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US Route 192 – Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway

Jack Spence Masthead


When people ask me where they should stay when visiting Walt Disney World, I always tell them at a Disney hotel (on property). I believe the perks offered here, such as Extra Magic Hours, the dining plan, and the close proximately to the Disney theme parks makes these resorts an excellent choice. However, there are many good reasons for staying at a non-Disney resort (off property). First among these is cost.

There is no way around it. Disney resorts are expensive. Even the Value resorts such as the Pop Century, Art of Animation, and the All Stars can cost $100 a night or more. For just a few dollars extra, a person can stay at a full-fledged non-Disney hotel. And with some sort of discount card they can get a mini-suite off property. If you want to be pampered and spoiled, there are other, more luxurious choices than the Grand Floridian " and many don't cost nearly as much.

Another good reason to stay in a non-Disney hotel is that it puts you in a better frame of mind to visit Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure, Sea World, and LEGOLAND. All four of these parks are outstanding and offer fantastic experiences that are well worth your time and money. In additions to these mega parks, the Orlando area has literally hundreds of other, lesser known attractions that are also a lot of fun. If you're not sure what these other attractions are, just about any non-Disney hotel and eatery will have a rack of brochures in their lobby to help plan your time.


Attraction Brochures


Two guides I would suggest picking up are “Orlando Quick Guide” and “Experience Kissimmee Florida.” Both offer a comprehensive overview of the many opportunities to be had in the area.


Orlando Quick Guide

“Experience Kissimmee Florida


Today I'm going to talk about one of the major, non-Disney lodging areas in the Orlando area " or should I say, the Kissimmee/Saint Cloud area. US Route 192, also known as Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway, runs from the middle of the state beginning at US Route 27 and ends one block from the Atlantic Ocean at State Road A1A. About 20 miles of this 75 mile thoroughfare are populated with a dizzying array of hotels, motels, timeshares, restaurants, souvenir shops, and attractions.


US192 Roadsign


Before I talk about the current US Route 192, or just 192 as the locals call it, I'd like to give you an abbreviated history of this highway. The Florida's State Road system was defined by law in 1923 and this was the first time this roadway was given an official designation. Over the years, road numbers were assigned and reassigned until finally in 1945, three State Roads were combined and assigned the designation of what is now, US192.

Irlo Overstreet Bronson, Sr. was a prominent cattle rancher in the Kissimmee area. He also served in the Florida House of Representatives and the Florida State Senate. But he is perhaps best remembered as one of the local land holders who sold a large portion of his property to the Disney Company for a mere $100 per acre. Though his family felt he had relinquished the land for far less than its true value, Bronson believed that Disney would offer better career opportunities to the community and incentives for the local youth to remain in the area. Following his death in 1973, a large stretch of US192 was named the Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway.


Irlo Overstreet Bronson, Sr


After the Walt Disney World project was announced to the public, Disney executives hosted an event in Anaheim for many of the Central Florida local politicians. At this event, Disney drove the dignitaries up and down Harbor Blvd, the main roadway that borders Disneyland. The Disney people told these dignitaries, “Don't let this happen in your cities.” What they were referring to was the unchecked and unplanned growth that had sprang up along Harbor Blvd in the wake of Disneyland. Everyone wanted to cash in on the Disneyland bonanza and an array of tacky establishments grew around the theme park.

I have no idea what restrictions may or may not have been implemented on US192 once everyone returned home from Disneyland, but judging by the mismatched growth that sprang up in the years that followed, the planning codes must have been lax " or nonexistent. US192 became Harbor Blvd East.

I'm happy to report that when construction began on Disney's California Adventure in the late 1990's, Disney entered into an agreement with the City of Anaheim and much of Harbor Blvd. was reimagined and improved to give the street a unified and well-kept look.

Also beginning in the 1990's, the tourist areas of US192 began an extensive reconstruction. Two lane roads were widened to four and four lane roads widened to six. The streets were lined with palms and lampposts were given a singular, stylish design. Traffic signals that once hung from overhead wires were replaced with more attractive solid pylons. Bus stops were also unified, covered, and given a tasteful look. Well cared for grass strips were situated along the road to soften the harsh look of the asphalt and buildings. And imaginative mile markers were positioned up and down the roadway to help tourist find the various venues along the route.


