You can feel it can’t you? The breezy mornings and chilly nights. Winter is indeed coming to Canada and judging by all reports, it may be coming in full force. And since we’re overdue an extra cold winter, it’s not surprising that so many of us are planning our escapes to warmer climates.
Florida is basically a six-months-of-the-year extension of Canada, and a lot of us have visited the sunny state at least once. And the city with the most to offer? Orlando of course. Whether you are packing up the whole family, taking a romantic getaway or planning a fun girls’ trip, Orlando has something to offer everyone.
Where to stay
So, you’ve decided to head to Orlando, great! The next step is deciding on a place to rest your weary head after you spend the day exploring all the city has to offer.
If theme parks are going to be your main focus, staying on property is a great way to save time and beat those infamous lines. Dealing with Micky maniacs? Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa mixes Victorian elegance with modern sophistication. With so much on offer for the kids (pirate adventure cruises, movies under the stars, an arcade) the Disney magic starts from the minute you wake up. Located directly across from The Magic Kingdom, you can even watch the fireworks light up the sky over Cinderella’s Castle!
If you’re planning to spend time at Universal Studios, the Cabana Bay Beach Resort is a retro-themed hotel that features its own lazy river and bowling alley! A more affordable option, Cabana Bay Beach Resort offers family suites with kitchenettes as well as standard rooms. As a guest of the resort you’ll also receive Early Park Admission to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, helping you beat the lines.
Hands down the most luxurious hotel in Orlando has to be the Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes. Set on 500 acres of beautifully landscaped property, the Ritz-Carlton is a destination that appeals to the sophisticated traveler. If you are looking for a hotel that can help to fill up your free time the on-site golfing, gorgeous spa facilities, multiple pools and amazing dining options will be a great fit. There is also a great program for the kids (Ritz Kids), making this the perfect resort no matter who is travelling!
Located in the heart of Orlando, the Four Points by Sheraton Orlando Studio City is an affordable option with rates starting at just $79 a night. Enjoy the views of the Orlando skyline as well as views of Universal Orlando Resort. Spend time by the Tropical Breezes patio bar while you relax by the outdoor pool.
Where to eat
Staying at the Ritz-Carlton Orlando? Take advantage of the amazing new Highball & Harvest restaurant. A modern take on Southern-inspired classics, Highball & Harvest’s menu is brimming with locally grown produce and seasonally hand-crafted cocktails. Make sure you don’t miss out on the Southern Spread (the Smoke Fish Dip is Chef Jeffers’ family recipe) and be sure to leave room for dessert, as they will not disappoint!
Artisan’s Table covers all of your bases: breakfast, lunch and dinner fare are offered, as well as all day happy hour in the bar! With enough variety to please the entire family, Artisan’s Table is also an affordable option for the whole family. The Pancake Cake, with its delicious maple pumpkin frosting and pumpkin seed brittle, should be enjoyed with one of the creative Artisan lattes.
Tucked away in the beautiful Winter Park area, The Coop opened its doors in April 2014. With their fast-casual concept and comfort food classics made from scratch daily, this cafeteria style restaurant is a great choice for a relaxed lunch or a quick dinner. A perfect place to grab the classic Chicken N’ Waffles combo or Fried Catfish & Grits and an Icebox pie of course!
Magic Kingdom, Universal Studios, Epcot, SeaWorld, Legoland… the list of theme parks in Orlando goes on and on. No matter what you or your kids are into, there’s a theme park for it in Orlando. But there is so much more to see… the hidden gems that only the locals know about.
Whether you are staying at the Ritz-Carlton Orlando or not, their two hour Eco-Tour of Shingle Creek shouldn’t be missed. Paddling your own canoe or kayak, you explore scenic Old Florida and meet a few of the inhabitants of Shingle Creek: think birds, snakes and maybe even an alligator! Kids are welcome but must be accompanied by an adult.
Florida’s only sustainable winery, Quantum Leap Winery, is perfect for any wine lover visiting the Orlando area. By developing relationships with small producers in premier wine regions around the world, Quantum Leap is able to produce a variety of wines in Orlando. On par with their dedication to fine wine is there dedication to ensure their wines are environmentally friendly. One such environmental initiative is offering their wine on tap; be sure to try the bestselling Kaley’s Rescue Blend!
Winter Park is an adorable suburb of Orlando, boasting Orlando’s very own “Rodeo Drive”. Park Avenue is a brick-paved street with great shopping, outdoor cafes and so much more. If you find yourself in Winter Park, be sure to take the Scenic Boat Tour on Lake Osceola. The hour long tour takes you to three lakes and along two man made canals, with a knowledgeable tour guide who will teach you about the Winter Park, originally founded by wealthy Easterners in the 1800s.
One of the most exciting attractions in Orlando may also be one of the least known. Wallaby Ranch is only a quick drive from all the major Orlando attractions and yet you feel completely, beautifully secluded. It is the first full-time aerotow hang gliding flight park in the world. After a short introduction, you are strapped in tandem with an instructor and the plane is towing you up 2,000 feet in the air. See all of Orlando from above and enjoy the leisurely glide back down to earth. Best feeling in the world!