When most people hear Orlando, they think about the iconic theme parks that Florida is so well known. While these attractions are so much fun to visit with the whole family, Orland also has many other things to do in the area.
You could easily spend an entire week in Orland enjoying every park and attraction with no time to spare. However it is possible to see the highlights of Orlando in a three day itinerary while visiting Universal Studios, witnessing local wildlife, and possibly even catching a glimpse of a rocket launch!
If you are taking the bus from New York City to Orlando, I recommend reading the guide from Wanderu.
Day 1: Natural Orlando
Wild Florida is one of the most unique and cool things to do in Orlando. This animal rescue center offers you a variety of tours, from a tour in an airboat around the headwaters of the Everglades to a Drive thru Safari from the comfort of your own car.
The Wild Florida’s Drive Thru Safari is a self-guided journey that allows you to get up close to hundreds of wild animals from over the world. The animals roam freely through the 85-acre park and sometimes they do approach the cars, so be aware of your surroundings at all times. You are not allowed to touch nor feed the animals on this safari. Some of the animals you will encounter are white tailed deer, bison, zebras, giraffes, oryx, llamas, orchids, and more. For an extra fee of $5 you can feed the giraffes at the end of your excursion.
Our favorite tour at Wild Florida was the airboat through the Florida Everglades, trying to spot alligators, eagles, and other wildlife. They offer half an hour, hour or private tours.
WonderWorks is hard to miss as you drive by, as the upside down building looks like it has been flipped over in a twister. This interactive science center has fun activates for the whole family, that simply make learning fun. Our highlights had to be experiencing what a massive earthquake would feel like and making my own giant bubbles in the Bubbles Lab.
After exploring the different zones try your hand at the glow in the dark ropes course and a game of laser tag!
The Wheel at ICON Park
The best place to finish of your day off your first day in Orlando is at ICON Park, where you can The Wheel, a 400 ft tall Ferris wheel, for a spectacular view of the Orlando skyline at sunset.
For dinner there are over a dozen food options at ICON Park to choose from, or you can head to Universal City Walk or Disney Springs and enjoy dinner there.
Day 2: Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure
Visiting Universal Studios and explore The Wizarding World of Harry Potter was so high on our bucket list and we finally were able to come back after almost 15 years! Universal Studios Resort is home of Islands of Adventure, Universal CityWalk and Universal Studios. In this guide to visiting Universal Studios in Orlando you will have all the information you need to start planning your next trip!
You might need several days to fully explore both parks but it is possible to see the main highlights of both Universal parks with a 1 day – 2 park pass. Universal Studios Florida is one of the biggest movie based theme park in the United States, featuring a range of themes including Hollywood, San Francisco, Production Central, World Expo, New York, Woody Woodpecker’s Kidzone, Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley and Springfield.
Some of the biggest rides in Universal Studios are Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts, Men in Black Alien Attack, Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit, Revenge of the Mummy and the Race through New York starring Jimmy Fallon.
On the other side Universal’s Islands of Adventure features worlds of books, comics and even myths. Here you will find Seuss Landing, Toon Lagoon, Jurassic Park, The Lost Continent, Marvel Super Hero Island, and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The main rides in Islands of Adventure are The incredible Hulk Coaster, Skull Island: Reign of Kong, Jurassic Park River Adventure, and the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.
Universal’s fun-packed tribute to Harry Potter actually includes two awesomely-themed areas: Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade. Take a ride on the Hogwarts Express and explore Diagon Alley! Wander through the streets of Hogsmeade and slurp down some butterbeer at the Leaky Cauldron. Delve into the inner sanctum on fun rides like Escape from Gringotts and the Forbidden Journey through Hogwarts Castle.
Just make sure you line up early, waiting times at this popular park can be over 2 hours! You’ll find both Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade Village at Universal Orlando– split between two parks. Diagon Alley is at Universal Studios and Hogsmeade Village is at Islands of Adventure. Truth be told, you likely won’t be able to see and do everything in a single day. It’s a good idea to get a multi-pass ticket or an express pass that will let you skip the long lines.
Visiting Universal Studio during your trip to Orlando is beyond worth it! Regardless of you age there is always something for everyone to enjoy. There are several roller coasters for adults and play areas such as Curious George and a Day in the Park with Barney for the children.
Universal’s Island of Adventure is all about thrills and fast-paced action with Seuss Landing, featuring rides based on the popular authors books and movies, a Super Hero themed area with the best roller coasters and giant drops, and of course the most popular area of the park, Harry Potter’s Wizarding World.
