Get touristy on International Drive, which had its first hotel a year before Walt Disney World arrived

Walt Disney World
Walt Disney World Photo via Seth Kubersky

Before Walt Disney World was even a magical glimmer in the eye of its developer, the land between what would be the "Most Magical Place on Earth" and Downtown Orlando was basically swamp. Once WDW became a reality, it was clear that visitors would need a place to stay closer to the theme park. The first hotel on International Drive was completed one year before Disney World opened its doors in 1971. Now, International Drive and the Orlando tourism corridor are home to more than 1,000 hotels, plus more attractions and dining than you can shake a pair of mouse ears at.

Icon Park
8375 International Drive
iconparkorlando.com

Since its grand opening in 2015, Icon Park has had almost as many names as the number of years it's been in operation. The centerpiece is the 400 foot-tall "Wheel at Icon Park," known locally as the Orlando Eye, but the complex also features shopping, dining, nightlife and other diversions.

JW Marriott
Bonnet Creek
14900 Chelonia Pkwy.
marriott.com

Orlando's second JW Marriott is located right on Disney property, but whether you plan to visit the parks or not, it's the new place to book that staycation this year. The hotel is all about wellness, and features a pool with splash pad, a rooftop terrace and numerous in-house dining options.

Shingle Creek Trail
Trailhead: 5165 Metrowest Blvd.
orlando.gov

Shingle Creek's trailhead starts at Eagle's Nest Park and connects Orlando, Orange County, Osceola County and Kissimmee. The trail features a two-mile loop around Lake Fran, as well as two overlook points near Sand Lake Road for wildlife spotting.

Discovery Cove
6000 Discovery Cove Way
discoverycove.com

Call it the anti-theme park. Imagine all the fun you can possibly have in a swimsuit – floating along a lazy river, snorkeling a coral reef, diving with sharks, swimming with dolphins, lazing in a cabana – without any of the standing in line. Food and beverages included.

Disney Springs levels up
1486 Buena Vista Drive, Lake Buena Vista
disneysprings.com

Exciting new operating partners are making their way to Disney Springs over the next year, including upscale quick-service coffee hub Beatrix, and some locals have entered the mix: Gideon's Bakehouse (launched at Audubon Park's East End Market) announced their second location to open here later this year.

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