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1 City 5 Ways

Pam McLean

Photo by Pam McLean

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Orlando? A theme park, right? It’s true that Disney put Orlando on the map, with other attractions following suit. And it’s probably the reason why more than 62 million visitors flocked to the area in 2014, surpassing every other tourist destination in the United States. But the city has so much more to offer those willing to think outside the theme park—a burgeoning culinary scene, trendy downtown hangouts, unique main street district neighborhoods and serene parks with glimpses into old Florida. Here are five ways to explore The City Beautiful.


East End Market        

Where to Stay: The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes
Epicureans delight in the farm-to-table offerings here, from Southern-inspired dishes at Highball & Harvest to Caribbean fusion at NORMAN’S, headed by James Beard award-winning chef Norman Van Aken.

Brunch: Cask & Larder
This Southern-style eatery offers seasonal menus sourced by local farms, artisanal cocktails and craft beers brewed in-house. Brunch delicacies may include banana beignets with candied bacon or Nashville hot chicken with cornbread waffles.

Afternoon: East End Market
Shop for gourmet cheeses, freshly baked goods, single-origin coffees and homemade pasta at this food hall, modeled after Manhattan’s Chelsea Market. Sip organic, cold-pressed juice in the outdoor garden or try to nab a spot at the seven-seat omakase sushi bar Kappo.

Dinner: The Ravenous Pig
Sister to Cask & Larder, this classy gastropub highlights Florida’s best local fare, with a seasonal menu of comfort food such as Canaveral shrimp and grits or steak frites. Imbibe on craft cocktails, such as the Pig’s take on an old-fashioned with bacon-infused bourbon.

Late Night: TaKo Cheena
This small, late-night joint in the Mills 50 District slings tasty Asian-Latin fusion. The burritos are huge and taco fillings include Thai peanut chicken, yellow curry tofu or Korean beef.


Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts photo by Steve Williams.        

Where to Stay: Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort
This resort recently debuted 20 South Pacific-inspired bungalows, each with two bedrooms, two baths and a plunge pool. Many even have a view of the nightly fireworks.

Morning: Harry P. Leu Gardens
Meander through the gardens of this 50-acre botanical oasis, showcasing roses, vegetables and even butterflies. Pack a picnic and steal away to a spot near Lake Rowena.

Afternoon: Lake Eola Park
This urban park is the heart of downtown and a prime spot for a sunset stroll. You’ll see two types of swans on the lake—feathered and paddle-powered. Rent the latter for a romantic ride around the water.

Dinner: K Restaurant
A historic house in College Park was converted into this farm-to-table concept with decadent dishes (think lobster mac ‘n’ cheese) by chef Kevin Fonzo.

Evening: Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts
Step out to this shiny new arts center, with performances ranging from Broadway shows to concerts, standup comedians and ballet.


The Orlando Eye        

Where to Stay: Cabana Bay Beach Resort
The latest addition to Universal Orlando Resort, this retro-themed property channels the days of Frankie and Annette. Opt for a family suite and keep the group entertained with a lazy river, water slide and bowling alley.

Breakfast: Chef Mickey’s
Disney’s Contemporary Resort offers the chance to meet Mickey and Minnie without the cost of park admission. Little ones will love the festive atmosphere at the character breakfast, which may include dancing and sing-alongs.

Morning: Orlando Science Center
A welcome respite on rainy or sweltering days, this indoor playground makes learning fun. Interactive, hands-on exhibits include digging for dinosaur fossils, flight simulators and reptile encounters.

Afternoon: I-Drive 360
Soaring over International Drive, The Orlando Eye is a 400-foot observation wheel offering a new view of the city. After your ride, take a selfie with the president at Madame Tussauds and check out SEA LIFE Aquarium.

Dinner: T-Rex Cafe
This Downtown Disney Marketplace restaurant will delight your dino-loving kiddos. Giant animatronic dinosaurs come to life along with a “meteor shower” across the ceiling.


A dish at Prato. Photo by Michael Pisarri.        

Where to Stay: Waldorf Astoria Orlando
This luxury resort near Disney’s theme parks features stylish digs, a Rees Jones-designed golf course and an impressive spa. Expect a few of the touches found at the Manhattan icon, including a handcrafted lobby clock and elegant Bull and Bear dining room.

Morning: Orlando Premium Outlets
These two shopping centers on opposite ends of International Drive are the place to score deals on high-end brands such as Coach, Burberry and Michael Kors. The open-air plazas and shops can get packed, so go early to beat the crowds.

Afternoon: Park Avenue
The brick main street in Winter Park, just north of Orlando, is lined with sidewalk cafés, art galleries and shops galore. Shop the one-of-a-kind local boutiques alongside national names such as Lily Pulitzer, Eileen Fisher and Williams-Sonoma.

Dinner: Prato
Refuel at this Italian restaurant where chef Brandon McGlamery, a James Beard award semifinalist, puts a fresh twist on classic dishes made from seasonal ingredients. The menu is ever-evolving but features homemade pastas, inventive pizzas and creative main dishes.

After Dark: The Imperial
This wine bar and beer garden is tucked inside Washburn Imports, a shop featuring unique décor—meaning that the amazing, hand-carved Indian daybed you’re sitting on is also for sale.


WXYZ Lounge        

Where to Stay: Aloft Orlando Downtown
The cool kids love the trendy urban digs and gather at WXYZ Lounge to hear live bands and DJs. Its central location is walkable to bars and nightlife, or you can rent orange wheels from Juice Bike Share to explore the hip districts nearby.

Breakfast: Se7enbites
The retro mural at this Milk District bakery beckons: “Come on in and let us fill your pie hole.” Whether you opt for savory (cheddar-chive grits) or sweet (coffee cake, cream scones), take home your own salted caramel-dark chocolate pecan pie for later.

Lunch: Pig Floyd’s Urban Barbakoa
This modern joint in the Mills 50 District fuses the standard barbecue offerings—brisket, ribs, chicken—with Latin, Caribbean and Asian twists. Try the Barbakoa bánh mì with plantains or yucca fries paired with a local craft beer.

Afternoon: Audubon Park Garden District
Head to Corrine Drive for trendy boutiques, quaint bakeries, music staple Park Ave CDs, hipster hang Stardust Video & Coffee and the stellar beer selection at Redlight Redlight.

After Dark: Hanson’s Shoe Repair
In true speakeasy style, call ahead to get the nightly password. Enter through NV Art Bar, head upstairs and ring the bell for entry into this rooftop setting with handcrafted cocktails.

Spill It: Tell Us What You Think!

Great selections! Hanson's sounds intimidating though!
9/30/2015 11:23:38 PM

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