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Explore the finer side of Orlando on your next winter getaway

A delightful destination with options for every style, Orlando excites with fine dining, high-end shopping and more. | By Paul Oswell | January 6, 2023

Expand your imagination and your expectations as you prepare for a warm winter getaway in Orlando – there’s a world of experiences to be explored beyond the famed theme park gates. From divine dining and sensational shopping to dreamlike golf courses and outdoor adventures, here are some of our recommendations for ways to make the most of your Orlando vacation:

  • Decadent dining: From exclusive sushi counters to the freshest seafood, Orlando has a thriving culinary scene

  • Alluring activities: Take to the skies in a hot air balloon or hit the fairways at some of the region’s best golf courses

  • Chic shopping: Designer outlets, extravagant department stores and intriguing local boutiques are all well within reach

Dining out

Orlando’s long list of irresistible restaurants provides delightfully discerning dining options for some of the best gourmet cuisine in the state. High on the list of the city’s Michelin-starred kitchens is the reservation-only, 10-seat Japanese restaurant Soseki in Winter Park. Go with the chef’s choice dinner and allow chef Michael Collantes to prepare an intimate, multi-course experience focused on local ingredients. Another sushi favorite with a coveted Michelin star is Kadence, a deceptively simple nine-seat counter that books up weeks in advance, so plan accordingly.

The Ravenous Pig is a stylish American gastropub run by a husband-and-wife team of James Beard-nominated chefs. They serve decadent seafood and hearty classics with a focus on ethically and locally sourced ingredients.

Don’t feel like traveling for your meal? Fortunately, there’s divine dining to be had close to home when staying at Waldorf Astoria Orlando. The resort’s award-winning Bull & Bear is a reimagined steakhouse renowned for its tableside preparation of upscale cuts including wagyu and chateaubriand.

The Italian Riviera will also be evoked at the forthcoming Apéro restaurant at Conrad Orlando, which opens in 2023. It will be complemented by Ceiba, a Mexican restaurant with rooftop views, as well as a tropical Tiki lounge, the Papaya Club.

What to do

Beyond the confines of Orlando’s world-famous theme parks, Central Florida has beautiful natural scenery, and one of the most captivating ways to fully absorb it all is from a private hot air balloon. It’s a tranquil yet exhilarating experience and most charter flights are customizable, with champagne or picnic lunches as a lovely extra touch.

For a glimpse of nature closer to the ground, the nearby Everglades National Park offers a whole new world of excitement — especially when spotting alligators, manatees or herons by airboat. Whether you’re traveling solo, as a couple or with the family, the experience will be a memorable one for years to come.

Discover some of the finest fairways at one of the more than 1,000 golf courses in the Orlando area. Waldorf Astoria Golf Club is considered one of the region’s best, designed by acclaimed golf course architect Rees Jones with cypress tree-lined fairways and environmentally conscious natural features. The meticulously conceived 18-hole championship course offers a five-tee system for every experience level. Further hone your skills at the practice range, putting green or chipping area before visiting the Pro Shop for a wide selection of merchandise.

For guests looking for a relaxing moment off the green, the resort also has a myriad of alternative activities including a morning yoga class on the cabana lawns or a Himalayan salt therapy session paired with a salt stone massage at the opulent Waldorf Astoria Spa. Meanwhile families will love the crafts and programs offered at the Waldorf Astoria Kids Club — poolside s’mores party included!

Shop til you drop

Orlando has wonderful shopping opportunities if you’re looking for designer labels or one-of-a-kind local boutiques. The Mall at Millenia is one of the most popular retail options, with over 150 stores, plus top-of-the-line guest amenities that include a full concierge service, personal stylists, tailoring and alterations and valet. Armani, Mont Blanc, Prada and Swarovski are just a few of the upscale names that have outlets here, and they're complemented by flagship Bloomingdales and Neiman Marcus locations.

Downtown Orlando is often eclipsed by its enticing larger-than-life surrounding attractions, but there’s a host of boutiques that are worth your time. Zou Zou boutique in Thornton Park has cutting-edge designs, or for an upscale vintage look, try Etoile Boutique in the trendy Milk District.

Looking to find something for the whole family in one all-encompassing stop? Head for Winter Park’s cobblestoned, tree-lined Park Avenue, where you’ll discover countless highly sought-after retailers offering clothing, jewelry, confections and more. From Liz’s & Bebe’s for womenswear to John Craig Clothier for men and Tugboat & The Bird for children, you’ll find dazzling designer goods for the whole family.

No matter how you choose to spend your vacation, Orlando is a great destination year-round, with plenty of winter sunshine and activity options to explore.

Paul Oswell is an award-winning travel writer, and has been reporting from all seven continents for over twenty years. He is based in New Orleans and is the author of “The Bucket List North America: 1,000 Adventures Big and Small.”

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