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10 Things to Do in Orlando Besides Theme Parks
By Donna Heiderstadt
AMERICAN ART MUSEUM: One might assume the largest collection of Tiffany glass in the world would be located in New York, but it's actually in Orlando's Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art in historic Winter Park. Over the past half-century, the Morse has amassed some of the most memorable lamps, leaded-glass windows, jewelry, art glass, and pottery by Louis Comfort Tiffany, and in 2011 debuted a new $5 million Tiffany Wing that houses the restored Daffodil Terrace from his Long Island estate as well as 250 art and architectural objects.
KAYAK ECO-TOUR: Rather than a hidden motorized track guiding you through a faux jungle with fake hippos and zebras, exercise your paddling muscles on a kayak eco-tour through mossy, cypress-lined Shingle Creek, the headwaters of the Everglades. Here, you may spot real alligators, bald eagles, and more. The Ritz-Carlton and JW Marriott at Grande Lakes offer two-hour guided tours twice daily, or experienced kayakers can venture out on their own from Shingle Creek Regional Park.
ORLANDO MAGIC BASKETBALL: Ditch the Magic Kingdom and opt instead for Orlando's NBA team the Orlando Magic. The team, whose most famous alumnus is Shaquille O'Neal, is celebrating 25 years of on-court action in 2014. Basketball season runs from October to June. See the team in action at the Magic's home court—the 20,000-seat Amway Center downtown.
RENOWNED BOTANICAL GARDEN: Harried tourists often overlook botanical gardens but in Orlando it's a shame to pass up the 50-acre Harry P. Leu Gardens. They house more than 1,000 rose bushes (in season from April to January) and the largest collection of camellias in North America (in bloom November through March). Located on Lake Ivanhoe near downtown, the gardens also have a citrus grove and a butterfly garden.
GREAT WINE BARS: With the recent addition of the The Alfond Inn, a 112-room hotel in atmospheric Winter Park, you can stay within strolling distance of several terrific restaurants and a trio of wine bars located along Park Avenue. Sample in various ounce portions and nibble at the Wine Room, offering 156 handpicked wines dispensed by Enomatic machines. Carmel Café & Wine Bar serves more than 50 old and new world vintages paired with Mediterranean small and large plates. Enjoy 70 wines by the glass at Eola Wine Company, which you can pair with wraps, tacos, flatbreads, and more.
WORLD-CLASS SPAS: Whether you're enjoying a romantic weekend or a girlfriends' getaway, take time to get pampered at one of Orlando's world-class spas. Three to try: the luxurious, 24-000-square-foot Waldorf Astoria Spa by Guerlain at the Waldorf Astoria Orlando (known for amazing facials), the Ritz-Carlton Spa at the Ritz-Carlton Orlando Grande Lakes (Florida-fresh citrus-based treatments are a specialty), and the Poseidon Spa at the Grand Bohemian Hotel (where you can try a heated shell massage).
SOPHISTICATED SHOPPING: Bring a spare tote or two in your luggage and shop for something a bit more sophisticated than mouse ears. Orlando is home to two major shopping malls, the upscale Mall at Millennia with its roster of luxury brands (including Burberry, Gucci, Jimmy Choo) and The Florida Mall (home to Saks Fifth Avenue, Nordstrom, and 250 other stores and restaurants). Plus bargain hunters can hit two outlet centers, Orlando Premium Outlets International Drive and Orlando Premium Outlets Vineland Avenue, each are packed with brand-name fashions and home goods at discounted prices.
PREMIERE GOLFING: If golf's your game, you can spend half a day or several days testing your skill on some impressive greens. Orlando is home to the Golf Channel, Tiger Woods, and more than 170 courses, many designed by top names such as Jack Nicklaus, Tom Fazio, and Pete Dye. Top courses include: Bay Hill Club & Lodge, Waldorf Astoria Club, and Grand Cypress Resort.
