People call Orlando, Florida, The City Beautiful for its sunny weather, its impressive skyline, and the hundreds of scenic lakes in the area. It’s also called the theme park capital of the world. You can see Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, and more. All these attractions make the city one of the most popular destinations in the United States. This useful guide can help you plan your next visit to Orlando. Learn about the best places to stay and things to do in this exciting city.

Early Morning: Grab Breakfast

A delicious breakfast will give you the energy you need to spend a day seeing all the sights in Orlando. Many of these restaurants serve lunch as well as breakfast.

The Orlando Business Journal’s Readers’ Choice Awards and the Orlando Sentinel Foodie Awards voted Shakers American Café in the College Park neighborhood the best breakfast in the city. It’s been open for more than 20 years, and it has a wide selection of omelets and quiches. You can look at the collection of cute salt and pepper shakers while you wait for your meal at this old-school diner. Eat breakfast anytime on Saturday or Sunday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. On weekdays, it’s from 6:30 to 11 a.m.

Keke’s Breakfast Café has locations all over Florida, but the restaurant started in Orlando. You can indulge in treats like the Banana Split Waffle, with banana, pineapple, strawberries, chocolate fudge, and pecans. There’s also stuffed French toast with a choice of blueberries, strawberries, bananas, pineapples, or other fillings. For a healthier breakfast, try the egg white and vegetable wrap with a choice of meats and vegetables. Breakfast is served every day from 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Dixie Belle’s is a family-owned place that serves Southern comfort food along with some traditional Mexican dishes. Dogs are welcome in the outdoor dining area, and it’s open on weekdays from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. and on weekends from 6:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Try the famous biscuits and gravy, country fried steak, a 10-ounce steak with eggs, or catfish and eggs. The SOTB or south of the border omelet has sausage, cheese, tomato, onion, salsa, and sour cream wrapped in a flour tortilla.

lake eola park
The Lake Eola Park in Orlando.

Midmorning: Stretch Your Legs

After breakfast, take a walk around some the city’s scenic spots before the weather gets too hot. Lake Eola Park in downtown Orlando has a Chinese pagoda and a playground, and it’s famous for the fountain in the middle of the lake. At night, there’s a light show that changes colors. You can rent a boat and paddle to the center of the lake to see it up close. Many people call the fountain the unofficial symbol of Orlando. You can also explore the Orlando Farmers Market in the park every Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The Isle of Pine Preserve Trails has nine different natural communities and more than 3,000 acres of wildlife corridor. It’s next to Lake Mary Jane, and it contains marshes, swamps, and wooded areas. You could see gopher tortoises, fox squirrels, turkeys, deer, hawks, or songbirds. The trails even have some insectivorous plants, including the hooded pitcher plant and the sundew. It’s perfect for hiking or horseback riding.

Gatorland is a wildlife preserve and theme park that covers 110 acres. It’s along the Orange Blossom Trail south of Orlando. The park has thousands of alligators and crocodiles, reptile shows, an aviary, a breeding marsh with a boardwalk and observation tower, a petting zoo, and more. It buys alligators from trappers to save them from being killed for their meat and skin, and it was used in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

There’s also an exhibit with native Florida snakes. You can ride the Gatorland Express train or take a zip line over a pool of alligators. Guided tours give you a chance to see these intimidating creatures up close, and there’s a gift shop with lots of fun souvenirs.

If you’re looking for a place that’s a bit more relaxing, visit the Harry P. Leu Gardens. It has more than 50 acres of scenic gardens, including the most extensive rose garden in Florida and the largest camellia collection in the United States outside of California.

The Leu House, Harry P. Leu’s former home, was built in the 1880s. Tours are available every half hour, and it has a museum to teach people what living in the 19th century was like. On Mondays, admission is free from 9 a.m. to noon. The house is closed during July, but the garden is open every day except Christmas Day.

Harry p leu gardens
The Harry P. Leu Gardens in Orlando.

