If you’re thinking about traveling to Orlando this winter, you’re not alone! Florida, and Orlando in particular, is a popular destination for northern travelers wanting to escape the snow and get some sunshine. To stay ahead of this crowd, here are 7 things to keep in mind.
The weather might be perfect – or freezing
Florida can inspire thoughts of warm sunshine and beaches, but in fact, it can get pretty cold in Orlando through the winter, even dropping below freezing. It’s completely unpredictable, though. You may get hot days that feel like summer, or you might need a coat and gloves during your visit.
But one thing’s for sure: you won’t have to survive torrential rain from a hurricane. Although Florida is rarely hit directly by a hurricane, it does get the rainy aftermath of hurricanes from June through November. Winter is the driest season, so even if it’s cold, chances are pretty good that you won’t get rained out.
Popular theme parks will be crowded in December
If you’re planning to visit theme parks like Disney World during your visit, try to avoid the week before and after Christmas. The parks will be packed with people during these weeks, thanks to school vacation and the draw of Christmas festivities.
If your schedule is flexible, plan to go in January or early February instead. This period of the year is the least crowded, so you can enjoy more rides and activities and fewer lines.
There’s a lot you can do besides theme parks
The theme parks around Orlando attract millions of tourists every year, but they’re not the only reason to visit Orlando. The city offers an incredible array of attractions, both quirky and world-renowned. For example, you can visit the Sea Life Aquarium, tour the Chocolate Kingdom chocolate factory, or check out the alligators at Gatorland.
For cultural outings, book a show at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, which has three theaters, plus an outdoor performance venue and plaza. Excellent symphony, opera, and ballet performances are easy to see in Orlando. There are also several small museums worth seeing, like the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art.
If you love shopping, there’s plenty of that, too. For starters, you can visit the Orlando Premium Outlets on International Drive, a huge outdoor mall full of outlet stores from well-known brands like Nike, Victoria’s Secret, Ralph Lauren, and many more. The items are heavily discounted (up to 50%) because they come straight from the factory. With these great deals, it’s no surprise some people visit Orlando just to shop at these outlets!
You can get excellent food
Although theme parks don’t always serve the best food, Orlando itself has a range of fantastic restaurants to choose from. In fact, Orlando is one of the best foodie cities in America, rivaling places like New York, Las Vegas, and San Francisco in its diversity of restaurants. From soul food to vegan cuisine to Asian street fare, you can find it all in the city.
There’s a public transportation system
Although most of Orlando isn’t pedestrian-friendly, it’s starting to make headway in its public transportation system. Since 2014, Orlando has a light-rail service called SunRail that covers 49 miles of the Orlando area, north to south, with 16 stations.
The city also has a bus service that goes to many popular destinations, like shopping centers, theme parks, and the airport. Combined with the network of monorails, buses, and boats at Disney World, you could definitely get by without a car if you plan your trip right.
Traveling to Orlando doesn’t have to be expensive
Restaurants and tourist attractions can take a toll on your budget. Fortunately, Orlando also offers many free or cheap things to do. If you can find an inexpensive place to stay and ride to the city, you can have a terrific stay without breaking the bank.
For instance, on the second Thursday of every month, you can catch an outdoor film at Popcorn Flicks in the Park in Winter Park. Or you can go to Lake Eola Park for festivals, concerts, and a great view of the Orlando skyline. These local places and events are not only fun; they can give you a feel for the genuine life, culture, and heartbeat of Orlando.
The city cares about sustainability and the environment
Amusement parks and entertainment venues don’t have a reputation for being eco-friendly, but actually, Orlando has made sustainability a priority in recent years. In 2007, it launched an ambitious program called Green Works to push progress in sustainability. It’s accomplished a lot since then, from increasing recycling to making buildings and homes more energy efficient. Even the SunRail was made possible because of Green Works!
Orlando may be a tourist magnet for lovers of Disney and Harry Potter, but there’s more to the city than its tourism and entertainment. Whether you’re traveling to Orlando for only a few days or looking to settle there permanently, everyone can find something to love about the city.