Is there really more than one answer to that question? Disney!
Notwithstanding that Orlando is a major industrial and high tech center – you’re probably not camping here on a business trip. The metro area has a $13.4 billion technology industry employing 53,000 people; and is a nationally recognized cluster of innovation in digital media, agricultural technology, aviation, aerospace, and software design. More than 150 international companies, representing approximately 20 countries, have facilities in Metro Orlando.
But as a tourist, you’re most likely to be more interested in Walt Disney World, Epcot, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, Typhoone Lagood Water Park, Blizzard Beach Water Park, Downtown Disney, ESPN Wide World of Sports, Disney’s Boarwalk Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure, City Walk, SeaWorld, Gatorland and Wet ‘n Wild.
We made, like many parents, the mistake of taking our kids to Disney when they were too young. They really have no memory of the trip and Kate , who was in stroller, certainly has no memory. When I going to flight school in Daytona, everyone who visited wanted to see Disney, so I’ve visited there 20 or more times and it doesn’t have the same attraction that it had the first time I visited And since we are practicing our golden years budgeting, the $200 plus ticket for us is a bit of an extravagance.
It’s very easy to drop a ton of cash at Disney in a very short time period but there are ways of economizing. Camping is one way to economize although not at Fort Wilderness Campground as much as I hear that it’s a wonderful place to “camp”. There are tons of hotels on International Drive and along West Memorial Highway, many advertising some low rates. It’s a bit of a drive to Magic Kingdom but both are fairly close. There are lots of reasonably priced campgrounds in the area. Many have cabins if you’re not a tent camper or RVer which is one way to economize if you have a big family or if you’re traveling with friends.
But there are other interesting and cheap or free attractions in the area. I’ve just scratched the surface, while concentrating close our location on the west side of Orlando.
Downtown Disney is free and meh, worth the trip I guess. It’s lots of shopping for gifts, restaurants and movie theaters – very commercialized but did I say it was free.
Showcase Citrus a few miles north of the campground on RT 27 is a self-pick organic citrus farm that’s a lot of fun. There’s a farm store, a lake out back with some seating to spend some time relaxing and a few farm animals for the kids watch which was Lola’s favorite feature. She slipped out of our hands and started chasing a rooster, stopping just short of the lake where the rooster jumped in to safety. I could just see the horrified children has she caught the rooster with feathers flying everywhere. The rooster paddled through the lake to safety. One of the workers laughed and commented that “I’ve never seen them do that”.
Honey Bell Tangelos – the most amazing fruit I’ve ever tasted. They are ugly on the outside but so juicy and sweet on the inside. There is a grove grove of them towards the back of the farm unmarked and I’m not disclosing their secret location. The marked location closer to the entrance to the farm is pretty barren from picking.
Just north of Showcase Citrus towards Clermont is The Presidents Hall of Fame with wax dummies, statues and other presidential memorobilia. It made the Roadside America website, a really interesting online guide to offbeat tourist attractions. I would suggest taking a look at some of the attractions in your home town. There are most likely some interesting attractions there that you have never seen.
Almost next door to Showcase Citrus is The Citrus Tower. It was one of the Florida’s first attractions, built to 226′ with and observation tower. It’s original purpose was to view the sweeping expanse of citrus farms but now, it’s more and observation tower of urban sprawl.
The Tiki Bar and Grill at Lake Minneola Inn was one of those out-of-the-way finds, located at 508 S Main Ave in Minneola. The menu is bar food but barb and I had a nice grouper sandwich and the view is beautiful after you choke a bit walking through the “tiki” smudge pots on the path leading to the lake.
If you’re looking for a fun and casual place to dine in a new city, I suggest looking for pet friendly restaurants even if you’re not taking your dog (assuming you’re not a non-lover of someone else’s pets). Most dog friendly restaurants have outdoor seating and they’re more casual, not taking themselves too seriously.