Palm Trees

Lampposts

Bus Stop

Mile Marker


When traveling along US192 today, you see an odd collection of strip malls, standalone eateries, souvenirs shops, attractions, fast food restaurants, and tourist information booths. However, the beautification of this thoroughfare is apparent and it doesn't seem to be the mishmash that it once was. Credit should be given to the cities' leaders who did their very best to update and modernize this tourist area.

Don't get me wrong, there is still plenty of inconsistency in the caliber of the businesses offered here. For example, there are many, new and modern strip malls.


Nice Strip Mall

Nice Strip Mall


But there are still a few holdovers from the past.


Old Strip Mall

Old Strip Mall


One of the great things about US192 is the vast selection of souvenir shops and their outrageous architecture. Take a look at just a few.


Souvenir Shop

Souvenir Shop

Souvenir Shop

Souvenir Shop

Souvenir Shop

Souvenir Shop

Souvenir Shop

Souvenir Shop

Souvenir Shop


Actually, visiting these gift shops can be a lot of fun if you enter with the right frame of mind. To begin with, these are not the “sanitized” shops you'll find at Disney. Here you'll discover a much larger array of merchandise, including t-shirts and bumper stickers with racy sayings. You'll also find that the prices are considerably less than what Disney offers. But be sure to compare quality. Sure, you can buy t-shirts for $5, but examine the fabric thickness. Will they stand up to multiple washings?


T-Shirt Sign


You will see Disney characters plastered on everything, but you will not find the words “Walt Disney World” on t-shirts, towels, and bric-a-brac. The merchandise here may sport the words “Disney,” “Orlando,” or “Florida,” but NOT “Walt Disney World.” These words are restricted to Disney World venues.

You will also find a lot of non-Disney merchandise at these shops. Some of it relates to other Orlando attractions and some of it is just plain ol' tacky souvenirs that can be seen at any gift shop across America. But there are also quality items that can't be found on Disney property if you take the time to look.

Be aware, most of these gift shops have stationed a salesperson near the exit. When leaving, you will be asked if you want to buy tickets to any of the Orlando attractions. These salespeople can be persistent, but they are easily ignored if you just keep walking and don't engage them in conversation.

Speaking of tickets, you will also see a number of standalone shops offering “cheap tickets.” I cannot speak with any authority on this subject, but I have always lived by the adage, “If it seems too good to be true, then it probably is.” These places may be 100% legitimate, but buy with caution.

EDITORS NOTE: AllEars has a long time relationship and recommends MapleLeafTickets for discount tickets at the Orlando theme parks. The link takes you to special pricing for AllEars readers!


Cheap Tickets


In the years before air travel brought fresh fruit to supermarkets year round, citrus baskets from Florida were a required gift for those back home enduring a harsh winter. Today, most of these roadside stands are gone, but there are still a few along US192. Here you can purchase a large selection of oranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruit. Also available are citrus plants to plant once back home. Be aware, some states like California and Hawaii have strict restrictions on the import of plants, fruits, and vegetables.


Citrus Stand

Citrus Stand

Citrus Stand

Citrus Stand


Besides citrus products and souvenirs, these stands also offer foodstuffs like honey and specialty sauces.

An interesting phenomenon happened along Harbor Blvd. after Disneyland was built. In an effort to capitalize on the park's popularity, local establishments tacked on the word “land” to their business name. So you now had names like “Motel Land” and “Grocery Land.” The same thing happened in Orlando. Many businesses tacked on the word “world” to make an association with themselves and the theme park.


World Sign

World Sign

World Sign


And it's not just the little guy who does this. One of the largest hotels in the Orlando area has effectively used the word “world.”


World Sign


Speaking of names, you will encounter the terms “West Gate,” “Main Gate,” and “East Gate” along US192. You will also find these terms when searching for hotels and motels online. They are used to fool the uninformed tourist into thinking their establishment is close to the theme parks. For the most part, they are not. All of the parks are at the very minimum, a 15 minute drive away from any business on US192 " when the traffic is good. Note, US192 has dozens and dozens of signals and congestion is common during busy periods. Realistically, you should plan on a 30 minute drive to get to the Disney parks and longer to get to Universal and Sea World.

