What’s the best time to visit Orlando?

Natalie Wearstler

Unless you enjoy maneuvering around amidst a high heat index and throngs of traffic everywhere you turn, I'd avoid booking a trip to Orlando in the summer and opt for early spring instead. March is an ideal time to visit for several reasons — the temperature is perfect, flowers are in bloom all around the city and if you play your cards right, you can skip the long lines that usually plague the city's famous theme parks (assuming you don't visit during spring break, of course).

Two other perks to visiting at this time of year: Spring training baseball games at the Disney Wide World of Sports complex and the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival. If you're only in the City Beautiful for one weekend, these two activities should make it onto your short to-do list.

  • On July 16, 2013
    Susan Barnes answered the question: Susan Barnes

    What is the best way to see Orlando in two days?

    If you have two days to spend in Orlando, we recommend choosing between the expensive theme parks, or keeping things low-key and exploring some of the city’s other cultural offerings.

    If theme parks and thrill rides are up your alley, focus your time at Disney World, Universal Studios or SeaWorld. You’ll want to give yourself plenty of time to ride all rides and see all the shows. Of course, this in itself could take up a full week if you want to soak in everything that the three mega-parks have to offer, so you’re best served by picking one and spending the majority of your time at just one park; this can also help you save a few dollars and the hassle of shuttling between.

    If you’d rather spend one day at a theme park, and another on a more culturally minded day, you can do that, too. Start one of your mornings in the downtown Orlando area at the Orlando Museum of Art; the community-based, community-supported museum includes American, African and contemporary graphic arts, among others.

    Head up just 15 minutes to Winter Park to check out the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum, which displays the world’s largest collection of Louis Comfort Tiffany art, including the chapel interior that from the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago.

    Round out your day at the Cornell Fine Arts Museum, which overlooks Lake Virginia on the breathtakingly beautiful campus of Rollins. Works by Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Alex Katz and Albert Bierstadt make this museum worth a visit, even if it’s a brief one.

    There you have it - theme parks that’ll make you scream, and museums that’ll make you think -a great snapshot of Orlando’s two sides, one that most visitors never think to explore.
  • On July 16, 2013
    Susan Barnes answered the question: Susan Barnes

    What are the five best free things to do in Orlando?

    We know all of those theme parks can put quite a big hole in your wallet, but Orlando offers great alternatives - free alternatives nonetheless - to the crowded parks. We’ve come up with a list of our five favorite free things to do in Orlando and think you’ll love them just as much as we do:

    1. For a theme-free park experience, check out Dr. Phillips Community Park, which is near all of the attractions, but totally removed from the hectic pandemonium of the theme parks. On the 80 acres of parkland, you and your kids can play on baseball and soccer fields, a basketball court and a playground, or even embark on a hike through the trails. The good news is, Fido can join too-at least in the dog park.

    2. The glistening Lake Eola in downtown Orlando is a wonderful, and completely free, way to spend the day. Grab a pal and take a stroll around the lake as you watch the swans swim quietly on their way. Or if you are really feeling gutsy, take your kids and they can horse around to their hearts’ content.

    3. Visit the farmers’ market each Saturday in Winter Park to browse the freshest fruits, vegetables and flowers. Of course we aren’t telling you to buy anything, but we will tell you that staying away from the aroma of kettle corn and crêpes is going to be quite the difficult task. We promise we won’t judge you if you cave in-we did.

    4. For a bit of history, stay in Winter Park and join a walking tour. The tour guides will navigate you along the streets, sending you back 100 years to when Orlando first became a resort destination.

    5. Let your imagination soar at the LEGO Imagination Center in downtown Disney. You’ll see the Seven Dwarfs in mid-spoof and even a Loch Ness Monster rearing its head out of the water.

    Fun doesn’t have to cost a thing when you stay in Orlando.
  • On July 16, 2013
    Susan Barnes answered the question: Susan Barnes

    What is the best shopping experience in Orlando?

    If you simply must shop ‘til you drop while in Orlando, you’re spared from having to just buy merchandise from Mickey or Shamu. From shopping malls to tree- and boutique-lined streets and outlet malls, Orlando has the retail exercise you’ll need to keep that credit card in shape.

    The Mall at Millenia runs the whole gamut of shopping classes, with department stores such as Bloomingdales, Macy’s and Neiman Marcus; designer outposts of Louis Vuitton and Gucci; casual favorites such as Gap and luxury jewelers such as Tiffany & Co., Cartier and David Yurman.

    At the Florida Mall, you’ll surely find something at Orlando’s only Nordstrom and Saks Fifth Avenue or perhaps Clarks England, Adidas or the European trendsetting shop, H&M. Your kids will beg to spend the day at M&M’s World, and to build a new friend at the ever-popular Build-A-Bear Workshop.

    Make your way to downtown to Winter Park for boutique- and tree-lined streets; whether you’re window shopping or shopping for real, something in the boutiques and galleries will catch your eye. Spend the day shopping, then pop into a sidewalk café for a bite to eat, if that tickles your fancy.

