by Staff Writer

2 min read July 2019As the 4th of July vacation fast approaches, many Americans are ready to start their engines and hit the highways for the holidays. Right on time, the American Automobile Association (AAA) has released its ranking of the most popular destinations this year, and Orlando tops the list. The city beat out global tourist stalwarts, including Rome and Paris. When it comes to summer vacation, here’s what makes Orlando a standout.

Location, Location, Location

Located in the middle of the state, Orlando is remarkably well-connected. It is linked to North Carolina by I-95, and to Atlanta and Tennessee by I-75. Even visitors from as far off as Dallas can sail down the I-20 and arrive to Orlando in 17 hours. Gas prices are low heading into the US “driving season,” with average prices down on the same time last year.

For those who prefer to leave the car at home, Orlando boasts three international airports. Orlando International alone has over 2,700 domestic flights per week.

Park Life

Once tourists arrive, they have a plethora of destinations to choose from, but the top attractions are its iconic theme parks. Orlando is host to Disney’s Magic Kingdom, Universal Island of Adventure, Sea World, Legoland and many more. The 2018 Theme Index shows that Orlando plays host to seven of the Top 10 theme parks globally, with combined foot traffic of over 83 million people. In an industry expected to be worth $70.83 billion by 2025, this 4th of July is likely to provide a significant cash injection to the city.

Shop ‘Til You Drop

One of the best-loved traditions for visitors to Orlando is the shopping experience. The city has a whole host of shopping opportunities and even Disney aficionados can find a customized experience in Disney Springs. Florida Mall and The Mall at Millenia offer traditional shopping experiences, while Orlando Premium Outlets at Vineland Avenue and International Drive are the places to snap up a bargain. If you’re feeling more folksy, take a stroll down the local boutiques of Winter Park Avenue or go on a culinary tour at the East End Market.

Visitors to counties in Central Florida pay more than $5 billion each year in state and local taxes, accounting for roughly half of all sales tax revenue. This money is then used to build up the region’s entertainment, restaurants and tourist attractions.

Culture Vultures

Even though Orlando is known for its theme parks, there is a lot more to see and do in the city. The Orlando Science Center is a must for science buffs, with its interactive exhibits and planetarium shows. For a more tranquil day, visit the Henry P. Leu Gardens on the picturesque banks of Lake Rowena. If you don’t quite want to tear yourself away from the stores, try the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art, where among the exhibits you can find an extensive Tiffany & Co. collection.

Back to Nature

In Orlando, you can take the time to zoom around The Everglades in an airboat, catching glimpses of alligators and other wildlife that live in the swamp. Or, if you actually want to jump in, try the freshwater springs of Blue Spring State Park, just an hour’s drive away from the city center. Here, you can enjoy swimming, snorkelling and scuba diving or jump on a boat tour.

If you don’t want to go so far afield, the Lake Eola park, conveniently situated in downtown Orlando, is a 23-acre playground complete with a sprawling lake, amphitheater, playground and a famous fountain. It’s a place to escape from the hustle and bustle of the city while never having to leave the shadow of the skyline. In 2013, the park was expanded to the southeast as part of Project DTO – Mayor Buddy Dyer’s drive for a more liveable downtown area.

“Today our downtown is a vibrant and dynamic center, economic engine and cultural destination with a charm and character all its own,” said Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer in his annual State of Downtown address.

Above all, Orlando is a destination for all the family, which is a key reason it comes out on top this 4th of July. 

For more information, visit the websites below:

 

American Automobile Association (AAA) https://autoclubsouth.aaa.com/

Disney’s Magic Kingdom https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/destinations/magic-kingdom/

Florida Mall https://www.simon.com/mall/the-florida-mall

Henry P. Leu Gardens https://www.leugardens.org/

International Drive https://www.internationaldriveorlando.com/

Lake Rowena https://www.orlando.gov/Parks-the-Environment/Directory/Lake-Rowena-Park

Legoland https://www.legoland.com/

Orlando Premium Outlets at Vineland Avenue https://www.premiumoutlets.com/outlet/orlando-vineland

Orlando Science Center https://www.osc.org/

Sea World https://seaworld.com/

The Mall at Millenia https://www.mallatmillenia.com/

Universal Island of Adventure https://www.universalorlando.com/web/en/us/theme-parks/islands-of-adventure