Orlando, Florida, has to be the theme park capital of the world. There is no doubt about it. It’s like a child-friendly Las Vegas. Until recently, I always viewed theme parks as a place to take the family. Orlando was just a giant amusement park centered around Disney World. But some years ago I attended the opening of Disney’s Animal Kingdom and found myself having dinner at a Wolfgang Puck restaurant that was out of this world. And there were no kids around!
Then, a couple of years ago we took the kids to Universal Studios and stayed at the mighty impressive Loews Royal Pacific Resort at Universal. Suddenly, I was looking at theme parks in a whole different light. We even danced and dined at Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville Restaurant. The food, the drinks, and the live band were awesome.
So if you’re worried about a romantic getaway in Orlando, don´t fret. Today’s Orlando theme parks are all grown up. You can check into the Royal Pacific Resort I mention above or make yourself very—very—comfortable at Disney’s Grand Floridian. This has to be one of Florida’s coolest hotels, as it is reminiscent of the days of Henry Flagler and the great resorts from the turn of the century. But it’s new and everything works and the service is tops!
Another terrific option to stay at is the Loews Portofino Resort Hotel. This place will transport you to Italy. And you know Italians, they do romance right. Portofino is perfect for a first, second or even third honeymoon. But if you’re feeling tropical there is also Disney’s Beach Club Resort. Perhaps not as romantic as Portofino, but it will give you that island-beach kind of feeling.
During the day there are the usual theme parks, but Disney’s Epcot and much of Universal Studios is appealing to adults—even more so than to kids. I mean the Harry Potter and Simpson’s rides are by far the best in virtual roller coasters ever. And while in Springfield, stop by Moe’s tavern for a cold Duff’s beer. At Epcot it’s about experiencing the different cultures, the food and drinks—and of course, the shopping!
If you’re coming down to Florida from the cold north, then you must certainly be hankering for a little beach time. Instead of renting a car and driving to the great beaches of Florida’s West Coast, go to Sea World’s Aquatica. The park has a number of rides, including two wave pools and an 80-thousand-square-foot white sand beach. There are plenty of deck chairs, but it’s certainly worth it to rent a cabana for privacy and relaxation.
At night you can attend a performance at the Cirque Du Soleil or go to a live concert at the Hard Rock Cafe. This year they have a great line up: Wilco, Alice Cooper, The Beach Boys and even ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic. Another awesome live music venue is the House of Blues in downtown Disney. I highly recommend the gospel Sunday brunch!
But one of the great things about the area and these ‘grown up’ resorts is the food. There are dozens of terrific restaurants. Dress up and experience a romantic dinner at one of the many gourmet restaurants in the area. In Portofino you can enjoy an evening drink in the hotel’s piazza and while listening to their musica della notte, then duck in for an intimate dinner at the Bice Ristorante. Otherwise check out Victoria and Albert’s in Disney’s Grand Floridian. This is not your father’s theme park cuisine. This is real high-end dining the way only Disney knows how to do. Reservations recommended! And if you’re not sure what you’d like to do for dinner, Disney’s got you covered again. Visit their Swan and Dolphin Resort which has 9 restaurants and 5 lounges.
At Orlando’s resorts there is something for everyone, including couples who are looking for a romantic getaway: luxurious places to stay, modern theme park rides to enjoy and dozens of delightful restaurants to experience.
Oh, and we’ve only scratched the surface. There is so much—much—more!
[Disclosure: We stayed at Loews Royal Pacific Resort courtesy of Universal Studios. Our yatch ride took place during Disney Social Media Mom’s Celebration conference in 2013. All opinions are my own.]