Where to Stay in Orlando: 12 Best Areas on Any Budget (2023)

If you're traveling to Orlando – for work or pleasure – you need to know where to stay in Orlando that best suits your trip needs.

Having lived and worked in Orlando, we know the best spots for hotels and home rentals depending on why you're going, which largely dictates the area you'll stay in.

From Walt Disney World Resort to Universal to Orlando's vibrant downtown area, to Kissimmee, Celebration, Winter Park, and Winter Garden, we have you covered! We even suggest places to stay near the airport for your convenience.

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Best hotels in Orlando including 12 Areas of this Central Florida City, with a photo of downtown Orlando with a lake and palm trees behind it at night.

Orlando Hotels in 2023: Overview

There are plenty of neighborhoods to choose from when you travel to Orlando.

If you're not going to the theme parks, for example, there is no need to stay by Universal Orlando Resort or Walt Disney World. Why not try downtown Orlando or Winter Park? Both are incredibly fun areas of Central Florida.

Here are the neighborhoods and locations we cover in our places to stay in Orlando:

  1. Walt Disney World (WDW) Area – Lake Buena Vista
  2. Kissimmee – right next to WDW
  3. Universal Parks & Resorts hotels
  4. Hotels near Universal
  5. Celebration, Florida – the “town that Disney built” next to WDW and Kissimmee
  6. Lake Nona
  7. Winter Haven, where LEGOLAND is
  8. Downtown Orlando
  9. Downtown Orlando near Lake Eola
  10. Winter Park
  11. Winter Garden
  12. Next to Orlando International Airport (airport code MCO)

Hotel Price Ranges

  • $: Less than 200 per night
  • $$: 200 to 500 per night
  • $$$: 500 to 800 per night
  • $$$$: More than 800 per night

Top Choices for Orlando Hotels

Overall, most people traveling to Orlando are visiting to go to the theme parks or for work. This means that the WDW and Universal Areas, and the downtown area, are prime locations for where to stay.

Here are our top picks for where to stay for these areas:

Our Top 3 Picks: Orlando Hotels and Where to Stay

#1 Top Pick
Pool with palm trees in the background and sunset lighting at the Swan Reserve resort at Disney World.
$$ Swan Reserve
  • Marriott Perks
  • Easy to get to
  • Walking distance to the BoardWalk, an awesome hidden gem at WDW
#2 Pick
Portofino Bay hotel at Universal Florida at night.
$$$ Portofino Bay at Universal
  • Easy to get to
  • Universal perks
  • Part of Loews Most Valued Partners (MVP) program
#3 Pick
Downtown skyline in Orlando with Lake Eola with swans in the forefront. Visiting is one of the adult things to do in Orlando.
Grand Bohemian
  • Part of Marriott Bonvoy
  • Rooftop pool
  • Great downtown Orlando location

1. Walt Disney World Area – Lake Buena Vista

Thanks to Walt Disney World (followed by Universal), Orlando is the theme park capital of the world. The #1 attraction in the Orlando area is Walt Disney World.

From its four theme parks to Disney Springs, its water parks, convention centers, and BoardWalk, there's truly a form of entertainment for everyone at WDW.

It's very popular to stay at any of the on-property resorts, including Disney's BoardWalk Inn, Grand Floridian, and Polynesian, to name a few. The monorail resorts are the priciest and have easy access to the classic transportation system at Disney World.

There are also great hotels that are accessible by transportation, like Disney's Skyliner, including Disney's Pop Century (value resort), and Disney's Yacht and Beach Club resorts.

We want to share, however, our favorite resort at Walt Disney World: The Swan Reserve. You cannot beat the location, and you get all the perks of a Disney property hotel but reap the rewards of a Marriott Bonvoy membership (our favorite).

The Swan Reserve is within walking distance to Disney's BoardWalk, with access to the World Showcase at Epcot (with tickets), and there is a path to walk to Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

If you want to stay at Walt Disney World but want some more hotel chain options, then Hotel Plaza Boulevard (and the streets nearby) is where you want to stay. It's right next to Disney Springs, on WDW property.

Alternatively, there are a lot of home rentals very, very close to Disney property. They even tote how close they are in their title sometimes, such as, “House 6 minutes from Disney!”

Where to STAY IN Lake Buena Vista

Pros
  • You're right in the middle of the action if you're going to the Disney World Parks.
  • Take advantage of “extra magic hours” early entry to the park or late stay on certain days.
  • Character breakfasts are at many of the hotels.
  • Many of the hotels are themed, so you don't have to go into the parks to feel like you're at a theme park.
Cons
  • Not a great place to stay if you're not going to the parks.
  • It can take a little while to reach the highway in order to get off Disney property if you're going elsewhere in Orlando.
  • Most Disney hotels (unless you're staying somewhere like the Swan Reserve, Swan or Dolphin) don't have loyalty perks or programs, like Marriott Bonvoy.
Pool with palm trees in the background and sunset lighting at the Swan Reserve resort at Disney World.

