From the magic of theme parks to the splendor of its natural wonders, there is a lot to experience in Orlando, Florida. Each year, millions of visitors throng to its world-renowned theme parks, beautiful beaches, nature reserves, and fabulous dining and shopping options.
With lots to see and do, this vibrant city is the perfect destination for your family vacation. But to get a taste of it all, it’s important to make the most of your arrival and departure days.
From exploring your hotel’s amenities and visiting nearby attractions to indulging in a delicious meal, here are some of the best Orlando arrival and departure day activities to help you maximize your vacation from start to finish.
Orlando Arrival and Departure Day Activities: Getting Around Orlando
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Renting a car is a popular option for tourists, as it provides flexibility and easy access to all the theme parks and attractions. They are also well suited for larger families who enjoy the advantages of having their own space.
Many rental car companies are located right at Orlando International Airport (MCO), making it convenient to pick up and drop off your rental car. The only downside to renting a car is parking due to spots quickly filling up at popular attractions.
Ride-share services like Uber and Lyft are also widely available in Orlando, offering convenient transportation without the hassle of driving your own car. Just download the app, request a ride, and a driver will pick you up at your location.
Taxis are available throughout Orlando and can be hailed on the street or at designated taxi stands. However, these can be more expensive than ride-sharing or other modes of transportation. Mears Taxi is one local taxi service provider that your hotel can book for you upon request. Also consider Skippy or Lanier.
Lynx is the public transportation system in Orlando that offers bus services throughout the city and to major theme parks. While it may not be the most convenient option due to lengthier travel times, it can be an affordable way to get around if you’re on a budget.
Many hotels and resorts in Orlando offer shuttle services to theme parks and other attractions. This can be a good option if you don’t want to rent a car or use ride-sharing services.
The best mode of transport will depend on your specific needs and preferences. If you’re visiting multiple attractions in a day, renting a car or using ride-sharing services may be the most convenient option. However, if you’re on a budget or prefer not to drive, public transportation or shuttle services may be a better choice.
Orlando Arrival Day Activities
Check-In to Your Accommodation
Upon arrival, your first order of business will be to check in to your accommodation. Whether you’re staying at a hotel or a vacation rental, you want to take some time to get settled in and familiarized with the amenities. You might even want to take a refreshing shower, unpack your belongings, and let the kids rest for a while before setting out to explore the hotel.
Enjoy a Leisurely Breakfast
Before you head out for your day of sight seeing, enjoy a leisurely breakfast at your hotel as many of them offer complimentary breakfast buffets or continental breakfasts. If you want to explore local brunch spots, head to Hash House a Go Go, or First Watch and indulge in a delicious start to your day.
Lounge By The Pool
After a long journey, it’s important to take some time to unwind and recharge your batteries. To feel refreshed for the adventures ahead, spend your arrival day relaxing by the pool.
Many of Orlando’s hotels and resorts feature beautiful pools and water parks, where your kids can splash around while you soak up some sun. If you are looking for popular hotels with great pool areas, check out the Four Seasons Resort Orlando, the Waldorf Astoria Orlando, and the Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center.
Take a stroll through nature
Guests staying at one of Universal’s resorts should check out their hotel’s serene gardenscapes and sculpted walkways.
The Loews Portofino Bay Hotel has several garden pathways throughout the property, including the Harbor Piazza, which features a beautiful water fountain and lush landscaping. The garden walkway at the Hard Rock Hotel is just as luxurious and leads to the hotel’s pool area.
Wander through the tropical gardens of the Royal Pacific Resort, complete with waterfalls and vibrant flora, or down the verdant walkway at Sapphire Falls Resort which connects the hotel to nearby Universal parks. Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort also has numerous garden pathways that wind through its retro-themed courtyards and pool areas.
Explore the magical greenery at Disney Resorts
Disney is renowned for its beautifully landscaped properties, and many of the hotels have extensive gardens, water features, and walking paths.
The garden at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa features a white sand beach, a rose garden, and a variety of tropical flora that will transport you to a world of tranquillity. For an exotic culinary experience, the Polynesian Village Resort has a lush tropical garden that includes a koi pond, waterfalls, and rare plants.
