Orlando First-Time Visitor Tips
Coming to Orlando for the first time? We can’t wait to see you. Before you arrive, refer to the following tips designed to help first-time visitors make the most of their time in Orlando.
Learn more: 29 Things to Do for $29 or Less
Before or after your arrival, contact our Vacation Planning Services by telephone, email or live chat for even more advice on how to maximize your Orlando experience. Our friendly, knowledgeable Vacation Planners offer trusted resources and unbiased destination information, including discounted attraction tickets, trip-planning advice, dining and entertainment options, and more. It’s a one-stop shop for the ultimate Orlando vacation.
You can visit Orlando with confidence knowing that our businesses are working closely with health experts and local governments to ensure your health and safety during your stay. And now, Visit Orlando is proud to partner with Orlando Health, a not-for-profit healthcare organization that serves the southeastern United States. For the latest information, visit our Healthy Travel page.
As the No. 1 travel destination in the U.S., Orlando also takes the matter of safety extremely seriously. The destination is privileged to have an extraordinary infrastructure of major public and private entities working together to protect the health and safety of residents and visitors alike. Visit our Safety page for details.
Call it a hunch, but we have a feeling you’ll want to visit our theme parks and attractions while you’re in Orlando. Read up on the following suggestions before you go.
Save on discount tickets: Orlando Theme Parks & Attractions
Theme Park Tips
- Orlando’s major theme parks are all located within a 15-mile radius.
- Walt Disney World® Resort is in Lake Buena Vista, about 17 miles southwest of downtown Orlando.
- Universal Orlando Resort and SeaWorld® Orlando are in the International Drive resort area, about 13 miles northeast of Lake Buena Vista and 10 miles southwest of downtown.
- LEGOLAND® Florida Resort is in Winter Haven, about 35 miles southwest of Lake Buena Vista.
- Get the best deal on theme park tickets by purchasing them ahead of time. You can buy them all in one place at a discounted rate from Visit Orlando powered by BestofOrlando.com. We also have discounted tickets for top Orlando attractions.
- Want to dine with Disney Princesses at Walt Disney World, Captain America at Universal Orlando Resort, aquatic marvels at SeaWorld Orlando, and other famous characters? Make reservations as soon as possible. Special dining experiences at Orlando’s theme parks are popular and fill up months in advance. (Please note that character dining might not be available at the time of your visit. Check with your preferred theme parks for details.)
- Theme parks offer guided tours and guidebooks in numerous languages. Contact the parks directly for more information.
- Theme parks also offer ways to minimize wait times, including Disney Genie+ and Lightning Lane at Walt Disney World Resort, Express Pass at Universal Orlando Resort, Quick Queue at SeaWorld Orlando, and Fastrack Unlimited at LEGOLAND Florida. (Please note that ride reservation systems might not be available at the time of your visit. Check with your preferred theme parks for details.)
- Wear comfortable shoes. Experiencing everything at a theme park will require you to walk a lot of miles, and good footwear can help you go the distance.
- If you ignore the previous tip and wind up with a case of blistered feet, all theme parks have first-aid stations where you can get Band-Aids. They can help with other medical issues, too.
- Make sure your phones, cameras and other battery-powered devices are fully charged before you arrive. If you need a quick charge, some parks offer free battery charging at guest services.
- If you’re looking to save money, keep in mind that Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando Resort and LEGOLAND Florida will let you bring outside food and drink, so long as the food doesn’t need to be heated and the beverages aren’t alcoholic. SeaWorld Orlando permits baby formula, baby food, and food for guests with special diets.
- Make a note of where you park. Our theme parks’ parking lots and garages are massive, and after a full day of fun, the last thing you’ll want to do is spend countless minutes (or even hours) looking for your vehicle. At Walt Disney World, the My Disney Experience Mobile App can remember your location for you.
