A quick overview of the various Orlando areas including some of the major attractions and lodging appears below.
Walt Disney World
Walt Disney World is actually located in Lake Buena Vista, southwest of downtown Orlando. In addition to Disney’s four major theme parks and Downtown Disney, the sprawling area of “Walt Disney World” features countless hotels, restaurants, shopping, nightlife, golf courses, water parks, and more.
Within Walt Disney World, you’ll find four distinct areas:
- Magic Kingdom – At the north section of Walt Disney World, you’ll find Magic Kingdom. The Disney resorts located near Magic Kingdom include the Contemporary Resort, Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground, Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, Polynesian Resort, Wilderness Lodge, and Disney’s Wedding Pavilion. Several of Disney’s golf courses are located near Magic Kingdom.
- Epcot & MGM – Both Epcot and MGM Studios are located south of Magic Kingdom. The Disney resorts located in this area include the Beach Club Resort, Yacht Club Resort, BoardWalk Inn, Boardwalk Villas, Beach Club Villas, Caribbean Beach Resort, and the Swan and Dolphin Hotels. Here you’ll also find Disney’s Wide World of Sports area, along with its Pop Century Resort. Disney’s Blizzard Beach Water Park is on the west side of this area. There are two miniature golf courses in this area as well.
- Animal Kingdom – Just west of the Epcot/MGM area is the location for Animal Kingdom. The Disney resorts located near Animal Kingdom include Animal Kingdom Lodge, the Coronado Springs Resort, and the series of “All-Star” resorts (All-Star Sports, All-Star Music, and All-Star Movies). Just east of Animal Kingdom is Disney’s Blizzard Beach Water Park.
- Downtown Disney – Downtown Disney is located east of the Epcot/MGM area. The primary sections of Downtown Disney include Pleasure Island, the West Side, and Market Place. This area highlights entertainment, nightlife, shopping, and restaurants. The resorts located near Downtown Disney include the Port Orleans Resorts (Riverside and French Quarter), Old Key West Resort, Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa, Best Western Lake Buena Vista Resort, Courtyard by Marriott, Doubletree Guest Suites Resort, Grosvenor Resort, Hotel Royal Plaza, The Hilton Resort and the Wyndham Palace Resort & Spa. Just south of this area is Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon Water Park. In the center of the area, you’ll find Disney’s Lake Buena Vista Golf Course.
The original route to the Orlando Convention Center, I-Drive runs about 10 miles along the east side of Walt Disney World, north towards Universal Studios. This strip has grown to include hotels, restaurants and various attractions, such as Ripley’s Believe it or Not, Wonder Works, the Titanic Ship of Dreams and the Wet ‘n Wild water park. SeaWorld and Discovery Cove are located on the east side of International Drive.
Universal Studios is located off I-4, north of Downtown Disney. It includes both the Universal Studios and the Islands of Adventure theme parks. Between these parks, you’ll find Citywalk, an area of clubs and restaurants. Universal hotels include Hard Rock Hotel, Portofino Bay Hotel and Royal Pacific Resort.
The Kissimmee/St. Cloud area is southeast of Walt Disney World and features moderately priced accommodations and inexpensive restaurants, as well as many of the area’s minor attractions, such as Gatorland, Medieval Times and Arabian Nights dinner theater. This is an ideal area for those who find the Disney-owned resorts out of their price range and who are willing to drive a short distance to the parks.
Downtown Orlando, northeast of Walt Disney World, offers a wide variety of restaurants, clubs, bars, lounges and live music venues. Downtown Orlando is the center for art and culture in this area. Downtown attractions include the Orlando Science Center, Harry P. Leu Gardens, the Orlando Museum of Art and Antiques Row. Just north of Orlando, Winter Park features upscale shops and restaurants, as well as the Audubon of Florida and Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art.