Whether you are traveling with kids via plane or boarding a cruise in Port Canaveral, there is something for everyone in Orlando, Florida. Known as the “The Theme Park Capital of the World,” this city boasts some of the best amusement parks in the United States — as well as natural landscapes including some of the best beaches with clear water in Florida, shopping, dining, and a whole lot of other interesting attractions. You can easily spend a week in Orlando, but for those who are only on a short vacation, it is still possible to check off the highlights of the city with a well-planned 3 days Orlando itinerary.
Without further ado, here’s our guide to help you plan a long weekend to Orlando!
3 Days Orlando Itinerary
This itinerary covers the Universal Studios — one of the top attractions in Orlando that you absolutely shouldn’t miss, the downtown area Orlando, and a day trip to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.
Day 1 – Universal Studios Resorts
Start your 3 days itinerary for Orlando Florida at Universal Studios Resort. Universal Studios Resort is home to three theme parks — Universal Studios Florida, Islands of Adventure, and Volcano Bay — as well as the entertainment complex CityWalk.
Universal Studios is one of the largest movie-themed parks in the world, featuring popular franchises such as Harry Potter, Jurassic Park, The Simpsons, and more. Some of the best rides in Universal Studios include Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts, Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit, Revenge of the Mummy, Men in Black Alien Attack, and E.T. Adventure.
On the other side, the Islands of Adventure feature themed islands based on stories, books, and myths. Here you will find The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Marvel Super Hero Island, Jurassic Park, Seuss Landing, The Lost Continent, and Toon Lagoon. Its main rides include Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, Jurassic Park River Adventure, The Incredible Hulk Coaster, and Skull Island: Reign of Kong.
You will need several days to fully explore the theme parks, but it’s possible to visit the main highlights of both Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure with a 1- or 2-day pass.
Start your morning at the Universal Studios. Enjoy the thrilling rides and attractions, such as the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
Then, grab a quick lunch in one of the many dining options within the resort. Afterwards, head to the Islands of Adventure. You can get aboard the Hogwarts Express: King’s Cross Station in Universal Studio, which is a delightful way to get to the Hogsmeade in Islands of Adventure.
By evening, enjoy a delicious dinner at the CityWalk, listen to live music, dance at a club, or go shopping for souvenirs and other knick-knacks. Toothsome Chocolate Emporium and Savory Feast Kitchen is the most popular restaurant in the CityWalk, serving classic American dishes, as well as gourmet desserts and chocolate. Hard Rock Cafe and Bob Marley’s offer live music performances, as do Pat O’briens, a replica of the famous New Orleans bar featuring a lively atmosphere and piano music.
The key to enjoying Universal Studios Resort in a day is to prioritize which rides and shows you want to do. Understand that with a limited time, you can’t see everything but you can still have a lot of fun! If you’re a Potterhead in particular, visiting this place is truly magical — but also expect insane crowd!
Orlando has different theme parks including Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure (both within Universal Resorts Studio), Magic Kingdom Park in Walt Disney World, and Legoland. So you can easily visit another one instead for this itinerary.
Day 2 – Downtown Orlando
After a day filled with adrenaline-pumping activities, prepare to see the city beyond its theme parks. The second day of this 3 days itinerary for Orlando is all about sightseeing the downtown area.
Set out early morning to Eola Park, a beautiful urban park located at the heart of downtown Orlando. Its central feature is Lake Eola, a 23-acre freshwater lake, featuring the Linton E. Allen Memorial Fountain and home to various species of birds. Take a stroll along the paved path to see a panoramic view of the water and Orlando skyline, get on a swan-shaped paddleboat and relax while enjoying the water, or check out one of the nearby parks.
Orlando Science Center
Next, head to the Orlando Science Center, a private science museum and educational facility ideal suitable for visitors of all ages. It offers an array of interactive exhibits, giant screen and 3D films, and hands-on activities. This is a great place to visit as it offers a fun way to discover new things!
Some of the exhibits include Life, which is about nature and conservation; DinoDigs, which uncovers the prehistoric world of dinosaurs, marine reptiles, and mega fauna; and Fusion, which shows art fused together with STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics).