Children and adults will love the boardwalk area at Disney’s BoardWalk Inn for the way it winds through a beautifully landscaped garden. Add a little something extra to your garden stroll experience at the Yacht and Beach Club Resorts by taking some lovely snaps from its very own lighthouse.
Set sail on water taxis
Are your feet tired of walking around at Universal? Board a water taxi to hitch a ride between Universal’s Islands of Adventure, Universal Studios Florida, and Universal CityWalk. This transportation option runs on a regular schedule making it a great way to avoid traffic in the parking lots while also treating your little ones to a scenic ride across the lagoon.
Guests staying at the on-site Universal hotels can access the water taxis for free from various docks located throughout the resort. Check the schedule for the water taxis at the front desk of your hotel or through the Universal Orlando app.
Disney has its own water taxi service too which takes visitors across all of its theme parks as well as the Disney Springs shopping and entertainment district. Just like at Universal Orlando, Disney World water taxis are free for guests staying at the on-site hotels. Don’t forget to add some extra magic to your vacation try out this fun and unique transportation option with the family.
Hotspots to Check Out
- Visit the Orlando Welcome Center on International Drive on arrival day to get valuable information about the city, including maps, brochures, and guides. You can also purchase discounted tickets to theme parks and attractions, which is ultimately a great way to save time and money.
- The Orlando Eye, located at Icon Park, is a must-visit, especially for first-timers in the city. A ride on this gigantic observation wheel lasts for about 18 minutes and offers a stunning bird’s-eye view of Orlando. Bear in mind that children 14 and under must be accompanied by an adult or an older teen.
- Step into the vibrant world of Disney Springs at Walt Disney World Resort, an outdoor shopping, dining, and entertainment complex. Although there are a variety of things to try out, it’s easy enough to cover most of them over the course of one evening. For entertainment, Disney Springs has live music, street performers, and movie theaters. Grab a seat at Cirque du Soleil to enjoy live performances with your energetic teens and tweens. Post a lively session, head to the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique at The Marketplace where young guests can transform into their favorite Disney princesses and knights. There’s also the famous LEGO Imagination Center, where kids can build their own LEGO creations.
- Satisfy your pickiest eater’s taste buds with Disney Springs’ array of dining options that range from quick bites to luxurious fine dining. Indulge in the mouth-watering delights at Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin’ or at Morimoto Asia. To complement your meal with spectacular waterfront views, try The Boathouse and savor deliciously fresh seafood.
- West Side is another one of Disney Springs’ popular neighborhoods for its entertainment and dining options. Catch a movie at the AMC Disney Springs 24 Dine-In Theater, surprise your kids with a virtual reality experience at The VOID, or groove to a live concert at the House of Blues. But the most exquisite experience of them all is Aerophile, where you and your family can ride in the world’s largest tethered helium balloon. At 400 feet high, you’ll be able to see all of Walt Disney World Resort and beyond.
Go Shopping and souvenir hunting
Orlando is home to some of the best shopping outlets in the world, with a plethora of malls and boutiques to explore. If you’re in the mood to splurge, head to The Mall at Millenia or the Orlando International Premium Outlets. Here, you can find everything from designer clothing to accessories while your little ones hunt for the perfect souvenirs or gifts to give their friends.
If you haven’t already had a bite at Disney Springs, grab a delicious dinner at one of Orlando’s many restaurants. The city boasts an incredible culinary scene, with everything from classic American fare to international cuisine.
Some of the most popular dining spots include The Ravenous Pig, Hunger Street Tacos, Wine Bar George, and Reyes Mezcaleria, but you will need to make a reservation in advance to get a table. If you want to jazz up your kids’ mealtime experience, sign up for dinner shows like medieval-themed jousting tournaments, pirate-themed shows, and more.
Orlando Departure Day Activities
A Royal Breakfast
Give a fairy tale ending to your kids’ trip at the spectacular Cinderella’s Castle. Located at Walt Disney World, this breathtaking castle is where fantasies come true. Its soaring towers make the perfect setting for some of the most awe-inspiring shows in the day and act as a glowing backdrop at night. Nothing beats feasting like royalty inside the castle at Cinderella’s Royal Table!
