ORLANDO – It may be one of those undiscovered gems – or perhaps not, at least to longtime city residents or repeat visitors – but in this region that so heartily welcomes in and entertains visitors from across the globe, there’s something families can do here that’s free, and which they could quite likely find to be exquisitely charming.
It’s called Orlando at night.
At a time when some northern states are coping with bone chilling cold and even snow, the City Beautiful is spending December in the low 80s, with evening temperatures after sunset settling nicely into the 60s – ideal weather for being outside and walking around.
And just as the major theme parks like to tempt visitors with special holiday light shows — such as Walt Disney World’s Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Hollywood Studios, where lights dance to holiday music – a walking tour in Downtown Orlando is available without those hefty theme park admission prices.
A good start would be to park as close as you can find a space – not always easy to find this time of year – right near Lake Eola Park.
Right next to the park’s front entrance off Rosalind Avenue is the nearly 40-foot-tall Christmas tree that stands in front of the Disney Amphitheater. The all-natural spruce tree was brought to this city from Sugar Mountain Nursery in North Carolina, and arrived in Orlando just before Thanksgiving. Now it stands tall, and beautifully decorated, for the holiday season — and, naturally, is well lit at night.
Take a stroll along Lake Eola Park, and there are holiday decorations all around you, from the small dangling lights on holiday wreaths and trees, to those running up and down the shrubs … to the Lake Eola Fountain that lights up in red and green all evening long.
But there are interesting sights well past this popular park.
Check out some of the huge skyscrapers, apartment complexes and condominiums that surround the park, and stroll past them after dark. Stand still for a moment, and look up, and take a few moments to count the number of Christmas trees and bright holiday lights that can be seen inside the apartment windows, including those far up into the sky.
It’s an impressive site: the Christmas tree that very nearly reaches up to the stars.
Check out The Waverly or The Vue, both with views of Lake Eola, to see those Christmas trees in the sky.
There are, of course, plenty of decorations to be found along Orange Avenue, and on the busy shopping and restaurant/niughtclub district on Church Street and the Wall Street Plaza.
The Orange County History Center, which stands in front of Heritage Park Square, has plenty of brightly lit holiday lights as well, making a walking tour through downtown Orlando a very pleasant experience, guaranteed to put anyone into the holiday spirit.
Another option is to walk around and check out some of the older, historic churches in downtown, and see how beautifully these buildings are lit up for the holidays.
There are even walking tours available of the Downtown Orlando Historic District.
“Designated in 1980 by the City of Orlando, the district is a cohesive collection of buildings that reflects the commercial and governmental history of Orlando,” the city’s web site notes. “It encompasses eight blocks of buildings constructed from the 1880s until the early 1940s. Surrounded by modern skyscrapers, approximately 60 historic buildings in this district offer a glimpse into the city’s dynamic past.” The holiday season may be one of the best times to take advantage of the tour.
The Downtown Orlando Information Center, a resource for all Downtown informational needs, is available at 201 S. Orange Ave. The staff there have answers to questions about Downtown events, attractions, venues, dining, accommodations, parking, and businesses.
Visit Orlando also has updates on holiday events in this city and across the region, like Festival of the Seasons, which will be held at Downtown Disney tonight, featuring live entertainment, festive décor, photo ops with Santa and live entertainment that includes holiday carolers, costumed stilt walkers and street performers.
Contact us at FreelineOrlando@Gmail.com.