Here’s a secret. Orlando is world famous as a theme park heaven, but outside of Orlando’s tourist-drawing wonders lies a vibrant first-rate city unto itself. A culturally diverse city, the greater Orlando area offers a plethora of dining and nightlife options, live sporting events, music, theatrical performances, golf, water sports, nature trails, and a huge abundance of experiences and activities to fulfill anyone’s heart’s desire. And then some.
By rough estimate, Orlando is home to 169 bars, 111 nightclubs, 72 lounges, and 56 live music venues. Orlando’s downtown area is full of dance clubs, cigar lounges, intimate pubs, comedy clubs, martini bars, live music, D.J.’s, and dive bars. The rule of thumb downtown, which is almost a law, is business by day, party by night. For a real treat, show up on a Friday and Saturday night. You’ll be one of a thousand or two at the biggest block party on the planet.
Hot ‘Lando heats up all over town at night. Orlando Cowboy in South Orlando brings in the very best local and touring country bands for their boot scooting crowds, while Club 23 at Church Street Station draws in the “up-scaliest” of the upscale. For a trendy, highly diverse, two-story high-energy dance club, Roxy Nightclub has it all. For the largest club with the biggest attitude, Vain Nightclub is the place to be.
You get the idea. If you can think it, Orlando has it. Even if you can’t. Orlando has it.
What’s for Supper?
What would you like? If jacket only dining in a fine establishment suits your preference, head to Norman’s in the Ritz Carlton. If an authentic Philly cheesesteak sounds more like it, LaSpada’s in the north end of town is the place. Or, treat your palate to something different at Nile Ethiopian Restaurant on International Drive.
Orlando is a food junky’s paradise. So much, in fact, Wallet-Hub rated it as the best foodie city in the entire nation, topping NYC, Las Vegas, and other major dining strongholds. If having a smorgasbord of dining options offering every type of foreign and domestic cuisines is a must, a gastronomical splurge of euphoric proportions awaits.
Per capita, Orlando is one of the most culturally diverse cities in America. It’s steeped deeply in the enlightening broth of the arts. This is reflected by its many museums, such as the inspiring Orlando Museum of Art with paintings spanning over 200-years. Orchestral performances as well as ballet and cultural dance, are enjoyed at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts.
The Centreplex and the Garden and Madcow Theaters, among many more, play host to theatrical performances, including a Broadway Series. NYC no longer has anything over Orlando.
From the Florida Dragon Parade Lunar New Year Festival, now in its seventh-year, to the annual Bach Festival which includes performances of African-American spirituals and masterpieces written by African-American composers, to the famous sculpture work on display at Albin Polasek Museum and Gardens, the Orlando area has become a haven for artsy types of all magnitudes.
Get Back to Nature
Anywhere in Orlando is just a short jaunt to all of the nature a person could possibly desire. Gorgeous white sand beaches are a mere hour away from Orlando. The Gulf of Mexico is just to the west and the Atlantic Ocean to the east so it’s a simple matter of choosing between the two and breaking out the sunscreen.
Wekiwa Springs is just outside of town where swimming in crystal clear water on hot Florida day is a cooling and refreshing experience. The water temperature remains a constant 72 degrees. Canoeing and kayaking are popular and wildlife is regularly spotted in the form of birds, fish, and yes… gators. There is also an island for refreshing with a cold drink and listening to some live music before hitting the water again.
In nearby Longwood is Big Tree Park. Appropriately named, it’s a peaceful view into untouched Florida and home to a cypress tree, Lady Liberty, which is estimated to be 2,000 years old. Rock Springs Run State Reserve in Apopka offers 17-miles of hiking and horseback riding, and Lake Louisa State Park is 4000 acres with three lakes for fishing as well as beautiful hiking trails and horseback riding. Blue Springs Park in Volusia county is winter home to scores of manatees.
A Sports Fanatics Dream Come True
Of course, Orlando is home to the NBA’s Orlando Magic, but it’s also home to the MLS Orlando City Lions and the National Women’s Soccer League’s Orlando Pride. Both play in the modern, new 25,500 seat Orlando City Soccer Stadium. The U.S. Tennis Association has set up their impressive national campus, featuring over 100 courts, dorms, and more in Lake Nona. The Orlando Solar Bears Hockey Club of the ECHL play in the Amway Center in downtown Orlando.
For golf lovers, there are a whopping 170 courses, enough to play a new course every weekend for a few years. For NASCAR fans the Daytona Speedway, home of the coveted Daytona 500, is a hop, skip, and a jump away.
The Atlanta Braves do their spring training in Orlando, and their advanced class A affiliate team, the Florida Fire Frogs are based out of Kissimmee.
A Healthy Lifestyle
Wallet-Hub rated Orlando in the top five of best cities for an active lifestyle. With spas such as the one located in the Four Seasons Resort, or Woodhouse Day Spa, it’s easy to relax while refreshing one’s mind and body. The many hiking trails and bike paths make outdoor exercising both fun and healthy.
With year-round sunshine, Orlando is a golfer’s paradise. Like watersports? There are plenty of lakes, rivers, and natural springs surrounding the city where visitors can kayak, water ski, swim, fish and more.
Orlando being the dining hub that it also means there are plenty of vegans/vegetarian restaurants such as Dajen Eats on Orange Blossom Trail and Dixie Dharma on E South Street.
Theme ParksWe can’t ignore the obvious major draw for visitors from all over the globe. Orlando is the ultimate mecca for any theme park junky. Anxious tourists from every continent pilgrimage to Orlando International Airport where shuttle buses and Avis rental clerks await their arrival. Tiny tots with their eyes all aglow who found it hard to sleep on their flight only add to the mayhem as the huddled masses are slowly distributed to their final destinations. This is routine. It happens every day. Welcome to the sovereign nation called Orlando.
The number one travel destination in America, the Orlando metropolitan area, with a population of 2.4 million, hosted 17.15 million visitors in 2017, or roughly an eight to one ratio. What adult can resist releasing their inner-child at any one of the four unique Walt Disney World theme parks? Or what Harry Potter or Bart Simpson fan can possibly pass up Universal Studios? Don’t forget about Sea World, Lego Land, or one of the many water parks, including the new Volcano Bay at Universal. And who can pass up the finest of international cuisine at EPCOT?
Orlando offers something for everyone. If you’ve never had an opportunity to explore all it has to offer, come find out for yourself why it rightfully claims the title of the most visited destination in America.