Orlando is home to some of the largest theme parks in the world.
Orlando features first-rate entertainment complexes with state-of-the-art
movie theaters, performing arts centers, parks and gardens, and
a world-class international airport. But it is perhaps Orlando's
year-round warm weather that is the city's biggest attraction for
tourists and future residents.
city lies at the heart of the "Sunshine State," centrally located
within a three county area consisting of nearly 3,000 square miles.
It is situated approximately 150 miles from the Florida/Georgia
border to the north, 50 miles from the Atlantic Coast to the east,
and 75 miles from the Gulf Coast to the west.
Orlando offers mild weather all year long with an average annual temperature of
72.4 degrees and an annual rainfall averaging just over 50 inches,
keeping Central Florida lush and green throughout the year.
Cirque du Soleil
(1478 E. Buena Vista Dr., Lake Buena Vista; 407-939-7328; www.cirquedusoleil.com
), located at the Walt Disney World Resort, performs La Nouba, a live theatrical experience highlighted by feats of physical daring and acrobatics, mystical scenery and a live musical score. La Nouba is performed twice nightly, five days a week. Ticket prices vary according to seating.Orlando Science Center
(777 E. Princeton St.; 407-514-2000; www.osc.org
), features interactive exhibits and a domed theater and planetarium with themed light shows amidst an eight-story CineDome screen.Titanic - The Experience
(7324 International Dr.; 407-248-1166; www.titanictheexperience.com
) is the world's first permanent Titanic exhibit. Technological re-creations of the ship's environment and interactive live interpretations combine with historic collections and artifacts allowing visitors a life-like glimpse into the original drama.
Orlando is home to Disney's four uniquely themed parks - Magic Kingdom, Epcot Center, Disney's Hollywood Studios, and Disney's Animal Kingdom
, as well as two water parks, Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon, each providing all-ages fun in a world of Disney-created magic, and feature special packages and promotions to suit every taste (http://disneyworld.disney.go.com
The Universal Orlando Resort is home to Universal Studios
(1000 Universal Studios Plaza; 407-363-8000; www.usf.com
), which is catching up to Disney with the number of attractions it offers, including movie-themed rides, stage performances and behind-the-scenes studio tours. Universal's Islands of Adventure features five islands of thrill rides and roller coasters, shows, shops, and restaurants. CityWalk is a 30-acre complex of restaurants, clubs, state-of-the-art cinemas, and live entertainment venues inspired by some of pop culture's most legendary innovators. Special ticket deals and vacation packages are available in a variety of combinations.
An Orlando trademark for over 30 years, SeaWorld Orlando
(7007 SeaWorld Dr.; 407-363-2200; www.seaworld.com) lets guests experience the world of aquatic life in the water and on land through a number of shows, live exhibits and family activities. Witness Antarctic adventure in the "Penguin Encounter" or come face-to-face with a friendly dolphin or shark; journey to Atlantis on Orlando's only floorless roller coaster or bring the kids to "Shamu's Happy Harbour" playground. Annual park passes can be purchased in advance through the SeaWorld website with group rates and travel packages available.
