3 Days in Orlando: Everything You Should Know
Three days in central Florida probably sounds ideal to most people, especially during the frigid winter months. If you are only in Orlando for 3 days you will want to make a plan ahead of time so you can pack in as many great activities and attractions as possible.
Orlando has two main theme parks and you do not have to be a kid to appreciate the amazing and memorable fun that can be had at each of these parks. Work a trip to Universal Studios and Disney World into your 3 days in Orlando. Remember, purchase an Orlando CityPass before you hit the theme parks for deep discounts to help save a bit of cash.
Since you are only in Orlando for 3 days, have a luggage storage facility picked out before arriving so you can stow your bags immediately and get to exploring! Most of the attractions do not allow large bags and you certainly don’t want to leave your things unattended. Bring along this itinerary for 3 days in Orlando to see as many things as possible in a short timeframe.
Orlando itinerary – Day 1
Morning: Magic Kingdom
You will most likely spend all of day 1 in Orlando checking out everything the Walt Disney World Resort has to offer. Imagine the fun at four theme parks and two water parks! Single-day tickets for the theme parks can cost around $100 and the water parks are about $60 for a one-day pass.
You don’t have to have kids in tow to enjoy the Magic Kingdom, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and Epcot or even to cool off at Disney’s Blizzard Beach or Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon. Aside from theme parks, there are so many fantastic restaurants and of course, the Disney Springs shopping and entertainment complex.
The resort is located in Lake Buena Vista and Bay Lake which is about 17 miles to the southwest of Orlando’s downtown area. Your first stop should be Magic Kingdom, the most iconic of the Disney theme parks. If you only have time for one theme park, it should be Magic Kingdom with its breathtaking nighttime fireworks and rides such as Dumbo and the Pirates of the Caribbean.
Afternoon: Animal Kingdom
If the Magic Kingdom isn’t as magical as you hoped, head over to the Animal Kingdom for the rest of the day. This is one of the more natural theme parks in the resort and gives you an in-depth look at different animal species from around the globe.
The thrilling rides, including Expedition Everest, are great for older kids and adults and of course, the air-conditioned shows are perfect for kicking back and relaxing between exhilarating rides. Finding Nemo the Musical is a fantastic show, but Festival of the Lion King is a masterpiece.
Sign up for the Kilimanjaro Safari ride and see how many animals you can spot. There are also a number of walk-through animal exhibits to check out. Grab lunch or dinner at the Tusker House or the Sautu’li Canteen with its unforgettable blue dessert.
Evening: Downtown Orlando
Most tourists skip downtown Orlando in favor of the more touristy shopping districts and theme parks when they visit. The city center has a completely different feel and is free of cartoon characters parading around or magical castles. The history of downtown Orlando speaks for itself and is full of museums, shops, public art displays, and even a wonderful lakeside park.
Stop by the Downtown Orlando Information Center to pick up a map that will take you on a self-guided tour of the streets downtown. Art Orlando does not get as much attention from tourists as it should but the self-guided tour takes you to each of the nine contemporary sculptures that you do not want to miss.
Some of the more popular sculptures include the Muse of Discovery where you can actually sit in the hand of the woman for a photo op. The Take Flight sculpture is a flock of metal birds taking off from the Lake Eola shore. You cannot miss the Cedar of Lebanon, an enormous three-story sculpture representing the tree of life.
Orlando itinerary – Day 2
Morning: Discovery Cove
While you can easily spend the entire day exploring Discovery Cove, you will want to limit your time here so you can see a bit more of Orlando during your 3-day trip. Discovery Cove is the companion site to SeaWorld Orlando and is not as packed with people as SeaWorld. You have to have a reservation so make sure you book early.
Have an up close and personal experience with stingrays, otters, dolphins, and marmosets. There is even an area filled with exotic birds. Take a dive with the dolphins or go snorkeling with the rays and tropical fish along the coral reef. You can even float down the Wind-Away River as a way to wind up your trip.
Discovery Cove can be pricey, but you can choose different packages or pick and choose which activities you want to experience. Since SeaWorld is also on the itinerary, you will want to purchase one of the packages which do include a one-day ticket to Discovery Cove for nice savings.
SeaWorld Orlando and Discovery Cove are adjacent to each other making it ideal to visit both on the same day. There is a restaurant at each park as well as snack bars so you do not have to leave to find breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
You can expect big crowds at SeaWorld Orlando and you will most likely spend at least two hours checking out the park. It is not as hands-on as Discovery Cove, but is bigger and a must-see when you are visiting Orlando. See Shamu’s Lair when you come to SeaWorld Orlando.