There is one stretch of US192 that is free of any business and is lined with thick growth on both sides of the road. This portion of the road is crossing Disney property and in essence, is a mini-freeway. The only sign of activity along this section of highway is the backside of ESPN Wild World of Sports. Traffic usually moves well in this portion of road as it has no signals, cross traffic, or turnouts to slow distracted drivers.


Disney Property

ESPN Wild World of Sports


Speaking of distractions, US192 has dozens of billboards, benches, and towering signs to grab your attention.


US192 Distractions

US192 Distractions

US192 Distractions

US192 Distractions


Near Mile Marker 8, you'll find the entrance to Celebration. This is the master-planned community that Disney orchestrated on their southern property beginning in the early 1990's. As this is an entire subject onto itself, I will save this topic for another article on another day.


Celebration

Celebration


Just down the road from Celebration is Old Town. This amusement center offer shops, restaurants, taverns, carnival-type rides, and live entertainment. However, this spot is best enjoyed in the evening when guests returning from the Disney parks arrive. Combine these enthusiastic patrons with the hundreds of blinking lights that bring the buildings alive and you have a very festive atmosphere. Note, although there are some rides suitable for young children, there are others that only the bravest individuals would dare attempt.


Old Town

Old Town


I have to admit, I've always been a little disappointed with Disney's miniature golf courses, Fantasia Gardens and Winter-Summerland. Although imaginative, they lack the wow factor found in many non-property courses. That's not the case when looking for putt-putt spots along US192. Here you'll find real creativity and fanciful challenges.


Miniature Golf

Miniature Golf

Miniature Golf

Miniature Golf


For those of you who have money to burn, may I suggest a helicopter tour over Disney World? I did this once and found the experience to be exhilarating. It really is fantastic to see some of your favorites spots from the air. Although the company I used is no longer in business, there are several helicopter tour offices along US192. Note, the more you spend, the longer you stay in the air. Don't be fooled by the $20 come-ons. This amount of money will not afford you a tour of the entire Disney property.


Helicopter Tour

Helicopter Tour

Helicopter Tour

Helicopter Tour

Helicopter Tour

Helicopter Tour

Helicopter Tour


When it comes to lodging, US192 has it all. Bargain motels and deluxe hotels can sit side-by-side and everything in between is right at hand. In addition, many resorts are located just off of the main drag. This allows them the space to create a relaxed atmosphere removed from the hustle and bustle of the busy street nearby.

EDITORS NOTE: AllEars has long term relationships with several hotel/villa/vacation home providers not on Disney property. The following hotels offer readers special pricing:


All Star Vacation Homes

DoubleTree Guest Suites in Downtown Disney
Holiday Inn Resort Lake Buena Vista
Sheraton Vistana Resort
Sheraton Vistana Villages


Hotel

Hotel


Many of the larger hotels offer shuttle service to the Disney parks. However, these may or may not work well with your schedule and in all probability, will not be as convenient as what Disney offers. Renting a car is most likely a good idea if staying along US192. And for those of you who do drive, remember, your Disney parking ticket is good all day at all four Disney parks.

Dining options are even greater than the lodging choices along US192. Almost every US chain restaurant has a presence here " many multiple times. And if you're not a fan of chain restaurants, a number of independent options are readily available. Once again, here is just a small selection of well-known eateries that will beckon you.

Applebee's
Bahama Breeze
Black Angus
Boston Lobster Feast
Burger King
Chili's
CiCi's Pizza
Cracker Barrel
Denny's
Golden Corral
Houlihan's
Joe's Crab Shack
Logan's Steakhouse
Longhorn Steakhouse
Olive Garden
Papa John's Pizza
Ponderosa Steakhouse
Red Lobster
Ruby Tuesday
Sizzler
Sweet Tomatoes
Wendy's


Restaurant

Restaurant

Restaurant


If you want more than just a meal, there are a number of dinner adventures to choose from. Here is just a sampling.

