Romance…. Orlando? Sound like an odd match? Sure, if you’re traveling with toddlers and planning on traipsing through the theme parks for a week. But for couples lucky enough to find themselves here together for an intimate rendezvous, Orlando takes on a whole new view. Having lived here and ‘date nighted’ through the City Beautiful for nearly five years, I can attest to its romantic appeal… as long as you have the insider tips for where to eat, stay, and play.
One of the best online restaurant guides in Orlando was created by renowned dining critic, Scott Joseph. Whenever I’m headed out to nosh, I always check this site for recent reviews and openings of new eateries. I’m no critic, but I do have a few personal favorites. In the Winter Park area, The Ravenous Pig is my sure-thing spot that’s never disappointed. The ambiance and rich décor are just right, the menu is inventive, and the service is always good.
When my hubby and I are downtown, my first pick is Ceviche, which can be a little loud on weekends but much more palatable on weeknights. I love the sharing a selection of tapas and lingering over wine in this architecturally stunning locale at Church Street Station. Afterward, I love a walk around nearby Lake Eola with a nightcap overlooking the scene at either 310 Lakeside or Spice.
Heading south towards Universal, I’ll jump at either Coq Au Vin (a small, family run French establishment that always wins local foodie awards for excellent cuisine), or Emeril’s Tchoup Chop inside the Royal Pacific Resort. I find the resort offers a ‘getting away from it all feel’ and the food at Emeril’s is delish.
Finally, there’s an unbeatable selection of about a dozen or more restaurants on Sand Lake in the area dubbed as Dr. Phillips Restaurant Row. Here you’ll find great spots like Seasons 52 (love the live piano music), Roy’s (love their chocolate soufflé), Moonfish (delish fish), and Amura (my favorite sushi spot). I’m leaving out about six or eight other great spots – just head to Restaurant Row and take your pick… you’re nit likely to be disappointed.
For your romantic Orlando escape, the ideal abode is a must. I’d assert that the small, boutiquey-like feel of the downtown Orlando’s hotels and inns are what every couple seeks. Their intimate but set close to lots of restaurants, wine bars, and activities. EO Inn and Veranda Bed and Breakfast are great little inns for quick weekend rendezvous. The more sophisticated Grand Bohemian is much more upscale plus it houses a great lobby lounge ideal for sipping martinis while listening to live jazz.
Of course, if I wanted to do the resort-thing, I’d choose either Universal’s Portofino Bay Hotel, Gaylord Palms Resort, or the Ritz Carton… and I probably wouldn’t leave the resort for the entire weekend. Both spots offer adult pools, fabulous spas, and a handful of great restaurants to explore.
Speaking of spas, consider adding a visit to your itinerary; Orlando is home to some seriously seductive spots including the Ritz Carlton Spa (my favorite), the brand new Guerlain Spa at The Waldorf Astoria, and the spa at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort. All three of these spots are known to transport couples to an entirely new realm of relaxation.
And when you’re not eating, sleeping in, pool-lounging, or getting a massage, consider seeing a show such as La Nouba or Blue Man Group. Or perhaps take in a concert at House of Blues or Hard Rock Live. Both Downtown Disney and Universal’s CityWalk offer lots of evening distractions from cocktail sipping to dancing the night away.
So next time you start believing Orlando is only for families, think again… there’s a lot more to seduce you than first meets the eye.