The animal experiences and heart-stopping rides will make this one of your favorite stops while in Orlando. SeaWorld is located near the International Drive Resort Area and literally right across the street from Discovery Cove. The lines for the attractions can be pretty long so if you get tired of hanging out in line, take a stroll around the park and then head out into Orlando to check out more of the sights.
Afternoon: Kennedy Space Center
While the Kennedy Space Center is not in Orlando, it is less than an hour’s drive away on Cape Canaveral Island and is really something you have to consider when you are in Orlando. Spend a few hours at Discovery Cove and SeaWorld Orlando and then drive over to the space station.
If you are interested in space and more specifically NASA and the American space program, you have to visit the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. Guided tours through the complex are offered and your guide will regale you with tales of NASA missions and information about famous astronauts.
Check out the Kennedy Space Center map online that showcases the main highlights of the complex and gives you a glimpse of what you will see when you visit. The entire complex is at least four times bigger than Manhattan so it will take some time to see everything.
Night: Dinner Out
After a busy day, why not dress up for an incredible dinner? Head to Phillips Boulevard and try Chatham's Place Restaurant. From a perfectly prepared filet mignon to duck breast to a rack of lamb, this eatery will delight you. Be sure to try the escargot as an appetizer and the Key Lime Pie or the Bananas Foster for dessert.
As you relax, you can discuss what you'd absolutely like to see on your last day in this always-fun city.
Orlando Itinerary – Day 3
Morning: Universal Orlando Resort
You were able to explore the Walt Disney World Resort on Day 1 so on your final day in Orlando you have to visit the Universal Orlando Resort! Kids of all ages, and yes, that includes adults, will have a blast at this mega entertainment complex with two theme parks and the Universal CityWalk.
Universal CityWalk is a pedestrian-only walkway filled with restaurants, shops, nightclubs, and even a movie theater. Street performers can be seen here, so grab a bench and watch an impromptu show while you wander along the CityWalk.
Universal Studios Florida is the original park and home to the rather hilarious The Simpsons Ride and the 3-D Despicable Me Minion Mayhem ride. It is a fantastic place to explore but the lines can be a bit long. After checking out Universal Studios Florida, head over to Universal’s Islands of Adventure with their Jurassic Park-themed experiences and rides as well as so many heart-pounding rollercoasters.
Cool off at Universal’s Volcano Bay, a water park, filled with waterfalls, water slides, swimming pools, and rafting rivers. But the most popular parts of Universal Orlando Resort are the Harry Potter areas. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is in Universal Studios Florida, here you can eat lunch at the Leaky Cauldron, run from Gringotts, and explore Diagon Alley.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is in Universal’s Islands of Adventure where you can stroll through Hogsmeade complete with the Three Broomsticks, Hagrid’s Hut, and Hogwarts. The Harry Potter sections will be very crowded so plan on longer than normal wait times. You can pay a little more for an express pass which will help you minimize your wait time on select rides.
Afternoon: Orlando International Premium Outlets
Be sure to bring an extra suitcase or two to pack all the fabulous finds from a shopping trip at the biggest outlet mall in Florida. This is one of the most popular shopping destinations for locals and tourists. Many of the stores offer deep discounts of up to 65% on several designer brands.
This outdoor shopping mall offers row after row of shops all interconnected by pedestrian walkways and plazas. The food court is also wonderful, just follow your nose and breathe in some of the most delectable scents around. You can travel the world without leaving Florida, your taste buds will take you to India, Italy, Mexico, Portugal, and even France. Grab a mid-afternoon snack to keep you in shopping mode.
Evening: The Mall at Millenia
If you don’t find everything you are looking for at the International Premium Outlets, the Mall at Millenia just may have what you need. Plan to spend the evening and enjoy high-end boutiques including Versace and Prada and popular brands such as H&M and Apple. There are over 150 stores in total so plan on spending a few hours seeking out great deals. You may find that last minute gift here.
Located on Conroy Road, only about two miles from Orlando International Premium Outlets, you will want to stop by before leaving Orlando. Have your last meal of your 3 day visit right here. The dining choices at the Mall at Millenia are top-notch with fabulous eateries such as Capital Grille, P.F. Chang, and The Cheesecake Factory.
Orlando in 3 Days
Explore Orlando in just 3 days and find some of the coolest attractions including Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville and Hogwarts Express. From amusement parks to the Florida Mall to the space station processing facility and launch control center, there really is so much to see and do that you will be soon planning another trip!
Look out over the Orlando skyline while riding the Wheel at Icon park and give the kids a fun evening while eating at a dinosaur themed restaurant. Orlando is the place for a terrific family vacation that the whole family will love. Thrilling rides and special events are so much fun. Even hurricane season is not so horrible when you visit Orlando, Florida!
Still planning your visit to Orlando? Check out these guides for more ideas!