(Photo: Brandon Warlow/Shutterstock.com)
When most people think about alternative transportation in Orlando, the word “monorail” often comes to mind. But there are a myriad of options here, and a vacation in The City Beautiful can be quite enjoyable without the hassle of a car. One person making this argument happens to be Mayor Buddy Dyer, who’s been working for over a dozen years in office to boost Orlando’s quality of life.
“Getting around without a car is very easy in downtown Orlando or downtown Winter Park, and both of those places are easy to get to now, thanks to SunRail,” says the mayor, referring to the new — and growing — commuter train system that runs north and south through the area.
“One thing that’s great about Orlando is that lots of beautiful neighborhoods are close to downtown,” he notes. “Lake Eola Heights, Delaney Park, Thornton Park and Mills 50 can all be reached by bike easily, if not just by walking.”
Use Your Feet
The endless suburbia surrounding Orlando means that some locals are seriously car dependent. But within the neighborhoods that make up the city itself, walking is a daily activity. “I live in College Park, and have a labradoodle,” says the mayor. “We walk early mornings around Lake Adair or Dartmouth Park. Sometimes I bring her downtown for a walk around Lake Eola.”
“Another great place is around Lake Cherokee and Lake Davis in Delaney Park,” says Dyer. “That’s in the Lake Copeland historic district, and it’s a beautiful part of town.” The Visitor’s Center also offers a number of suggested walking routes.
For first-timers to Orlando, Mayor Dyer recommends a short walk around Lake Eola for a self-guided tour of See Art Orlando, eight large-scale sculptural works (some are illuminated, and best viewed in the evening). “For a longer walk, I’d send them to Leu Gardens,” he says. “You can get there on the Urban Trail, and stop at the Mennello Museum on the way.” From downtown, however, that can be quite a hike, so maybe a little pedal power would be in order.
Roll It Out
Orlando’s a great place for casual biking; the trail network grows each year, and you’ll rarely need to pedal uphill, except on a few overpasses. Because locals are still learning to share the roadway, it’s best to stick to dedicated bike lanes whenever possible.
Bikeshare is new to the Orlando scene, but it’s a concept residents are embracing. “You may notice that one of the bikes is a little different than the others,” says Dyer. “That’s the mayor’s bike — ‘Buddy’s Bike’ they call it. It’s my personal bike, available for rent just like all the others.” Bikeshare stations are convenient to bus and train depots, and 20 stations with some 200 bikes will soon be operational. There is, of course, a smartphone app that will help you find the nearest saddle.
The city also has a robust bus system in LYNX, but it’s the free LYMMO system that gets the most tourist traffic. LYMMO runs throughout downtown, and its network is expanding right along with Orlando’s business, entertainment and tech districts.
Get There Fast
Sometimes, we know, you don’t have time for a leisurely stroll beneath the towering live oaks on a bungalow-bordered brick street. For those times, the city has worked out agreements with both Lyft and Uber, and longtime local taxi company Mears fills downtown with all shapes of yellow cabs. There are also car-share options, including Zipcar and Hertz 24/7, though pick-up locations aren’t exactly ubiquitous. Many hotels run their own shuttles, or can arrange limousine service through any number of reputable vendors.
The Mayor Keeps It Real
Dyer knows a car-free visit can be tough on some tourists. “If you’re trying to do Disney or Universal, it can be difficult unless you stay there,” he notes. “But it’s not that different than most cities, in which it becomes harder to get around the further away you are from the downtown core.”But even in tourist-centered areas — such the outlet-store and putt-putt studded International Drive — the city works to relieve congestion from cars.
“Down on I-Drive there’s a trolley,” he says, “and we’ve recently reconfigured the roadway to let the trolley move through traffic more quickly, and added bike lanes.” And if you’ve ever been behind a minivan trying to cross I-Drive into the Magical Midway Thrill Park, you’ll wish you were on your Schwinn.
For the future, Mayor Dyer sees a giant opportunity that’s now just in blueprints: The expansion of SunRail right to Orlando International Airport. “Construction can’t happen until after Phase 2 of SunRail opens in 2017,” he notes, “but when it does, a carless Orlando vacation will get a whole lot easier.”