Orlando is a world-famous city with endless things to see and do. Home of Mickey Mouse, rollercoasters aplenty, and extreme amounts of fun in the sun, but when choosing to stay here, you need to think carefully. Knowing where to stay in Orlando is a must for a stress-free trip.
It’s impossible not to love Orlando, it’s one of my favorite places in the USA, and is one of the most popular places to visit in Florida. You can’t help but spend your time smiling simply because of the magic in the air.
I’ve visited the area many times; both for theme parks and for life beyond them, and I know for sure that it’s somewhere I’ll return to again and again. This is a place where it’s impossible to be bored for a second.
The best place to stay in Orlando really depends on what you want to get out of your time. Maybe you don’t want to be near Disney, or perhaps you’re more about history. Whatever your preferences, let’s take a look at the best spots in Orlando to help you grab the most fun out of every single second:
Best Areas to Stay in Orlando
Lake Buena Vista: Best Place To Stay in Orlando for Your First Time
I personally think that Lake Buena Vista is one of the best places to stay in Orlando if you’ve never been before. Many people say International Drive is better, but I don’t agree. The beauty of Lake Buena Vista is that you avoid all the crazy traffic and confusion, meaning you can relax, enjoy yourself, and plan your time so much better.
This is one of the best Orlando neighborhoods to stay in if you want to spend a good portion of time in Disney World, but it’s still only a 15-minute drive to Universal too. It’s an ideal spot for families, couples, and those who aren’t so comfortable in extremely large and busy areas.
Pros of Staying in Lake Buena Vista
- Close to both Disney and Universal
- A large number of high-quality hotels are available
- A quieter area, making it perfect for first-timers
- Many hotels in this area offer direct shuttles to Disney
Cons of Staying in Lake Buena Vista
- Close proximity to Disney means higher prices for hotels
- You might feel a bit too Disney-fied from time to time
- Nightlife in this area isn’t the greatest
Best Places to Stay in Lake Buena Vista
Lake Buena Vista is home to both Disney hotels and regular hotels. It’s also one of the best areas to stay in Orlando without a car thanks to regular shuttle services.
1. Holiday Inn Express & Suites: This hotel is a great base for families and couples who want to be within easy reach of Disney World, but don’t want to stay in the thick of it. With a huge outdoor pool and on-site restaurants, there’s plenty to do within the hotel. Click here for details.
2. SpringHill Suites by Marriott: I highly recommend this hotel for families, thanks to the fun-filled activities on-site. The outdoor pool is massive, along with the games room and outdoor space, making it one of the best hotels in Orlando near Disney. Click here for details.
3. Comfort Suites Orlando: I’ve stayed at this hotel recently, and it’s a great choice for those on a budget. It also has a free shuttle to Disney World that runs throughout the day. For convenience and price, you can’t knock it. Click here for details.
Top Things To Do in Lake Buena Vista
There’s plenty to see and do in and around Lake Buena Vista; let’s take a look at some top recommendations:
1. Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon Water Park: When the weather’s hot, there is nothing better than jumping in the water, and this water park is one of my favorites. Enjoy rides, such as Crush ‘n’ Gusher, lazy rivers, and general aquatic amusement with a sprinkle of Disney magic. Click here for ticket details and Click here for directions.
2. Disney’s Palm Golf Course: It might have the Disney name, but that’s the only real association, as this course is set in stunningly beautiful countryside. Half a day is usually enough time here, and you don’t necessarily have to be a golf expert to enjoy your visit. Click here for directions.
3. Walt Disney World Resort: If Disney is your bag, and you’re deciding on where to stay in Orlando, know that Lake Buena Vista is its home. Magic Kingdom is without a doubt my favorite park, but Epcot is a fantastic option for foodies – you can eat your way around the world. Put simply, Walt Disney World Resort sums up all things magic perfectly. Click here for ticket details and Click here for directions.
Where to Eat and Drink in Lake Buena Vista
There are some fantastic places to eat in Lake Buena Vista; here are some of my favorites:
1. The Boathouse: This is one of my favorite restaurants in Orlando, and it’s super fun. Serving delicious fresh seafood and steaks in a waterfront setting, you can even hire a boat and go for a ride before or after your meal. Click here for directions.
