Why you should go to Orlando!

Orlando, the Central Florida city synonymous with Walt Disney World, ranks as the #1 tourist destination in the US and world capital of theme parks. Attractions like Disney, Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios and Sea World made it the first US city to draw over 60 million tourists a year. Kennedy Space Center and Atlantic beaches are less than 50 miles (80 km) away.

Theme parks are only part of it. The sprawling metropolitan area covers 4,012 square miles (10,390 km2) and includes cities like Sanford, Kissimmee and Winter Park. A big sports town, it has pro basketball, major league soccer, spring training for the Atlanta Braves and Houston Astros and minor league and semi-pro teams, including ice hockey. Orlando Pride, a professional women's soccer team, plays in Orlando City Stadium. Shopping mavens will love the outlet malls. Foodies will find an international smorgasbord that includes high-end chains and popular local restaurants.

Orlando - with the 20th highest LGBT percentage in US metro populations, according to Gallup - is longtime gay friendly but has no gayborhood. It is a gay hot spot with extravagant shows, a weeklong Orlando Pride celebration, the long-running Girls in Wonderland, the week-long Gay Days at Disney World and gay family vacations. The horrific Pulse attack in 2016 brought an immediate wave of support for the LGBT community in Orlando and beyond. With an LGBT history going back to the 1970s and icons like the Parliament House resort, Orlando amended its human rights ordinances in 2002 to include sexual orientation, updating it to cover transgender in 2014. As a Parliament House slogan points out, "Orlando has more than one magical kingdom."

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Hotels (10)
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Nightlife (12)
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Things to do (33)

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Harry Potter takes a holiday at Universal Studio's Islands of Adventure, a 110-acre (45 ha) theme park. In addition to Harry's Wizarding World, there's Marvel Super Hero...
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The giant geodesic sphere Spaceship Earth is the landmark for Epcot, the Disney park celebrating international culture and technological advancement. The World Showcase,...
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Restaurant

Hamburger Mary's, part of the LGBT-themed chain started in San Francisco in 1972, is not all about hamburgers. It also serves black bean burgers 10 different ways and...
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The Harry P. Leu Gardens covers nearly 50 acres (20 ha) with semi-tropical and tropical landscaping including camellias, ancient oaks and a butterfly garden. The...
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Universal Studios, a movie-set theme park, has rides, shows and attractions related to film, TV and music productions. Visitors get to go behind the scenes and be the...
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Nightlife

Parliament House, the 10-acre lakefront complex known as the largest, gayest place on earth, is pretty much always open what with a bunch of bars, a beach, a theater,...
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Shopping

The Mall at Millenia is an upscale indoor mall with 150 stores anchored by Macy's, Bloomingdale's and Neiman Marcus. It has major luxury brands on the second level and...
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The iconic Cinderella Castle at the Magic Kingdom has welcomed more than 20 million visitors since the park opened in 1971, making it the most visited theme park in the...
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An old-time Florida attraction, the family-owned Gatorland opened in 1949. Calling itself "The Alligator Capital of the World," it has alligators and crocodiles on view...
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Shopping

"Big" is the operative word for 250-store Florida Mall, close to Florida International Airport. The biggest mall in Central Florida and one of the biggest indoor malls...
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Nightlife

A fixture on the gay scene since 1987, Hank's calls itself "The Best Little Bar - With The Worst Reputation". It is a no-frills neighborhood hangout with cheap beer,...
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Nightlife

In Pointe Orlando shopping center near the convention center, Blue Martini is a swanky female-friendly lounge with nightly live entertainment, a long list of signature...
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Restaurant

4Rivers Smokehouse sells Texas-style BBQ at more than a dozen locations around Florida, including downtown Orlando, Orlando/UCF and Kissimmee, but it all began at the...

Hotel

The official host hotel for Disney's One Magical Weekend during Gay Days, the B Resort & Spa is conveniently located in Disney Springs (formerly Downtown Disney)....
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Nightlife

BarCodes is a bear bar with a hometown feel and a beer and wine menu. Amusements include pool table, video games, fire pit and cruising patio. It also features themed...

Hotel

The spire-topped Castle Hotel pursues a medieval castle theme with an eclectic opulent decor throughout its public spaces and 214 guest rooms, priding itself on making...
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The Morse Museum boasts the world's most comprehensive collection of Louis Comfort Tiffany works, including his chapel interior from the 1893 World's Columbia Exposition...

