By Donna Heiderstadt
AMERICAN ART MUSEUM: One might assume the largest collection of Tiffany glass in the world would be located in New York, but it's actually in Orlando's Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art in historic Winter Park. Over the past half-century, the Morse has amassed some of the most memorable lamps, leaded-glass windows, jewelry, art glass, and pottery by Louis Comfort Tiffany, and in 2011 debuted a new million Tiffany Wing that houses the restored Daffodil Terrace from his Long Island estate as well as 250 art and architectural objects.
KAYAK ECO-TOUR: Rather than a hidden motorized track guiding you through a faux jungle with fake hippos and zebras, exercise your paddling muscles on a kayak eco-tour through mossy, cypress-lined Shingle Creek, the headwaters of the Everglades. Here, you may spot real alligators, bald eagles, and more. The Ritz-Carlton and JW Marriott at Grande Lakes offers two-hour guided tours twice daily, or experienced kayakers can venture out on their own from Shingle Creek Regional Park.
ORLANDO MAGIC BASKETBALL: Orlando isn’t just about theme parks, it’s full of sporting activities, too! Basketball fans can catch all the NBA action as Orlando’s team - The Orlando Magic - face off with the some of the best teams in the country for the season from October to April. Experience all the Orlando Magic with high energy that will make an unforgettable experience for you, your friends, and family. Take a look at visitorlando.com for more information.
RENOWNED BOTANICAL GARDEN: Harried tourists often overlook botanical gardens but in Orlando, it's a shame to pass up the 50-acre Harry P. Leu Gardens. They house more than 1,000 rose bushes (in season from April to January) and the largest collection of camellias in North America (in bloom November through March). Located on Lake Ivanhoe near downtown, the gardens also have a citrus grove and a butterfly garden.
GREAT WINE BARS: With the recent addition of the The Alfond Inn, a 112-room hotel in atmospheric Winter Park, you can stay within strolling distance of several terrific restaurants and a trio of wine bars located along Park Avenue. Sample in various ounce portions and nibble at the Wine Room, offering 156 handpicked wines dispensed by Enomatic machines. Carmel Café & Wine Bar serves more than 50 old and new world vintages paired with Mediterranean small and large plates. Enjoy 70 wines by the glass at Eola Wine Company, which you can pair with wraps, tacos, flatbreads, and more.
WORLD-CLASS SPAS: Whether you're enjoying a romantic weekend or a girlfriends' getaway, take time to get pampered at one of Orlando's world-class spas. Three to try: the luxurious, 24-000-square-foot Waldorf Astoria Spa by Guerlain at the Waldorf Astoria Orlando (known for amazing facials), the Ritz-Carlton Spa at the Ritz-Carlton Orlando Grande Lakes (Florida-fresh citrus-based treatments are a specialty), and the Poseidon Spa at the Grand Bohemian Hotel (where you can try a heated shell massage).
SOPHISTICATED SHOPPING: Bring a spare tote or two in your luggage and shop for something a bit more sophisticated than mouse ears. Orlando is home to two major shopping malls, the upscale Mall at Millennia with its roster of luxury brands (including Burberry, Gucci, Jimmy Choo) and The Florida Mall (home to Saks Fifth Avenue, Nordstrom, and 250 other stores and restaurants). Plus bargain hunters can hit two outlet centers, Orlando Premium Outlets International Drive and Orlando Premium Outlets Vineland Avenue, each are packed with brand-name fashions and home goods at discounted prices.
PREMIERE GOLFING: If golf's your game, you can spend half a day or several days testing your skill on some impressive greens. Orlando is home to the Golf Channel, Tiger Woods, and more than 170 courses, many designed by top names such as Jack Nicklaus, Tom Fazio, and Pete Dye. Top courses include: Bay Hill Club & Lodge, Waldorf Astoria Club, and Grand Cypress Resort.
ORGANIC BREWERY: There are almost 20 ales, lagers, and seasonal microbrews on tap at seven-year-old Orlando Brewing Company—and all the beer is organic! The only USDA-certified organic brewery south of Vermont and east of Colorado is located near downtown, offers free brewery tours Monday to Saturday at 6 pm, and has live music at 9 pm on Friday and Saturday nights.
HIP NEIGHBORHOODS: Get to know two of Orlando's lakeside neighborhoods as you dine at some buzzed-about restaurants. Dine amid surreal modern art at the new Santiago's Bodega in Ivanhoe Village, where bold paintings and interior décor by Robert Henry Thompson pair with a creative small-plate tapas-style menu that's been transported from the original outpost in Key West. Step back to the final days of Prohibition at Cask & Larder, a "Southern public house" (think oysters, curd meats, and lots of beer) in Winter Park from the owners of the celebrated The Ravenous Pig.
When you book our Disney World Orlando vacation rentals, it doesn’t mean that the fun you can have is limited to the typical theme park visit. They have annual events that you shouldn’t miss, especially because some of them run for a whole season! That’s the beauty of visiting during shoulder months, too. Planning a vacation during spring? The Epcot International Flower Garden & Festival showcases more than 100 topiaries, outdoor kitchens around World Showcase, and hundreds of butterfly species at the festival’s screened butterfly house. This is definitely one of the most colorful Disney World annual events. If you’re visiting during the fall season, that also means food and drinks! Join the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival with more than 25 international marketplace kiosks, culinary and beverage seminars, special dining experiences with celebrity chefs, and more. If you want to know more about the festivities happening and around the area, Mommy Frog of undercovertourist.com have more information.
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