Where To Stay In Orlando: The Ultimate Neighborhood Guide
The major factor you need to consider when planning where to stay in Orlando is whether you want to be in one of the Disney or Universal resorts so you're close to all the theme parks or are happy being just that little bit further away.
It's not an easy decision as there are pros and cons to doing both. If you've been to Orlando previously and have done Universal Studios, Walt Disney World, and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter before, you may want to consider staying in a different part of Orlando or even in a town nearby where there's more to do than visit theme parks.
If you want to be in the swing of things, but are watching your vacation budget, you can still get great accommodation in the city center if you choose somewhere like International Drive. To be close, but not actually on top of the resorts, Southwest Orlando is a district worth taking a look at as is South Eola.
No matter which part of the city you ultimately decide to book your holiday hotel in, there'll be moments while you're waiting to check-in that you get stuck with your suitcases. The same goes if you've checked out and your flight from Orlando International Airport doesn't take off for several hours. Humping your cases around in the sticky, humid heat of Florida is not fun.
Make the most of any waiting time you have to endure by depositing your bags at a Bounce luggage storage facility in Orlando. They'll be in a security-tagged luggage locker that's fully insured where they'll be safe while you go off to make a few more unforgettable memories rather than sweat stains on your traveling clothes.
Best Places To Stay In Orlando
Each district of Orlando has different characteristics that make them more suitable to a certain type of visitor than another. Read on to discover where to stay in Orlando for cultural activities, which neighborhood is best for things to do at night, where you can find a budget hotel, get in a great game of golf, or where to stay if you're traveling with kids.
Where To Stay In Orlando
Downtown Orlando is the place to stay if you've outgrown the magic of Walt Disney World and Universal Studios theme parks, can't deal with the crowds anymore, or want to be somewhere with more of a sophisticated atmosphere.
While Downtown Orlando is essentially the city's Central Business District, there's more to it than office blocks. Downtown Orlando is where the Dr. Phillips Center for Performing Arts is located. The center is the best venue in Orlando for classical music and dance performances as well as concerts by well-known international artists.
The Amway Center is in Downtown Orlando too. The Amway Center is an indoor event venue that, as well as hosting live sporting events, holds huge concerts by world-famous groups and artists.
There are several world-class museums in Downtown Orlando, but what's really outstanding about this district of the city is its superb nightlife. From classy craft cocktail bars to rooftop bars, tiki bars, speakeasies, and clubs, you'll find it all in Downtown Orlando.
Hotels In Downtown Orlando
Downtown Orlando attracts a lot of business travelers as well as tourists and the hotels of the area reflect that in size and with the amenities they offer. Hotels in Downtown Orlando are mostly big-name chain high rises with every facility under the sun like the Hilton Garden Inn and the Marriott Orlando Downtown.
Boutique hotels in this area of Orlando are few and far between. But that said, finding a luxury hotel that ticks all the boxes, and has a swimming pool plus free breakfast and free wifi included in the price, in this centrally located district isn't difficult.
When you're in the process of considering where to stay in Orlando, check out South Eola and you'll find it's a quieter, less glitzy neighborhood of Orlando than many of the others.
South Eola borders Downtown Orlando to the south and they share one of the city's best features, Lake Eola Park. If you're a late riser, you'll find several of the best brunch spots in Orlando in South Eola so you won't have far to go to get a late breakfast. Orlando's weekly Sunday Farmers Market takes place in Lake Eola Park too on the corner of East Central Boulevard.
Lake Eola Park is a super spot to enjoy outdoor recreational activities by the waterside. If you enjoy a quiet morning jog this is the place to do it as there's a pathway around the lake almost a mile-long you can do circuits on. It's a great park for kids too as there are swan-shaped boats you can paddle across the lake and age-specific playgrounds where they can let off steam.
Many shows and movies are held in the park's Walt Disney amphitheater, and there are nightly light and water spectaculars at the Lake Eola fountain.
Hotels in South Eola
Considering how centrally located South Eola is, the hotels are very moderately priced and still offer free transportation from the airport and free wifi.
Unusually, the hotel prices in South Eola aren't dictated by star rating or how close they are to the amusement parks. You'll find two-star accommodation with a higher per night cost than some luxury hotels with four stars and more on-site amenities so it pays dividends to research the hotels in-depth before making a reservation. As with Downtown Orlando, boutique hotels are few and far enough between to be classed as non-existent.
International Drive is the most popular place to stay in Orlando for families who want to visit the theme parks. Known locally as I-Drive this 11-mile-long street is Orlando's biggest entertainment hub and where you'll find all that Orlando magic.
To mention all of the theme parks and attractions located on I-Drive is almost impossible as there are so many. Think Madame Tussauds, the ICON Orlando Ferris wheel, the Orange County Convention Center, and SeaWorld Orlando to name just a few.
