I working on our next eBook, The Theme Park Insider Guide to Orlando, and am looking for some additional tips to include in the book.
I'm planning a chapter on places outside the theme parks where Insiders like to go in Orlando - restaurants, shops, parks, recreation areas, theaters, wherever Orlando-area residents or frequent visitors like to go when they're not visiting the parks.
If you have a place you'd like to nominate, please tell us where and why, in the replies. Thanks!
Kennedy Space Center - Not in Orlando, but still pretty amazing to see
Discovery Cove - technically not a theme park ;)
Keke's - A great Breafast diner located just outside Millenia
Main Street - Celebration
Park Avenue -Winter Park
Hollerbachs Willow Tree Cafe in Sanford (Central Florida's Best German Restaurant with fun for all ages interactive entertainment)
Local Community Theaters like:
The Garden Theater in Winter Garden
Mad Cow Theatre in Orlando
Orlando Repertory Theater in Orlando (childrens theater)
Wayne Densch Performing Arts Theater in Sanford
Princess Theater in Sanford
Theater Downtown in Orlando
Winter Park Playhouse in Winter Park
Seminole State Fine Arts Theater in Lake Mary
UCF Theater in Orlando
Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival
Orlando Film Festival
Central Florida FIlm Festival in various locations around Orlando
Love Your Shorts Film Festival in Sanford
Central Florida Art Festival (and various other cities offer one too)
just a few things I didn't see listed already
Also visit the McDonalds near by – one of the biggest in the world.. They have real lunch and dinner meals served on ceramic plates…Plus the usual Mcd’s food..
I dunno if it's still there, but there's a McDonalds in Youngstown, OH, that bills itself as the world's most BEAUTIFUL McDonalds. Indoor lanscaped gardens, live piano music, and an ornate elevator. I've got a postcard from there mixed in with my coaster postcard collection. I don't recall if they did anything special with dinners and china..I DID get the Filet 'O' Fish, though.
I've never spent a lot of time in the actual city of Orlando. Probably going back next year though and might battle the traffic and other elements to see it...if anything is worth leaving the comfort of the resort. What would one consider an Orlando original best of the best thing to do?
I'd like to suggest Thai Thani - the one on I-drive rather than Celebration - for authentic Thai cusine. This is the best Thai restaurant I've been to outside Thailand. The food really is the real thing, the decor is outstanding and the wait-staff very friendly. Also, I didn't see my fav Thai meal on the menu - Massaman Curry - so I mentioned it to the waitress and they made it for me anyway - score!
We also spent a lovey half-day at Bok Sanctuary 'the highest point in Florida' (!). It had some gorgeous gardens, historic buildings and tower, and it was a wonderful relaxation day in comparison to the chaos of the parks.
I'd also second the Mt Dora suggestion...no-one that I know from the UK who goes to Fl knows about this place. Which is a shame coz a lot of people who only do the parks think that Florida is just full of 8-lane highways and fragmented retail parks, but Mt Dora gives a really lovely small-town feel and community spirit. Everyone there was so smiley and nice to us!
Winter Park - Park Ave, Morse Museum, Boat tour
The new Downtown Lake Eola Fountain
Mt. Dora - Shopping and dining in a quaint setting
Tibet Butler Reserve - Lovely place to enjoy the outdoors when the weather is nice.
SAK Comedy Lab - A local favorite
Brevard County - 30 minutes away from the airport, Cocoa Beach (we like Lori Wilson Park), casino cruise, nice zoo
Orange County Nat'l - Golf
Yellow Dog Eats - Great eatery in Gotha
La Cantina Steakhouse - Another local favorite
Bananas - Hard to explain but a fun time
Christini's - Very nice
Four Rivers - Best BBQ!
Food Truck Bazaars - Always a fun time
SAK Comedy Lab downtown is the best: it's where Wayne Brady got his start....www.sak.com.
Winter Park Canal Boat tours: VERY cool ride through the water canals that run throughout tony Winter Park.
