Like a Local
Quirky, under-the-radar highlights only a local could recommend.
Old Town USA
Café Tu Tu Tango
The Mall at Millenia
Lake Louisa State Park
Orlando Vineland Premium Outlets
6 p.m. | Dinner at Restaurant Row
The two-mile stretch of Sand Lake Road in Doctor Phillips (yes, the name of a suburb in Orlando) has earned the nickname of “Restaurant Row” for good reason: some two dozen upscale and casual eateries serve up some of the finest fare Orlando has to offer, from Polynesian fusion at Roy’s to fondue at the Melting Pot to Lebanese cuisine at Cedar’s.
8 p.m. | Head to ICON Orlando 360
It wouldn’t be a visit to Orlando without a spin on the marquee attraction of this 18-acre entertainment and dining complex: the 400-foot tall ICON Orlando, a Ferris wheel consisting of air-conditioned glass capsules that offer 360-degree views of the nearby theme parks and attractions, downtown Orlando, and Kennedy Space Center to the east. Round out the experience with a visit to Madame Tussauds Wax Museum, the Sea Life Orlando Aquarium, and a variety of full-service restaurants.
9 a.m. | Play a Round at Grand Cypress Golf Club
There are two signature courses – both Jack Nicklaus designed – at Villas of Grand Cypress: the legendary 27-hole North-South-East Course and the inspiring 18-hole links-style New Course. The latter is the real gem, bringing a little bit of Scotland to Florida with several holes that are replicas of the Old Course at St. Andrews. Expect double greens, stone bridges and walls, gorse mounds, burns, and pot bunkers as deep as 12 feet.
1 p.m. | Lunch at The Club Restaurant
After a round of golf, treat yourself to a celebratory drink. The Club Restaurant overlooks the North-South Course and features a farm-to-fork lunch menu of fresh salads, specialty sandwiches, and unique entrees, as well as a range of craft beer, wine, and signature cocktails.
5 p.m. | Dinner on Plant Street in Winter Garden
Seventeen miles north of the Grove Resort & Spa, this scenic downtown exudes the small-town charm of old Florida with brick-lined streets, historic Mediterranean revival architecture, and a central clock tower and pavilion. Enjoy a quick and easy dinner at Urban Flats, known for inventive gourmet flatbreads like the fig and prosciutto; or head to The Chef’s Table at the Edgewater & Tasting Room for a more upscale experience, where the chef personally visits your table to plan your meal.
6:30 p.m. | Take in a Show at the Garden Theatre
A short walk on Plant Street, this historic theatre is something of Winter Garden’s best-kept secret. Home to professional level theatre, music, dance, and films, the restored Mediterranean Revival theatre built in 1935 features a beautiful Spanish courtyard with Romeo & Juliet balconies, Spanish tile roof, and a dark blue ceiling resplendent with stars.
9 a.m. | Breakfast at Valencia
Breakfast at the resort’s on-site eatery fuses continental standards with a Southern European Flare. Dishes include delicious options like made-to-order waffles and the Spanish omelet.
10 a.m. | Splash around Surfari Water Park
Complete your stay with a visit to the resort’s on-site six-acre water park, home to the FlowRider Double Surf Simulator (allowing two people to surf or boogie board side by side at the same time), waterslides, kids’ activities pool, zero-entry pool, and a 695-foot winding lazy river that features waterfalls and water cannons. If you’re looking for something a bit quieter, The Springs Pools, situated on Lake Austin, is a quiet oasis where you can escape Orlando’s excitement while lounging in a cabana or lounge chair.
Indulgent edibles are around every corner in Disney. However, this bakery, which opened in 2015 in the Disney Springs shopping district on the edge of the park parameters, filled a hole in the dessert roster: It only serves vegan and gluten-free items, including some of the best cookies, cupcakes, focaccia, and cinnamon rolls that even non-gluten-free patrons have said they’ve ever had.
Central Florida’s first urban winery has a two-fold mission: to make good wine from grapes from around the world, but to do so in an environmentally friendly way. All raw, unrefined wines are imported not in bottles but large plastic vessels to their Ivanhoe Village location, where – after aging, blending, and finishing – they’re packaged in kegs, pouches, or boxes – all low-carbon-footprint vessels.
Based in a historic building in downtown Winter Garden, Scoops is the old-fashioned ice cream shop of your childhood dreams with classic wooden counters and stools and checker-topped tables for a game of chess. Flavors range from key lime to cappuccino to salted caramel and include sorbets, sundaes, and milkshakes, but what the spot is really known for is its generous portions; one scoop is technically the size of three at only $2.50 to boot.
It’s not easy to find good craft beer at $4 to $5 a pop, but Winter Garden’s new microbrewery has done it with 16 taps serving beers only brewed in-house, ranging from stouts to IPAs to amber ales. The best part? Crooked Can is located inside the Plant Street Market, a cluster of artisan shops, so you can actually walk around and peruse the other stores with a beer in hand.
The SeaVenture tour at Discovery Cove – the little sister to SeaWorld located off International Drive – is like walking on the moon…except there’s colorful marine life swirling around you instead of stars. After shimmying into wet suits and easing into The Grand Reef, essentially a man-made coral reef consisting of 1.2 million gallons of saltwater up to 13 feet deep, a dive helmet is lowered over you, feeding oxygen as you wander along the bottom of the reef floor. During the 20-minute experience, you’ll come eye to eye with sharks, pet velvety rays, and cut through schools of fish like Moses parting the Red Sea.
Four unique airboat adventures soar up to 45 miles per hour atop the swamp water around Lake Tohopekaliga in Kissimmee, then slow to sashay through canals and marshlands to take in views of exotic birds, turtles, and the Florida alligator wallowing in their natural environment. Daily 30-minute, 45-minute, and one-hour tours are available.
Located in Davenport, 15 miles southwest of Disney, this outfitter is actually the first and largest aero-tow hang gliding flight park in the world. Offering year-round hang gliding tandem flights and hang gliding instruction, the park’s 100-acre field allows take-offs and landings in any direction.