2. Raglan Road Irish Pub: Families will love this Irish-themed restaurant with a welcoming atmosphere, great drinks, and delicious food. Enjoy Irish dancing performances throughout the week and embrace the lively ambiance. Click here for directions.
3. STK Steakhouse: Many restaurants around Lake Buena Vista are themed, but this one is simply sophisticated and offers seriously sumptuous food. I had the best steak here, and you should definitely check out the Maine lobster linguini. Click here for directions.
Downtown Orlando: Best Area in Orlando for Nightlife
Downtown Orlando is one of the best places to stay in Orlando for nightlife, especially if you’re a group of friends looking for fun or a couple who want to avoid Disney-themed spots. This is the commercial center of Orlando, but it’s not all about business; it’s packed with fantastic spots to enjoy delicious food and drink, and let your hair down.
There are some great museums around here, including Orange County Regional History Center, and it’s also home to the Amway Center, where you can catch an Orlando Magic game if the NBA is your bag. This part of Orlando isn’t huge, but it’s packed with plenty to see and do.
Pros of Staying in Downtown Orlando
- Ideal for those who want to party at night
- Easy to walk around the neighborhood
- Plenty of choice of restaurants and bars
- Cheaper accommodation compared to those near theme parks
Cons of Staying in Downtown Orlando
- Not ideal for families and children
- It can get quite loud at night
- Harder to get to theme parks from here
- Less family-friendly accommodation
Best Places to Stay in Downtown Orlando
Below, you’ll find many Orlando hotels near nightlife, making it easy to enjoy an evening of fun:
1. Embassy Suites by Hilton Orlando: Located right in the heart of Downtown, this hotel is perfectly central and offers a comfortable place to stay. The breakfasts here are made to order and famously good. Click here for details.
2. Towneplace Suites by Marriott Orlando: This is the best place to stay in Orlando for adults who want to relax in sophisticated surroundings. The hotel features a large outdoor pool and sun terrace, and a fantastic on-site restaurant. Click here for details.
3. The Delaney Hotel: If you’re wondering where to stay in Orlando to help you feel at home, yet want to be close to everything, this hotel is your best bet. The on-site Delaney’s Tavern is also a fantastic place to spend a few hours. Click here for details.
Top Things To Do in Downtown Orlando
Downtown might be the business district, but there’s a lot to see and do.
1. Watch Orlando Magic: You don’t necessarily have to be a basketball fan to enjoy watching a game. The Amway Center is located in Downtown and is a great place to soak up a fantastic atmosphere. You can also catch music concerts throughout the year so be sure to check what’s on before your trip. Click here for directions.
2. Orlando Science Center: Half a day here is a great way to inspire your kids to learn something new, and the DinoDigs exhibit is a firm favorite of mine. With new interactive events on throughout the year, be sure to view their events list before you visit. Click here for directions.
3. SAK Comedy Lab: If improv comedy is your thing, you must visit SAK Comedy Lab. This is the breeding ground for the next generation of comedians and a night here will definitely leave you with an aching face from laughing too much. Click here for directions.
Where to Eat and Drink in Downtown Orlando
Downtown is the best area to stay in Orlando for top-class restaurants and bars to enjoy a few drinks. Here are my top 3:
2. AC Skybar: There’s no better place for dinner and drinks with a view than AC Skybar. I really enjoyed my night at this adults-only spot and for seafood fans, I highly recommend the seared Florida Grouper. Click here for directions.
3. Turci Pasta: In my opinion, you can’t beat a good Italian restaurant, and this is one of the best in Orlando. You’ll need to reserve a table ahead of time, but the ambiance and food here are fantastic. Click here for directions.
Lake Nona: Coolest Place to Stay in Orlando
If you’re wondering where to stay in Orlando under the cool and trendy label, it has to be Lake Nona – one of the posher areas of Orlando. This is a residential area that has plenty of touristy fun on offer; in fact, it’s one of the best Orlando suburbs if you don’t want to be Disney-fied at all.
This relatively small, but action-packed, community is the best place to stay in Orlando if you want to feel like a local and dine at homely restaurants. It’s also a pretty sleek and modern spot, with shopping, nightlife, and cultural opportunities.
