A laughter-evoking Central Florida hub, Orlando is the kind of place where the thrilling rides to take and cheerful characters to greet never seem to end. Luckily, you don’t have to leave when the attractions close up for the day: Check in at the Walt Disney World Resort or Universal Orlando Resort to make your entire stay a theme park adventure.
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- Don’t look past Lake Buena Vista for a stay orbiting around Disney World. Families love Wyndham Grand Orlando Bonnet Creek for its numerous swimming pools.
- Universal Orlando Resort offers accommodation matching that whimsical theme park action. The retro vibe at Cabana Bay Beach Resort makes it easy to settle in, young or old.
- Well, there is, in fact, much more to Orlando than those gigantic theme parks. International Drive provides a diverse entertainment scene, Downtown Orlando embraces its long history and Kissimmee delivers tranquility.
Lake Buena Vista
Lake Buena Vista is the postal address of Walt Disney World. Stay here to enjoy the magical worlds of Disney —Animal Kingdom, Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios and Epcot — right on your doorstep.
To get the complete, most effortless Disney experience, opt for one of the jaw-dropping resorts inside Disney World. But, for something more neutral (and budget friendly), a smorgasbord of hotels provide lodging close to Disney World too.
Disney Springs is the go-to place for shopping in Lake Buena Vista. This is not a regular shopping center but a themed entertainment center with shopping and dining, and a beautiful waterfront.
For additional shopping, Florida Mall is only a 20-minute drive from Lake Buena Vista. And for more theme parks, it takes roughly the same amount of time to reach Universal Studios by car.
All in all, Lake Buena Vista is the best place to stay in Orlando for Disney fans. Here you bed down adjacent to Disney’s spectacular theme parks and enjoy shopping and dining at Disney Springs.
Pick Lake Buena Vista for: Accommodations at Disney World.
Best Lake Buena Vista hotels
- Walt Disney World Swan Reserve – Nestled in the heart of Disney World, the luxurious Walt Disney World Swan Reserve brings extra “wow” factor to the Disney magic. Guests can take advantage of complimentary transportation to the parks, including memorable water taxi to the neighboring Epcot and Hollywood Studios. After a long, fun-filled day, sit down at the classy on-site Amare restaurant serving Mediterranean-inspired dishes.
- Wyndham Grand Orlando Resort Bonnet Creek – A wet delight, this family-friendly resort at the beginning of Disney World boasts not one, two, three of four but five inviting swimming pools, two lazy rivers and countless hot tubs — all surrounding a 10-acre lake. When it’s time to hit the theme parks, just hop onto the free shuttle to get there.
- Candlewood Suites – You can stay near Disney World without paying the Disney premium or sacrificing comfort. Candlewood Suites, a Disney World neighbor within 4 miles (6 km) of all the Disney parks, provides roomy suites equipped with kitchen for those times you want to prepare your own meals.
Universal Resort area
Universal Orlando Resort encompasses two jaw-dropping theme parks: Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure. Check in at a hotel inside the Universal Orlando Resort to be in the front row for all its thrilling series-and-movie-inspired attractions, including the big-ticket Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
When staying within the Universal Resort area, you can reap exclusive benefits. Take the complimentary transportation to the parks and, maybe even better, get early access to select Universal attractions.
The CityWalk complements the high-paced in-park action with relaxed off-park activities. Play some miniature golf, grab something to eat or just cool down with a drink — families and couples alike thrive here.
While the Universal Resort area is an irresistible base for supporters of Gryffindor, Slytherin, Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff, it’s a great place to stay Orlando for anyone who wants a central base. Disney World, International Drive or Downtown Orlando — all is available within 20 minutes’ drive.
In short, pick the Universal Resort area for unbeatable access to the Universal parks. But also consider the Universal Resort if you look for a friendly base in near proximity to other Orlando highlights.
Pick Universal Resort for: Universal lodging.
Best Universal Resort hotels
- Loews Royal Pacific Resort – Be enchanted by the Polynesian-inspired paradise of Loews Royal Pacific Resort. This is a luxurious place to stay where everything, from the lagoon-style swimming pool to the tropically decorated rooms, has been carefully refined to radiate vacation vibes.
- Cabana Bay Beach Resort – Designed in retro mid 20th-century style, the Cabana Bay Beach Resort is a great place to have fun together with your loved ones. Splash in the large pools, play some bowling or just feel on top of the world with the exclusive benefits of staying inside Universal Resort.
The 11-mile (18 km) International Drive, or just I-Drive, meanders from the Universal Resort (north) towards Lake Buena Vista (south). This is a great option for where to stay in Orlando to appreciate the city’s wide range of entertainment, which goes far beyond Disney and Universal.
I-Drive is lined with hotels, restaurants, shops, nightlife venues and an array of attractions. Immerse yourself in amusement parks, offbeat museums, wax exhibitions, escape rooms, virtual reality spots, a huge observation wheel and much, much more.
So diverse, Orlando’s main tourist strip has something to offer for all.
