1. Swallow the wave pool water at Typhoon Lagoon.
The wave pool at Typhoon Lagoon is awesome. It’s a little known fact that you and your friends can actually rent the wave pool out after the park closes to surf for three to four hours. Just don’t swallow the water. Band-Aids, random garbage, and human fluids have been marinating in it for hours. There’s a reason it’s so chlorinated.
2. Forget your E-pass.
Known as Sunpass to the rest of the state, the E-pass is your ticket to avoiding a road rage incident on toll roads in the area (408, 417, and 528, that means you). If you’ve rented a car, procure one. Stay in those “E-pass only” lanes. Otherwise, you’ll be scrambling to find cash in a long line of cars (in which every other driver is doing the same). It’s just about as fun as it sounds.
3. Go to any theme park during Easter weekend.
Contrary to popular belief, locals do go to Disney World, Universal Studios, and Islands of Adventure. What’s the catch, you ask? They avoid going on holidays – Easter weekend, Christmas vacation, and MLK Day are out. Your reward for going on those days anyway? One-to-two-hour lines and spending too much money on Mickey-shaped chocolate-dipped ice cream. Hell, don’t go in the summer either. The heat index will guarantee you have a miserable time.
4. Go to a bar near UCF.
It’s difficult to find a reason to say you should. The only thing you’re going to find is underage college students attempting to party. There will be cheap drinks. There will be awkward dancing. There will be puking in the bathrooms. You’ll live without all of that. There are exceptions, but friend, just go downtown.
5. Think “downtown” means Downtown Disney.
Downtown Disney is a decent replacement (not really) if you don’t have a car to get around the city. However, Downtown Disney is not the droid you’re looking for. The one you want is about 18 miles northeast — you’ll find great bars, clubs, restaurants, and more (without Mickey’s face emblazoned across any of their facades). Besides, you’re visiting Orlando, not Disney World. This should go without saying.
6. Get on I-4 between 4 and 6pm.
Interstate 4 is a paved, 132.3-mile stretch of hell. Yes, it does get you across the state, which is an impressive feat for one road. But come rush hour, do your best to be anywhere but on I-4, especially if you’re anywhere near the Conroy exit. You’ll have plenty of time to stare at Orange Blossom Trail or the Holy Land Experience, depending on which part of the giant traffic jam you’re stuck in.
7. Try to feed the swans at Lake Eola.
There is little to say regarding the activity. People will tell you to bring bread to feed the swans — great idea, not-so-great execution. The swans might bite you. Those evil creatures might even try to steal the sacred Publix sub you just purchased to eat lakeside. The former is painful. The latter is a grave offense.
8. Go to the Mall at Millenia on a Saturday.
Everyone will tell you that the Mall at Millenia is a great place to get your shopping done. This isn’t false. Advice-givers often fail to mention the possibility of you reaching your boiling point (and simply driving away in disgust) in an attempt to find parking at the mall on a weekend. Save yourself the headache and park far, far away. If you do manage to find parking near the mall’s entrance, you’ll step inside to droves of tourists and locals congesting walkways and stores. At least there’s air conditioning inside. This applies to the outlets as well.
9. Assume Orlando stays warm all year.
Orlando gets hot. It also can get pretty damn cold. 29 degrees Fahrenheit may sound like a normal Massachusetts winter day, but occasionally it’s an Orlando winter day as well. Check the weather forecast before you show up. Pack the right clothing. Otherwise, you’ll be spending your vacation budget on new clothing at the mall — if you find parking.
10. Never leave tourist-land.
Orlando is a spread-out city. There’s a lot to see and do. Once you complete your theme park marathon, make sure to venture out — no, not Sandlake Road. Check out the smaller towns in the Greater Orlando area. Drive around Oviedo. Visit Gotha (and make sure to stop at Yellow Dog Eats for a bite). Go to Windermere. Take a walk in Winter Park. Explore. Get lost. Find some culture.