Enjoy collections of American, African and ancient American art and outstanding traveling exhibitions in a picturesque park setting at the Orlando Museum of Art
(2416 North Mills Ave.; 407-896-4231; www.omart.org
). The museum, one of Florida's cultural gems and most popular tourist destinations, is open Tuesday through Friday 10-4 pm and Noon to 4 pm on weekends.The Orlando Ballet
(1111 North Orange Ave.; 407-426-1733; www.orlandoballet.org
), is one of the oldest and most renowned dance companies in the Southern United States. The 30-year-old organization performs through their annual season from October through April at the Bob Carr Performing Arts Centre and features 24 national and international dancers under the artistic direction of internationally renowned ballet star Fernando Bujones.Theatre Downtown
(2113 North Orange Ave.; 407-841-0083) was founded as an alternative venue to produce innovative plays. Theatre Downtown has staged hundreds of shows from classics to cutting-edge including "The Grapes of Wrath" and "Death of a Salesman," many of which have been favorably compared to productions in New York, Chicago and London (www.theatredowntown.net
Orlando's consistently pleasant weather provides for plenty of outdoor recreation, including sailing, fishing and especially golfing - on more than 150 courses. Golfers can test their skills on signature holes designed by Watson, Palmer, Nicklaus, and other golf legends that will put even the most experienced players to the test.ChampionsGate Golf Resort
(1400 Masters Blvd., ChampionsGate; 407-787-4653; www.championsgategolf.com
) features two signature Greg Norman designed 18-hole championship courses and is the new home of the David Leadbetter Golf Academy. ChampionsGate is regarded as one of the top courses in the country and is located 15 minutes from the Disney attractions.
Mystic Dunes Golf Club (7850 Shadow Tree Ln., Kissimmee; 407-787-5678; www.mysticdunesgolf.com
) offers two sets of nine-hole challenges that mimic the look and feel of the Carolinas-like wetlands and the British Isles links-style courses. Holes 15-18 have been labeled "four of the best finishing holes anywhere" by Golf & Leisure magazine.
For more information on golf packages call (866) 246-1449 or visit www.golforlandoinfo.com
For fishing, 300 lakes, springs and rivers offer relaxing recreation in the greater Orlando area. Anglers who prefer the saltwater can cast their lines from piers, shore or deep-sea fishing boats. Incentive Fishing Charters (445 Pine Tree Dr., Melbourne; 321-676-1948) provides some of the area's best sport fishing and offers private charters for one to six people.
For a more active adventure you can burn rubber behind the wheel of a stock car at the Walt Disney World Speedway for the Richard Petty Driving Experience (3450 North World Dr., Lake Buena Vista; 407-939-0130; www.1800bepetty.com).
Orlando offers a full range of lodging options within minutes of area attractions and convention centers. Hotel options are endless, and range from the bare essentials to deluxe resorts, charming villas or pool-sized spas, everything is possible here.
(9801 International Dr., Orlando: 407-352-4000) Strategically located in the heart of Orlando's world-renowned attractions, performing and visual arts. http://www.peabodyorlando.com/
Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center
(6000 W Osceola Pkwy., Kissimmee: 407-586-2000) The newly revamped hotel includes new stylish, contemporary
and comfortable guestrooms with updated amenities, which are sure to
please all. There are also dazzling new experiences for guests to enjoy
such as a two level bar, and a new Adults only “South Beach” inspired
pool. The resort added a 10,000-square-foot lawn area, Coquina Lawn,
for events and movie screenings under the stars.
Family friendly activities are endless; including the Everglades
inspired Cypress Springs Family Fun Water Park. Enjoy some pampering at
the revamped Spa and Salon, and enjoy the new 4,000 square-foot fitness
center. Gaylord Palms Resort is located only 5 minutes from Walt
Disney World. For more information visit: http://www.gaylordpalms.com
for more details.
The Pop Century Resort
(1050 Century Dr., Lake Buena Vista; 407-939-6244) is geared for the value-conscious visitor. The resort theme celebrates the fashions, catch phrases, toys, and dances from decades past. Visit www.disney.com
for more information or call (407) 938-4000.Disney's BoardWalk Inn
(2101 N. Epcot Resorts Blvd., Lake Buena Vista; 407-939-6244) is a deluxe resort and features a whimsical waterfront setting steeped in nostalgia and charm.The Disney Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
(4401 Floridian Way, Lake Buena Vista; 407-939-6244) is Disney's flagship resort with a classic Victorian theme.