Restaurant

Homecomin' Kitchen in Disney Springs is exactly that for Celebrity Chef Art Smith, who worked for two former Florida governors including Jeb and was Oprah's personal...

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The hip CityArts Factory is a collective of six separate art galleries showcasing local talent and a second-floor events and performance space. It's part of the Third...

Nightlife

City Walk's Rising Star makes karaoke dreams come true, giving folks a chance to perform in a 440-seat concert venue with a live band and backup singers for a live...

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The Coca-Cola Orlando Eye is a 400-foot-high (122 m) Ferris wheel, the highest observation wheel on the east coast of the US. Like the London Eye, it offers breathtaking...

Beach

In and around Cocoa Beach, where the astronauts played during Mission Apollo days, is a stretch of sandy beaches with something for everyone: surfers, sunbathers, nature...

Restaurant

Dandelion Communitea Café is an eye-catching organic restaurant in a bright green 1920s house with a colorful interior displaying local artists. Certified Green by Co-op...

Shopping

The four-section Disney Springs, formerly Downtown Disney, is a lakeside shopping, dining and entertainment center. No theme park ticket is required for entry but many...

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Disney's Animal Kingdom is where zoo meets theme park. At 580 acres (235 ha), it is the world's largest theme park with Discovery Island at its hub. Favorite rides...

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Set on 28 Balinese-inspired acres, the DoubleTree at SeaWorld is the official hotel for Gay Days with theme park and entertainment attractions within easy reach and...
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Designed by Barton Myers, Dr. Phillips Center opened in 2014 and when completed will cover two city blocks at a cost of $514 million. Its Walt Disney theater, where...

Restaurant

The funky Drunken Money is a vegan coffeeshop offering distinctive house-roasted coffee and free WiFi. Breakfast and lunch are served all day with home-made gourmet...

Shopping

A permanent farmer's market, East End Market is a collection of local produce, artisan vendors, coffee houses, bakeries and succulent plants. Outside the two-story...

Nightlife

Popular with Lesbians, Ember has four bars and a patio. Good for Sunday all-your-can-eat brunch with unlimited mimosas and the Wednesday wine-down with happy hour...

Shopping

Fairvilla Megastore on multi-levels has vibrators, videos, sex toys, seductive clothing, large-size lingerie and bondage gear. The Orange Blossom Trail store is the...

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A former cattle and horse ranch, Forever Florida is a 4,700-acre (1,900 ha) wildlife-conservation area which can be explored by open-air vehicle, horseback or zip line....
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Hotel

The Grand Bohemian makes good use of red, leathers, velvets, Java wood, and black and white print to establish a sumptuous style in downtown Orlando, close to the soccer...
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Hotel

The Hilton Buena Vista is surrounded by the Walt Disney theme parks and right across the Pedestrian Skybridge from the shopping, dining and entertainment of Disney...
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Nightlife

Icebar Orlando, proclaimed the world's largest permanent ice bar, is a below-freezing lounge featuring over 70 tons of hand-carved ice and frost bite cocktails. The...

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The Kennedy Space Center is a day trip from Orlando and living history of the Space Age. Visitors share the exhilaration of the astronauts through a bus tour of launch...
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Shopping

Lake Buena Vista is an open-air mall, smaller than the premiums outlets but with a good selection of brand-name shops, including high end. Less crowded and with easier...

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In the heart of the city, bordered by Thornton Park, South Eola District and the Central Business District, Lake Eola Park has swan-shaped paddle boats and live swans,...

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The world's largest Legoland Park, the Florida location is set on 150 acres (c. 60 ha) on the shores of Lake Eloise. About 45 minutes west of Orlando, the theme and...

Shopping

The popular and packed Orlando International Premium Outlets with over 180 stores attracts visitors from everywhere shopping for bargains. Well-known brands, including...

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In Lock Haven Park, the Museum of Art mounts exhibitions and hosts traveling shows. Highlights are works by Bo Bartlett and its collections of Art of Ancient Americas...

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Orlando Pride is a professional team in the National Women's Soccer League affiliated with Orlando City SC in Major League Soccer. It immediately broke league records by...

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The Orlando Science Center offers hands-on scientific inquiry for all ages and two movie theaters, including the giant 300-seat Dr. Phillips Cinedome. The Digital...