Indulge in an unforgettable dining experience at breakfast, lunch, or dinner, with breakfast being the most popular option among guests. To secure a spot at Cinderella’s Royal Table, guests will need to make a reservation up to 60 days in advance. You can do this through the Walt Disney World website or by calling the Disney dining reservation line.
Keep in mind that breakfast at Cinderella’s Royal Table is a highly-sought after experience and reservations can fill up quickly, so it’s a good idea to book as early as possible.
Visit a Museum or Gallery
If you have some extra time before your departure, slip in a visit to one of Orlando’s many museums and galleries. This can be a great way to introduce your kids to the culture and history of the land where they would’ve just had their most memorable trip.
The Orlando Museum of Art features exhibitions and collections of notable art and the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art boasts the world’s largest collection of works by Louis Comfort Tiffany.
CityWalk Orlando is Universal Orlando Resort’s rebuttal to Disney Springs (or is it the other way around?). This bustling entertainment complex is where you’ll find anything and everything you want to see or do before you wind up your vacation.
For some final entertainment, check out the movie theater, the mini-golf course, and the indoor skydiving experience at iFly Orlando. If you prefer a more laid-back activity, check out The Blue Man Group show.
It is a popular attraction at CityWalk that features a trio of performers who keep the audience wanting more with music, comedy, and unique visual effects. End your visit on a musical note at CityWalk’s Rising Star, a karaoke bar where visitors can sing their favorite songs backed by a live band and backup singers!
If you haven’t already picked your souvenirs, grab some unique movie merchandise at the Universal Studios Store. You can even check out the Quiet Flight Surf Shop and Island Clothing Co. for other gifting options.
When the hunger pangs strike, you’ll find sugar, spice, and everything nice at this complex. The Hard Rock Cafe, Voodoo Doughnut, and The Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar are some crowd favorites to try.
If you have a late-night flight, stick around The Plaza which comes alive at sundown with its neon lights and several nightclubs and bars. The Groove is a popular dance club, while the Red Coconut Club offers an upscale experience that is more suited to families.
Go to the Beach
Orlando is only a short drive away from some of Florida’s most beautiful beaches. Make the most of your departure day by waking up early and heading to the coast for some sun, sand, and surfing.
Daytona Beach, Cocoa Beach, and New Smyrna Beach are all popular options within driving distance of Orlando. To know more about the best family-friendly beaches in Orlando, check out our detailed guide.
Knocking Down Pins
If you want to keep your last day light and breezy, Cabana Bay Beach Resort’s Galaxy Bowl offers a fun way to spend an afternoon or evening with the family. The good ol’ arcade games, delicious snacks, and retro atmosphere transport visitors back to the 50s and 60 and make it a must-visit.
The decor and ambiance include vintage bowling memorabilia, neon lights, and classical music playing in the background.
Challenge your little ones to a round of bowling at any one of the 10 lanes, which feature automatic scoring systems and can accommodate up to six bowlers per lane. You can rent lanes by the hour with prices starting at around $15 per person.
However, the cost to bowl varies depending on the time of the day and the day of the week, with discounts available for resort guests and annual pass holders.
Aside from bowling, you can also take your kids to give arcade games from your childhood a go, like Pac-Man, Air Hockey, and Skeeball. After working up an appetite, stop by the Galaxy Bowl Snack Bar and sample bowling alley fares like tasty pizza, nachos, and soft drinks.
Crazy Golf/Mini Golf
Enjoy fun at one of the numerous Putt Putt Mini Golf courses in Orlando. From Pirate’s Cove Golf to feeding alligators at Congo River Golf on idrive. See all the options for mini golf in Orlando here.
Say Goodbye with a sumptuous meal
Before you hit the road, enjoy a final meal in Orlando at one of the city’s many restaurants. Whether you’re in the mood for seafood, steak, or pizza, there’s a restaurant to suit every taste. Consider dining at one of the city’s iconic restaurants, such as Victoria & Albert’s at Disney’s Grand Floridian Hotel or The Chef’s Table at the Edgewater.
Don’t forget to take a post-meal walk to soak up the atmosphere and make some last-minute memories with the family. Stroll through Lake Eola Park, visit the historic Church Street Station, or simply walk around your hotel’s neighborhood to see what hidden gems you can discover.
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