Airboat rides: google for a list, but the one down below Kississimmi is great! No houses, just lots and lots of alligators, ESPECIALLY if you go on the night tour. http://www.airboatridesatmidway.com/directions.html
Point Orlando -- always a great spot for dinner, IMAX movies, etc.
Orlando Fringe Festival is the most fun you'll have outside the theme parks. http://orlandofringe.org/
Orlando is the world headquarters for professional wakeboarding and waterskiing. Check out this awesome wire park for wakeboarders:http://orlandowatersports.com/
And speaking of waterskiing and wakeboarding, there are an obscene amount of ski schools all over the Orlando area....Sammy Duvall's is actually on Disney property.
Fantasy of Flight, a "theme park" for plane and flying enthusiasts :http://www.fantasyofflight.com/
What about OLD TOWN? A throw-back to cool carnivals and cheesy haunted houses. Plus, the world's tallest sky coaster, Saturday night cruises, and more. http://myoldtownusa.com/
Sleuth's murder dinner theater is always a blast: http://www.sleuths.com/
The Central Florida Zoo in Sanford won't take up a whole day but it's a pretty nice zoo and usually not packed. (Recommend more for locals than tourists because it's easier to do Animal Kingdom).
Wekiva in Apopka is very enjoyable as well.
The pub crawls either through Downtown Orlando or Sanford are pretty fun. Also if you're into craft beers Orlando has some good places like Orlando Brewing, Redlight Redlight, 50 Brews, and World of Beer.
Cape Canaveral, which is not that far away, is pretty cool too!
I like the Ale House too! Good place for late night food!
"The CulpsThe Culps, or "The Culp Family Musical Performances", were recurring characters that appeared on SNL between 1996 and 2002, and were portrayed by Will Ferrell (as Marty Culp), and Ana Gasteyer as (Bobbi Mohan-Culp). Marty and Bobbi were an awkward, unstylish, married couple who served as music teachers at Altadena Middle School. Marty played the keyboard and sings backup, while Bobbi was the lead vocalist, who sang in a high-pitched, operatic style. In between medleys, the Culps make comments to the audience of middle school students, often implying that the children are mocking them, most often by showing them the finger." - Thanks WikiPedia!
Here's a link:
Non major resort activities:
fan boat ride on lake Kissimmee - there are lots of small companies that do this. Some only take out 5 to 10 people at a time and you get to really take in the wild aspects of Florida without having to drive all the way to the Everglades.
Driving through the Orange Groves between Bunnell and Lake Mary just west of Orlando - If you are driving to Florida via I-95 you can't cut across at Palm Coast and cut through the small town of Bunnell. in between Bunnell and where you get on I-4 at Lake Mary you go through some truly gorgeous orange groves and down some awesome roads flanked with live oaks, dripping with spanish moss. (I discovered this one whilst trying to avoid the traffic of the Daytona-500.)
Downtown Winter Park historic district - My brother went to Full Sail University (then tech institute) and this suburb of Orlando has a lot of charm and a great downtown with lots of shops and eateries.
Not touristy (mainly food stuff)
Yellow Dog Eats - 1236 Hempel Ave Windermere, FL 34786 - a great barbecue place with a key west vibe and a local clientele. There food isn't traditional bbq, but it is definitely good. Try The Club Elvis and the pulled pork nachos!
Anthony's Coal Fired Pizza -8031 Turkey Lake Road, Orlando, FL 32819 - yes its a chain, but not a wide spread one, and they serve up a mean meatball and ricotta pizza.
First WatchSand Lake Road - Plaza Venezia 7500 W. Sand Lake Road #A101 Orlando, FL 32819 - another chain with great breakfasts. A lot of times, vacation can mean heavy greasy breakfast or sad quick pastries. This place serves fresh, health conscious food that it pretty darn tasty to boot. Note, a key ingredient in many of their dishes is avocado
Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom
Disney's Animal Kingdom
Disney's Hollywood Studios
Disney California Adventure
Universal's Islands of Adventure
Universal Studios Florida
Universal Studios Hollywood