Many other theme parks like Walt Disney World are nearby, as is Universal Studios located on an offshoot of International Drive, Universal Boulevard. Getting around Orlando from I-Drive is easy too as it has great public transport connections to all the theme parks, Downtown Orlando, and the Orlando International Airport plus the I-Ride trolley for more local trips.
Hotels On International Drive
You may find the number of hotels you have to choose from on International Drive overwhelming as there's definitely a surplus of them along this street. The good thing is many of them are budget hotels with very affordable room rates.
Star ratings vary from two to five, but even if you choose to go for the lower end of the market where rooms are around $50, you can still get somewhere decent like the Clarion Inn International, which has a swimming pool, or the Holiday Inn Express where you get a free breakfast. Free wifi at hotels on International Drive is not something you'll need to ask for, it's all part of the service they offer. The Hampton Inn also boasts a few different properties along International Drive, all with free parking.
There are other hotels that don't just have an outdoor pool but their very own water park on-site too. If you're traveling with kids who are theme park crazy then International Drive is where to stay in Orlando.
Lake Buena Vista
If you want to go all Disney rather than Universal consider staying in Lake Buena Vista. Lake Buena Vista is a city in its own right that’s just southwest of Orlando and the closest place to stay for the famous theme parks in Walt Disney World, like the EPCOT, Disney's Magic Kingdom, the Typhoon Lagoon water park, the Disney Springs shopping and entertainment complex, and Disney's Animal Kingdom.
Lake Buena Vista isn't named after a lake, but rather the location of Disney headquarters in California so don't expect a waterside vacation unless you spend it on one of the water-oriented theme parks. There is a Buena Vista Lake though, which is a small one on the Buena Vista golf course so if you go for a round of golf there you will see some water.
For anyone who likes to immerse themselves in the magical fantasy of Walt Disney World or has kids they want to spoil, the Disney resorts, although they can seem pricey, are well worth a few dollars more. An added bonus is you'll get a free shuttle service to any of the theme parks you want to visit.
Hotels In Lake Buena Vista
Lake Buena Vista is a city built and controlled by the Walt Disney Company so whichever hotel you choose on this Disney property will have some Disney connection or have rooms with Disney themes. Each of the hotels at the Walt Disney World Resort is a resort in its own right and all are individually themed.
In Lake Buena Vista you could find yourself sleeping in a Polynesian village, the savannahs of Africa, amid the animated characters of a Disney film, or being indulged in a luxurious spa hotel where the outdoor pool is like a private lake.
If you want to feel as though you're actually still in Florida rather than some fantasy world, take a look at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort. If shopping and eating out are high on your vacation agenda, you'll find there are several hotels within walking distance or just a short drive away from Disney Springs.
If you've been there, seen it, and done it all as far as Orlando is concerned, you may want to check out Kissimmee. Kissimmee is around a 30-minute drive south of Orlando so you'll still be conveniently close to the city if you decide you want to go there.
Kissimmee is a city on the northern shores of Lake Tohopekaliga that has a unique character all of its own and is perfect if you're more into outdoor activities than you are theme parks. Here you can ride over the lake in an airboat, go hot air ballooning, try your skills on an adventure course, or go horseback riding through the countryside.
There are some great hiking trails in and around Kissimmee that will entice you away from your hotel’s swimming pool. If you're vacationing with very young children who are just too young for all the famous theme parks, they'll really enjoy Legoland's Peppa Pig theme park.
Kissimmee has a great dining scene that offers international cuisine as well as all-American. Here you can grab everything from a loaded hot dog to chomp on while wandering around Old Town to rustic smoked and barbecued meat to a real Asian feast. Bar-wise, think craft beer spots and wineries where they'll pair your tipple with some flavor-matched chocolate or another tasty delight.
There are lots of interesting events held in Kissimmee on a regular basis and cars are a favorite theme. If you're really into your autos, you'll love Kissimmee as they hold car shows three evenings of the week on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday. If live music or karaoke is what floats your boat, forget looking for where to stay in Orlando and head straight for Kissimmee.
Hotels In Kissimmee
In Kissimmee, you'll be able to choose between budget hotels and boutique hotels whose nightly room rate is not going to break the bank. There are places to stay in Kissimmee like the Econo Lodge Inn for less than $40 a night with a super outdoor pool, free breakfast, and free wifi.
It's difficult to ask for more than that, but up your budget allowance to around $60 a night and you'll be able to sleep in the Howard Johnson by Wyndham Tropical Palms or the Baymont by Wyndham and practically want for nothing. If you're prepared to pay $100 or more for a room, then in Kissimmee you'll certainly get your money's worth.
Choose accommodation in the right neighborhood for you when you visit Orlando and you'll have the vacation of a lifetime. Whether you decide to stay near a theme park complex or in a convenient location close by, in the best luxury hotel, the best budget hotel, or a boutique hotel with a stellar reputation, you're guaranteed to have an amazing time.