paulflexes saidThe best thing to do in Orlando is hit the turnpike south to Miami.
Geez Louise Paulie!! Cut us some slack here!! Sure, we aren't as active and fun as Miami or Ft. Lauderdale but we are coming around.
I am a 33 year resident of Orlando so I think I know the town better than a lot of people on here (and I know I'm gonna get some blowback on some things I'll mention) and I have some recommendations for you:
First off, locals generally don't go to the theme parks. A couple of weekends ago, I met up with one of my out-of-town friends in the travel industry over at Downtown Disney. It is the first time I have been there in 10 years. My travel industry friend knows Disney better than me (and I used to be in the same business....). There are good dining choices on Disney property but be prepared to spend some money as they are not inexpensive. I have never been to Universal so I can't give you feedback on that and Sea World is one giant snoozer.
Winter Park was mentioned by LJay and he is spot on with the activities there. Very nice place and the area also has one of the three locations for the hottest restaurant in Orlando right now, 4Rivers barbecue. It is the best I have ever had and buddy, I have had lots of barbecue in my day!!
Regarding the beaches, if you plan to go a lot...then Cocoa Beach is your best bet as it is 45 miles east of Orlando (take Beachline Expressway to FL 520 and head east). If you plan on doing the beach only a few times a year, then head west and go to where the beaches are MUCH better. Go to St. Pete Beach, Clearwater Beach or any of the towns along the Gulf Coast in Pinellas County. They are the best and truthfully, that is where the locals PREFER to go. Stay out of Daytona Beach! That area is nasty.
Not having an idea where you'll be working, your commute to work is something to consider as traffic can be a bitch and we have multitudes of toll roads. Downtown is really hot and really gay, but very expensive (especially the Thornton Park area). If you are working on the south end of Orlando anywhere from the airport area going west towards Disney, the Hunter's Creek area is VERY nice. I used to live there and loved it as all amenities you need are right there--everything! The only drawback is that downtown is about 25-30 minutes away as the better clubs/bars/nightlife is there. HC is also affordable with good rentals, condos and single family homes there.
That's just the tip of the iceberg. E-mail me here if you need more info. I think you'll really like it and it DOES take some getting used to as I moved here from a much larger city (Atlanta) in 1979 and didn't like it at all initially. However, I have now been here 33 years as I mentioned, so that says something.....
Let me know if you need more detail.