Updated October 10, 2019
Orlando, about an hour's drive from Port Canaveral terminal complex, is known for its theme parks: The triumvirate , Universal Studios and SeaWorld is a key reason that Orlando is most visited spot in United States. But fact is, all those parks are located near a vibrant city, which remains somewhat a secret, as most visitors never venture out tourist areas. Here's how to sample Orlando's diversity in a single day.
You're going to have a busy day, so start your day off with a hearty, Southern-style breakfa Christo's (1815 Edgewater Drive) in College Park is a casual diner-style restaurant in one Orlando's cutest neighborhoods, with an outdoor patio and killer biscuits and gravy. Or hit Coop (610 W. Morse Boulevard) in Winter Park; sister restaurant popular 4 Rivers Smokehouse, it'll get you going with dishes like sweet potato and pecan pancakes or poutine topped with a fried egg. If you're on theme park track, set up a character breakfast with Mickey or Minnie; these usually give you early admission parks so you beat .
Hit a theme park in the morning before the heat kicks in. Walt is great for younger kids, while Universal Studios -- home Incredible Hulk roller coaster ride and two Harry Potter-themed mini-parks -- is a favorite for teens and tweens. SeaWorld is great for budding naturalists, and it's more like an outdoor zoo than a traditional theme park.
If theme parks aren't your thing, hit a natural attraction. Central Florida is dotted with freshwater springs ideal for kayaking or swimming (the latter in designated areas only, please -- alligators like the springs, too). Wekiwa Springs State Park offers kayaking and canoeing, while Rock Springs Run is a popular spot for tubing; both are in nearby Apopka.
After the park (whichever one you choose), head downtown to take in some local scenery. Dexter's in Thornton Park (808 E. Washington Street) is a locally owned go-to, with big salads, pastas and tasty sandwiches. Or pick up takeout from the artisanal vendors at East End Market (3201 Corrine Drive), and head out for a picnic. Explore downtown on wheels through Orlando bike-share program. colorful orange bikes are stationed at 20 spots across town. Six dollars gets you an hour's rental; take to Orlando Urban Trail, which winds past lakes and moss-draped live oaks in City Beautiful.
Head up charming Winter Park, and stroll cobblestone main street. At eastern end, you'll find lakefront campus Rollins College, founded in 1885 and named "#1 Most Beautiful College Campus" Princeton Review in 2015. On other end Park Avenue is Charles Hosmer Morse Museum Art (445 N. Park Avenue), home largest works Louis Comfort Tiffany found anywhere. In between two are Park Avenue shopping district and grassy expanse Central Park. You can also do a boat or paddleboard tour town's chain lakes, spying on gorgeous homes that banks.
There's a lot great indie dining options in area. Enjoy creative, seasonal Italian fare -- and fab people-watching match -- at Prato (124 N. Park Avenue, Winter Park), or head to Orlando's Vietnamese eateries in Mills 50 District for all kinds pho. Closer theme parks, Restaurant Row on Sand Lake Road has loads options, from fresh Mexican at Rocco's Tacos fine dining at Seasons 52. (Keep an eye out for pro athletes who come for health-forward menu.)
Downtown Orlando has fantastic live entertainment, from major Broadway performances at striking new Dr. Phillips Center for Performing Arts (445 S. Magnolia Avenue) and Amway Center (400 W. Church Street), preferred spot for concerts. Orlando Magic basketball games in season. Man and Cirque du Soleil perform nightly at Universal and Downtown , respectively.
Pointe Orlando is Orlando's newest nightlife spot. Set on south end Drive, it underwent a major renovation, timed with opening Orlando Eye Ferris wheel in May 2015. Enjoy live blues at B.B. Kings or fresh comedy at Improv Comedy , or hit dance floor at Martini, which stays open until 2 a.m.