The City Beautiful draws millions of visitors every year for its many theme parks and thrill attractions. However, this central Florida city is so much more. If you’re traveling to Orlando for business but want to turn it into a leisure experience, it’s surprisingly easy to do. Whether you want an activity-packed trip or some down time in a beautiful setting, Orlando is the place for you.
What to Do & See
Wander around Lake Eola Park
Located in the heart of downtown Orlando, Lake Eola Park is a beautiful landscape. Visitors can rent swan-shaped paddle boats, attend the Sunday morning farmers market, practice some yoga, and grab a quick bite at the Relax Grill. It’s the perfect setting if you want to get away from large crowds but want a scenic view of the city. There’s also the Walt Disney Amphitheater, which hosts regular concerts and performances throughout the year.
Snorkel with manatees in a freshwater spring.
Florida isn’t limited to sandy saltwater beaches. If you don’t mind taking an hour drive, some of the most breathtaking natural freshwater springs in the country are just outside of Orlando. Choose between taking a scenic river cruise, kayaking/paddle boarding, or snorkeling with manatees. That’s right — you can spend the day swimming next to Florida’s beloved sea cows. Crystal River is a popular option, but other springs include Wekiwa Springs, Blue Springs, and Rock Springs.
Attend a sports game.
As the home of many professional and club-level sports teams, checking out a game is one of Orlando’s more popular attractions. Choose from Orlando Magic Basketball, UCF Knights Football, Orlando City Soccer, or the Solar Bears Hockey. UCF’s stadium is a 25-minute drive, whereas all pro teams play in downtown Orlando where public transportation is easily accessible.
Catch a thrilling show.
Don’t have time to hit the theme parks? Orlando offers a variety of spectacular shows that are sure to thrill you just the same. Cirque du Soleil’s La Nouba, Blue Man Group, House of Blues concerts, and Medieval Times are some can’t-miss options.
Where to Eat & Drink
Black Rooster Taqueria
Don’t miss this hidden gem in the up-and-coming Mills 50 district. The Black Rooster Taqueria, which serves up street tacos with simple ingredients, is rather unassuming from the exterior. However, this tiny taco shop delivers an authentic experience with its Day of the Dead décor and loyalty to true Mexican flavors. Simplicity is key at the Black Rooster. Most tacos only have 4-5 ingredients. Try the Achiote Pork or Black Rooster Asada for a kick.
Keke’s Breakfast Cafe
Keke’s Breakfast Café has your favorite breakfast classics covered on the busiest of mornings. A popular breakfast destination for locals and tourists alike, this chain has multiple locations across the state of Florida. Savory or sweet, healthy or decadent, Keke’s menu is lengthy and the portions are large, providing you with a great start to the day. Popular favorites include any of the omelets and the fruit-topped Florida pancake.
A 20-minute drive north of Orlando is Winter Park, a quaint small town that’s ideal for a day trip to shop and try award-winning restaurants. Make sure to stop by Bulla (pronounced Boo-ya) Gastrobar, which just made its Winter Park debut in late 2016. This Spanish tapas bar serves small plates meant for sharing. No trip to Bulla is complete without a pitcher of the house sangria, in both red or white variations.
Orlando’s bar scene is still up-and-coming, but one hotspot is quickly making its way to the top: The Courtesy. Think classic cocktails with a twist in a speakeasy setting. The Courtesy also stands out for its cocktail classes held every first and third Saturday of the month. Participants learn from pro bartenders how to craft their own cocktails. It’s something that most bars don’t offer, and you can even book a private class for a minimum of 10 people.
You can enjoy live music every night at Tanqueray’s, a dive bar that has been a downtown Orlando staple since 1989. The space is reminiscent of Cheers, with colored lights and a small stage that makes the perfect setting for the local bands who perform every night. Expect excellent service from the bartenders, strong drinks and low prices.
Where to Relax
Play golf like a pro.
Discover why Orlando is home to more pro golfers than any other U.S. city. There are hundreds of courses to tee up on. Practice your swing on the El Campeon, one of the oldest courses in the South. Some other favorites include the Bay Hill Club & Lodge, Reunion Resort, and Waldorf Astoria Golf Club.
Explore Wekiwa Springs State Park.
If you unwind best outdoors, Wekiwa Springs is the perfect getaway. There are hundreds of acres to explore here. Set up a picnic, take a lazy river ride in an inner tube, or rent a kayak or paddleboard to make the most of your experience. If you have the time, camping is also available at the park’s full-facility campground and surrounding camping areas.
Meander through Winter Park on a scenic boat tour.
Winter Park is covered by a chain of canals and waterways surrounded by lush greenery. One of the best ways to explore it is by taking a leisurely, scenic boat ride. For one hour, sit back and relax as a boat captain share the interesting facts and history of the local area. Tours start right on time, so make sure you show up at least 15 minutes early.
Treat yourself at the Ritz-Carlton Orlando-Grande Lakes Spa.
Completely unwind at one of Orlando’s ultimate spa experience. The Ritz-Carlton Grande Lakes location offers 40 different treatment rooms, a pool, wellness center, and café. The spa utilizes organic ingredients in its treatments, pulling homegrown herbs, honey from the resort’s beehive, and local Florida citrus. You’ll walk away feeling more relaxed than ever.
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