Medieval Times offers a show featuring a king, queen, and six armor-clad knights riding valiant steeds in an exhibit of pageantry and competition.


Medieval Times


Pirate's Dinner Adventure features a 46 foot long Spanish galleon afloat in a 300,000-gallon indoor lagoon. Each of the six sections of the audience cheers for their pirate as the adventure unfolds in front of you.


Pirate's Dinner Adventure


The ad for Capone's Dinner & Show reads as follows, “Knock three times, give the secret password and discover the mysterious world of 1931 gangland Chicago. Our entertaining show delivers loads of laughs, gangster action, audience interaction and toe-tapping musical productions.”


Capone's Dinner & Show


That's about it for my discussion of US192. I have to be honest, my advice to Disney World vacationers is still to stay on property if you can afford it. But if you choose to stay off property for any reason, this area of Central Florida has a lot to offer.

As always, I will be happy to answer any questions you may have regarding this article. But in reality, I don't frequent US192 often and I really don't have much detailed information about any particular business or attraction offered here.

Disclaimer: I am not endorsing any business mentioned in text or seen in any of my pictures.



The previous post in this blog was Collective Disney Animal Names Quiz - Answers.

The next post in this blog is Restroom Evolution.

Comments (21)

Cathy C:

Great article! We prefer staying off site very near Disney in this area. Love having a Super Target nearby and being able to prepare meals in our own kitchen (we stay in a townhouse). Staying off site doesn't ruin the magic for my family and allows us to afford yearly trip!

JaySwash:

Hi Jack,

Great blog post as usual. My wife is non-negotiable about the staying at a Disney property resort (and a Moderate one at least) but I can see why people might stay off property, the areas kind of remind me of a "Pigeon Forge South." =)

I have fond memories from back in the 80's when my Dad took us to Orlando for his girlfriend's Tupperware Convention (yes really.) We spent a day at Epcot, but we also spent a day just driving all around the tourist trap sections of Greater Orlando, checking out all the miniature golf courses and cheap t-shirt booths. I remember us following the wizard trolley to the Mystery Funhouse (RIP) and having a blast there.

With all that said, with it being so long since my last visit you will need a crowbar to get me out of DW when we make our trip in the fall. ;)

john:

For years, I've been a staunch proponent of staying on Disney property. But even before this blog, I find myself thinking that staying offsite may have some merits. A few points to support my position.

1. The family is getting older- sharing a single hotel room/bathroom is getting harder. I know there are DVC options, but cost is a consideration. (See point 6)

2. Meals- eating all meals out (even counterservice) is tiresome and expensive. Loading up on some groceries and having a quick breakfast and lunch in our own vacation home/townhome kitchen sounds good.

3. Meals #2- so many options offsite- I like Disney restaurants' theming, but in many cases, the food offerings are on par with many of the chain restaurants along 192, but at a different price point.

4. Other things to see- our next trip to the Orlando area will absolutely include Universal Studios to experience the Harry Potter attractions. And as kitchy as some of the sites shown in your blog are, it looks like a fun way to spend a few hours!

5. Downtime is more important- unlike past visits, I can definitely seeing the value of spending a full day relaxing poolside, without Disney theming.

6. Cost/Time- with lower lodging and food costs, perhaps I can extend my trip a few days (I will do the analysis)- will it offset the extra time/effort it takes to get to a Disney park? I don't know.

Josh Weiss:

Hey Jack
I remember when I was younger in the car with my family driving by some of these shops. I always enjoy the history lessons. It would be nice to take a trip down and discover the other parks besides disney. Can't wait for your next blog and as always keep up the great work.

Clare C.:

I always wondered who Irlo Bronson was... I'm grateful to him and everyone else who sold their land to Walt. Thanks for the history lesson, Jack!

Yes, staying on WDW property is preferable, BUT in doing some research I found beautiful 3 bedroom condos 2 miles from Disney for less than staying in one room at the value resorts. If planning to do Universal, Sea World and the "other" Orlando attractions I think off property is the way to go. You will get a lot more for your money!

