Since 1969, restaurant, hotel, travel & other witty reviews by a handpicked, worldwide team of discerning professionals—and your views, too.

Orlando, Florida 72-Hour Vacation

Unexpected Orlando
Beyond Mickey Mouse

Disney's Grand Floridian
Disney's Grand Floridian

For Orlando, the flagging economy means some fantastic deals on more than 100 attractions and world-class resorts as savvy vacationers still find their way to Walt Disney World Resort, Sea World Orlando and Universal Orlando, and to the countless smaller attractions that include world-class art and the place where rockets blast into outer space.

Don't rule out Disney just because you're skipping thrill rides. Along with the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney-MGM Studios and Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World Resort—twice the size of Manhattan—has sixteen distinctively themed hotels, an evolving shopping and entertainment district, 99 holes of golf, bass fishing, parasailing and scuba diving in one of the world's largest saltwater aquariums at Epcot's Living Seas. It's a novel idea, but plenty of vacationers never step foot in a theme park, nixing roller coasters for a peaceful day at the spa at Disney's Grand Floridian, relaxing on a sandy beach at Disney's Polynesian Resort and dining in some of Central Florida's finest restaurants.

Where to stay if Disney isn't what you had in mind? There's the elegant The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes with an 18-hole, Greg Norman-designed golf course and stellar dining at Norman's, featuring chef Norman Van Aken's acclaimed "New World Cuisine," a fusion of Latin and Caribbean recipes. If you prefer a downtown Orlando location, head for the Westin Grand Bohemian, a jewel box of a hotel that showcases rare art and classical and contemporary music. Dinner at La Boheme features eclectic cuisine in a luxurious setting.

Far from the crowds is charming Park Plaza Hotel in the village of Winter Park. Within strolling distance, you can view pieces from the world's largest collection of Tiffany stained glass, shop at some of Florida's most impressive boutiques and galleries and enjoy memorable cuisine at a sidewalk café or fine restaurant.


It's a Disney day—but pretend there are no theme parks and start your morning with a round of golf one of Disney's five courses, or order breakfast in bed, then head for the spa at Disney's Grand Floridian or Saratoga Springs for a morning of indulgence. Other unusual options include early-morning bass fishing on Bay Lake, a surfing lesson at Typhoon Lagoon (your instructor controls the waves), parasailing 500 feet in the air, or a horseback ride on the Fort Wilderness trails.

Downtown Disney
Downtown Disney

For lunch, check out the new Paradiso 37 or a taste of Irish cuisine at Raglan Road, both at Downtown Disney. If you want more action in the afternoon, get behind the wheel of a stock car at the Richard Petty Driving Experience. (But there's a chaise lounge poolside if you're in the mood for a nap.)

When the sun goes down, book a private cruise on Breathless, moored at the Yacht and Beach Club Marina. The sleek 24-foot reproduction of a 1930s mahogany runabout takes up to seven passengers for a one-hour fireworks cruise. Or head to Downtown Disney West Side to experience the ethereal Cirque du Soleil show, "La Nouba," or catch at live concert at House of Blues.

For dinner, the top Disney table is the coveted chef's table at Victoria & Albert's, where chef Scott Hunnel creates a thirteen-course extravaganza. Or catch the Magic Kingdom fireworks during dinner at the award-winning California Grill high atop Disney's Contemporary Resort, where chef Brian Piasecki's grilled pork tenderloin with creamy polenta and Zinfandel glaze is the most-requested dish (but his vegetarian creations are divine, too).

Continue to Day 2


Ready to book a trip now?
Get exclusive savings on hotel rooms.

Orlando Hotels
Orlando Restaurants
Orlando Attractions
Travel Guide Florida
Orlando-Orange County Convention & Visitors Bureau

* Downtown Disney image by Orlando/Orange County Convention & Visitors Bureau, Inc.®

(Updated: 09/13/09 SG

Plan a voyage to a tropical paradise aboard one of GAYOT's Best Caribbean Cruises.
Get the 411 on the City of Angels. Find the city's top hotels, restaurants, attractions and more with GAYOT's guide.