Learn more: Tips for the Best Orlando Theme Park Experience
- Beyond the theme parks and attractions, Orlando’s neighborhoods and nearby cities offer endless adventures with dining, nightlife, arts & culture, outdoor recreation, shopping, and other surprises for visitors and locals alike.
- The closest beaches to Orlando are Cocoa Beach, Canaveral National Seashore and Daytona Beach, all about an hour from our tourism districts on Florida’s east coast. Cocoa Beach can be reached via State Road 528, Canaveral National Seashore can be reached via State Road 50, and Daytona Beach can be reached via Interstate 4 (I-4) East.
- Florida’s tranquil west coast beaches, including St. Pete Beach, Clearwater Beach and Tarpon Springs, are about two hours from our tourism districts.
Learn more: Free Things to Do in Orlando
- Orlando is home to the world’s top water parks, including Universal’s Volcano Bay, Disney’s Blizzard Beach and Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon, Aquatica® Orlando, and LEGOLAND Florida’s onsite water park, which is available as an optional upgrade to LEGOLAND® Florida Theme Park admission.
- Thanks to heated waters, most Orlando water parks stay open year-round. However, check with your preferred park to ensure they’ll be open during your visit.
- You can also find onsite water parks at numerous Orlando-area resorts, including The Grove Resort Orlando, Island H2O Live! at Margaritaville Resort Orlando, Renaissance Orlando at SeaWorld and Reunion Resort & Golf Club.
Save on discount tickets: Orlando Water Parks
Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex
- Visitors interested in Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex should know that it’s located about an hour east of Orlando, and easily accessible via State Road 528. Several private shuttle companies and bus services provide transportation to and from the historic complex.
Learn more: Things to Do Beyond Theme Parks
- Orlando’s major theme parks are all located within a 15-mile radius.
If you’re coming to Orlando, you’ll need a place to stay. Fortunately, with more than 480 hotels and resorts, not to mention other accommodations such as vacation homes, condos and campgrounds, you’re guaranteed to find the perfect accommodations.
Learn more: Places to Stay in Orlando
HOTELS & RESORTS
- Visitors who want to stay in the heart of it all should opt for the area in and around Orlando’s main tourism district, International Drive (aka I-Drive), which is adjacent to Universal Orlando and SeaWorld, or Lake Buena Vista, close to Walt Disney World. With a range of hotels from budget to luxury, and offering close proximity to theme parks, attractions, dining and shopping, it’s an exciting and convenient place to stay for visitors.
- If you’re building your vacation around visiting Orlando’s unique neighborhoods, you’ll find ample accommodations in the downtown Orlando area, Lake Nona, Winter Park and beyond. You can also opt to stay close to Orlando International Airport (MCO).
- Don’t plan to rent a car? Stay onsite at your favorite theme park and take advantage of complimentary park shuttles. Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando and LEGOLAND Florida all have multiple accommodations within their perimeters, and SeaWorld partners with several hotels near its theme parks.
- There is no need to leave four-legged family members at home when you visit Orlando. Numerous hotels throughout the area will be happy to accommodate you and your pets.
VACATION HOMES & SUITES
- Looking to stay longer than a week? Have a big family? Consider a vacation rental. Ranging from one-bedroom villas to five-bedroom (and up!) homes, rentals offer the convenience and amenities of home, often at a great value.
- Families or groups traveling to Orlando can also opt for one of many spacious suites at our hotels and resorts. Found at all price points, suites often come with convenient amenities like kitchenettes, separate living rooms and washers/dryers.
There’s a lot to see and do in Orlando, but we’re also a wide-ranging destination, with 20-plus miles separating Walt Disney World in the south and Winter Park and other points of interest in the north. Happily, we offer plenty of ways to get around.
- Did you know that Orlando has three airports? In addition to Orlando International Airport (MCO), the area is serviced by Orlando Sanford International Airport (SFB) about 40 minutes from our main tourism districts, and Orlando Executive Airport (ORL) close to downtown, approximately 20 minutes from our tourism districts.
