… minus Disney! For the first 22 years of my life, I lived in Florida, with the majority of that time in Orlando. I have gotten asked every different Disney question in the book, and while it is a place you should visit once, there’s MUCH more to my hometown than just the big mouse. So for all the North Easterner’s I’ve met, I give you the behind the scenes guide to The City Beautiful.
Hopefully you’ve found a way to afford the insanely expensive tickets to Universal and Islands of Adventure. Harry Potter land is obviously the best attraction, but make sure to hit up The Mummy, Men In Black and the Spider Man ride for a guaranteed good time (and get the frozen Butterbeer!). So outside of this glorious fake world is the real Orlando. You need to know the best places to eat as there truly is some delicious, best I’ve ever had meals. Plus we have plenty of shops to keep you busy, and some nighttime activities if you’re feeling dancy.
Anthony’s Coal Fire Pizza: still some of my favorite pizza after eating the greats of NYC, and their other food is also VERY good *wink the wings*. Order the Eggplant Marino pie with fresh mozzarella and broccoli rabe added and think about how delicately the flavors melt in your mouth.
Dragonfly: this original Sushi spot is in Gainesville, and this one is just as good. I have never, ever had sushi rolls like this. I personally stick to just sushi, but the other food on the menu will be better than you expect. Order the Cobra Kai roll (I one time got this to go and took it to the airport to eat in the terminal on my way out), and the Sake Blossom.
Yellow Dog Eats: this one is kind of off the beaten path (in Gotha, FL), but WELL worth the drive there. Take a look at the menu before, and make sure to bring a few people with you so you can split a bunch of stuff! Order one thing from every section and you can’t go wrong.
A Land Remembered: for a really nice dinner, this is the place to go. The atmosphere is dark, intimate, and the prices are not bad for how delicious everything is. Order the crab cake and a fat rib eye.
If you pass a Chick-Fil-A and it’s not Sunday, stop and order a kids meal with nuggets. And get an Ice Dream cone instead of the toy, and a diet lemonade. It’s the best fast food you’ll ever have and it’s the perfect size snack.
4 Rivers Smokehouse: this is a must hit. This bar-b-que place has taken Orlando by storm, winning endless awards and delivering a unique take on the classic bbq favorites. Order the largest platter to try all the meats, and for sides get the corn, mac n’ cheese, the fried pickles and a Cheerwine to drink!
Twistee Treat: the best soft-serve real ice cream, seriously.
The Mall at Millenia: yes, it’s another mall. But the layout is really seamless, the food is not bad, and the stores have really great selections. My fav gal Melanie Pace just hosted their Annual Fashion Week!
Park Ave., Winter Park: as you would suspect, this is the nicer part of Orlando. The boutiques have unique and mainstream brands, the restaurants are slamming, and the dessert shops are to die for.
Downtown Orlando: take a peek around at the different bars and clubs, and make a game plan of which ones to hit. Some may charge cover, so be ready for that. My favorite spots are Frank and Steins and FinnHenry’s – both have great music, fun bartenders and a good crowd.
Universal/International Drive: there’s city walk and there’s International Drive. I say plan for the latter, but be ready for tourist and tourist prices. They recently opened The Official Orlando Eye, which is a huge Ferris wheel – cute for a date night, and all along I-Drive there are a bunch of new restaurants.
Wonder Works: part indoor amusement park and part science center. Sounds kinda crazy, I can bet you’ve never been to a place like this. And you probably won’t recognize it, because it’s an upside down house. Date night here with dinner after is a great alternative to going ‘out’ downtown!
Bottoms up to a new city the way the locals do it,