Home of Walt Disney World Resort, Universal Studios Orlando and SeaWorld Orlando, it’s no wonder Orlando is one of the most popular family vacation destinations in the country. In what was once a small town full of citrus groves and cow pastures, the Greater Orlando Metropolitan region is now home to one of the largest clusters of amusement parks, a sprawling suburban landscape, the University of Central Florida, as well as the downtown city of Orlando.
The city of Orlando is the county seat for Orange County, Florida and is located within the central area of the state. Orlando was established as a city in 1885 and was the leader for Florida’s booming citrus industry. The area was also known for its cattle ranches for beef production as well as cotton in the city’s early day, which diminished during the Civil War. It wasn’t until 1965 that Orlando was really put on the map when Walt Disney decided to build Walt Disney World in nearby Lake Buena Vista, after deciding against his other options in Miami or Tampa because of the threat of hurricanes. Disney’s dream resort opened its doors to the public in 1971 and has been the leading force in Orlando’s burgeoning tourism industry ever since.
While families are sure to flock to Orlando for a visit to the major parks such as Walt Disney World, Universal Studios and SeaWorld, there are many other great amusement and theme parks to round out any fun-filled family vacation. Discovery Cove is a unique park that allows only a limited amount of guests per day but offers an unforgettable opportunity to swim with dolphins. To discover yet another native Florida creature, head to Gatorland where the theme of this park is everything reptile and alligator. For those looking to cool down in the heat and humidity, Orlando also has its fair share of water parks including Aquatica and Wet ‘N Wild.
Downtown Orlando, located about 20 miles from the theme park haven of Lake Buena Vista, offers an appealing diversion from the parks with its popular nightlife options along Orange Avenue such as bars, restaurants, clubs, concert venues and theaters. Cultural attractions such as museums, parks and sporting events are also prominent here, making this destination truly a place for anyone looking for a getaway with abounding possibilities for entertainment and family-fun activities.