Start making plans
Long recognized as the world’s capital for theme-park seekers, Orlando boasts diverse and thriving arts, culinary, and cultural scenes rivaling its bigger neighbors in the Sunshine state. Here are a few top picks to help you plan.
Hot spots for foodies
With farm-to-table, fine dining, and Bosphorous-influenced fare, Orlando is working hard to shed its reputation as a chain restaurant mecca. Chef Kathleen Blake, a two-time nominee for the James Beard Best Chef South award, helped herald Orlando’s restaurant revival when she opened The Rusty Spoon. Other great options include James and Julie Petrakis’s The Ravenous Pig in nearby Winter Park for traditional farmhouse meats, southern staples, and a beer-friendly vibe; 4 Rivers Smokehouse for brisket; Bosphorous for Turkish, and Stardust Video and Coffee.
Orlando’s burgeoning brew scene has enough taps and tasting rooms to build a daylong brew tour. The granddaddy of Orlando hops houses, Orlando Brewing opened its doors at the turn of the century and specializes in organic ales and German-style lagers. Head to Winter Garden and the Crooked Can Brewing Company, to find four flagship brands and an on-site tap and tasting room in the middle of an artisanal food market. Or Uber to Orlando’s Oblivion Taproom for 40 taps (many featuring Florida brews) and mouth-watering burgers, including the cayenne-dusted, fried-jalapeno-topped Soul Scorcher 2.0.
America’s other Main Street
Just minutes from Winter Park and downtown Orlando, Audubon Park Garden District is one of just three Great American Main Streets recognized by the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 2016. It’s home to Orlando’s locals-only farmers market and draws visitors from all over the US. Take a short stroll to find one of the top craft beer bars, Florida’s best bake shop, and Orlando’s only independent bookstore scattered among the artisanal, antique, and locally made offerings.
The Muggles Guide
If you’re tempted to indulge in only one theme park during your time in Orlando,
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter might be just your ticket. Designed with a focus on artistry, sensory detail, and storytelling, JK Rowling’s literary landmark has been a runaway hit since opening in 2010. You’ll find Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley located inside Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure, which adds up to a full day of thrills, coasters, and water rides. Whichever adventure you choose, take advantage of special discounts on theme parks and other attractions.
The final frontier
Less than an hour east of Orlando, the Kennedy Space Center takes you inside the past, present, and future of America’s space program. Sited on a 140,000-acre barrier island, KSC was home to the Apollo and Space Shuttle programs and is now home to Space X at historic Space Launch Complex 39A. Learn about the history of the US space program, catch an IMAX film, test your skills in a simulator, and don’t forget to check the launch schedule before your visit.