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Tips for navigating and having fun in Orlando

By Naseem Miller, Orlando Sentinel

The 2018 IRE Conference at the Renaissance Orlando at SeaWorld is located Southwest of Orlando, at the heart of city’s tourist area known as International Drive, or I-Drive. It’s about 15 miles away from downtown Orlando.

There are attractions, museums, shops and many chain restaurants nearby. But don’t count on walking ... anywhere. Locals mostly get around with cars or buses, because the area is spread out and the weather is usually hot, humid and/or rainy.

For the fitness buffs, it’s best to avoid running and biking outdoors. You may get hit by a car.

That said, here’s some info that might help you get around and enjoy the city:

FOOD & FUN

Food

You’ll most likely notice the chains, but there are some good small restaurants around. Domu ramen bar has received rave reviews from The New York Times. While there, check out the other shops and restaurants in the East End Market. Bosphorus serves up great Turkish food and has a location near the hotel. If you like Vietnamese food, there’s a row of them on East Colonial Drive (S.R. 50).

Consider driving or riding over to Orlando’s Restaurant Row on Sand Lake Road. This district is about a 10-minute drive from the hotel. If you’re looking for sushi, visit Dragonfly Robata (reservations recommended.) In the same area, you’ll find steakhouses, seafood restaurants and a taco bar.

You can also find more restaurant reviews from the Orlando Sentinel here.

Excursions

If you decide to venture away from the hotel, about 20 miles into the city you’ll find Park Avenue in an older suburb of Orlando called Winter Park (a.k.a. old money). There are many restaurants and boutiques on Park Ave. The Morse Museum, which has a permanent exhibit of Louis Comfort Tiffany’s work, including his incredible chapel, is also on Park Avenue. It makes for a nice evening stroll.

Another quaint area to visit for restaurants and shops is a stretch of Edgewater Drive in College Park, which is about 20 miles away from the hotel. Also consider visiting downtown Orlando, home to Lake Eola Park, the Doctor Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, and plenty of restaurants.

Get a taste of theme parks without paying for a ticket

For a night out of eating, window shopping and entertainment, check out Disney Springs. If you’re a Universal Studios fan, try Universal CityWalk. Both are located near the main theme parks.

Pointe Orlando is another nearby entertainment hub for tourists with chain restaurants, shops and a few quirky entertainment spots like the WonderWorks Upside-Down Mansion.

Shopping Popular shopping destinations near the conference hotel — not in walking distance — are Orlando Vineland Premium Outlets, which is close to Florida Mall, Orlando International Premium Outlets, and Mall at Millenia. If you’re planning to have breakfast at Tiffany’s, Mall at Millenia is the place to go. The mall is surrounded by lots of shops and restaurants.

TRANSPORTATION

Car

If you’re comfortable following your GPS, driving is the easiest way to get around Orlando.

Tip: SR 408 (East-West Expressway), SR 417 (Central Florida Greenway) and SR 528 (Beachline Expressway) have tolls. Some toll stations have an attendant, some take coins, some have both. All have an E-Pass lane, which you can zoom through if you have an E-Pass sticker or transponder that will automatically charge your account. Visit www.cfxway.com/for-travelers to calculate your toll.  

I-4 is Orlando’s main toll-free highway. However, it’s almost always congested due to an ongoing construction project.

Bus system

Orlando’s bus system is called LYNX. If you’re staying in the International Drive area, the bus services can be used to travel to most attractions. It’s inexpensive, but using it takes some planning. Visit golynx.com for the schedule.

Trolley on International Drive

I-Drive has its own trolley system called I-Ride. All conference attendees will receive a three-day pass for the trolley in their registration packets (watch for more information in the conference welcome email). Visit iridetrolley.com for schedule or click here for a map of trolley stops.

Pedicab

Another way to get around International Drive is hopping on a Pedicab. Visit redipedicabservices.com for more info.

Taxi

There are several cab companies in Orlando. Visit taxifarefinder.com to get an estimate for the fees and taxi options.

Tip: Many taxis have started accepting credit cards, but some still ask for cash, so don’t forget to carry cash.

Uber & Lyft also have services in Orlando.

SunRail

Central Florida’s two-year-old commuter rail system is still expanding, but it can provide for a clean and quick transportation option in certain areas of Orlando. Visit sunrail.com for routes and schedule. There is no late-night or weekend service. The closest stop is Sand Lake Road, about 10 miles from the hotel.

HEALTH

Biking

Orlando is still working on becoming bike-friendly. In touristy areas like I-Drive, it can be risky to bike. So if you want to bike for a workout, consider using the hotel fitness center instead. If you’re a serious biker, two safe and established biking trails in Orlando are Cady Way Trail and West Orange Trail.

Running and walking

If you decide to run or walk outdoors, be careful. Drivers are still working on learning to share the road. Please put your safety first. Again, for a workout, your hotel fitness center is the best option.

Health emergencies

Central Florida is growing rapidly, so are its hospitals. We have free-standing ERs and urgent care centers popping up like Starbucks. The nearest hospital to the hotel is Dr. P. Phillips Hospital. There are several urgent care centers nearby, including Paramount Urgent Care and a few Florida Hospital Centra Care urgent care centers.

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