Thrill rides are the big players here with The Incredible Hulk coaster being the biggest and the baddest. From zero to 40 miles per hour in 2 seconds, a weightless zero-G roll, and a steep plummet below ground level will be sure to leave your heart pounding and running back for more. Harry Potter’s Wizarding World is the other big draw to the park as you enter Hogsmeade with Hogwarts castle towering nearby.
Halloween Season at Universal Studios
Halloween is at full swing at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. If you are planning on visiting either of these parks during Halloween season do not forget to wear your costume to go “trick or treating” with your kids!
Included in your admission ticket you get to visit two haunted houses, “Universal Monsters: The Bride of Frankenstein Lives” and Revenge of the Tooth Fairy” from September 26th to the 1st of November. Be prepared to scream your way through these terrifying adventures and keep your eyes out for any spooky monsters.
Day 3: Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex
The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex at Cape Canaveral near NASA’s primary launch center. There you can see important rocket artifacts and memorabilia and get up close to the Space Shuttle Atlantis. Tour the grounds in the morning and then enjoy the afternoon going through the interactive exhibits in the museum while learning what it would be like to be an astronaut. You may also have the chance to see a rocket launch, as the grounds are still actively being used to launch rockets from a range companies including SpaceX and ULA (United Launch Alliance)!
Unfortunately, they are currently not offering the tour of the entire center’s grounds to see where the rockets are prepared for launching, the astronaut dormitories and the space station processing facility. However, you can get a private tour of the visitor complex. Nearby you can go bioluminescent kayaking at night through the magically glowing water.
With only three days in Orlando it is impossible to to visit every attraction and see all the cool sites. We recommend choosing your own highlights to visit for a more relaxed vacation. Of course, if you have an extra day make sure to visit Disney’s Magic Kingdom.
When is the best time to visit Orlando?
The best time to visit Orlando is from April to May as it is the most pleasant weather in Orlando (high 50s to high 80s most days). Try to avoid Spring Break season in March as it gets even more crowded .
We also recommend visiting Orlando anytime between December to late February as well to avoid crowds and enjoy lower seasonal prices on accommodations. Visiting Orlando in the summer and fall comes with its own complications as the weather can be very hot, humid and daily thunderstorms rolling through.
How to get around Orlando?
The best way to get around Orland all depends where you are staying and what your plans are. If you are only visiting the theme parks and staying on the resorts, then you can get away with using the shuttles. But, if you are trying to visit only one park and discover the countless other amazing things that Orlando has to offer I recommend you to rent a car for duration of your stay.
Where to stay in Orlando?
Budget Accommodation – Best Western Orlando Gateway Hotel
Located just one block off International Drive in the heart of Orlando, the Best Western Orlando Gateway Hotel offers you the most bang for your buck when it comes to proximity to things to do in Orlando.
If you want to relax after a hectic day at a theme park, you can do so with a heated pool, two outdoor hot tubs and onsite dining options.
Enjoy rooms with WiFi, flatscreen televisions and kitchenettes and catch a free shuttle from the hotel to attractions around town.
Mid-Range Accommodation – Universal’s Endless Summer Resort – Surfside Inn & Suites
If you’re a fan of Universal Studios then this is the place for you. At the northern end of International Drive, Universal’s Endless Summer Resort gives you great amenities for your stay.
But more importantly, you get early access to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Universal’s Volcano Bay parks.
Free shuttles transport you to and from the park and Universal’s City Walk throughout the day.
And if you need some downtime at the hotel, relax by the pool, enjoy the on-site game room and feast on a variety of meal options at the food court.
This is definitely the place to stay for a binge on all things Universal.
Luxury Accommodation – Reunion Resort
Set in Kissimmee, the elegant Reunion Resort and Golf Club is widely considered to be one of the best hotels in the area and it is a great base for exploring the theme parks, Kissimmee and Orlando.
Reunion Resort and Golf Club is just a fifteen-minute drive from Walt Disney World Resort, a twenty five minute drive from Universal Studios and thirty minutes from Downtown Orlando.
The hotel is located on a dream location with timeless glamour and charm an amazing golf courses and waterpark and pools. You can stay in anywhere from one to three bedroom suite style villas to multi-bedroom Vacation Rental homes which all include living and dining areas plus full size kitchens. Many of the homes boast guest favorite features like private pools and game rooms. There are stunning panoramic views throughout. In fact, you can just sit on the terrace or at the bar and watch people playing golf.
Reunion Resort and Golf Club has a range bedrooms options and they come in a diverse array of styles. The standard rooms feature all the bells and whistles you’d expect like luxe bathrobes, free Wi-Fi, and satellite TV.