We are planning a brief trip to Orlando and I am looking for suggestions on where to stay and activities other than Disney. We have been to Disney World a few times and I remember saying that "I wouldn't need to return" after we visited several years ago, so I'm looking for other destinations we would enjoy. Recommendations for lodging, dining, etc. are also welcome.
As far as places to stay - the complex of the JW Marriott, Ritz, and Lakeshore Reserve is really nice and good location. If you are travelling with little kids - 3-8, Harbour Lake is a good choice.
Activities other than Disney - Medieval Times, City Walk at Universal, Gatorland
Seen this one? Family Vacay in Orlando: What are your top 5 local tips?
I'd encourage you to consider the Grande Lakes property - lots more info here: Orlando World Center vs. JW Gande Lakes
Disney has changed a lot most likely since the last time you've been there, with the addition of a few new star wars themed attractions too.
Disney springs is fantastic, especially their newer restaurants. City Walk near Universal is also a cool place to hang out. A little more adult oriented.
I haven't stayed at the Ritz or JW (yet, no plans on the JW though, no elite bennies) but there's a new delta hotel supposedly opening tomorrow that has agreed to honor full breakfast for elites as well as no resort fee.
The Delta Hotel doesn't show that they are accepting reservations until January 1, 2016. It looks like a nice hotel. Maybe they are having a soft opening tomorrow.
I'm sure Disney has changed a lot since we were last there. We think the last time we visited was in 2010. If we decide to go to Disney, we would most likely choose Epcot.
Is Disney Springs what used to be Downtown Disney?
Yeah, I'm going up the 19th. Hoping they open up availability by then, but I'm tentatively booked into the castle hotel, and got upgraded to a tower room.
Disney springs is the renamed (and much expanded/renovated) downtown disney. Jock Lindsey's hangar is amazing there (based off indiana jones) as is the boathouse. I'll be eating at the new morimoto there this weekend. Some of the best restaurants are in the disney resorts though. I absolutely love Jiko in the animal kingdom lodge.
Epcot is definitely the best park. You just missed the food and wine festival though =/
We spent a week in late August this year, and the kids chose Universal Studios over Disney for the rides. I admit I had a great time on the rides there - several roller coasters and the Harry Potter ride inside the castle were winners. We did not pay extra for the express pass and found out we didn't need to. Most of the rides have 4 or 5 seats across, or in a row, which leaves extra seats to fill when a family of 3 or 4 gets on. To fill those "extra" seats, they bring people from the express line, especially "singles" to fill out the rows. You can enter the express line as a "single", even when there are several in your group. Even when 3 or 4 of us entered, we always walked quickly up to the boarding area and all went on the same turn. If you do this, you may not sit next to each other every time, but you will probably be near, as they invariably have multiple seats to fill in. Even with long (regular) lines we were able to go on several times, with almost no waiting. One warning: If you go on the water rides, be prepared to get soaking wet, from head to toe! Many were wearing swim suits when we were there and others had plastic coveralls they bought. We didn't care - it was so hot and humid we liked the relief. Didn't eat there. Enjoyed Bongo's Cuban Cafe (operated by Gloria Estefan's family) in Disney Downtown - good Cuban food at reasonable prices.
Having just returned from Orlando, I'd advise staying away from the International Drive area. While there are many hotels and restaurants, traffic is a nightmare. Getting anywhere takes a long time. Besides, most of the restaurants are chains which can be found almost anywhere. Do yourself a favor and skip the entire area. Stay somewhere with less traffic and fewer headaches.
I spent a couple nights at the Castle Hotel and found it comfortable, but not all that special. Because of my itinerary, I stayed the first night at the CY Vista Centre, which although an older property with fairly basic amenities, I actually preferred. Access to I-4 was easy, I got an upgrade to a roomy suite, and this CY offered a full buffet breakfast to all Elites (Silver and up). This last part was a temporary promotion, so it may not last, but I'm pretty sure Gold and Platinum members would be give breakfast vouchers even after this promotion ends. I'm not sure I'd recommend this CY, but for the price (found a $72 rate - breakfast for 2 would have cost ~$25), the value far exceeded what I got at the Castle (especially since I didn't spend much time at the hotel anyway).
Next time I go, I'll probably stick with either one of the full service properties, a MVC location, or (if not during the busy season) one of the properties not too far from Disney World with easy access to the freeway. There are plenty of choices. Just make sure to factor in parking and/or resort fees when comparing prices.
Didn't know if you were aware that Los Angeles, in an attempt to keep up with Florida, has a replica of Universal Studios as well as a copy of Disneyland.
The only elements missing is these "crude" copies is the absence of humidity and mosquitoes. But I have been told that they have given up trying to recreate those factors.
Letting you know in case you find it difficult to find a room in Orlando.
My family visited Disneyland around 1960, I think. I would like to return someday. I could combine a visit with attending the Rose Bowl Parade and seeing "Dancing With the Stars" (about the only show I watch other than sports).
I am so used to humidity and mosquitoes that I don't even think about it when we have been to Florida . We have 68 varieties of mosquitoes here in south Louisiana. Unfortunately, it seldom gets cold enough for long enough, to get rid of them.
There are so few hotels in the Orlando area that I am having difficulty finding a place to stay . Actually, I'm having a difficult time making up my mind where to stay.
We were just there at the end of October and we stayed at the Residence Inn Orlando at Sea world off of 4 on Westwood Blvd, it was in between Universal and Disney, in quiet area. was easy access to most places and airport. We had a 2 bedroom suite with kitchen, it had full buffet complimentary for breakfast with a lot of options. We will be staying here again next April when we come back from Cruise to Bahamas and we want to go to Epcot before flying home next day. We also enjoyed the Universal City Walk and had lunch at Margaritiville while there in October. They have the HULK roller coaster torn down for maintenance and wont be back in use until next year. That is the best roller coaster at Universal so disappointing.
I've stayed at the JW Grande Lakes, and it was amazing--beautiful grounds, and so relaxing. Last time I went with family members (including kids), and we stayed at the Courtyard Lake Buena Vista in the Marriott Village (which offered shuttles to Disney). Universal is excellent, and many people prefer it to Disney. Seaworld was loads of fun for everyone, with lots of different activities. Kids loved Legoland. I enjoyed taking a little drive out to the sticks for a swamp tour--there are a number of places that will take you on airboats to see the native wildlife (including alligators) up close. There are several decent restaurants in Downtown Disney (Bongos Cuban Cafe is one), and Emeril's' Tchoup Chop is a great polynesian restaurant at Universal.
My favorite Orlando hotel is the Bohemian, in Celebration. It is a very relaxed place on a small, tranquil lake. There are walking/biking paths throughout the planned community of Celebration. I also enjoyed the Castle Hotel on International Drive. It's an exciting property right in the middle of tourist activity. And then there's the J.W. Marriott, Grande Lakes, which has an impressive pool and exterior glass elevator. (Downside to this property is the parking fee.) Or the Gaylord Palms, a complete indoor vacation all by itself. I've stayed at all of these, and would go back to any of them.
For an Orlando restaurant, look into Le Coq au Vin.It's unpretentious, country French cooking. Delicious!
For anyone planning a visit to Central Florida (Orlando), Kennedy Space Center def a must! Epic value for your money, will learn a lot and you'll be making some great memories to last a lifetime! As far as hotels, what we recommend to our friends is to sleep at affordable places like Residence Inns where you can get free hot breakfast for the whole fam, and from there you can go spend your days at the many posh resorts in the area! Frugal way to experience a lovely time in Orlando!