- If you’re planning to explore more than one area or theme park in Orlando, you might want to opt for the convenience of a rental car. With most major rental car companies located onsite at MCO, SFB and many hotels, you will find the move from air to ground transportation seamless and easy.
- Check with your designated hotel or resort ahead of time to determine if shuttle service is provided to and from theme parks and the airport.
- The I-Ride Trolley offers an easy and economical way to explore the International Drive area without a car. You can hop on and off the trolley, which makes stops at a number of hotels and attractions on International Drive.
- Amtrak has had a station in downtown Orlando since 1926, and it’s still welcoming rail passengers to this day.
- Orlando’s commuter rail service, SunRail, runs from Poinciana near Walt Disney World in the south, to DeBary in the north. With the exception of special weekends and evenings, service is available Monday through Friday only.
- Brightline high-speed rail is scheduled to arrive in 2023, connecting Orlando to points south via Orlando International Airport.
Love to eat? You’re going to love Orlando. We have more than 6,000 restaurants for you to sample, ranging from quick counter service to the ultimate in fine dining. You’ll also discover nightlife and entertainment throughout the area.
Learn more: Eat & Drink in Orlando
MICHELIN Guide Restaurants & Acclaimed Chefs
- In 2022 and 2023, the MICHELIN Guide Miami, Orlando and Tampa found four One-Star restaurants, 11 Bib Gourmands and 31 Recommended eateries in Orlando.
- Orlando’s restaurants include those headed by celebrity chefs and local James Beard Award nominees, as well as experts on fine wine and craft beer, passionate advocates of the farm-to-table movement, pastry artisans, and restaurateurs.
Dining, Shopping & Entertainment Hubs
- Orlando boasts numerous all-in-one hubs featuring dining, shopping and entertainment. These include Disney Springs® at Walt Disney World, Universal CityWalk at Universal Orlando Resort, and ICON Park® and Pointe Orlando on International Drive.
- Orlando’s famous Restaurant Row is another place to find a wide range of great dining in a compact geographic area. Close to International Drive, the 1-mile stretch features dozens of acclaimed restaurants, including everything from family-friendly eateries to fine dining.
- Families looking to be entertained while they eat can choose from a bevy of dinner shows, including festive mealtime celebrations at select theme park resorts. Orlando is also home to numerous standalone dinner shows, including Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament and others.
Save on discount tickets: Orlando Dinner Shows
- Orlando has music-lovers covered. Top options include House of Blues at Disney Springs, Hard Rock Live® at Universal CityWalk, and the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, Amway Center and Camping World Stadium in downtown Orlando.
- Numerous other venues host live music, such as Blake Shelton’s Ole Red at ICON Park and Mango’s Tropical Cafe on International Drive.
- Adults who want a good laugh can opt for one of the city’s comedy clubs, including downtown’s SAK Comedy Lab and the Improv Comedy Club at Pointe Orlando.
With a vibrant mix of upscale malls, designer outlets and bespoke shopping districts, Orlando is a shopper’s paradise no matter your preferences or budget.
Malls & Outlet Stores
- Mall-lovers won’t want to miss The Mall at Millenia, which features the area’s only Bloomingdale’s and Neiman Marcus. Another must-visit is The Florida Mall®, which is Orlando’s largest mall with more than 250 stores and an onsite hotel.
- A shopping must for first-time visitors and value-hunters is bargain shopping at Lake Buena Vista Factory Stores, Orlando International Premium Outlets® and Orlando Vineland Premium Outlets®.
- Take advantage of Orlando’s sunny climate by shopping outside. Tree-lined Park Avenue in Winter Park, about 30 minutes from our main tourism districts, offers several cobblestoned blocks filled with upscale clothing, hip boutiques, outdoor cafes and unique art galleries.
- Boutique shopping can also be found in charming neighborhoods throughout the downtown Orlando area, including Thornton Park, Ivanhoe Village, College Park, Audubon Park and more, as well as the nearby city of Winter Garden.