2. Kissimmee, Florida – Right Next to Disney World

The name may be humourous, but the location is great within Central Florida. It's close to Walt Disney World, not far from Universal and SeaWorld, and there are a lot of outdoor and indoor activities you'll discover when you experience Kissimmee.

One of the coolest things is its Old Town, where you can attend a weekly Saturday Classic Car starting at 1:00 pm. The show has been going on for 30 years! If cars aren't your thing, check out the Great Magic Hall for a magic show or classes. (Who doesn't love magic?)

This is an ideal location for rental homes close to Disney. Marriott Homes and Villas has a lot of properties to choose from. Additionally, we love the Gaylord Palms Resort, which has an incredible indoor atrium (with a fun Southern-themed restaurant inside) and a great waterpark with a big waterslide on the property.

Where to stay in Kissimmee

Pros
  • Convenient to stay near WDW with quick access to major highways.
  • May have more options for price ranges because it's not on Disney property.
Cons
  • The area isn't as nice as some other areas of Orlando.
  • You're so close to WDW, but you don't have the perks of staying at a Disney Worldrld hotel, like extra magic hours.

3. Universal Parks and Resorts

Hotels on Universal Property

Staying on Universal Property will give you the best access to Universal parks. Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure are their two main properties (where the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is).

It's also one of the best places to stay in Orlando because it's near great outlet shopping, I-Drive, where tons of attractions are, including the Museum of Illusions. When you combine this with the fact that the hotels are themed, it's magic!

Universal CityWalk is a really fun “downtown” type of area that has a ton of restaurants and shops to enjoy at all times of the day.

We loved staying at the Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, modeled after the town of the same name in Italy. We had great pizza at one of the many on-site restaurants and dining options and they have several outdoor pools to enjoy. If you want a break from the parks, go to the Mandarin Spa and indulge in a spa treatment.

Portofino Bay hotel at Universal Florida at night.
Image courtesy of Loews Hotels

We've also stayed at Cabana Bay, which has a little lower price point. You can get a room overlooking Volcano Bay, Universal's water park if you're lucky. And while you're there, you can enjoy the hotel's outdoor pools and relaxing lazy river.

🏝️ Cabana Bay Lazy River Tip:

You must bring pool floats for the lazy river or buy some there. We recommend buying one ahead of time and packing it, then blowing it up when you arrive.

Get your floats now so you don't forget >

Where to stay AT UNIVERSAL

Pros
  • Universal Perks, including Express Pass and early park admission
  • Part of Loews Hotels (MVP rewards)
  • Near I-Drive and great Orlando outlets
  • Easy to get to Universal CityWalk
Cons
  • If you're visiting Disney World, Universal Resorts are 20-35 minutes from there, depending on your destination.

4. Near Universal

There are a few hotels near Universal, though not on-property, that are worth exploring. They are within 10 minutes of driving time, depending on the time of day and traffic.

Some Universal area hotels are off of International Drive (or I-Drive as locals call it) and are in a great location for things like ICON Park, with Orlando's famous Ferris wheel and attractions like the Museum of Illusions.

For instance, the Ritz-Carlton Grand Lakes is a wonderful option with an awesome pool and luxurious rooms. They have several restaurants and bars on their property that are great for dining with your family or a business meeting morning, afternoon, or night. There is also an on-property spa and Greg Norman-designed golf course.

Where to Stay Near Universal

5. Celebration, Florida

Celebration is a lovely little town. Dubbed the “Town that Disney Built” back when it was developed in 1996, it's a town filled with gorgeous homes and landscaping and a cute little town center.

You'll find restaurants there, a weekend farmer's market, and trails for walks or runs. It's a great place to visit as vacationing adults in Orlando, or as a vacationing family.

If you want to stay in a suburban neighborhood with white picket fences that is truly a slice of Americana, stay here. Be sure to send a letter to friends and family from their post office, so the stamp says, “Celebration, Florida”!

The number one hotel recommendation here is the Bohemian Hotel Celebration, part of Marriott's Autograph Collection of hotels.

It's a boutique hotel that is in the heart of downtown Celebration, where they regularly have events like “snow” falling during the holidays. And you'll get a “small town” feel just minutes from Disney World.

Please note that when you search for Celebration, FL hotels, a few hotels come up that are near Celebration but not truly inside the Celebration “gates,” so to speak.

The hotels we suggest below are inside the area that is truly considered Celebration.

where to Stay in Celebration

6. Lake Nona, Florida

Lake Nona has really exploded in the past decade. It's an area in southeast Orlando that is a great option in close proximity to the Orlando International Airport.

This is an ideal location if you're heading from Orlando to points east during your trip, like to Port Canaveral for a Disney Cruise or to Kennedy Space Center.

