Downtown Orlando
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Downtown Orlando

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Orlando travel guide

-0400
Orlando Local time

If there was ever a city dedicated to enjoyment, Orlando would be it. Even the most cursory drive through the city will tell you one thing: there is no disguising the fact that Orlando is a city built on theme parks. Lots of them.

However, it is strange to think that until the mid-20th century, there was precious little here in Central Florida. A few roadside attractions aside, it was one man, Walt Disney, who really changed the landscape. No matter which way you slice it, growth has spiralled thanks to a huge influx of tourists that followed the arrival of Walt Disney World Resort.

Almost all of Florida’s cities and resorts are based around its long coastline, naturally capitalising on the beaches or swampland national parks that attract so many international visitors. Orlando is the only real exception, a strange, idiosyncratic place in the middle of the Floridian wasteland, and coincidentally one of the most famous resort towns in the world attracting over 70 million tourists a year.

Most head straight to one of the theme parks, the biggest and most famous being Disney World. Beginning with the original Magic Kingdom, which opened in 1971, the park has expanded to encompass three more theme parks, two water parks, a mini-town called Disney Springs and a pretty lakeside stretch known as the Boardwalk. But while theme parks dominate, Orlando has built a distinct character of its own. There has been a stab at giving the city some historic context with the promotion of ‘Old Orlando’, a stretch of the increasingly gentrified Downtown which includes Orange and Garland Avenues.

There is also the pretty Lake Eola, with brick streets lined with old oak trees and 19th-century homes, as well as retro roadside attractions such as Gatorland.

Really though, Orlando is all about encouraging as many people to have as much fun as they can cram into a fortnight–whether that is at Disney World, Universal Studios or in the city centre itself.

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