Earth,' an original animatronics ride through time and space that takes you through human evolution and innovation.
To the right of Spaceship Earth, you'll find 'The Land,' a rotating restaurant, and ride where you can get home cooked food served 'family-style,' which means its an all-you-can-eat-buffet served in bowls, rather than at a buffet bar. It's a little pricey, and might be a little too slow to keep 3 year olds and under entertained, but for ages 4 and up, it's a real treat to eat on a spinning restaurant. The scenery below the dining area is from a ride on the lower level, and features a farmhouse, a prairie with buffalo and prairiedogs, a tropical rainforest, and a desert scene. The ride below is a slow boat ride through various terrains, finishing up with a tour through Disney's state-of-the-art greenhouses. A must see for those with children (or adults, for that matter!) interested in science.
On the other side of the lower level you'll find 'Soarin,' the newest addition at Epcot. Soaring in a simulated hang-glider, you'll fly over California's rivers, forests, farms, and towns, complete with smell effects! Thanks to the 5 story high definition screen, motion sickness is minimal, and the ride is safe and gentle enough even for grandparents!
Next to the Land you'll find the Living Seas, a huge, underwater walk-through aquarium featuring 65 different species of fish and sharks. Around the corner is an entrance to the Coral Reef Restaurant, where you can dine alongside giant windows to the aquarium. The food here isn't remarkable, but the view certainly is!
One ride that's not for the faint of heart is 'Mission: Space.' This ride is a space shuttle simulator, and although very realistic, it subjects passengers to some serious G-forces!
Around the main waterfront, you'll find the World Showcase, which features mini-recreations of the famous landmarks and features of Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Morocco, Japan, America, Italy, Germany, China, Norway, and Mexico. Restaurants with world-class cuisine can be located in every 'country,' but reservations must be made the morning of your visit, as they fill up very quickly!
Just before closing each night, Epcot features a truly spectacular laser and fireworks show around the main lagoon. Check park brochures for times, which change with the season.
Disney-MGM Studios: The home of the Tower of Terror, this ride is a must, if you have the stomach for it! A newer addition to this park is the Rock'n Rollercoaster, which thrill seekers will enjoy. A main feature of this park is its various live shows, which are mostly geared toward younger children.
Universal Orlando: Universal Orlando encompasses Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure, and CityWalk. Universal Studios: This theme park is centered on all of our favorite movies, and most of the rides are safe for small children too. With references and rides from Ghostbusters, Twister, Shrek, ET, Men in Black, and Jaws, among others, there's plenty to do for kids ages 2-92!
Some of the main attractions include a Shrek 3-D movie, an interactive Men in Black ride, where users score points by shooting down aliens, a ride through Amityville, the home of JAWS, as well as the Nickelodeon studios where you can watch many of the children's network's shows being filmed!
Unlike Islands of Adventure, rides, shows, and activities for children of all ages abound at Universal Studios. Islands of Adventure: While Islands of Adventure is a dream come true for thrill-seekers, teens, and tweens, there aren't many activities for small children to participate in, with the exception of Seussland. The town built by Dr. Seuss is to your right as you enter the park, and feels as though you just stepped into one of his storybooks. The Seuss Sky-High Trolley Ride is a new train ride over the top of the island. Other attractions on this island include the Cat-In-The-Hat ride, which takes you through the storybook, and a One Fish Two Fish, Red Fish Blue Fish flying carousel type ride. Be sure to pick up your green eggs and ham at the green eggs and ham café before you go!
The next island to explore is The Lost Continent, home of the Dueling Dragons Rollercoaster and Poseidon's Fury, a spectacular show. Neither of these is to be missed, if you can stomach the rollercoaster! A great place for lunch is the Enchanted Oak Tavern, which serves great rotisserie chicken, barbequed ribs, and mini apple pies served with a caramel apple on top!
On Jurassic Park island, you'll feel as if you have stepped into the fabled dinosaur habitat, complete with a treacherous river ride, and a prehistoric playground- for adults! Make sure you checkout the Pteradon Flyers, which are swinging gliders that fly throughout the island.
Toon Lagoon is the next island around the Lagoon, and two water rides will whet your whistle, so bring some extra clothes or a raincoat if you want to experience them! Popeye and Bluto's Bilge-Rat Barges are a family innertube whitewater rafting type ride, which can be a blast, if you're willing to get wet. Dudley Do-Right's Ripsaw Falls is a tame ride except for the very end, where you could potentially get soaked as you come down the waterfall in your log boat!
The last island in the sequence, Marvel Superhero Island, features the Amazing Adventures of Spiderman, a 3-D ride that will leave you breathless! Not a rollercoaster, but not exactly tame by our standards, you'll feel as though you're chasing down Spiderman himself in your own gliding, flying vehicle. Get in line early for this ride because it's always in hot demand!
Citywalk: Citywalk is something you'll see on your way into either Universal Studios or Islands of Adventure, because you have to walk through it to get to the parks from the parking garages. Beginning with Lowe's Cineplex Movie Theatre, the complex is mainly geared toward nightlife, but its restaurants and shops are open throughout the day. Citywalk is home of the Nascar Cafe, Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville, NBA Cafe, Pat O'Brian's Orlando, Hard Rock Cafe, a Hard Rock Live, a concert venue.
SeaWorld: SeaWorld is the home of Shamu, the famous killer whale. At SeaWorld you'll enjoy various shows performed by marine animals, a large aquarium, a hands-on coral reef pool where you can pickup starfish, and a hands-on manta ray pool, where you can feel their slippery skin. Dolphins can be fed and felt at the dolphin pool, which delights people of all ages. Rides are few yet fierce. Sheikra is a 90-degree, straight down rollercoaster.