You visit Orlando for one thing—The Mouse. Right? There’s nothing wrong with that. But there’s an entire other world outside the roller coasters and character breakfasts, one with a rich, emerging food culture, boutique shopping, and natural beauty. Central Florida is a cultural hot spot (yes, you read that correctly)—you just need to know where to look. So on that next trip, why not pull off International Drive and skip the chain restaurants? The new Orlando has much more to offer.
SPLURGE | Grand Bohemian Hotel
From zebra-patterned fabric chairs to crushed velvet curtains on ice machines, everything is bright and big here. Splurge for a Jacuzzi Suite (from $329), with a whirlpool tub and dining area.
SAVE | EO Inn and Spa
This 17-room boutique hotel (from $139) in a restored 1930s building is perfect for the budget traveler. Similar to a European hotel in its simplicity and clean lines, it’s a quiet getaway in the heart of the city.
SPLURGE | The Courtesy
Try the Martinez ($11), made with Smooth Ambler barrel-aged gin, Carpano Antica sweet vermouth, orange bitters, and Luxardo maraschino liqueur. If you’re feeling daring, try an absinthe, like the Vieux Pontarlier ($15).
SAVE | Redlight Redlight Beer Parlour
Located in a former air-conditioner repair shop, this local haunt features 26 drafts and more than 300 bottles of craft beer at $4 to $6 per pint. We recommend one of the sour beers, such as the Grodsiskie ($6), a Polish smoked sour wheat.
SPLURGE | Violet Clover
This light-filled boutique carries designers such as Rebecca Taylor, Shoshanna, and Joie, as well as emerging lines by Annie Griffin and Leona. Think colorful party dresses (starting at $98) mixed in with silk tanks (starting at $48).
SAVE | East End Market
This new year-round market is an ideal place to stop for a picnic lunch. Pick up $4 charcuterie bites from Cuts & Craft Artisan Meats, hazelnut-and-chocolate cookies ($11/half-pound) from Fatto in Casa; and Kombucha from Skyebird Juice Bar ($2.50, 8 oz.).
SPLURGE | Ritz Carlton Eco-Hammock Experience
Recline in a specially designed hammock atop the spa roof. (Don’t worry, the spot is secluded and you’ll be clothed.) The therapist uses a combination of massage techniques such as Shiatsu and reflexology. At $230, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime indulgence.
SAVE | Lake Eola Park
Located in the heart of downtown, this 43-acre park features sidewalks and is a popular place for a stroll. Watch the families of swans that call the park home, or rent a paddleboat to explore the lake ($15/half hour). At night, catch the free iconic, colorful fountain show at 8 and 9:30 p.m.
SPLURGE | Prato
The younger, hipper sister to fine-dining restaurant Luma on Park, Prato features a long bar and patio that foster communal dining. Start off with the meatballs, ($13), then add in Duck and Lardo Terrina ($21), and enjoy a main course of veal scaloppine ($28) with capers, Meyer lemon, and polenta.
SAVE | Cask & Larder
Counterpart to The Ravenous Pig, this Southern public house features such dishes as potted pimiento cheese with ham jam and collard greens bread ($10) and roasted Chioggia beets ($11). The 10 p.m. late night menu includes selections like braised pork shoulder sandwich ($11) and fried oyster hoagie with collards ($10).