    And with the abundance of tourists, outlet shopping reigns supreme in Orlando. Labels such as Betsey Johnson, Coach, J.Crew, Kenneth Cole, Lacoste, Michael Kors, Last Call by Neiman Marcus, Polo Ralph Lauren and Saks Fifth Avenue Off 5th come together at Orlando Premium Outlets. Just make sure you’ve left enough room in your luggage to haul all your newfound booty back to your home island.
  • On June 30, 2013
    Kristen Manieri answered the question: Kristen Manieri

    What are the best golf courses in Orlando?

    With 176 golf courses dotting the Orlando landscape, the only trouble golfers have is deciding which ones to tackle during their trip. There are 45 holes to play at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress, including four uniquely challenging Jack Nicklaus Signature Design courses as well as a 9-hole Pitch 'n' Putt course designed to help golfers improve their short game.

    Reunion Resort boasts courses designed by legends Arnold Palmer and Tom Watson, as well as a course by Jack Nicklaus, which was listed as one of the “Top 100 Resort Courses” by Golfweek. Reunion Resort is also home to ANNIKA Academy, a teaching academy created by Annika Sorenstam.

    There’s an 18-hole, par-72 Greg Norman Signature Golf Course at the luxurious Ritz-Carlton Golf Club, Orlando where players can opt to have a caddie join them on their round. Further perks include the sprawling clubhouse, fives sets of tees, and one of just nine Golf Digest Schools sites in the country.
  • On June 28, 2013
    Kristen Manieri answered the question: Kristen Manieri

    What are the best kid-friendly restaurants in Orlando?

    Being that this is Orlando, the country’s number one destination for families, it’s not difficult to imagine that most restaurants are kid-friendly. But Orlando takes kid-focused food up a notch with a handful of restaurants totally tailored for families, including T-Rex, the dinosaur-themed eatery located in Downtown Disney. This prehistoric place features enormous, life-like dinosaurs that periodically growl and roar as diners nosh on Gigantosaurus Burgers and Jurassic Shrimp Skewers.

    Sanaa, the Indian-African restaurant, located in the Kidani Village Village at Animal Kingdom Lodge, is a do-not-miss dinner experience. In between bites of Butter Chicken and Garlic-Ginger Naan, guests gasp at the sight of real-life giraffe and zebra lazily strolling past the floor to ceiling windows.

    Of course, if you’re traveling with a little princess, you’ll want to consider making a reservation in Cinderella’s Royal Table, the majestic restaurant inside Magic Kingdom’s iconic castle where Disney’s classic princesses are on hand to meet and greet during breakfast, lunch and dinner.
  • On June 28, 2013
    Kristen Manieri answered the question: Kristen Manieri

    What is Orlando’s dining scene like?

    There are more than 5,300 restaurants in Orlando. That’s a figure that always takes me aback but when you consider how many dining districts make up Orlando’s dining scene, it’s actually not too difficult to comprehend.

    There are more than a dozen dining hubs scattered across Orlando from the theme park district all the way to Orlando’s northern suburbs. Areas like Downtown Disney and Universal’s CityWalk, both of which house at least a dozen restaurants each, are where you’ll find most of the tourists, but if you want to go where the locals go, consider Restaurant Row, a collection of more than 20 stellar restaurants lining Sand Lake Road.

    Park Avenue, the upscale street in Winter Park, is another excellent locale for dining thanks to several excellent spots including Prato, Luma on Park, and Park Plaza Gardens. Nearby Hannibal Square and Winter Park Village (home to Ruth’s Chris and Mitchell’s Fish Market) are also great options.

    You’ll find mostly eclectic and independent eateries in College Park and Ivanhoe Village, as well as the Church Street District and Thornton Park, both located in the downtown area.

    Finally, don’t forget that inside Orlando’s many hotels are further dining options, including Bull & Bear at Waldorf Astoria, PRIMO at the JW Marriott, and Hemingway’s inside the Hyatt Grand Cypress. In fact, some of Orlando’s most award-winning restaurants are inside hotels, including deep blu seafood grille, which is inside Wyndham Grand Orlando Resort and was voted best hotel restaurant by Orlando Magazine readers this year.
  • On June 28, 2013
    Kristen Manieri answered the question: Kristen Manieri

    What are the best museums in Orlando?

    One of Orlando’s most undiscovered treasures is the Albin Polasek Museum and Sculpture Gardens. Besides featuring a collection of permanent and rotating art in the gallery inside this beautiful Spanish villa, the Polasek’s pride and joy is its outdoor sculpture garden, which features over a dozen pieces speckled throughout the meticulously manicured garden and lawn perched on Winter Park’s Lake Osceola. It’s totally fine to bring a picnic lunch to enjoy by the lake as long as you bring your garbage away with you. Admission is $5 to the museum, which is closed Mondays.