Noon: Enjoy a Relaxing Lunch

After you get some exercise outdoors, have a relaxing lunch with your friends or family members. Visit Artisan’s Table in downtown Orlando to try a variety of unique dishes. This restaurant has handmade furniture, original art, a bar and lounge, a private wine room, and outdoor dining. The menu is always changing, so it’s a great place for repeat visits. Try the Artisan Burger, which includes short ribs and briskets, tomato, yellow mustard, pickle slices, bacon marmalade, a brioche bun, and gruyere, cheddar, pepper jack, and gorgonzola cheese.

The Jalapeno Popper Mac has Jalapeno queso, cavatappi pasta, bacon, and breadcrumbs. The Sesame Noodle Salad is an even more unique dish, with pickled mango,‏ peanuts, carrots, red pepper, napa cabbage, scallions, cilantro, and sesame udon noodles. You can also add chicken, salmon, or steak. Lunch is from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Bad As’s Sandwich offers lots of huge, decadent dishes for sandwich lovers. The Big Boy has roasted pork, bacon, Asian slaw, pepperoni, Havarti cheese, roasted mushrooms, tater tots, pickled onions, cilantro, tomatoes, Creole mustard, and aioli sauce. The Hangover has beef, bacon, a fried egg, crispy onions, Havarti cheese, and raisin aioli sauce. For a healthier meal, order the HHH or Happy Healthy Humans sandwich with seasonal vegetables.

Jurassic park discovery center
The Jurassic Park Discovery Center in Orlando.

Afternoon: Check Out Some Indoor Attractions

You can avoid the afternoon heat by exploring some of the city’s indoor attractions. The Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Orlando Odditorium is a fun visit for kids and adults. It has 16 galleries with interesting oddities, and the building is designed to look like it’s collapsing on one side. There’s a scale model of a 1907 Rolls Royce Silver Ghost automobile made completely from matchsticks and glue, a bunch of shrunken heads, a vampire killing kit, and more. Kids under two get free admission, and it’s open from 9 a.m. to midnight 365 days per year.

The Crayola Experience is full of unique, interactive art exhibits for kids. They can make a sculpture from crayon wax, make art that glows in the dark, learn how crayons are made, and more. It’s open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Dinner: Indulge in a Gourmet Meal or a Fun Show

Hillstone is on the banks of Lake Killarney in nearby Winter Park, so you can enjoy stunning sunsets. The menu includes classics like grilled chicken salad, prime New York strip steak, jumbo fried shrimp, and key lime pie. This restaurant has a dress code, so avoid wearing tank tops and flip-flops. No reservations are required.

For a unique experience, watch a show with your dinner. At Sleuths Mystery Dinner Show, you become a detective solving a mystery. A cast of actors opens with a short magic trick and then acts out the mystery. If you and your team find out who committed the crime, you get a prize.

Unlimited wine and beer are included for people over 21, and kids over 12 are welcome. You might even get chosen for a cameo in the show. Choose Cornish game hen, prime rib, or lasagna with a mystery dessert. Shows usually start at 6 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., but another show is often available at 10 p.m. on weekends.

city stadium
The Orlando City Stadium in Orlando.

Where to Stay in Orlando

When you’re finished with exploring the city for the day, you and your family will need a comfortable place to stay. Without a good night’s sleep, you won’t be able to have fun on the next day of your vacation.

The Top Hotels

In Orlando, you can choose from lots of excellent hotels. The Waldorf Astoria Orlando’s spacious, luxurious rooms have separate living rooms with bars, glass-enclosed showers, and separate tubs. It’s in the southeast corner of Walt Disney World. At the Villas of Grand Cypress, the rooms have private patios that face the water or the hotel’s beautiful golf course. There’s also an outdoor pool and several bike trails.

The Best Private Rentals

If you’re taking your trip with a large group, you can save money by booking a private rental instead of a hotel. Homes near Walt Disney World with up to seven bedrooms, pools, hot tubs, game rooms, and more are available.

Whether you’re looking for family fun, a good place to enjoy nature, or a place to hang out with friends, you can have an amazing time in Orlando.