Jenny Sperandeo:

Hi Jack!
Thank you for the wealth of information. 192 has always seemed very congested to me. But, I have to admit, it's fun to walk into some of those souvenir shops. They sell some of the funniest tees I've ever seen (and the dirtiest). :)

Unfortunately, or fortunately in my case, nothing could get me to stay off site. I absolutely LOVE the Disney resorts, their charm and all the extra perks that come with staying at them (my goal is to stay at all of them).

I'm looking forward to trying the Magic Bands in 33 days during my 7 day trip at POFQ with my husband (the kids 22, 18, 14 and 14 are staying home this time). :)

The bands seem to be getting a bad rap, but I think they will be awesome!!! They seem very convenient, and I love the fact that I was able to pre book FP+ for my entire stay ahead of my visit. Although, I think 3 FP+ a day is a little limited, and I don't like the tiering at Epcot and HS. Perhaps Disney will rework some of this in the future...
I hope you had a GREAT cruise!!!

Ashley:

Another great blog Jack (as usual)! It does look a lot better that it used to although a lot of it is still really tacky & run-down. We never his those souvenir places though. I loved your pick of the mile markers with those unique weather vanes. So cool!

I have to agree about the mini-golf. We've done both the WDW courses on past trips and they're just boring. We played Congo River on our last trip and had a blast and I want to try the new "Hollywood Drive-in" one at CityWalk next time.

We stayed offsite on two trips when I was a kid and also on two quick trips when I was in college. My grandpa couldn't see paying the prices for onsite (especially as this was way before All-Stars). Then we did a weeklong stay at Shades of Green and we've stayed onsite ever since. The bus system is what really convinced him, having that convenience at the end of a long day when you're exhausted.

We do always have a car though as we like to hit a grocery store for breakfast cereal & milk (plus we found the best strawberries) and we always get together with my cousin who lives in Kissimmee. Our new favorite restaurant there we can't find here at home is BJ's Brewhouse. Food was fabulous!

Hi Jack -
Whenever I've stayed out of The World, it was on or just off of US 192. On my 1st WDW trip in 1978, I stayed at The Royal Scotsman Inn at Sherberth Rd and 192 (it's still there, but abandoned). I remember there wasn't a lot out there back then - other than some sort of Realty Office between the motel and World Drive, I don't remember seeing much there.

Fast forward to 1993 - when I got to 192 I was astonished by its Las Vegas type atmosphere and drove right past my hotel while admiring the lights outlining the high-rise hotel (it was a Hilton then) and being distracted by all the signs on the highway. Stayed again on 192 in '94, '95 & '97 - the hotel I stayed at in '95 & '97 has since been torn down, but at the time I used coupons in the Kissimmee CVB guide book to get a room there for $35/night! Definitely not a 4-star resort.

When we stayed part of our 2003 trip off 192 on Parkway Blvd, my then 4 year old daughter spotted the Mermaid Gift Shop and decided it was a theme park - "Mermaid World." We heard about "going to Mermaid World" thru dinner until we finally went there and she saw it was a store, which come to think of it IS a theme park for a now teenage girl.

Thanks for the trip down Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway and my WDW Trip Memory Lane.

- Jeff

Kelly M:

Thanks for another great post Jack.

Also for an attraction in Old Town on Fridays and Saturdays - the car crawl! My family and I always head down there for pictures with all the vintage cars (pink ones especially for me) and the great band that plays. Although I can't keep up with the line dancing ladies that join them!
Its very fun to visit the area but I have to admit I have never stayed there.

Greg Highfill :

Hi Jack,

My first visit to Walt Disney World, I was able to get a room at the Day's Inn (back then) on Apopka-Vineland & I-4. Five days for $139! There was a free shuttle bus to Magic Kingdom and Epcot, which were the only two parks in 1988.

I followed my job to Orlando in 1991, and never traveled I-4 further south that Walt Disney World, except a couple of trips to Tampa / St. Pete.

I really wasn't familiar with 192 until I moved to Davenport in 2009. The only time I travel 192 is to go to the Super Target at 192 & the 429 Toll Road. When going to "The World" I get on I-4 at either Champions Gate or Hwy 27, and get off on World Drive. It is very nice to know some of the history, as well as learning how 192 got its name of Irlo Bronson Memorial Hwy.

