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Orlando Is More Than Amusement Parks

12/03/2015 05:21 EST | Updated 12/03/2016 05:12 EST
Sky Noir Photography by Bill Dickinson via Getty Images

Orlando is known as a theme park hot spot, but when it comes to culture, Disney World's home has a surprising array of sophisticated dining, shopping and entertainment options. On a recent trip to the land of Mickey, we saw first-hand that you don't have to be a kid to enjoy a magical experience in the sunny city.

Stay:

The Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort boasts some of Orlando's best bites, sips and sights. By day, we enjoyed the royal treatment poolside, complete with warm towels and cocktails, while nights were spent savouring the local gastronomy at Spanish steakhouse Capa (hint: the top floor location gives the perfect view for nightly Magic Kingdom fireworks). After a day of fun we recharged in our spacious room, with a balcony overlooking the resort (think pools, waterslides, a golf course and more) -- one of the best views in Orlando.

Savour:

When you think of Orlando, dining usually isn't the first thing that comes to mind. But the theme park haven is upping its culinary game as of late with several new restaurant openings this year. For an Asian fusion adventure, tuck in for the excellent Peking duck at Morimoto Asia in Disney Springs (a new resto from Iron Chef Morimoto). Paired with sake sangria and topped off with Oreo tempura for dessert, this titillating dining experience would give any roller coaster ride a run for its money.

Shop:

We loved soaking in authentic Vietnamese culture in the historic Mills 50 neighbourhood. A popular spot for locals, this is a must for escaping the tourist scene. Spend an hour or so meandering through Tien Hung Market (one of Orlando's first Asian markets) and browsing the many souvenir, jewelry and food vendors. For the best Pho we've had, hands down, stop for lunch at Vietnam Cuisine.

See:

Visit the resort town of Winter Park for a unique, only-in-Orlando experience. You will love the Scenic Boat Tour on its chain of six lakes (we didn't know Orlando had lakes either!). Famous families--the Walgreens (owners of the successful drugstore), and children's TV host Mr. Rogers' family--owned vacation homes here. After the tour, shop Park Avenue's high-end boutiques or simply enjoy the view of the beautiful park across the street.

Spa:

Recharge after a long day of touristing at the Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort spa. We highly recommend the Classic Peptide Facial, which is a full facial plus a neck, shoulder and arm massage. Focused on deep cleansing and brightening, it includes extractions, exfoliation, serums, a yogurt mask and hot towels. Can we say heaven?

Orlando is definitely more than just the Mouse.

--Megan Bourassa

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