Pros of Staying in Lake Nona
- Less touristic, giving you an authentic experience
- Cheaper accommodation options
- Fantastic restaurants
- Ideal for walking and spotting art and sculptures
Cons of Staying in Lake Nona
- Not so close to the main tourist attractions
- You will need a car to get around
- Fewer accommodation options to choose from
- Not ideal for families who want the regular Orlando fun
Best Places to Stay in Lake Nona
Lake Nona might not have as many hotels as Downtown and Kissimmee, but it’s got more than enough to choose from, making it one of the best areas to stay in Orlando:
1. Lake Nona Wave Hotel: The exterior of this hotel is super-Instagrammable and inside you’ll find countless tech-heavy facilities. The on-site nightclub and restaurants are both top-class. Click here for details.
2. SpringHill Suites by Marriott: This hotel is centrally located within Lake Nona and offers a shared lounge and comfortable rooms. It’s the ideal base for those keen to explore the area. Click here for details.
Top Things To Do in Lake Nona
Despite being away from the main theme parks, Lake Nona has plenty to keep you occupied, making it the best neighborhood in Orlando for something a little different:
1. Nona Adventure Park: If you want to take your kids out and let them run off some steam, this place is your best bet. With plenty of space to roam free and exert some energy, a few hours here will undoubtedly set them up for a good night’s sleep. Click here for directions.
2. Lake Nona Sculpture Garden: I loved walking around this huge park and spotting different sculptures. The wide-open spaces here are a welcome break from queues and busy streets. Click here for directions.
3. Boggy Creek Airboat Adventures: I always wanted to visit the Everglades but Miami is a little too far; Boggy Creek is the ideal answer to that problem. Enjoy an airboat ride and keep your eyes peeled for alligators and countless types of birds. Click here for directions.
Where to Eat and Drink in Lake Nona
Lake Nona is considered a safe neighborhood in Orlando, which means heading out and enjoying a delicious meal at night is a top, carefree thing to do:
1. Sus Hi Eatstation: If you love sushi, or you’re looking to try it for the first time, I’d highly recommend this restaurant. It’s laidback, and you can try lots of different types – the Lit Bowl is one of my favorites. Click here for directions.
2. Lake Nona Deli & Market: This is both a restaurant and market, which has a really local feel to it. I enjoyed the fresh produce here, and I can highly recommend the garlic knots. Click here for directions.
3. Canvas: The breakfast at this restaurant is one of the best in the area, and everything is served seasonally and with super-fresh produce. You can even sit outside and soak up the sun al fresco style. Click here for directions.
Kissimmee: Best for Families
Hands down, Kissimmee is one of the best places to stay in Orlando for families and offers a comfortable and affordable base, close to all the main sights and attractions. There are many villas to rent here, so you pay per property and not per person; it’s a great way to save some cash and is ideal for families or larger groups.
While most families stay here to be close to theme parks, there’s a lot to see and do around this particularly green area. There are many parks to visit and it’s also considered to be the start of the Everglades. If you’re wondering where to stay in Orlando to have a homely visit while connecting to all the major sights, I’d highly recommend Kissimmee.
Pros of Staying in Kissimmee
- Large range of cost-effective accommodation
- Ideal for families
- Close to all major attractions
- Many outdoor activities to enjoy
- A homely base
Cons of Staying in Kissimmee
- Nightlife is quite sedate
- You will need a car to get around unless you rely on shuttles to and from parks
- A very busy area
- A lot of traffic
Best Places to Stay in Kissimmee
Kissimmee offers many accommodation options, and it’s one of the cheapest places to stay in Orlando:
1. Reunion Resort & Golf Club: This is one of the best places to stay in Orlando for groups and offers a welcoming yet sophisticated base for your break. Each unit features a kitchenette, sitting area, outdoor space, and large, comfortable bedrooms. Click here for details.
2. Polynesian Isles Resort: For a little luxury and to rest your legs at the end of a long day, I’d highly recommend this hotel. With a heated pool, extra-comfortable beds, and all the facilities you could ever need, this is a top spot. Click here for details.