But note that I-Drive presents two different faces: North International Drive boasts prime access to the Universal parks and a busier entertainment scene, while South International Drive puts you closer to Disney World and caters to those who prefer it quieter.
In short, International Drive is Orlando’s main strip brimming with energy. On top of its own diverse attractions, International Drive handily puts you between the Universal parks and Disney World.
Pick International Drive for: Access to entertainment and theme parks.
Best International Drive hotels
- Marriott’s Harbour Lake – Marriott’s Harbour Lake is elegantly positioned in the South International Drive area, just a stone’s throw from SeaWorld. Expect spacious suites in bright, tropical colors — just what you expect from a Florida vacation.
- Hilton near Universal – You find this comfy Orlando hotel at the northern end of International Drive. Its convenient location and immaculate rooms are easy to appreciate, especially after fun but long days at the theme parks.
There was — believe it or not — an Orlando long before the theme parks. Downtown Orlando is for those who want to discover the city’s historic heart and soul, away from the otherwise seemingly endless theme park atmosphere.
Orlando became a city in 1885, and the original railroad depot still iconically stands in downtown’s heart. Downtown Orlando also features the calming Lake Eola Park, trendy boutiques and mouthwatering eateries.
Add to that an array of vibrating bars and nightclubs. A crowd-pleasing place for a big night out, the Wall Street Plaza provides seven different venues in one high-spirited location.
Rather indulge in science? Take a short drive over to the nearby Orlando Science Centre. Bringing science to the people, the educational yet amusing museum attracts people of all ages with its hands-on exhibits.
How far is Downtown Orlando from Universal and Disney World?
While Downtown Orlando feels a world away from the modern-day theme park experience, it’s not that far. You can drive from Downtown Orlando to Universal in under 20 minutes and to Disney World in under 30 minutes.
All in all, the downtown area makes clear that Orlando isn’t only about theme parks. This is a great choice for accommodations if you want a more authentic Orlando stay, exploring what most other visitors miss out on.
Pick Downtown Orlando for: An authentic Orlando stay.
Kissimmee is a city located just south of Orlando. But within a 30-minute drive of the golden trio — Disney World, Universal and Orlando International Airport — Kissimmee knows all about convenience.
In Kissimmee, you find a more peaceful vibe, compared to other Orlando areas. Picture villa communities and an in general more spread-out environment, where driving is the best way of getting around.
While Kissimmee features a great location for enjoying the famous theme parks of Orlando, its slightly hidden position means more affordable lodging rates. Your hard-earned dollars, thankfully, last slightly longer here.
To sum up, Kissimmee is a top choice for where to stay in Orlando if you prefer quiet, spread-out living. Just be prepared that you will need to drive to that entertainment that you came for.
Pick Kissimmee for: A peaceful, budget-friendly Orlando area.
Best hotels in Kissimmee
- Villas at Fortune Place – These villas show exactly why Kissimmee is such a popular option for where to stay in Orlando. Relax in your airy two-bedroom or three-bedroom apartment or spread out on the spacious property where the opportunities for outdoor recreation impress.
Where to stay in Orlando FAQ
Lake Buena Vista is the best area for Disney World, while the Universal Resort caters to those who prefer Universal’s action. International Drive, Orlando’s main entertainment strip, stands out for its wider range of entertainment. Downtown Orlando welcomes you to try a more authentic angle without that signature theme parks focus. The Kissimmee area is great for a peaceful stay within easy reach of the theme parks.
Five swimming pools and two lazy rivers make Wyndham Grand Orlando Resort Bonnet Creek one of the best places to stay in Orlando for families who target Disney World. Within the Universal Resort, Cabana Bay Beach Resort may have fewer pools but makes that up with a bowling alley.
With an array of vibrating bars and nightclubs, Downtown Orlando is the best area to stay in Orlando for nightlife. To enjoy dining and cocktails, other fun spots include International Drive, Disney Springs and Universal’s CityWalk.
The upscale Walt Disney World Swan Reserve, at the heart of Disney World, offers a rare elegance and complimentary water taxi to Epcot and Hollywood Studios. Another jaw-dropping option near Disney with free park transportation, Wyndham Grand Orlando Resort Bonnet Creek proudly presents five pools and two lazy rivers.
Radiating luxurious Polynesian vibes, Loews Royal Pacific Resort is one of the best hotels in Orlando near the Universal parks. Less upscale but at least as fun, the Cabana Bay Beach Resort features a retro atmosphere and a bowling alley. Both these gems are located within the Universal Orlando Resort and offer complimentary park transport.
Whether it’s better to stay in Kissimmee or Orlando depends on your preferences. There’s lodging directly at both Disney World and Universal Studios, offering the most effortless theme park experiences. However, Kissimmee provides spread-out living, and often more budget-friendly rates, less than 30 minutes away.
The beaches closest Orlando are those on the Atlantic coast; Cape Canaveral and Cocoa Beach are located within 1 hour’s drive of Downtown Orlando. If you rather hit the Gulf of Mexico, make the 2-hour drive over to the sugar-white Clearwater Beach instead.
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