After your visit at the Orlando Science Center, sit down for lunch in one of the nearby local restaurants.
Orlando Museum of Art
Next, visit the Orlando Museum of Art which is just close by. The Orlando Museum of Art is Orlando’s flagship museum, featuring 10-12 exhibits at a time ideal for all ages. It has a permanent collection of over 2400 works including Contemporary Art, American Art, African Art, and the Art of Ancient Americas.
Spend the rest of your day at Icon Park. Icon Park is one of the top attractions in Orlando, and so it’s a definite must-see even on a 3-day itinerary.
Enjoy a scenic ride at The Wheel (also called the Orlando Eye), a 400-feet-tall giant observation wheel offering panoramic views of the Orlando skyline, theme parks, and surrounding areas. Take a look inside Madame Tussauds Orlando to see lifelike wax figures of your favorite celebrities, pop culture icons, and historical figures. Have a fascinating underwater journey at the Sea Life Orlando Aquarium, or play your favorite childhood games at the Arcade City.
You can also find a variety of restaurants at Icon Park offering comfort food such as pizza, burgers, or ice cream.
Day 3 – Kennedy Space Center
On the third day, go for a 1-hour drive to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. If you’ve been dreaming of becoming an astronaut — or at least see where the magic happens, this is the place to be.
The Kennedy Space Center is the most important base for NASA in the United States. It is the launch site of every crewed space flight in America’s history, including the Apollo 11 mission that landed humans on the moon for the first time! It is still used actively, which means you can witness a rocket launch if there is one scheduled during your visit.
There is so much to see at the Kennedy Space Center, especially with kids. Head to the Space Shuttle Atlantis to see the retired shuttle up close and explore interactive exhibits, learn about the pioneers of space exploration at Heroes & Legends, and see a collection of historic rockets and space launch vehicles at the Rocket Garden.
After exploring the attractions at the Visitor Complex, join the bus tour to the Apollo/Saturn V Center, where you will pass by other areas in the NASA complex including the Space X building, walk under the massive Saturn V rocket that launched humans to the moon, and even touch a moon rock!
There’s another activity that you can do at the Kennedy Space Center: having lunch with an astronaut! You can book this as an add-on if you purchase your tickets in advance.
In the late afternoon, you are probably tired — but exhilarated, right? — and so you can take a 30-minute drive to Cocoa Beach to cool off.
That ends our suggested 3 days itinerary for Orlando Florida!
Tips to enjoy your trip to Orlando
Here are some tips to enjoy your 3 days in Orlando:
- Orlando is known for its sunny weather throughout the year. So prepare to keep hydrated and always apply sun protection when you go out. June to November is the hurricane season, and though Orlando is less prone to direct hits compared to coastal areas, it’s still important to keep updated with the weather following your trip. It’s highly recommended to purchase refundable bookings if your trip falls in these months.
- The best time to visit Orlando is from April to May when you can enjoy the most pleasant weather. The months of December to late February are also good months to visit because there are lesser crowds and lower seasonal prices on hotels.
How to get around in Orlando
There are different ways to get around Orlando, Florida. If you’re staying in Universal Studios Resort, you can get by using the shuttles. Otherwise, your best option is to rent a car.
Where to stay in Orlando
There are different accommodations in Orlando, ranging from budget-friendly inns to luxury hotels.
If you can splurge, book your stay at the Hark Rock, Royal Pacific, or Portofino Bay hotels inside the Universal Studios Resort. Not only will you enjoy a comfortable stay, you’ll also be in close proximity to the parks, enjoy a 1-hour early entry, and get an Unlimited Express Pass which gives you a spot in the priority queues.
There are so many places to see and things to do in Orlando, Florida. This Orlando 3-day itinerary will let you enjoy the main highlights of the city in a short amount of time. Of course, you can adjust it based on your taste and preferences.
If you have suggestions on what to see in a 3-day itinerary for Orlando Florida, let us know in the comments section below!
Katherine Cortes is a 30-something freelance writer/editor. She likes beaches, snorkeling trips, and relaxing staycations (preferably with bath tubs!).