Orlando is a vibrant city that is home to more than just a cute mouse and his friends. It has a lot going on both in and around it. If you have ever looked at a map of Florida, then you know that Orlando is expansive. The City Beautiful, as it is affectionately called, encompasses more than 110 miles, including 100-plus neighborhoods. Greater Orlando, otherwise known as Metro Orlando, may be the center of attention at times, but there is plenty to explore beyond Mickey’s backyard. Restaurants, resorts, and other attractions easily draw in large crowds every year. Next time you plan to visiting Orlando, include other parts of the city in your adventure with our helpful tips.
You could spend a good deal of time just trying new restaurants. But start with these areas: Winter Park, Restaurant Row, Downtown, Disney/Lake Buena Vista, Universal Resorts Citywalk, and the Convention area. If you are looking for classy comfort food, The COOP in Winter Park may have you loosening your belt a bit. Their delicious, juicy fried chicken will melt in your mouth—have it with waffles for an added treat. Numerous sides like smashed potatoes, mac & cheese, and creamed corn won’t disappoint either. And don’t forget a piece of pie. Up for a little bit of different? Visit The Smiling Bison, a gastropub where the menu changes with the season. You’ll find tasty sandwiches and pizzas with unique additions. To start, try the Poutine—hand-cut fries loaded with mushroom gravy and Cheddar cheese curds—or the fried Brussels sprouts. Pair them with a craft beer, and you’re set.
Join the locals for the monthly pig roast at The Ravenous Pig. James Beard–nominated chefs/owners Julie and James Petrakis are always looking for new ways to please guests. Fresh seafood and house-made pastas can be found among traditional pub fare. If you like this, try the pair’s other restaurant Cask & Larder. Also known as Southern Public House, it delights guests with house-made meats, pickled veggies, and beers brewed on site. Beefy King, a local favorite, has been going strong for more than 46 years. Be sure to sample the steamed roast beef—cooked on-site daily—along with tator tots and a hand-spun chocolate milkshake. At Scratch, enjoy modern American tapas made from local and seasonal provisions. Other options to try: Funky Monkey, Kasa, Soco, Hawk’s Landing Steakhouse & Grill, and Vimi food truck.
Of course, Disney Parks is constantly changing and adding, but Universal Studios Orlando is an option with newly upgraded additions that include the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, complete with the Hogwarts train that connects both parks. Fans can revel in the amazing homage to the novels and movie series. Have lunch at the Three Broomsticks, where you can grab a butter beer and a turkey leg that would have satisfied even Hagrid. Don’t forget to make a stop at Gringotts for a 3-D roller coaster experience not for the faint of heart.
Take a day trip about 40 minutes outside of Orlando for LEGOLAND Florida Resort—it will be worth your while. Toddlers to preteens particularly will discover a lot to do, and even older “kids” will enjoy the mini LEGO cities and more adventurous rides. A new hotel is available for true LEGO aficionados. View the whole park from the Island in the Sky ride. Scout out your next park route while towering above it.Other options include Orlando Science Center, Gatorland, Richard Petty Driving Experience, and NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.
There are plenty of lodging choices, but one that you may want to discover for yourself is the Orlando World Center Marriott—a resort in itself. Ten restaurants and lounges, a boutique, a spa, a game center, an 18-hole golf course, and more will have you never wanting to leave. A beautifully crafted pool area with a spot designed especially for little ones, cool water slides, plentiful pools, and a secluded hot tub is open almost year-round. Make an appointment at the spa, and relax in the hands of their experts. Activities for kids and adults are always scheduled. You may even see a few superheroes or princesses waiting to pose with guests.
*Image of skyline courtesy of Visit Orlando.