It's also a wonderful area if you want access to a beautiful planned shopping and restaurant area. The planned urban community of Lake Nona has a vibrant area at its epicenter, called Lake Nona Town Center. for visitors and residents to enjoy.

where to stay in Lake Nona

7. Winter Haven, Florida – Home to LEGOLAND

Legoland is very popular with young kids. Though we don't recommend it for an adults-only trip (unless you're VERY into LEGO and the Lego Store at Disney Springs isn't enough to satisfy your LEGO-hunger!) it's great for a family destination.

We suggest staying near Legoland if you're going to LEGOLAND Park because it's a nice area away from the craze of Orlando, and it's a one-hour drive from the Magic Kingdom, for example.

where to stay in Winter Haven

8. Downtown Orlando

Visitors to Orlando often don't realize that when you refer to the city of Orlando, there's a whole huge downtown area. Business travelers frequent this area but it's great for entertainment beyond the theme park capital of the world.

Disney World is technically not even in Orlando – it's Lake Buena Vista. But there is so much to do downtown, from cool restaurants and bars to breweries, theaters, art galleries, concert venues, and more.

Where to Stay in the Heart of Downtown Orlando (Business District – sometimes called “SoDo” Orlando)

If you're a city person who wants to stay in a city center near restaurants, museums, clubs, and bars (but also near the business district of Orlando), then consider Downtown Orlando.

The downtown area is near the Dr. Philips Center for the Performing Arts and Amway Arena (or Amway Center), where the Orlando Magic play. Church Street is a popular avenue downtown, where there are plenty of restaurant and nightlife options.

Where to stay in South Downtown Orlando

9. Downtown Orlando, Near Lake Eola

Another one of our favorite places to stay outside of the Disney Parks area is downtown Orlando, near Lake Eola Park, just west of the Milk District. It's also close to where Little Vietnam is (which means a lot of amazing Asian food options, from pho soup to bubble teas, mochi donuts, and more).

This is also close to Orlando Executive Airport, which is not to be confused with the major international airport in Orlando, MCO. The Orlando Executive Airport is a small airport that does flights like private/charter flights.

The downtown Orlando area by Lake Eola is also close to the concert venue “Plaza Live,” and Lew Gardens.

Where to Stay in Northern Downtown Orlando

Lake Eola in downtown Orlando with skyscrapers in the distance and a rainbow stage.

10. Winter Park, Florida

We love going to Winter Park to walk along Park Avenue. If you arrive in the Orlando area via Amtrak, this could be the perfect place to stay because the train station stop is right off Park Avenue in Winter Park.

Rollins College is in Winter Park, and you can venture out to Kraft Azalea Gardens, Rollins Museum of Art, Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens, or Mead Botanical Garden.

You can even do a scenic boat tour of Lake Osceola in Winter Garden.

Maitland is a very popular city that neighbors Winter Park.

where to Stay in Winter Park

Facade of the Alfond Inn, in Winter Park, with windows and balconies of the hotel room and two tall green trees, for a roundup of the best hotels in Orlando.

11. Winter Garden, Florida

We love meeting friends in Winter Garden, and we've even looked into moving there recently. Their downtown area is historic and fun, and they have a lot of seasonal events throughout the year (including a great farmers market).

Don't miss the Central Florida Railroad Museum there and the pizza and beer at Plant St. Market!

Where TO STAY IN WINTER Garden

12. Next to Orlando International Airport (MCO)

Lastly, if you want to stay near the airport – perhaps because you have an early flight or arrived later on your first day in Orlando and don't see having the energy to go to further-flung places in Orlando until the next day, we have suggestions for you.

Staying right by the airport may not be that sexy, but you do have the coolness factor of watching planes take off and land, which is always an amazing feat of science, is it not?

Where TO STAY Near MCO Airport

Tips for Staying in Orlando

There are certain things to keep in mind when searching for the perfect neighborhood and hotel for your trip. Winter is usually peak season for Florida when people who live in cold climates flock to the Sunshine State. Also, remember school breaks, including Spring Break and summer break.

You want to pack for incredibly hot weather in summer. If you think you'll sweat through clothing and want to change mid-day, look for a hotel with laundry service or a self-serve laundromat onsite, or pack extra clothes.

It's also very buggy in Florida for half the year, so don't forget Florida packing list items, like a Bug Bite Thing and handheld travel fan.

Travel Poncho
The Bug Bite Thing
Stasher “Go” Bag
Half Gallon Stasher Bag
Sun Bum Travel Pack
Sweatblock Wipes
Collapsable BPA-Free Water bottle
Washable Cooling Towels
Travel Rain Poncho
Travel Umbrella
Reusable Round Water Bottle
Reusable Flat Water Bottle
Rechargeable, Portable Handheld Fan
SPF Sunscreen Lip Balm
Reef Safe Sunscreen
Sunglasses

Map of Orlando Hotels

If you're a visual person, see the map we created of the hotels above to view where they are in the Orlando area:

Where to Stay in Orlando Summary

Orlando is a fantastic city, and it's a much larger metropolitan area than most people realize. We hope that we've covered all areas in Orlando, so no matter where you're staying in this Central Florida city, you'll have great options.

Going to Florida? Read this next:

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