Shopping

In a Mediterranean-Village setting, Orlando Vineland Premium Outlets is just minutes from Disney World and offers 150 designer and name-brand outlet stores, including...

Shopping

Pointe Orlando is an upscale, open-air mall and entertainment center with a wide range of restaurants and bars, an improv comedy club, good window-shopping and a...

Restaurant

Thai-born, Orlando-raised Pom Moongauklang opened Pom Pom's Teahouse & Sandwicheria, in a small shopping center almost a decade ago after working at Lucky Cheng's, a...

Shopping

Owned by Leigh Shannon, an entertainer who impersonates celebrities like Bette Midler and Elton John, Ritzy Rags specializes in wigs and hair pieces for theatrical...

Hotel

At the headwaters of the Florida Everglades and inspired by Spanish Revival-style architecture of the 1900s, the Rosen Shingle Creek is a 1,501-room convention hotel but...
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Nightlife

Savoy Orlando, gay owned and operated, is an upscale lounge with casual dress and friendly bartenders. The Men of Savoy go-go boys provide live entertainment. There's...

Hotel

The Family-owned and managed Seasons Florida Resort is an affordable option and 10-minute drive to Disney World. Its Capone's Dinner and Show is a 1920s-themed...
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Hotel

A host hotel for Girls in Wonderland during Gay Days, the Sheraton Lake Buena Vista Resort is minutes from Disney World and outlet shopping. Two outdoor pools with...
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Nightlife

Southern Nights, one of the first gay bars in Central Florida, disappeared more than a decade ago, but it just resurfaced at the same address, which is now in the hot,...

Nightlife

Near Lake Eola, Stardust is a Vegas-style lounge with a a retro feel, 50-foot bar and red leather booths. In addition to the martinis - classic and crafted - it has...

Nightlife

Namesake of the Greenwich Village original, Stonewall is a neighborhood bar gone industrial chic with a new Skybar offering views of downtown and the new soccer stadium....

Restaurant

The tiny Tako Cheena, not much bigger than a food truck, teams Pan-Asian fillings with tacos, burritos and empanadas. Its signature "takos" are panko-crusted cod,...

Nightlife

The Abbey is a event space with modern gothic decor, stage, full-service bar and outdoor patio. On the ground floor of the Sanctuary high-rise, it presents a wide...

Hotel

The Blue Heron Beach Resort is a condominium resort on Lake Bryan with spacious suites that sleep six to eight, full kitchens, washers and dryers. Balconies offer views...
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With Lake Ivanhoe across the street and train tracks out back, The Hammered Lamb is a friendly gathering spot that adds to the fun by serving free shots every time a...

Hotel

Designed in the style of the grand palazzos of Italy, the 5-star Ritz-Carlton Orlando is palatial in scale to say the least with 582 guest rooms, 11 restaurants, a...
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Restaurant

The high-end Rusty Spoon gastropub has a small menu centered around seasonal, locally sourced ingredients. Zagat calls the New American dishes "rustic, inspired."...

Activity

The Spa, LGBT-owned, offers a full menu of spa services and complimentary wine, champagne, mimosas and juices. It has a sauna, hot tub, monthly specials and spa packages...

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Thornton Park is a stylish neighborhood in downtown Orlando with Craftsman-style bungalows on brick streets and restaurants and boutiques on Washington Street, Summerlin...

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Tibet-Bulter Nature Preserves has four miles of unpaved trails through wetlands, pine flatwoods and scrub, good for hiking and bird-watching. The 440-acre (178 ha) park...

Restaurant

A big weekend brunch destination with $3 Mimosas and Bloody Marys, the quaint White Wolf Café opened as an antique store in 1991, adding food a few years later. Its...

Shopping

An upscale outdoor mall in an upscale community, Winter Park Village is as much for eating as shopping with restaurants like Mitchell's Fish Market, Brio Tuscan Grille,...

Restaurant

Yellow Dog Eats is a rustic barbecue restaurant in the Gotha Country Store with live music in the outdoor beer garden Thursday through Saturday evenings. Slightly off...

10 community reviews / Orlando

General impression
Good
LGBT-friendly
Good
Jose Carlos Manrique has been to and rated Orlando

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Jorgito has been to and rated Orlando

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Roy D has been to and reviewed Orlando

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Orlando is a great place to visit and live. Although traffic is really bad, especially near the attractions.