3. Hampton Inn Kissimmee North: Kissimmee is one of the best neighborhoods in Orlando and this budget hotel allows you to stay for less cash, without having to compromise on comfort and quality. It also offers convenient shuttles to Disney World. Click here for details.
Top Things To Do in Kissimmee
Anyone wondering where to stay in Orlando for theme parks should definitely consider Kissimmee. But it’s not all about theme parks either. See my top recommendations below:
1. Universal Studios: Adrenaline junkies should head to Universal Studios for some big thrills and huge rides, including The Incredible Hulk Coaster. Islands of Adventure and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter are within the same park, as well as the Universal CityWalk. It’s definitely a good idea to get your tickets ahead of time. Click here for ticket information.
There’s so much to see and do here, I’d recommend carving out more than one day to experience it all. Click here for details.
2. Kissimmee Lakefront Park: This huge park is perfect for chill-out days. There’s plenty of space for kids to run, picnic areas to take advantage of, and a very calm vibe to unwind in. The shaded playground is a welcome escape on hot days too. Click here for directions.
3. Fun Spot America: If anyone asks me where to stay in Orlando, I say Kissimmee because of things like this. This is an old-fashioned funfair, complete with cotton candy, rides, and dodgems. It’s such a fun day or evening out and offers a totally different vibe to the other theme parks. Click here for directions.
Where to Eat and Drink in Kissimmee
Kissimmee’s restaurants range from fine dining to chilled-out diners. There really is something for everyone:
1. Mu Restaurant & Grill: First things first, the tacos here are pretty special, but aside from that, it’s a high-quality restaurant with a chilled vibe. I loved my evening eating here, and it’s family-friendly too. Click here for directions.
2. Big John’s Rockin’ BBQ: If you go here, make sure you’re hungry; the portions are huge! The menu is extensive and offers all kinds of barbecued meats, salads, and sides. It’s a must-visit for me. Click here for directions.
3. Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen: The whole family will love this restaurant, which serves the kind of food you crave after a long day of walking around theme parks. The Legendary Monster Cookie is something everyone should try at least once in their lives. Click here for directions.
International Drive (I-Drive): Best Place in Orlando on a Budget
If you’re looking for places to stay in Orlando to save some cash but still want to be in the heart of things, International Drive is for you. Also known locally as ‘I-Drive’, I’ve stayed in this area a few times, and it’s a fun-filled, busy, and high-octane spot that offers some budget hotels as a comfortable base.
This is also the best place to stay in Orlando for nightlife suitable for children, as the area is home to crazy golf courses, family-friendly restaurants, and small amusement parks that stay open until late. You will certainly need a car if you choose to stay on International Drive, but you’ll be in a central position to visit the major sights with ease.
Pros of Staying on International Drive
- Cheaper accommodation
- Family-friendly entertainment is close by
- Central location, with easy access to roads
- Many tourist attractions in the local area
- Budget dining, such as IHOP and Golden Corral
Cons of Staying on International Drive
- You will need a car
- I-Drive is 17km long, so you need to choose your location carefully
- Extremely busy, with huge roads
Best Places to Stay on International Drive
International Drive is a long road packed with hotels and apartments. Here are some of my favorite spots:
1. Universal’s Aventura Hotel: This is a sleek and comfortable hotel and offers guests early access to Universal parks. The outdoor space includes a huge pool and kid’s splash area, so it’s a great hotel for families. Many people wonder where to stay in Orlando with parking, but this is a top choice. Click here for details.
2. Tru By Hilton Orlando Convention Center: I enjoyed staying at this hotel because it was comfortable and gave me everything I needed as a base. If you want to know where to stay in Orlando for adults, I’d recommend this budget option. There’s also free parking for guests, which is very useful when driving around the major attractions. Click here for details.
3. Wyndham Garden Orlando Universal: This hotel offers an ideal base for families who want to spend a few days at Universal and then want to explore the rest of the surrounding area. It isn’t inside the resort itself, but it’s at the gates and offers plenty of on-site amenities for the whole family. Click here for details.
