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Destination Basics

The winter months are delightful for visitors to Central Florida, with some of the balmiest weather in the U.S. from November until May, when temperatures range from 21 C to 31 C, with little rainfall. In December and January, the thermometer may drop to freezing overnight, but that's rare for these parts. In June, temperatures heat up and by July, the high humidity arrives. The summer heat eases in October.

Pack a poncho or umbrella in the summertime and a light jacket in the winter months. And always wear sunscreen, even on cloudy days.

Orlando is known for family fun - a fantasyland of theme parks, roller coasters and waterslides. But while Central Florida's roots reach back to the days of cowboys and Native Americans, its reputation as a world-class tourist destination is relatively new.

The two world-class theme parks along Interstate 4 – Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando – set Central Florida apart. Nearly 50 million tourists a year make this city the most-visited destination in the country.

But with its lakes for water skiing and wakeboarding, rivers for fishing, crystal-clear springs for swimming, snorkelling and diving, there's also plenty of ways to enjoy this region's natural beauty. You can hang-glide, skydive, horseback ride or take a thrilling trip on an airboat.

Orlando has plenty of restaurants known for quick, convenient meals, but it also offers a wealth of gourmet experiences. The area has three master sommeliers, while Disney's Epcot theme park offers a one-of-a-kind experience where you can sip, snack and stroll your way around the globe with pavilions featuring 11 different countries.

Central Florida is also home to a permanent show by Cirque du Soleil, the world's largest Hard Rock Café and the world's largest collection of Tiffany stained glass.

For sports fans, the Amway Arena in downtown Orlando is home to the NBA's Orlando Magic, while Disney's Wide World of Sports hosts spring training for Major League Baseball's Atlanta Braves. Orlando is also a golfer's dream, with courses here hosting more professional tournaments than any other U.S. city. If it's hockey your after, a short two-hour drive to nearby Tampa Bay, Florida can get you to an NHL game with the Tampa Lightning.

Many Orlando residents hail from other states and countries, so you hear plenty of accents, twangs and drawls. You'll also hear Spanish, Creole, French and Portuguese.

Years before it officially became a city in 1885, Orlando was home to small groups of Native Americans. After the Second and Third Seminole Wars, European settlers established cattle ranches and the citrus industry followed soon after. Today, Orlando is known as a major centre for both tourism and the high-tech industry, attracting residents from around the world.

Just north of Orlando, the nation's first entirely African American town, Eatonville, was the home of celebrated author Zora Neale Hurston. Each winter, locals stage the Zora Neale Hurston Festival of the Arts and Humanities, headlined by celebrities like poet laureate Maya Angelou.

Orlando's ethnic communities include an Asian population near downtown teeming with busy Thai and Vietnamese restaurants, markets and tailor shops. Farther east, Cuban, Puerto Rican and other Hispanic and Latin specialty stores and bakeries offer a variety of treats. Even if you’re not venturing far from popular tourist sites, you can discover authentic eateries offering tastes of Turkey, Greece, India and Lebanon as well. Of course, you won't have trouble finding fresh seafood or good Southern barbecue and soul food.

Close to Eatonville, historic Winter Park oozes with a picturesque, cultural vibe. A haven for wealthy northerners seeking to escape harsh winters in the early 1900s, the city remains a charming diversion. Its 60-year-old Scenic Boat Tour Company offer trips on board a pontoon boat along Lake Osceola, cruising through narrow canals built for 19th-century loggers. The captain may tell stories about the fancy lakefront estates spotted along the way and point out sleek cranes, herons and anhingas (also known as snakebirds) diving for fish.

Other Winter Park and Orlando art museums showcase everything from folk art to Native American artifacts. The Orlando community also boasts great live theatre, ballet, symphony and chorus groups.

Orlando treasures its ties to the land and the lakes that support local tourism. Central Florida fish camps serve up large helpings of fried catfish and southern specialties. Boat captains in Orlando and Kissimmee help eager tourists catch trophy-sized bigmouth bass. Kissimmee's Lake Tohopekaliga (known to locals as "Toho") flows into the Kissimmee River and then onto Lake Okeechobee and the Florida Everglades. It is a treasure trove of creatures including osprey, eagles, snowy egrets, blue herons, wood storks, turtles and alligators.