Víctor Hugo García has been to and rated Orlando

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Heather Sims has been to and rated Orlando

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Valentina Agredo has been to and rated Orlando

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Andrew reviewed Orlando

Added 2 months ago

On the few occasions I've been to Orlando, a fly-drive was definitely the best way to see and do everything. It may sound like a chore, but creating a rough itinerary and booking good accommodation, hiring a convertible car you can pick up and drop off at different airports, and booking your ideal outbound and return flights will give you the freedom and flexibility to explore Orlando - and much more of Florida, than if you buy any package deal.

There's stacks of options to choose from too if you shop around, so you'll get exactly what you want. It'll probably end up costing less and the overall experience will be much more satisfying.

I tend to opt for an apartment or villa so I can come and go as I please and have guests if I want to without worrying about room service waking me up or strange looks from the receptionist in the hotel when I stagger in at 4am.

Every time I've been to Orlando, my trip has started a little farther afield in Fort Lauderdale, then I drive down to Orlando for several days exploring the theme parks. If you love theme parks and plan on going to them all, get the park pass that includes the Big 5 (Universal, Busch, Wet n Wild, Sea World). Driving to them is easy as they're well -signposted and parking is free easy too with free shuttles to the park gates that take a few minutes each way.

Once you're out and about, you can spend all day in the area without having to go back home as there's loads to do until the small hours; parks, restaurants, bars, clubs, shopping, activities, shows and events. Not every night has a major event on, so if you want to catch a fireworks show or carnival parade, gay day or something special - check the websites before you book. I tend to just show up - it's always fun.

The shopping is great too, though I tended to stick to the stores and labels I couldn't get in the UK. Buying stuff I could get back home was pointless and not much cheaper anyway. That said, if you like GAP, buy the kids stuff. the sizes are massive and you don't pay tax.

The food is typically American. Awful. Full of sugar, served in buckets and over-priced. If you can, find a supermarket and do it yourself, take nice packed lunches and you'll not only save a fortune but you'll avoid contracting coronary disease at the same time (I actually watched some kid put chocolate ice-cream on his pizza one day at Disney. . at which point we left).

Disney is the worst park of all. The enchanted castle is nothing more than a giant plastic mold with a tunnel carved through it, which is covered in chewing gum and graffiti. The lakes are dyed blue, the dry, dead grass is sprayed green to look luscious, an army of clinically obese people drive around in ECV's (electronic convenience vehicles), many of whom stop rides from running and are asked to get off because they exceed weight limits - it's not very pleasant to watch as you wait for the ride to go... 4 of the rides broke down while we on them and every ride exits into a shop full of children's merchandise. It's horrendous, tacky and totally cringe-worthy from the minute you walk in. As a group of 6 gay men, we demanded a refund and on receiving one - in full - were escorted off the premises. Not necessary as in spirit I was already meditating by the pool back at the villa to try and recover from the nightmare.

Wet n Wild is amazing. If you have the balls, you have to try the vertical slide which drops you from a see through pod about 100ft high, down a single track slide.

My favourite park was Universal Islands of Adventure. It's more geared to an older crowd and the rides are way cooler. For each park expect to pay around $50 to get it, but it's worth it when you could blow that on a lunch and bottle of wine, or a few hours in the pub.

From Orlando I took the car down to the Kennedy Space Centre, Daytona Beach, Everglades, Miami, Key West, Key Largo and back to Fort Lauderdale before hopping on a cruise ship and spending 4 days in Jamaica and the Grand Cayman. From the ports in Florida you can basically turn up on the day, pay about $100/night each for a cruise and get all the food and drink you can handle, included. Definitely worth doing if you're vacationing for 2-3weeks here.

Avoid going in November as this is when they get hit with storms and hurricanes. May is a great time, the season is kicking off, it's not too busy and not too hot and all the bars are open. The gay scene is great, although the bars are a little provincial and generally very cruisy. I actually walked into one and there was straw on the floor. If you want to go out to dance, then try one of the bigger clubs. Some of the bars have dance floors, but you could end up being the only one on it while everyone stands around eye-balling you in their stetsons.

Lesbians don't like it when you walk into their bars, so be warned. We got shown the door when we walked in accidentally.

J.E. Velázquez has been to and rated Orlando

Added 4 months ago

Ana has been to and rated Orlando

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David Waite has been to and rated Orlando

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