Orlando is one of the most visited cities in the world. While typically associated with major theme parks, the city offers big fun for everyone. From family attractions to world-class shopping, food fit for a king to cool street art, Orlando is a Florida city worth visiting. Here is your tried and true weekend guide to Orlando as recommended by the experts.
Arrive Friday Night
Venture through Disney Springs, a Disney food/shopping/entertainment complex that is loads of fun and also offers free parking. Enjoy taking pictures of the cool scenery and vibrant attractions/stores that include the carousel, LEGO Store, the Springs, and World of Disney. Musicians are almost always playing around the Exposition Park and Marketplace Stage areas. Over 110 stores offer a great selection of shopping with brands such as Alex and Ani, Build-a-Bear Workshop, Coca-Cola Store, and more.
For dinner, I recommend a quick service meal at Cookes of Dublin for the best Fish & Chips (add a side of curry sauce for your fries!) or Bongo’s Cuban Cafe. Kids may prefer the Rainforest Cafe or T-Rex restaurant. Satisfy your sweet tooth with a decadent pastry from Amorette’s Patisserie or an Instagram-worthy ice cream creation from Ghiradelli® Ice Cream & Chocolate Shop. Lines are long and they are always packed, but believe me, those desserts are worth the wait.
If you are looking to splurge, Dream Boats™ (Amphicar tours at The BOATHOUSE) is vintage cool and offers a breezy float through the photogenic waters. Rides last 20 minutes. Perhaps you will want to take in a movie at the AMC Movies at Disney Springs 24 Dine-In Theatres, where you can watch a movie and have dinner at the same place and time.
Travel Tip: Parking at Disney Springs is free. The color-coded garages are huge so make sure to note where you are parked.
Orlando is well-known and nationally recognized for its culinary scene. One of my favorite options for breakfast or brunch is Keke’s Breakfast Cafe, a local chain. Try the creative egg dishes, such as the Scrambler Bowl or Buffalo Chicken Omelet. Traditional Eggs Benedict is a perfect choice, too. For those who prefer sweet to savory, KeKe’s makes three fantastic things: pancakes, French toast, and a variety of waffles with only the finest quality ingredients. Bonus, KeKe’s uses only pure maple syrup.
The Universal CityWalk, between the entrances of both Universal Orlando Resort theme parks, is another free attraction and mega food, drink, and entertainment complex. For lunch, I recommend Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar (the Crab Rangoon Dip with wonton crisps is sensational!) or Bread Box Handcrafted Sandwiches (the 4-Cheese Bread Box Melt on brioche is heavenly!).
If your kids are like most, you won’t be able to walk past the Toothsome Chocolate Emporium without stopping in for a picture-perfect treat. Chances are you’ve already seen pictures on some social media site of the impressive shakes piled high with sprinkles, doughnuts, cookies, fruit, brownies, and more. The steampunk design of the chocolate shop is so fun, and there is a great souvenir shop inside, as well. Hop in the dessert line, which is far faster than waiting for a traditional dining table. Our favorites milkshake flavors are Strawberry Cheesecake and Peanut Indulgence.
I’m sure you’ve heard of Medieval Times, but have you been there? If not, you are missing out! This high-energy dinner show has been entertaining families for years. It all begins with the show’s characters mingling with guests, an excellent chance for photo ops. Be sure to check out the souvenirs; some can even be used as props during the show. Medieval Times offers fun cocktails that aren’t watered down or over-priced, as with some same nature performances. These cocktails pack a powerful punch, taste delicious, and are served in fun glasses.
When the castle doors open, take your seat in the stadium-style arena and get ready for the fun. Dinner is served at once, starting with a bowl of Tomato Bisque Soup and Garlic Bread. Our service was impeccable, and I was impressed at how thorough the bar wench-clad waitstaff was. The plated meal consists of Roasted Chicken, herb-basted Potatoes, Buttered Corn, and a pastry, all to be eaten with your hands. Two non-alcoholic beverages are also included, but a full bar menu for purchasing drinks. Vegetarian meals are available upon request.
The Medieval Times show is about chivalrous knights trying to win the princess’s hand, with plenty of steel and steed, jousting, and falconry. Majestic horses gallop and prance gracefully around the stadium in pretty costumes to catchy music. It would help if you cheered for the team’s knight representing the area you are sitting. One section will be the winner at the end of the show. The show is a bit long for my taste, but it was nonstop fun and fantasy. I can see why Medieval Times is such a long-lasting and highly-regarded show. Your family will love it!
Enjoy a traditional breakfast from TooJays, a Florida chain that combines a Kosher American delicatessen with classic favorites. I love TooJays signature Benedicts, skillets, and omelet combinations. One of the tastiest items here are the mini-latkes (potato pancake bites), served with applesauce and sour cream. Ask for the mini-latkes as your side item; a most-tasty decision.
After breakfast, drive past the Mills 50 street murals. Impressive and talented artworks adorn building walls, electrical boxes/utility cabinets, and dumpsters to take on new life with colorful and larger-than-life scenes.
How about some shopping to get the blood pumping? There is nowhere better to splurge or update your wardrobe than at the Orlando International Premium Outlets. This vast shopping megaplex, Florida’s most unique and largest shopping mall, features 180 designer and name-brand stores that see 17 million shoppers per year. Stores include Nike, kate spade, Ted Baker London, and Victoria’s Secret, to name a few. A popular thing for tourists is to buy a suitcase at the mall and drag it behind you to add your purchases. The earlier you arrive, the better due to the congested traffic pattern at and around the mall.
If shopping isn’t your bag, I recommend finding some fun on International drive’s Icon Orlando, a super fast-paced, 250 million dollar entertainment complex. Attractions here include the giant 400 ft tall ICON Orlando Ferris wheel, StarFlyer, Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum, Sea Life Orlando Aquarium, and Arcade City.
A second option is Pointe Orlando, another complex known for shopping, dining, and entertainment. We enjoy Main Event Entertainment for 49,000 square feet of unadulterated fun, including a high ropes adventure course, tasty restaurant, high-tech bowling, video games, pool tables, shuffleboard, and V Play Virtual Reality (zombie thriller game). It is sure to provide hours of laughs, thrills and bring out your competitive side.
Orlando: A Treasure Trove of Adventure
This doesn’t scratch the surface of all that Orlando has to offer, but it is an excellent start with some of the most well-known attractions. Not mentioned are airboat alligator tours, SeaWorld, the Crayola Experience, Tibet-Butler Nature Preserve, and renting paddle boats at Lake Eola Park, promoting family fun. Whatever activities you choose, Orlando is sure to deliver a great vacation or road trip getaway filled with memories to last a lifetime.
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