European elegance combines with Old World charm at Universal's Portofino Bay Hotel
(5601 Universal Blvd.; 407-503-1000; www.universalorlando.com). Universal's premier luxury hotel re-creates the seaside village of Portofino, Italy, including cobblestone streets and outdoor cafes.Universal's Hard Rock Hotel
is a AAA-rated Four Diamond Award winning hotel that combines luxury with lively music themes (5800 Universal Blvd.; 407-503-2000; www.universalorlando.com).Universal's Royal Pacific Resort
is set in an exotic tropical paradise amidst swaying palm trees and lagoon style pool (6300 Hollywood Way, 407-503-3000; www.universalorlando.com).Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites
(5905 S. Kirkman Rd.; 407-351-3333; www.hiuniversal.com) offers superior accommodations and amenities, but its biggest features are the location, just across the street from the Universal Orlando Resort, and reasonable rates.
With more than 52-million square feet of retail space, Orlando sports an eclectic mix of department stores, boutiques, outlet malls, farmers markets, and themed shopping villages.
Central Florida features nine shopping malls. The Mall at Millenia (4200 Conroy Rd.; 407-363-3555) is a 1.2-million-square-foot shopping experience housing more than 150 stores, anchored by such big names as Bloomingdale's and Macy's, and high-end retailers like Tiffany, Burberry and Cartier.
In Downtown Orlando lies Thornton Park with more boutiques and specialty shops, and Antique Row is on Orange Ave.
Pointe Orlando (9101 International Dr.; 407-248-2838; www.pointeorlando.com) is a 450,000-square-foot multilevel complex that features shops, restaurants, bars, and attractions including theater and nightclubs.
At night, guests can club hop at Downtown Disney
), a combined shopping, dining and entertainment complex with a big city feel in the heart of Walt Disney World.Downtown Disney West Side
features sophisticated dining, an AMC Theatre complex and nightly entertainment at places like Planet Hollywood and the House of Blues.
Not far off is the Wall Street Plaza
(407-849-0471), an open-air area consisting of eight bars and restaurants lining a brick-paved pedestrian street in the heart of downtown designed for strolls, street parties and live concerts.Universal City Walk
(1000 Universal Studios Plaza; www.universalorlando.com
) offers fine dining, live music, shopping, dancing, cinemas, and more. Visitors can rock the night away at the world's largest Hard Rock Cafe, heat up the dance floor at The Groove, grab a tall cool one at Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville, or for big-screen buffs, there's a 20-screen theater complex.
The Official Orlando Visitors Center (8723 International Dr., Suite 101; 407-363-5872; www.orlandoinfo.com/visitorcenter) will assist with information on hotels, attractions and restaurants. Visitors can purchase discount attraction tickets and pick up a free Orlando Magicard.
The Orlando Magicard allows vacationers to save up to $500 at area attractions, including accommodations, restaurants and dinner theaters, shopping malls and ground transportation. Order by calling (800) 551-0181 or visiting www.orlandoinfo.com.
The Orlando FlexTicket provides scheduling flexibility and value for visiting Orlando's popular attractions. FlexTickets come in five- and six-park denominations and provide unlimited access to Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure, SeaWorld Orlando, and more, for 14 consecutive days starting with the first day of use. Ticket prices are subject to change. Visit www.orlandoticketsales.com or call (877) 460-6849.
You'll encounter a blend of cultures at Bahama Breeze, handily located on I-Drive. The same company does Olive Garden and Red Lobster, but Bahama Breeze, which has three outlets in Orlando, is more upmarket while remaining in the modest price category. There can be a crush here because reservations aren't accepted. Expect a long wait for a table, and spend it lounging on the deck with a cold Bahamarita while listening to reggae. Then order fresh fish with a sassy citrus-mustard sauce, jerk chicken, coconut shrimp, Jamaican patties, or paella, with pina colada bread pudding for dessert, or key lime pie.
