My first night on my return to Orlando, I wanted to “get the lay of the land” so I drove around in one big square — and experienced some very interesting sites! (Just what I was wanting, but not necessarily recommended!) So here’s what I learned so you can stick to the places you want to see & avoid the ones you don’t..
I rented a car for this trip from the Avis desk inside the DoubleTree by Hilton Universal Entrance. I started my tour heading south on Kirkman Road, then angled over to check out the strip of hotels and sights along the main drag of International Drive. [Very nice! You’ll like this area if you like typical tourist destinations.]
Apopka Vineland Road is another major thoroughfare, though not a walking destination like International Drive. Apopka Vineland also runs alongside Walt Disney World, and I particularly wanted to see that entrance and how it is situated in what I’d call the “old Kissimmee” tourist area. Everywhere around you can see that not too much has changed in the last half century since this place started up as the the tourist destination surrounding the Disney parks. It reminds you of any number of “typical” coastal strips from the era when family travel first became popular, complete with hotels, restaurants galore, and of course, miniature golf among elaborate settings.
I chose Osceola Parkway as the bottom of my square route; not much to see — it’s more of a connector highway through this particular area. Then I turned back north on Orange Blossom Trail — really the only major road you’ll notice on any map of the city.
Driving north on this road I noticed the scenery change distinctly from the tourist-y Disney and Universal Studios areas of Orlando. I’m sure this red light district gets its share of visitors, but it’s certainly not the same family destination that you’ll find on the opposite side of town. I moved through quickly and turned left on Colonial Drive.
Colonial Drive marks the middle of downtown Orlando and connects over to eastern-most UCF — the University of Central Florida. Though few visitors will have business in this area, I wanted to see how it all connected. And I had my biggest excitement shortly after I turned onto this street.
Driving down the road, I noticed to my left a woman pushing her van in the opposite direction. Almost as instantly I could see illuminated by the street lights that there was a baby in its car seat in the second row. I quickly pulled my car into the left turn lane beside me, shifted into Park, and frantically searched for the hazard light controls. The hour was quite late at this point, so there wasn’t too much traffic along this part of the road. I pushed for a while, but lady who was pushing & steering at the same time didn’t turn into the first parking lot. We turned the nearby corner and another man joined us in the task.
Several times I nearly lost my flip-flops. (It’s not easy to push a heavy vehicle without real shoes!) After a few more missed parking lot opportunities, the three of us began to speak to each other, and we two men learned that the women knew of a secluded spot “just down the road another 500 feet” where she could safely leave the van and her belongings overnight until she could resolve the shortage of gas situation.
But instead, once we found the van’s intended landing spot, we took the empty gas can from her trunk and I walked her over to a nearby gas station to get her started back on her way.
It was especially funny to me to notice what I saw when I finally made it back to my own car. Parked right in the middle of the road, driver’s door propped open and keys in the ignition! For roughly 20-30 minutes I’d guess. So I guess this particular area is perhaps a safe one 😀
I slept well that night.