I hate the winter. I hate the cold, and the snow, and temperatures that prevent outdoor activity. I love the warm, and the sun, and to be outside as much as possible. So to combat the winter blues, I’ve realized that I need to head south several times each winter.
It’s essential for my survival.
I’ve been fortunate enough to visit Orlando twice in the last two months. Both trips were awesome and I blogged about specific activities here and here, but I am recapping it all in a 48 Hours In… post.
48 Hours In… Orlando, Florida
Where To Stay: Orlando, Florida
We were fortunate enough to be able to stay with family in the Lake Nona section of Orlando. Orlando is huge! Seriously, it is so spread out. So even though I don’t have a hotel recommendation, I definitely suggest doing your HW as to where in the city you want to stay. And if you are going the Disney route, I definitely recommend the Port Orleans French Quarter which we loved when we visited two years ago (need to write about that soon!).
Where To Dine: Orlando, Florida
Let’s face it, dining in Orlando is synonymous with the large chains. And yes, they are abundant, inexpensive and you know what you are getting. I mean I love the Olive Garden more than most… but if you want something a little different, here are my recommendations:
We ate here for lunch one late afternoon with my aunt and my mom’s 80-year-old cousin. And honestly this was probably one of the best eggplant Parmesan dishes I have ever had! The food was amazing, the wine delicious and lunch here was so reasonably priced! Friendly service too! I highly recommend this place!
Okay, I guess Tijuana Flats is technically a Florida chain, but I love the food here so much. I do wish they would expand to Long Island! I took out from here twice while in Orlando.
If you have never been, Tijuana Flats is a casual dining Mexican restaurant. They offer all the usual Mexican fare, and their shtick is their hot sauce bar. You can choose spicy sauces by levels of Sissy Sauce, Middle Weight, Tear Jerker and Death Wish. I personally like the green jalepeno middle weight sauce.
Besides the hot sauce, the food at Tijuana Flats fresh and delicious and there are a ton of vegetarian combinations. I love the Throwback Thursdaze pricing – $5.99 for a burrito, chips and a drink. I also love the fact that you can mobile order. Again, any time I don’t have to interact with a human is a win in my book.
Or any Disney character meal, really! You don’t have to be staying at Disney or even visiting the park to enjoy a meal with the character. It was so great, I wrote an entire post about our Chef Mickey brunch. You can read that here.
Again, technically a chain, but one that is more prevalent in the Northeast. There are only five locations in Florida and one in Orlando at I Drive 360, adjacent to the Orlando Eye.
The kids and I are big fans of Shake Shack, and I personally love the ‘shroom burger and the cheese fries. What I love about this location is the outdoor seating complete with corn hole court! We so enjoyed sitting out here late in the day after touring around.
Okay one last “chain” establishment, but you gotta bet when this New York girl visits the South, a Cracker Barrel stop is always on the agenda! My daughter loves the country store and little man loves the golf-tee peg game that is at each table. Plus the food is decent and affordable. I personally love ordering the southern staples – grits, mac and cheese and sweet tea! Plus Cracker Barrels are all over Orlando, so no matter where you are, there is probably one close by!
What To Do: Orlando, Florida
Orlando is so packed with fun activities, and not just Disney of course!
If you are wanting a theme park, but maybe not quite the intense Disney experience, I highly recommend visiting Legoland in Winter Haven (about 45 minutes from the Lake Nona area of Orlando). We loved Legoland so much we visited twice this winter, and I wrote about our first trip here.
The Orlando Eye is located at the I Drive 360, which is basically a tourisy shopping, eating and sightseeing area off of International (I) drive. I bought discounted tickets to ride the Eye through Groupon. At I Drive 360 there is free and ample parking. We visited on a Friday afternoon and there was hardly a wait to board. We had 8 people in our party and we were able to enjoy our own pod. The ride lasts 23 minutes and there are two iPads set up in the pod to give you more information about what you are seeing. The boys loved this and for days were reciting Orlando facts that they learned!
The Orlando Eye is adjacent to the Madame Tussauds Wax Museum and the Sea Life Aquarium. In retrospect, I should have purchased a combination ticket, which affords you the opportunity to visit all their attractions. Maybe next time!
Yes, there is a McDonald’s that has been deemed epic. It has its own hashtag, #epicmcdorl. I’m not making this up! This is located on International Drive, near the Orlando Eye, so after riding the Ferris wheel and eating at Shake Shack, we drove over to this two story McDonald’s!
The first floor looks like your typical Mickey D’s, except for the wood burning pizza oven, the pasta bar, and the dessert bar! Oh and the completely automated ordering area! The upstairs is a giant play area and arcade. The climbing structure in the play area is free, and our kids loved it! The arcade was really nice, but you have to pay for the games and we were pretty tapped out at this point.
This was a fun, relatively cheap activity and a chance for our kids to run around and blow off some steam! And if you are a McDonald’s aficionado you should definitely check this out!
There is so much to eat and do in Orlando, we didn’t even scratch the surface! We did spend time lounging by the pool in our condo complex and enjoying the company of family. But please let me know, what are you favorite Orlando attractions?
See all my 48 Hours In… posts!
a video about our trip to the Orlando Eye!
Other awesome Orlando Posts:
6 Day Orlando Family Itinerary, by Five for the Road