8849 International Dr.
Noted as one of the oldest gathering areas for local Romans, Trastevere is a neighborhood located on the Tiber river in Rome and home of several popular outdoor cafes. In Orlando, Cafe Trastevere tries to capture that Roman feeling with a casual Italian cafe. Serving simple Italian fare, Cafe Trastevere offers a rare treat for Orlando dining—outdoor seating on two separate patios. Try the Lemon Pesto shrimp or the crab and corn bisque as appetizers. Then eat as the Romans do with pesce cartoccio, a daily selection of fish wrapped in parchment paper and baked with tomatoes, portabella mushrooms, black olives, and capers.
825 North Magnolia Ave.
Cafe Tu Tu Tango
Cafe Tu Tu Tango is a merry tangle of Spanish, Mediterranean, Cajun, and Caribbean tastes, all served up in tapas-size portions. The room not only looks like an artist's atelier, it is one. Real artisans work while you dine. The appetizers are so tempting, it's easy to go overboard on deep-fried chicken rolls, hot or cold shrimp, crusty plantains, tuna sashimi with noodles and spinach, jerk chicken, and much more. It's a fun place to go with the gang or for grazing with the family.
Cafe Tu Tu Tango
8625 International Dr.
All-American diners, including a growing number of vegetarians, are in their element at the California Grill in Disney's Contemporary Resort. Chefs work in an open kitchen to produce grilled steaks, chicken or vegetables, superb sushi, seared tuna, tempuras, wood oven-baked pizzas, and side dishes of polenta, balsamic-blessed greens, black bean cake, or medleys of steamed fresh vegetables. Ask the sommelier for samples, then choose a fine California vintage to accompany the meal. The room has a view of the Magic Kingdom, so wind down with coffee, dessert and fireworks in the night sky.
Disney's Contemporary Resort
Capriccio Grill is a steakhouse with a pinch of Italian seasoning located inside Orlando's Peabody Hotel in the heart of Orlando's tourism corridor and directly across the street from the Orange County Convention Center. Capriccio is designed and decorated with a taste for Roman tradition. After a walk by the Peabody Wine Cellar—a Wine Spectator award-winner—with its myriad gleaming bottles of wines from the world's greatest wine-growing regions, its open exhibition kitchen makes a stunning first impression. Steaks, chops, pasta, and seafood, dessert shooters and a relaxed atmosphere.
9801 International Dr.
The first Columbia Restaurant was established in Tampa in 1905 and its clone in Celebration, just south of Walt Disney World Resort, is the perfect place to dine on the specialties of old Spain before taking a stroll around this planned, picture book community overlooking the lake. Order the paella, which takes a while, then busy yourself with a cup of black bean soup followed by the 1905 Columbia salad. End the meal with flan, perhaps the best in town. The larger your group, the larger the paella.
649 Front St.
(407) 566-1505www.columbiarestaurant.comEmeril's Orlando
Emeril's Orlando in Universal's CityWalk isn't for everyone because you're paying a dear price for verve, nerve, flair, and enough bustle and clatter to wake the dead. Emeril himself usually isn't here, but his spirit hovers like a naughty genie, insisting that les bon temps keep on rolling. Have the shrimp- and cornbread-stuffed Maine lobster, any dish made with Emeril's homemade andouille sausage, or the grilled butterfly pork chop in green mole sauce. Reservations are hard to come by at the last minute, so call from home several weeks before your Orlando trip.
Universal Studios CityWalk
6000 Universal Blvd.
(407) 224-2424www.emerils.comEnzo's Restaurant on the Lake
Enzo's Restaurant on the Lake is a hometown place where locals blow the budget on anniversaries and retirement. It's pricey but it's also unfailingly Italian—the sauces slow-simmered from scratch. A signature dish is the bucatini tossed with bits of prosciutto, bacon, Parmesan cheese, mushrooms, and green peas. The veal dishes are always good, especially the scallopine with its covering of capers, white wine, tomatoes and artichoke hearts. Start with the big antipasto platter and end the meal with the rum cake.