Fatima Dupree:

Hi Jack,
Glad to see you're back. I agree that staying on property is the best option. There is nothing like being in the middle of all the magic. However, when staying in a Disney Resort is just not financially feasible, my family of four has found the Downtown Disney Hotels to be a great alternative. You are still technically on property, and the shuttles run quite regularly, which my husband loves. The last thing either us wants to do is drive anywhere after a long day in the parks. And they are usually quite affordable. You may not get all the perks of the Disney resorts, although some offer character breakfasts and the Hilton offers Extra Magic Hours, but it is still close enough to the magic. We have stayed off property in a vacation home, but that is an option we tend to reserve for when traveling with a large group. When it is just the four of us, its either Disney Resorts or Downtown Disney no question.

Kameo Crea:

Amazing article! I am so glad you're back!

Dani:

Jack...you're back! Yay! Hope you are enjoying your new place.
I've always wondered what tourists make of 192. When I was a kid, it was the magical road that took us into Disney from the Turnpike. Old Town used to be awesome, and who didn't love Orange World? Now that we live here, I try not to go near it unless we are going to Green Meadows. Funny how much things change when you're an adult.

Mike:

Staying on property....been there, done that. After 30+ trips, you begin to see that TENS OF THOUSANDS of dollars were spent to sleep in a bed. Even for a family of 3, the Value resort rooms are tiny. No matter what hotel level, there is zero privacy. Doing that for 7-10 days just doesn't cut it.

I can get a 3500 sq foot house for the price of a Moderate room at WDW. Moderate rooms are like 350 sq ft....tops.

And I would bet that I get back to my house faster then you can get back to your hotel room. Don't think for a second the buses are faster. Plus, when I drive a car, I don't have to stand for the ride back lol.

Take the plunge and stay off property. You save a fortune, a lot less stress, and save so much time.

Chris A:

great article, and as someone who has gone to the parks a bunch of times it is nice to know some more about the surrounding area.

Louis M:

Hi Jack,

Wonderful article. I always enjoy your contributions.

Something of note, what sme long time residents will remember is that the main entrance of the Walt Disney World Resort was indeed on 17/92 at one point, and not World Drive. This is the genesis of the '-gate' motels lining that part of the city.

A word of warning, since this was pre EPCOT days, any hotels dubbed 'Maingate' 'Eastgate' or any such vernacular are probably REALLY old. Some of these hotels are fairly run down. Use Tripadvisor, and RESERVE WITH CAUTION.

In recent years WDW has employed several schemes (shuttle buses, DME, DDP) to get guests directly onto Disney property, and keep them there for the duration of their stay. This has had a side effect of causing the Kissimmee/St. Cloud area to decline.

Staying offsite works well for us, but a lot of that is because we are driving anyways, my wife is a great deal finder and I don't think we've ever spent more that 45-50 dollars a night for a room off WDW property (and quite often a good bit less), don't get me wrong I've enjoyed my few on-property stays, but since we are driving, then we don't have to pay to rent a car, and really most days are not even paying to park as my wife usually drops me off at the parks and then goes elsewhere, this just makes more sense for us.

Laurie:

Hi Jack!

I just wanted to say thank you for posting this. My family has a time share off 192 and seeing all the pictures and reading what you wrote --- let's just say you lifted my spirits after a very trying start to 2014 (so it was a wonderful surprise, getting to see my other "home"). Not many people realize the other places outside of the theme parks and 192 has so much to offer!! You did an excellent job representing 192 to all the folks out there looking to vacation...and those of us who needed to smile :)

Mala:

Great article! I'm a fan of staying onsite, as I feel for what my family wants to do (which is Disney only) it offers the most value/convienence. I do, however, feel off site would have a LOT to offer, especially to have a 'break' from the everything Disney. This was a great article and very imformative. Thank you!!

Rebecca:

In the second picture of the light poles, that looks like a space shuttle taking off in the background...

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on February 3, 2014 6:29 AM.

The previous post in this blog was Collective Disney Animal Names Quiz - Answers.

The next post in this blog is Restroom Evolution.

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