3-day Itinerary in Orlando-Walt Disney World
Explore the best things to do in Orlando-Walt Disney World in 3 days based on recommendations from local experts.
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Excessive, exhausting and expensive, Walt Disney World Resort is above all else enchanting. Composed of four theme parks (the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney's Hollywood Studios and Disney's Animal Kingdom), two water parks (Disney's Typhoon Lagoon and Disney's Blizzard Beach), more than two dozen hotels and the Disney Springs shopping, dining and entertainment complex, this sprawling property features iconic sights and rides like Cinderella Castle, "it's a small world," Spaceship Earth, Toy Story Land and Pandora – The World of Avatar. Even Anaheim's Disneyland can't compete, according to some.
Of course, there is one major drawback. Walt Disney World park tickets are expensive, regardless of whether you're visiting for just a day (single-day tickets for kids and adults ages 10 and older start at $109). Meanwhile, one-day water park tickets start at $64 for adults 10 and older. Most suggest you visit this expansive property over the course of several days to justify the high entrance fees. If you have limited time, consider skipping the parks in favor of exploring Disney Springs, which is free to visit.10-15 minutes by car
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The International Drive Resort Area is one of Orlando's most diverse regions to visit. Situated less than 10 miles southwest of downtown Orlando, this area features a variety of shopping, dining and entertainment venues, including WonderWorks, two outlet malls, Ripley's Believe It or Not! and Pirate's Cove Adventure miniature golf course. Eateries here offer all sorts of cuisines, or travelers can enjoy a meal while watching a themed show. For night owls, I-Drive boasts a B.B. King-affiliated blues club, a Howl at the Moon dueling pianos venue, a Señor Frog's restaurant and bar, the world's largest permanent ice bar and more.
Though several former visitors caution that I-Drive tends to get clogged with cars, many said everything one could need is located along this road. Plus, prices here aren't as high as those found in the adjacent theme parks.
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Whether you're traveling with little ones, teenagers, friends or your significant other, odds are you'll find something to enjoy at Universal Orlando Resort. This sprawling entertainment area features two theme parks, as well as Universal CityWalk, a pedestrian thoroughfare with shops, restaurants, a movie theater and nightclubs. The original park – Universal Studios Florida – is home to the 3-D Despicable Me Minion Mayhem ride and The Simpsons Ride, while Universal's Islands of Adventure has several rollercoasters and "Jurassic Park"-themed rides and experiences, among other highlights. A water park – Universal's Volcano Bay – is also available.
But the main draw of Universal Orlando's parks is its Harry Potter sections. In Universal Studios Florida, you'll find The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley, where you can escape from Gringotts, eat at the Leaky Cauldron or get chosen by a wand at Ollivanders wand shop. And at Universal's Islands of Adventure, there's The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade, which houses the Three Broomsticks, Hogwarts and Hagrid's hut.10-15 minutes by car
- 2#6View all Photos#6 in Orlando-Walt Disney WorldShopping, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDShopping, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Popular brands like Apple and H&M rub elbows with high-end boutiques like Prada and Versace at the The Mall at Millenia. Providing a nice change of pace from the overpriced souvenirs you'd purchase inside one of Orlando's parks, this mall houses approximately 150 stores to browse. It also offers a great way to pass the time on a rainy day.
Several prior travelers appreciated The Mall at Millenia's assortment of stores, which appeal to an array of budgets. Another plus: the variety of dining options. Everything from grab-and-go eateries in the food court to chain restaurants like P.F. Chang's and The Cheesecake Factory can be found here. There's even a Capital Grille to satisfy shoppers looking to treat themselves to a formal meal.10-20 minutes by car
- 1#8View all Photos#8 in Orlando-Walt Disney WorldGolfTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDGolfTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
If you're not coming to Orlando to explore its theme parks, chances are you've come to visit its links. More than 170 golf courses – many of which have ties to area resorts – can be found throughout Orlando and its suburbs. Walt Disney World Resort offers four courses, while guests who stay at accommodations located on Universal Orlando Resort grounds receive golf privileges at select area fairways.
According to prior visitors, some of Orlando's best greens are part of the Villas of Grand Cypress Orlando, the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club Orlando, Grande Lakes and the Waldorf Astoria Orlando properties, thanks in part to their beautiful surroundings and friendly staff. Another favorite: Arnold Palmer's Bay Hill Club & Lodge's Champion, Challenger and Charger links. This course was rated among the best public golf courses in Florida by Golf Magazine and is popular with locals and tourists alike. However, a few previous visitors felt that the Disney courses were a bit overpriced, especially after factoring in the average link conditions, and just like its park, crowded.10-15 minutes by car
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There are animal encounters and then there's Discovery Cove – a companion site to SeaWorld Orlando that receives rave reviews from past travelers. Here, you can get up close and personal with dolphins, stingrays, marmosets and otters, plus exotic birds. And since it's a reservation-only park (capacity is capped at 1,300 guests per day), you'll get to interact with the animals and trainers more intimately. When you're not swimming with the dolphins, try snorkeling with tropical fish and rays in the park's coral reef or floating throughout the park's lush landscape on the Wind-Away River. If you need a break from the water, dry off on one of the beaches or feed some of the birds in Discovery Cove's Explorer's Aviary.
According to recent visitors, it's this plethora of diverse attractions that make Discovery Cove such a memorable Orlando experience and many also comment on how relaxing the park is to visit. While a trip here will cost you (packages start at $149 per person without the dolphin swim experience), past visitors offer a few cost-saving tips: Avoid buying the pricey photo package offered by Discovery Cove. And if you're not set on swimming with dolphins, opt for the standard Day Resort Package instead of the more expensive all-inclusive Dolphin Swim Package (which starts at $199 per person). If you're planning to visit SeaWorld and Aquatica, it may be worthwhile to purchase one of the park's package deals, which offers one-day admission to Discovery Cove, as well as unlimited admission to SeaWorld and Aquatica. Packages start at $170 per person.2 minutes by car; 10 minutes by bus
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While Mickey's house and Harry's wizarding world are certainly magical, many vacationers find Shamu's lair equally enchanting. And if you're short on time, you might want to make this central Orlando spot a priority. Larger resorts like Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando are best enjoyed over a few days, anyway. Take your pick of rides (including Orlando's tallest, fastest and longest rollercoaster, Mako) and an array of shows and exhibits.
Travelers love SeaWorld's animal experiences, heart-pounding rides and relaxed atmosphere, but some caution that food and merchandise are pricey and lines can be long. Meanwhile, others warned that the park is better suited to older kids as most of the rides do not allow young children.
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