Enzo's Restaurant on The Lake
1130 U.S. 17-92
Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville
A great atmosphere and good fun—what more could you ask for in Orlando? Jimmy Buffets’s Margaritaville is the place to find fresh seafood, the famous “Cheeseburger in Paradise” and just enough on the menu to please everyone in the family. The “Floribbean” fare features coconut shrimp and a house special crab cake. Listen up to the music—Jimmy Buffet tunes, of course—for a happy vibe as you indulge in the dessert menu, including key lime pie, chocolate hurricane brownies and chocolate banana bread pudding.
Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville
6000 Universal Blvd.
(407)224-2155www.margaritavilleorlando.comLe Coq au Vin
Le Coq au Vin regularly makes the best-of lists and readers' polls in the Orlando Area. Gourmets who dote on the best French restaurants will be thrilled by the cuisine and astonished at l'addition. The food is country French, seasonal and swimming in saucy, complex scents. Try the Bayou Tesche—a longtime favorite, salmon, sweetbreads, or spicy cajun. Relaxed is the word for hosts who are at ease with their unpretentious room and well-seasoned kitchen.
Le Coq au Vin
4800 South Orange Ave.
Try lunch or dinner at Ming Court, one of Orlando's busy International Drive mainstays since 1989, and you'll be in for a pleasant surprise. The two-acre garden setting meant to evoke the Ming Dynasty era is one of the area's most popular with locals and visitors looking for something different and a retreat from the theme park mania. The menu here is extensive with a large variety of dim sum, sushi, wok and char-grilled cuisine on offer. Start with chicken corn chowder and the grilled lamb chop appetizer. For the main course, the wok-prepared salt and pepper chicken sounds simple enough, but it's treated with a special five-spice salt, shallots and a touch of jalapeno pepper. Plum blossom duck is a treat served with stir-fried asparagus, shiitake and carrots in white wine garlic sauce. For photographs of most dishes check out their website and print out the ten-percent-off coupon.
9188 International Dr.
The Peabody Orlando Hotel is a convenient destination for convention visitors since it is directly across the street from the convention center. The newest restaurant at this classy hotel—known for the famous duck walk in the lobby—is elegant Napa, a modern California cuisine restaurant inspired by the Napa Valley. Of course, you would expect to find great wine here, but you’ll be amazed to explore the major wine offerings as you enjoy the menu that relies heavily on local sustainable and organic ingredients for the freshest and tastiest choices. Try the heirloom tomato soup as a starter and the yellow tail snapper for a main. Vegetarians will love the eggplant torta, a dish concocted with yellow squash, artichoke, heirloom tomato, basil, and smoked sweet horned pepper coulis. Napa is a great place for something different in Orlando.
9801 International Dr.
Fresh seafood and steak along with nightly entertainments has made Taverna Opa the top destination in dining in Orlando. Experience a festive Greek spirit where everyday is a celebration of good food and wine. While dining here tantalize your taste buds with traditional Greek food with a twist. Try appetizers like Dolmades, and eta and Elives, or Hot Pikilia. As a main courses the wood fired meats are amazing, as are the traditional Greek dishes like Sousaka, or Pastitsio. Make sure to save room for dessert with some classic Galaktoboureko which is honey phyllo filled with custard. Enjoy a different approach that energizes and gives the diner a different dimension of entertainment.
9101 International Drive, OrlandoThe Venetian Room
Orlando’s dining scene conjures up images of breakfast with Mickey Mouse and food on the run. But for those in search of a more elegant venue, look no further than The Venetian Room. Elegance, delicious food, great atmosphere—this is what to expect in this Caribe Royale Hotel location. The menu is sophisticated with a fabulous filet mignon served with fennel strudel and shaved truffle red wine reduction or a tasty loin of lamb scented in lavender. The signature chocolate sampler is replete with chocolate mousse, white chocolate truffles and light and dark chocolates.
8101 World Center Dr.