Orlando – Theme Park Capital of the World®. You’d be forgiven for thinking that’s all there is to this Florida city. However, Orlando has many great attractions and sights outside of the parks.
Discover Orlando’s bohemian side downtown with cocktails at The Grand Bohemian, get in some serious retail therapy, hit the water at Weliva Island and check out the diverse cuisine from Cuban to French. Florida’s oldest community is nestled in Orlando’s Winter Park and for nature lovers there’s plenty of the great outdoors to explore.
If you’re planning to spend 48 hours in Orlando, here are some of our recommendations…
Nothing says American breakfast like a pile of pancakes with fruit and syrup generously dolloped on top. Add some southern specialities like grits and you’ve got yourself an energy boost that will see you through to the afternoon.
Downtown Orlando is calling. Stroll along E. Central Boulevard to Orange County Regional History Center for a lowdown on Orlando’s history. From its heritage as a frontier, particularly in the 19th century, to the story of a group of African American artists (Florida Highwaymen) who emerged in the 1950s this museum is a must for lovers of history.
If your breakfast is still keeping you fuelled, head to Lake Eola Park. Only a couple of blocks from the History Centre, the city’s urban park is great for a stroll in the sunshine. If you’re feeling romantic, hire a swan-shaped boat and head out onto the water. Grab a bite to eat at one of the many restaurants that line the park before heading into the Mills 50 District.
One of Orlando’s oldest neighbourhoods, and located directly north of the adjacent downtown area, Mills 50 is a tree-lined district known for its brightly coloured murals that pay homage to various aspects of Orlando living.
Mills 50’s city park, Loch Haven Cultural Park, is packed with museums, galleries and theatres. Take your pick from the Orlando Museum of Art, The Mennello Museum of American Art, Orlando Repertory Theatre, Orlando Shakespeare Theater (aka Orlando Shakes), Orlando Fire Museum and the headquarters of Orlando Ballet.
Mills 50 comes alive as the sun goes down, so stay in the district and choose from an array of bars, cafés, restaurants and nightclubs, in areas such as ‘Little Vietnam’. Top restaurant pick, Black Bean Deli, has some of the best Cuban cuisine this side of Havana, and for some indie music coupled with a great choice of micro-brews, head to Will’s Pub.
Head north to Winter Park, the oldest community in Florida founded by wealthy Easterners in the 1800s, for fine dining, fashion and art.
After breakfast, start the day with a Scenic Boat Tour (it starts at 10am) which takes you through the chain of lakes and introduces the tropical landscapes, lakes and opulence of the area.
For richness on another scale, head out to the Morse Museum, home to the world’s largest collection of works by Louis Comfort Tiffany. There’s jewellery, pottery, paintings, art glass, the famous leaded-glass lamps and windows, and the chapel interior from the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago.
Lunch at one of the many sidewalk cafés is a given; choose from the wide range of eateries available. A post-lunch stroll through Park Avenue and Hannibal Square will take you to Winter Park’s distinctive and individual boutiques; great for fashionistas and lovers of expensive chocolate!
From the genteel to the rustic and time for some alligator spotting at Gatorland. This isn’t a theme park but a 110-acre wildlife preserve dating back to 1949. Showcasing the plant and animal life native to Florida, you can meet the hundreds of alligators that live in the swamps and ponds. If you’re feeling really brave, you can zip line over the gator marsh – that will get the adrenaline racing!
Having teased the gators with your toes, you may be in need of a little libation. Try out Mathers Social Gathering back in downtown Orlando. A speak-easy styled bar on the third floor of a vintage furniture store, you can relax while dapper bartenders mix up your cocktail of choice.
And let’s not forget dinner! After a packed day of sightseeing, a filling dinner is on the menu, and Kres Chophouse has some of the best steaks in town; vegans and vegetarians are also catered for with an appetising selection.