Metropolitan Orlando is sandwiched between the breezy Atlantic and peaceful Gulf coasts of Florida – about 240 km south of the Georgia border and 600 km north of the Florida Keys.

The city and surrounding areas sparkle with 1,200 lakes, swamps and freshwater springs dotting the mostly flat terrain. The wet habitats are home to thriving wildlife made up of alligators, turtles, herons, cranes and hundreds of other species.

If you want a feel for "Old Florida," you can paddle a kayak or canoe along cypress- and oak-lined waterways. Or charter a fishing boat for some of the best bass fishing in the state. Adventurers won't be able to resist an airboat ride with a practiced pilot. The boats cover wide areas of wetland while showing off impressive gators, wading birds and water snakes.

The subtropical climate is also friendly to a wide range of plants and flowers—grandfather oaks draped with Spanish moss, palm fronds rustling in evening breezes and bright bougainvillea vines that add colour to the landscape. Long before Walt Disney introduced the tourism industry, citrus was king here. Today, you can still inhale the sweet scent of orange blossoms in outlying areas and nosh on juicy honeybells in the winter. Though cattle ranching has declined over the years, herds of cows still roam rural Kissimmee and other Central Florida outposts.

If you're looking to get out to the beach, Orlando is less than an hour's drive (about 80 km) from popular Daytona Beach, Cape Canaveral and Cocoa Beach on the Atlantic. To the west, the drive is about 120 km to the more peaceful beach areas of Clearwater and St. Petersburg.


You'll know you're flying into Orlando International Airport when you see a vast spread of palm trees growing among large terminal buildings and parking lots.

Orlando's airport has multiple terminals, all conveniently accessible via tram. You'll also see plenty of helpful signs directing you to gates, baggage claim and arrival areas.

If you've booked a hotel transfer with WestJet Vacations, you'll want to proceed to the arrival zone after passing through immigration. There, look for a Mears Transportation representative holding a WestJet Vacations sign. Identify yourself as a WestJet guest and hop into the shuttle waiting to take you to your destination. Welcome to the magical city of Orlando!


Upon departure, friendly WestJet staff will be ready to assist you at the WestJet check-in counters, located in section A of the main terminal (next to the Southwest counters). Our counters open three hours prior to departure and close 15 minutes after departure time. Guests can check in and select their seats ahead of time by using the convenient WestJet Web check-in service.

Once through security, you'll head to the gate indicated on your ticket. WestJet regularly flies out of Gates 1 to 29 and 100 to 129 in Orlando.

If you have some time to walk around before your flight, you'll love the wide variety of places to get food and duty free goodies before your trip home.

In Orlando, scheduled shuttles run between most hotels and attractions which make it easy to travel to Disney World and Universal. Check your hotel description to see if your hotel offers a free shuttle to the parks you're looking to visit. For transportation service from the airport to all of our partner hotels, Mears transportation service is available and can be pre-booked with WestJet Vacations.

Renting a car provides an enhanced sense of flexibility and is ideal for younger families, shoppers and golfers looking to get around the city. Renting will also allow you to discover other areas of Orlando, outside of the major attraction and resort areas. In addition, when staying in villa and vacation home rentals which don't offer shuttle services, you'll need a car. When booking a car with WestJet Vacations, all rentals can be picked up at the airport.

If you're planning to rent, expect parking costs around CAD$10 to CAD$12 per day (Disney resort guests receive free parking within the Disney theme parks). You'll also need to pay for any tolls you cross on toll roads—so be sure to carry some U.S. change.

When visiting Orlando, you'll want to have some U.S. funds for general expenses and transit. For entertainment and shopping, your credit card will give you the exchange rate at the time of purchase. There are also numerous ATMs inside banks and public spaces where you can withdraw funds at your convenience. Just be aware that transaction fees vary by ATM.

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