Strangers in strange Or-land-o
February 20, 2013 5:55 AM   Subscribe

What's fun to do on a Friday night in Orlando, and so easy to get to that even a tourist from overseas could do it?

We're meeting some cousins from Ecuador in April to go to Disney World. They're two parents in their 50s and a brother and sister in their 20s. My family and I will arrive April 13 to commence a week of amusement park rides and general highway robbery, but the cousins have made an error, and will arrive on April 12 (at 3:30 p.m., to be exact, with Customs still to go through). We can't get down there until the 13th.

What would people recommend these four do without us to fill a couple of hours on a Friday evening in Orlando? The kids speak English well enough to navigate taxis and box offices, but I don't want to send them off adventuring too far, and so was thinking I'd put them in a hotel near the airport and then find them something to do that evening that's not too far. Ideally, they could easily find a taxi back to the hotel from wherever they ended up. Three of the four have never been in the U.S. I'm remembering the little strip park in Guayaquil we went to on January 1; the hotel got us a taxi, we took the driver's phone number, then walked around this little contained area with fun stuff to look at for a couple of hours before calling the same taxi to take us back. But any ideas are welcome; just the less complicated, the better.
posted by troywestfield to Travel & Transportation around Orlando, FL (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Send them to Disney straight off.

There are busses from the Orlando Airport to hotels on the Disney property. Disney's Magical Express. They get on the bus, the Disney people manage the luggage.

When they get to the hotel (where they'll find lots of Spanish speaking folks TRUST me on this.) The luggage will go to the room, and they can get a bus to the Disney Marketplace. Lots of eateries, shops, attractions, etc. They can walk around and get a head start on the Disney portion of the experience.

Right now Disney is running a promotion on their properties 30% off!

Also, I recommend the Disney Dining Plan. It's a good deal and a great way to manage expenses.

Orlando can be a rip-off, and there's nothing much near the airport.

I always recommend staying on Disney property when visiting Disney World and if you're doing that, you might as well do the dining plan.

If they do the dining plan, they can do Dinner and a Show at Polynesian.

Don't leave this to chance. If you're doing Disney, go whole hog and immerse yourself. Everyone will be comfortable and happy, and that's why Disney is so fabulous.

(You can rent a car for a couple of days to do shopping on International Drive and to see Sea World and Universal-if you must.)
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:16 AM on February 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

There is not much near the airport. If they are staying at Disney, I'd have them head there early. There is a lot to do at Disney, even outside the parks. Friday nights they could go to the Boardwalk for dancing at Atlantic Dance Hall or dueling pianos at Jellyrolls, or they could go to the Downtown Disney area for dinner, bowling, a movie, or shopping.

Other tourist areas are International Drive, which has different restaurants and shows available, or CityWalk which is the competitor for Downtown Disney but at Universal Studios.

Outside of that, there are a lot of bars and places to eat downtown in the Church Street area.
posted by I am the Walrus at 6:19 AM on February 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

On non-preview for Ruthless Bunny, the Luau at the Polynesian is great, but there are other dinner shows at Disney too. I personally like the hokey Hoop Dee Doo review at Fort Wilderness. And all the hotels at Disney have nice restaurants, several have the option of fireworks viewing, so that could be an option also.

Also, the Disney Marketplace that Bunny mentions is half of Downtown Disney, the other half is the West Side.
posted by I am the Walrus at 6:22 AM on February 20, 2013

Response by poster: We are staying at a non-Disney resort. I've rented a van to take the eight of us there on Saturday; sending them there Friday seems problematic, and I don't know that they could check in a day early, it's a timeshare kind of place where you rent by the week, to my knowledge. I would probably look into it if I didn't like the idea of their having to get there without us.
posted by troywestfield at 6:31 AM on February 20, 2013

There is a hotel inside the Orlando airport if you really don't think they are capable of getting around town on their own.

I was just there for the first time over the weekend and avoided Disney altogether, but we did check out Universal for Harry Potter purposes. The Citywalk there is free and would probably be quite a spectacle to people who have not been to the US before. Lots of cheesy chain restaurants, shops, and bars.

Any decent tourist hotel should be able to get them to the major attractions by helping with cabs.
posted by something something at 6:35 AM on February 20, 2013

Have them stay at an All Stars Resort for the first night. Then pick them up and take them to the time-share the following day.

They can take the Disney bus from the airport to the hotel, they can eat on the hotel property or take the intra-park busses anywhere (to a theme park, to another hotel, the transporation within Disney is pretty great.)

Orlando is like South Florida in that 50% of the folks there speak Spanish, so language shouldn't be an issue.

Time shares are okay, but if you can get out of it and re-visit staying on-property, I would SO recommend it.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:36 AM on February 20, 2013

CityWalk at Universal is pretty fun for a Friday night, as is Downtown Disney. Downtown Disney has a new bowling alley called Splitsville that has been getting great reviews.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:37 AM on February 20, 2013

Fourthing CityWalk, where there is a movie theater, too. Lots of hotels have shuttle service to Universal.
posted by soelo at 8:45 AM on February 20, 2013

I would recommend City Walk. I think it is a more interesting venue than Downtown Disney and it is a bit closer to the airport than Downtown Disney. If they land at 3:30, they will not be showing up at either location until at least 6:30 because of customs, general airport shenanigans, going to the hotel, and then getting from the hotel to the park.

My big concern is that they might be pretty tired after the international flight. When we make our annual trip to Japan, we are generally pretty tired when we land and just want to eat dinner, have a bath, and sleep. Something like City Walk where they can just walk around is low key. There are also a number of restaurants, but they may have a bit of a wait on a Friday night.

I wouldn't recommend an airport hotel. There is nothing of interest around the airport. Maybe a Universal hotel so they have quick access to City Walk?
posted by Tanizaki at 10:09 AM on February 20, 2013

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