    While you’re in the area, stop in to another area gem: the Cornell Fine Arts Museum located on the beautiful Rollins College campus. While the museum celebrates its 35th anniversary this year, admission is free.

    Wander north on Park Avenue and you’ll discover The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art, home to the biggest collection of works by Louis Comfort Tiffany. Recent additions include the Daffodil Terrace, a gorgeous glass-enclosed gallery featuring a skylight covered by six large panels of iridescent-glass tiles in a pear-tree motif.
  • On June 28, 2013
    Kristen Manieri answered the question: Kristen Manieri

    What are the best fine-dining restaurants in Orlando?

    It’s impossible to create a list of Orlando’s best restaurants for fine dining and not include Victoria & Albert's. Tucked inside Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa at Walt Disney World Resort, this opulent eatery features a 10-course chef’s menu designed by award-winning Chef Scott Hunnel, who was recently nominated for a 'Best Chef South' James Beard Award. Be sure to dress for the occasion; men are required to wear a dinner jacket and ladies are recommended to wear a cocktail dress or pant suit. 

    While the scene is slightly less haughty at Norman’s, a Florida-inspired restaurant inside the Ritz-Carlton Orlando, the food is no less decadent. The menu boasts a host of dishes with Latin, Caribbean and Asian nuances, including the Key West Shrimp Ceviche, a tableside-prepared appetizer that’s definitely not to be passed over. Another special perk of Norman’s is the wood-encased wine room, which sits in the middle of the dining room and can be reserved for special occasions and group functions.
  • On June 27, 2013
    Kristen Manieri answered the question: Kristen Manieri

    What are the best places for brunch in Orlando?

    Since this is my absolute favorite meal of the day, it’s my pleasure to dish on Orlando’s best brunches. First off, breakfast on Park Avenue in Winter Park is practically a local tradition. You’ll find several great brunch restaurants along the bricked street but the favorites are Briarpatch, The Bistro (serving five different kinds of eggs Benedict), and Park Plaza Gardens, where you’ll find a killer frittata served during the Sunday Brunch beginning at 11am. 

    The Jazz Brunch at the Grand Bohemian Hotel is another area favorite. This sprawling buffet is loaded with fruit, cheese, waffles, bacon, and seafood. Adding to the decadent affair is the live music floating from the Imperial Grand Bösendorfer Piano in the rotunda.

    Finally, with its endless array of interactive cooking stations and tables overflowing with scrumptious food offerings, the Sunday Brunch at The Vineyard Grill inside the Ritz-Carlton Orlando is another foodie event you won’t want to miss.

  • On June 24, 2013
    Kristen Manieri answered the question: Kristen Manieri

    What are the best sports bars in Orlando?

    Located at Disney’s BoardWalk, ESPN Club offers one of the most immersive experiences in the area for sports fans. At any given time, every major athletic event, highlights and interviews can be seen on the 100 monitors throughout this 13,000 square-foot sports bar. There are even televisions in the bathroom plus a 108-square-foot video wall in the main dining room perfect for viewing major televised sporting events such as the Super Bowl.

    There are two fantastic sports bars at Universal’s CityWalk: NBA City, which is decked out with 15-foot video screens, and NASCAR Sports Grill, a racing-themed sports bar packed with NASCAR memorabilia and featuring racing simulators and video games.

    A few miles away, Miller's Field Orlando has all the typical features of a great sports bar but this Restaurant Row locale also features an eclectic selection of craft beers, gourmet pizzas, and an expansive outdoor patio.
  • On June 24, 2013
    D.J. Jones answered the question: D.J. Jones

    What are the best golf courses in Orlando?

    In addition to its world famous theme parks, Orlando is also home to an endless supply of great golf courses. For those that prefer 18 holes to roller coasters, here's a look at some of the best golf courses in Orlando.

    Grand Cypress

    The 45 holes of Jack Nicklaus championship golf at Grand Cypress will both challenge and delight the player. The North, South, and East courses feature many vintage Nicklaus design quirks, like an abundance of water hazards, undulating greens, and penalizing bunkers. Meanwhile, the New Course at Grand Cypress is a tribute to the links of Scotland, and is perhaps the most unique golf course in Florida.

    Reunion Resort

    If big name designers is what you're after, then the Reunion Resort is head of the class in Orlando. The resort features courses by Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, and Tom Watson, not to mention a teaching academy by Annika Sorenstam. Each of the layouts provide a unique challenge for the golfer, making the Reunion Resort the perfect choice for an extended Orlando golf vacation.

    Disney's Osprey Ridge

    Even Disney is part of the golfing action in Orlando, and their Osprey Ridge course is one of the most challenging and picturesque in the city. The Tom Fazio design features numerous elevated tee boxes and greens, and if you listen closely you might might hear the whistle from the Magic Kingdom train. In 2014, Osprey Ridge will become the resort course for the new Four Seasons Orlando, currently under construction.