ORGANIC BREWERY: There are almost 20 ales, lagers, and seasonal microbrews on tap at seven-year-old Orlando Brewing Company—and all the beer is organic! The only USDA-certified organic brewery south of Vermont and east of Colorado is located near downtown, offers free brewery tours Monday to Saturday at 6 pm, and has live music at 9 pm on Friday and Saturday nights.
HIP NEIGHBORHOODS: Get to know two of Orlando's lakeside neighborhoods as you dine at some buzzed-about restaurants. Dine amid surreal modern art at the new Santiago's Bodega in Ivanhoe Village, where bold paintings and interior décor by Robert Henry Thompson pair with a creative small-plate tapas-style menu that's been transported from the original outpost in Key West. Step back to the final days of Prohibition at Cask & Larder, a "Southern public house" (think oysters, curd meats, and lots of beer) in Winter Park from the owners of the celebrated The Ravenous Pig.
Disney World Orlando Florida Travel Guides
Disney World Area Map
- "Disney World" © (October 2011) (Sam Howzit),
used under a Creative Commons Attribution
2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) license
Orlando’s more than 90 attractions include Walt Disney World, Animal Kingdom, Epcot, Kennedy Space Center, Magic Kingdom, MGM Studios, SeaWorld, Universal Studios, Busch Gardens and Discovery Cove. Find Disney World vacation home rentals close to one or more of the seven action-filled water venues including Wet 'n Wild with its flume
rides, water slides, sandy beaches, wave pools, multi-passenger rides
as well as children's play areas and picnic areas. At Gatorland, watch
action filled shows featuring alligators, crocodiles and more of Florida's
oldest inhabitants. A visit to Cypress Gardens will thrill with world-famous
water-ski performances and amazing exhibits and shows. ... read more
Clermont Travel Guide
- Clermont, included in the Orlando–Kissimmee Metropolitan Statistical Area and also known as the gem of the hills, is a small city located west of Orlando in Florida, easily accessible from Orlando via Florida Highway 50. Essentially residential in nature, the City of Clermont’s economy is primarily retail trade complimented by tourism-oriented lodging food and beverage establishments. Going in and around the city is a breeze when riding an Orlando cab. Davenport and Haines City are two of the nearby vacation regions in Clermont. ... read more
Davenport Travel Guide
- Davenport is situated quite literally smack-dab in the middle of Florida. Which can only mean one thing: It’s right next door to Orlando and Walt Disney World, MGM Studios, the World of Harry Potter, Lego Imagination Center, Epcot, SeaWorld, Cirque du Soleil, Kennedy Space Centre…. While Orlando might be the world’s greatest playground, Davenport is definitely one of the best places to stay to experience it. With just 2,000 residents, Davenport is the definition of small-town America. Quaint. ... read more
Haines City Travel Guide
- Being in the center of Florida, Haines City is nicknamed The Heart of Florida. It is one of the most populous cities in Polk County and is included in the Lakeland-Winter Haven Metropolitan Statistical Area. Originally known as Clay Cut, local history says that the city changed its name to its current name, in honor of a railroad official, Colonel Henry Haines, to persuade the railroad to build a station in the city. Some of the major local businesses that help put the city on the map include Donald Duck Citrus and Suni-Citrus Products Co. ... read more
Kissimmee Travel Guide
- Kissimmee, in Central
Florida, has the charm and hospitality of a small town, with the thrills
and adventure of being right next door to some the most exciting attractions
in the world! In fact, Kissimmee’s
welcoming motto is “The Gateway to Fun.” That’s
because Kissimmee puts you on the threshold of everything Orlando and
Central Florida have to offer: Disney World, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter,
Sea World, Universal Studios, Legoland, the Kennedy Space Center…. And
while those are all great, there’s so much more to Kissimmee than just
big theme parks. Kissimmee is your gateway
to golfing, fishing, camping, hiking, and horseback riding. You can see the
stunning natural beauty of the area in countless ways: airboating through
the Everglades; ziplining over its jungle-like
canopy; eco touring to catch a glimps of turtles, aligators, and birds (Kissimmee
has the largest nesting population of bald eagles outside of Alaska); you can
even take a sightseeing Segway tour! ... read more