Top Things To Do on International Drive
There’s so much to do on International Drive that whittling down your options can be confusing. Here are some of my recommendations:
1. WonderWorks Orlando: You can’t miss this attraction from the outside, and once inside, you won’t want to leave. With endless science and wonder allure, you’ll be confused in the very best way possible. This is a top spot for all the family and is really interactive, so you’ll be learning without even realizing it. Click here for ticket details and Click here for directions.
2. Madame Tussauds Orlando: Whether we like it or not, we’re quite unlikely to meet our favorite celebrity in real life, and in that case, Madame Tussauds is the next best thing. I loved having my photo taken with the different “stars,” and if that’s as close as I’m going to get to Brad Pitt, I’ll take it. Get your tickets ahead of time and Click here for directions.
3. Chocolate Kingdom: Chocolate lovers rejoice; this place is for you. This tour is so much fun; you’ll learn how chocolate is made, and its history, and of course, you’ll get to sample a few different types. Attractions like this are why I-Drive is one of the best places to stay in Orlando Center. Click here to learn more and book.
Where to Eat and Drink on International Drive
For those wondering where to stay in Orlando for nightlife suitable for all, I-Drive is the spot:
1. Cafe Tu Tu Tango: This seriously funky restaurant is a must-visit. Not only does it serve delicious street food, but live musicians and artists are working as you eat. With such a fun vibe, you’ll want to dine here more than once. Click here for directions.
2. Hash House A Go Go: This restaurant has a laid-back vibe which is ideal for families to enjoy. Definitely check out the fried chicken waffle tower if you’re feeling hungry, followed by the brown sugar banana pancakes. Click here for directions.
3. Jack’s Place: There are many steak restaurants on I-Drive, but I think this is the best. Even the starters are mouthwatering here, and the rack of lamb was the best I’ve ever had. Click here for directions.
Best Areas to Stay in Orlando: FAQs
Here are some answers to the most frequently asked questions about the best places to stay in Orlando, FL:
Knowing where to stay in Orlando means targeting your time according, in line with what you want to do. International Drive, Kissimmee, and Lake Buena Vista are top spots for theme park fans.
Mercy Drive and Malibu Groves are considered two of the most “dangerous” areas of Orlando. However, these are more residential areas and are not particularly touristy anyway.
If you’re looking at where to stay in Orlando city center and want to be as safe as possible, look at neighborhoods such as Kissimmee and Lake Buena Vista. These are the best places to stay near Orlando for first-time visitors.
It matters where you stay in Orlando because of the huge distances between areas. If you want to spend most of your time at Universal Studios, you should look for hotels in Orlando near Universal. Similarly, if your time is mostly Disney-based, check out Kissimmee, Lake Buena Vista, and even I-Drive.
If you want great nightlife and shopping, Downtown Orlando is a great choice. However, as a family, it’s not the ideal area as it’s quite loud.
When deciding where to stay in Orlando you need to first understand that Orlando is not walkable. You will need a car to get around or make use of shuttle transfers between parks. The distances between major attractions are quite large.
There isn’t one central part of Orlando that’s close to absolutely everything, but if you want to be within a fair distance of most things, International Drive is your best bet.
Hiring a car is the best way to get around Orlando. Car hire is reasonably priced and there are many options available.
When deciding where to stay in Orlando, think about whether you want to be close to the parks or if you’re more about nightlife. If it’s nightlife, stay in Downtown Orlando. Families and theme park fans will find Kissimmee a better choice.
If you want the full-on Disney experience and money isn’t a massive issue for you, stay in a Disney hotel. However, if your vacation isn’t going to be all about Disney and you want to save some money, there are countless accommodation options in other parts of Orlando, often with easy shuttle access to Disney itself.
Now you know where to stay in Orlando, the fun part can start. Planning your time is essential for a destination like this. It doesn’t mean you need a strict itinerary complete with a clipboard, but it helps to know what you want to do and when you’re going to do it. It also makes booking your tickets online a lot easier.
Orlando is a place I adore, but it’s also somewhere you need to get right if you want to make the most of your time. Now I’ve managed to work out the best spots to stay to get the most out of my time, I’m happy to share my gems of knowledge with you. With that information, you’ll have the best possible time in Orlando, and likely return ready to plan your next visit.