The Magic that is Orlando

When one mentions Orlando, a famous magical kingdom immediately comes to mind for most, but if asked what lies beyond that mythical place, many haven’t a clue.

The all-inclusive may provide vacationers with everything, but for the curious and daring a city of surprises await beyond that fabled place.

Like what pizza is to New York City, Disney World to Orlando is the, ‘been there, done-that’ of travel bucket lists. We suggest taking a detour off the beaten path and discover why Orlando itself is “The City Beautiful”.

To begin your visit, plant yourself at Orlando’s newest lifestyle hotel, AC Hotel Orlando Downtown. This stylish hotel offers a high-rise experience in the heart of the city, towering over Garland Avenue and spread across eight floors. Modern guest rooms feature a sleek European-inspired design for today’s discerning business and leisure travelers. The hotel combines the soul of historic Orlando with the timeless sophistication of AC Hotels.

SkyBar Rooftop Terrace is where you will be wowed by 360° city views. At SkyBar, one of the city’s only rooftop spaces, you can enjoy mouth-watering Spanish tapas, local craft brews and cocktails.

This impressive 180-room property is managed by Kolter Hospitality. As a part of the SunTrust Plaza building, guests also have access to Foxtail Coffee Café, Bumby Arcade Food Hall and a ‘Grand Central Station’ style SunRail Station. One downside here are  the blaring horns from passing trains.

Across the way from the hotel is Amway Center, literally a 5-minute walk to where fans of Orlando Magic can catch an exciting  basketball game.

Orlando is always a hot market for travelers but did you know it has some amazing places to dine too?

To kick off your morning with a light breakfast, sample artisanal baked goods, gourmet sandwiches and crafted drinks at nearby Craft and Common. We recommend the Avocado Toast. It’s locally baked sourdough from Olde Hearth Bakery as the base, topped with creamy avocado, a dash of zesty lemon and tastefully decorated with sun dried tomato, red pepper flakes, and kalamata olives.

Quantum Leap Winery is a local winery with a sustainable focus and global reach. Their vision is to continue to develop relationships with small producers in premier wine growing regions and be sustainably-oriented in their decisions and actions.

Grab lunch with the locals and sample some fun, unique foods at the East End Market, This is an all-in-one culinary hub, neighborhood market and food hall. The hub is also a good spot to grab some cool local souvenirs.

Want some romantic alone time with your significant other? Well, there is nothing more romantic than a refreshing swan boat ride in Lake Eola park on a sunny afternoon. Hop into a bigger-than-life sized swan paddle boat and make your way around the lake. With its giant water fountain shooting high in the air in the middle of the lake, you will enjoy 360° views of Downtown Orlando’s skyscrapers. You’ll no doubt break a sweat from paddling under the hot Orlando sun, so be ready!

Bites & Bubbles is a great spot for Happy Hour with friends or a place to make new ones. This local, independently owned and operated eatery serves up delicious food along with amazing wines in the Heart of the Mills 50 District at Mills Park. Bites & Bubbles is an American Restaurant with a “French Kiss” offering Full Dinner Menu Monday through Saturday and Monthly Wine Dinners. We highly recommend the charcuterie board to start off an exciting evening.

After a day of excitement in the city, a night kayaking or paddle board trip on gorgeous Lake Ivanhoe may just be one of the most relaxing activities you’ll do. Drifting on still waters through the dark in silence, with the bright lights of the Orlando skyline in the distance will put the mind at ease. With a tour guide from Epic Paddle Adventures, you can enjoy music, drinks and colors lighting up the water beneath you will make your trip that much more fun. Dip your feet into the cool waters, or lay on your board and look up at the stars in the sky. Don’t worry, there are no alligators in Lake Ivanhoe. A night cruise with friends, you have the lake all to yourselves.

Orlando is an under-the-radar yet upscale getaway in a city that’s not just mouse ears and butter beers.