Orlando is since long home to Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck. More recently in time, Harry Potter was added to the prominent list of characters that call Orlando their home. But where to stay in Orlando for the ideal location?
Great alternatives are Lake Buena Vista, International Drive/Southwest Orlando, Kissimmee and Downtown Orlando.
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Staying in Lake Buena Vista
Lake Buena Vista is the formal postal address of Walt Disney World. In this area you stay just next to where Animal Kingdom, Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios and Epcot are located.
In Lake Buena Vista you also find Disney Resorts, with the possibility of making the stay a full Disney experience. But many of the big hotel chains also have hotels in Buena Vista if you look for other options.
To cover the shopping need, Disney Springs is located in Lake Buena Vista. And Disney Springs is not just a regular shopping center. It’s a themed shopping, dining and entertainment center, as the name suggest with a beautiful waterfront location.
If you want to go to any other area of Orlando, you reach Florida Mall and Universal Studios in about 20 minutes.
All in all, Lake Buena Vista is for the visitor who wants to focus on Disney World and have the Disney experience 24/7. Here you can stay close to Disney’s theme parks, on a Disney resort and even have Disney Springs for shopping and other entertainment right at your doorsteps.
Staying at International Drive/Southwest Orlando
International Drive is 11 miles long (18 km) and the street is lined with hotels, restaurants, shops, nightlife and tourist attractions. The latter of course includes amusement parks, but ranges from offbeat museums and wax exhibitions to escape rooms, virtual reality attractions and a huge observation wheel. Orlando’s main tourist strip is so diverse that it has something to offer for anyone.
I-Drive, as it’s also called, is located very strategically between Lake Buena Vista with Walt Disney World and the Universal parks. Therefore, it’s very easy to get to the main parks if you stay here. And many of the hotels offer shuttle service to the parks.
When you decide that I-Drive is where to stay in Orlando, it means that you base yourself on the biggest tourist street in Orlando. It’s a great choice for the diverse eateries and attractions. And of course it makes sense to stay between Disney and Universal if you plan to visit both.
Staying in Kissimmee
Kissimmee is a small city that sits a short distance south of Orlando. Here you find a more peaceful atmosphere compared to International Drive and Downtown Orlando.
But what’s an advantage is also an disadvantage. It’s peaceful and more spread out in Kissimmee, but you will need to drive to get to all the theme parks and other attractions.
Here you find lots of villa communities compared to if you stay at International Drive. It’s also often possible to find more affordable rates here compared to if you stay closer to the parks.
To sum up, Kissimmee is a great choice to stay in if you look for a more spread out living some distance away from all the action. Just be prepared that you will need to drive to all the theme parks.
Staying in Downtown Orlando
I-Drive is the main entertainment strip in Orlando, but it’s in downtown you find the city’s heart and soul.
Here you can really catch a break from the otherwise seemingly endless theme park atmosphere in other parts of the city.
Orlando became a city in 1885 and the orginial railroad depot still iconicly stands in the center of downtown. In Downtown Orlando you also find local boutiques, Lake Eola Park, top restaurants and a fun nightlife scene. In downtown, a social and exciting night out is never far away.
For a more educational approach, Orlando Science Centre is located just outside downtown. The museum has become an institution for its efforts to bring science to the people.
But all things mentioned, Downtown Orlando is pretty far away from the big theme parks. It roughly takes 30 minutes from downtown to Lake Buena Vista.
So if you come for theme parks, look somewhere else. But if you look for an authentic stay with some good nightlife, Downtown Orlando is a great option.
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