The Perfect Weekend in Orlando

It’s easy to fill a long weekend with Orlando fun. Spend one day at the Magic Kingdom and Epcot (with some Morimoto and tequila, to insert some adult-pleasing activities to the classic theme park day), of course. Engage in some other local magic, too, like the wildlife of Central Florida with a kayak exploration of the headwaters of the Everglades, or an afternoon viewing the work of Louis Comfort Tiffany at the Hosmer Museum in Winter Park. Try some of Orlando’s food truck fare and sip international vintages at a wine bar. And, if you have some time, get out and explore the charming neighborhoods, up-and-coming restaurants, and boutique shopping in this sprawling and modern metropolis.

565 W Fairbanks Ave, Winter Park, FL 32789, USA
It’s no surprise that the opening of this beloved gastropub back in 2007 coincided with Orlando’s rise as a culinary hot spot. While its owners James and Julie Petrakis have not stopped opening other ventures around the city (including at Disney Springs), this local favorite—known for its Cask & Larder beers and sophisticated Southern fare—has hardly waned in popularity. Start with the charcuterie platter (a spread of rillettes, dried sausage, and salami), then choose from favorites like shrimp and grits and the enormous Pub Burger, which comes topped with caramelized onions and buttermilk blue cheese. Whether you come for happy hour, dinner, or something in between, expect a lively atmosphere that’s perfectly suited to groups.
390 N Orange Ave, Orlando, FL 32801, USA
The restaurateurs were aiming for an approachable French spot when they opened this brasserie in downtown’s Bank of America building in 2016—and they’ve succeeded, in spades. Here, the perfect start to both lunch and dinner is a bowl of the savory French onion soup, which features just the right amount of bone marrow. Other menu highlights include steak frites, croque monsieur sandwiches, and artisanal cheese plates for dessert. If seafood is your thing, you’ll also love the raw bar, with its spread of oysters, shrimp, and crab legs. On weekday mornings, DoveCote offers a café-style breakfast, complete with authentic French pastries and espresso drinks served in the open lobby. Every other meal occurs in the actual restaurant, which stuns with soaring ceilings, whitewashed brick walls, and a palette of soft blue, gold, and gray that feels trés français indeed.
7786 Sand Lake Rd, Orlando, FL 32819, USA
Located in the Plaza Venezia, a swanky area locals fondly refer to as Restaurant Row, trendy yet comfortable Amura is the perfect place for a date or family dinner. Make a meal for two out of the Dragon and Atomic Bomb rolls, a bento box to share, and some Nigori sake infused with coconut and vanilla, or feed a group with tempura and The Boat (a mix of crowd-pleasing sushi rolls and fresh sashimi like tuna, salmon, and sea bass).
1600 Buena Vista Dr, Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830, USA
The chance to try Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto’s first Pan-Asian restaurant is what brings most people to this Disney Springs spot, which opened in 2015. The menu blends flavors from China, Japan, Thailand, Singapore, South Korea, and Malaysia, while the decor impresses with a glass staircase, sparkling chandeliers, and a 270-foot-long bar. This is the kind of restaurant where sharing plates makes for the most satisfying meal, so come with a group and cover your table with Peking duck, sushi and sashimi, shumai dumplings, pad Thai noodles, and more. Just be sure to save room for the revelatory desserts, which range from Oreo tempura to house-made churros.
200 Epcot Center Drive
Leave it to Disney to give visitors the chance to travel the world without leaving a theme park. At Epcot’s World Showcase, you’ll find several countries re-created to surprisingly realistic effect, all surrounding a centerpiece lagoon. Experience the landscapes, food, and cultural performances of such diverse lands as China, Italy, Canada, and Morocco, or embark on a “drink around the world” journey by grabbing a Hefeweizen in Germany, a vin rouge in France, a margarita in Mexico, and so on. The staff working in each area are natives of the country, so you can expect an authentic experience wherever you stop. Also worth visiting in Epcot are the 3-D rides, the Frozen-themed attractions, and the underwater coral reef. In addition, the park hosts annual events like the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival in the late fall, and the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival each spring, making it more than worth a visit.
1180 Seven Seas Dr, Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830, USA
A trip to the original Magic Kingdom Park in Orlando is a theme park rite of passage. This is the mouse’s original outpost. And if you hit only one theme park among Orlando’s vast amusement offerings, you won’t go wrong here. Home to such iconic attractions as the original Cinderella’s Castle, the Space Mountain roller coaster ride, the nightly parade down Main Street, It’s a Small World kids’ ride, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, and much, much more, you can easily occupy two days taking it all in. And while many of the rides and character meet and greets (every princess and her cousin is in attendance here) are clearly oriented toward younger visitors, there’s enough to keep adults smiling, too. Favorite tamer rides for younger kids include Adventure Land’s Pirates of the Caribbean and the Jungle Cruise. And if you’ve still got some staying power after a whole day of rides and shows, stick around for the park’s nightly grand finale—a fireworks display on par with anything you’d see in a big city on the Fourth of July.
445 N Park Ave, Winter Park, FL 32789, USA
If you’ve ever admired Louis Comfort Tiffany’s intricate lamps, you’ll appreciate the chance to visit this museum wholly dedicated to the artist himself. Called the Morse Museum for short, this Winter Park institution houses the world’s largest collection of authentic Tiffany works, including wondrous pieces of jewelry, pottery, leaded-glass lamps, art glass, and windows. Plan to stay for at least 90 minutes to fully enjoy the riot of color on display, and be sure to watch the short film that explains the story behind the famous glassworks.
54 N Orange Ave, Orlando, FL 32801, USA
Orlando’s theme parks all have their venues for hosting big concerts. But when indie bands come through town, you’ll almost always find them playing downtown at The Social, an intimate little club with exposed brick walls, excellent acoustics, and an all-star cast of past performers. The venue is a full-service bar, too, but many of the shows are 18 and up (with wristbands given to those of drinking age). Because of the cozy space, shows sell out fast here. So keep an eye on the online calendar and book tickets as soon as you’re ready to commit.
300 East New England Avenue
Just 10 minutes from downtown Orlando, in village-like Winter Park, the Alfond Inn has a unique legacy: The boutique lodging was created to provide income for scholarship funds at neighboring Rollins College, one of Florida’s oldest liberal arts schools. If helping students isn’t reason enough to book a stay, the hotel offers lots more incentive. A skylit domed atrium in the Spanish colonial–inspired main building draws your eye to a rotating collection of artwork curated by Cornell Fine Arts Museum, and pet-friendly guest rooms are simple and cheerful. While the hotel is not a full-fledged resort, it offers guests plenty of opportunities to linger. Fire pits and rocking chairs are dotted around the property, and shaded areas for loungers enhance the rooftop pool’s already undeniable appeal. Hamilton’s Kitchen restaurant serves modern Southern cuisine paired with wines selected by an award-winning sommelier. And shops, wine bars, and independent boutiques like Rifle Paper Co. line the town’s Park Avenue, a few blocks away. You can also take a pontoon boat tour for views of many of the Mediterranean-style mansions along the waterfront. Perhaps best of all, Disney and Universal theme parks are only a half-hour drive away.
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