Upmarket Orlando for the Deluxe Traveler
More than Mickey Mouse for more than
Fine dining in a sophisticated
setting combined with splendid service sets
Victoria and Albert's in
Disney's Grand Floridian Resort apart.
You're served a sumptuous
seven-course meal on white linen set with Royal Doulton china
and sparkling crystal in this AAA Five-Diamond awarded
It is true that the Walt Disney
World complex kickstarted the Orlando area as a tourist mecca.
But since WDW opened in 1971, the Orlando area has becoming
increasingly more diverse in terms of things to do and vacation
It is still a wonderful
playground for the young and the young at heart, but it is now
also possible for more sophisticated travelers to stay in hotels
that don't have packs of noisy children running up and down the
hallways at all hours, and to similarly dine and enjoy
themselves in luxury.
Whether you want to shop, dine,
relax, or experience activities and adventures, you'll find the
Orlando area has lots to enjoy, and a wonderful variety of
in Orlando Florida, almost as many and varied as
even in Vegas.
The History of Orlando
The history of Orlando can
be traced back to 1838 and the establishment of an Army fort
just south of today's city limits.
A small settlement grew up
around the fort, and in 1856 changed its name to Orlando.
The town was incorporated in 1875 (with 85 inhabitants, 22 of
whom were qualified voters), and reincorporated as a city in
But for all intents and
purposes, the story of Orlando really starts in 1965.
Until that time, it was notable primarily for growing oranges,
an Air Force Base (McCoy Air Force Base -- now closed and
converted to Orlando international Airport, which is why the
airport code is MCO) and being reasonably close to Cape
Canaveral. In 1965, Orlando's future took a sharp turn
upwards when Walt Disney announced his decision to locate is
Walt Disney World complex in the Orlando area. He had also
considered areas around Tampa and Miami, but settled on Orlando,
in particular due to it being less susceptible to hurricanes.
These days the Metro area
has a population of approximately 1.4 million, and it is the
fourth largest metropolis in the Southeast United States.
Orlando hosts over 50
million tourists every year, and has the largest inventory of
hotel rooms of any city in the nation outside of Las Vegas.
has been targeted at the budget and middle-of-the-road type
traveler, but subsequent to the opening of the Orange County
convention Center in the early 2000s, five star hotels started
to open up. In 2010, there are now more than 10 five star
hotels located outside of the Walt Disney World complex.
The most recent luxury hotel to open is the Waldorf Astoria
Orlando, being the first Waldorf Astoria hotel custom-built
since its best known New York city hotel was opened in 1931.
The importance of Disney to
the Orlando area cannot be overstated, but these days the area
has become so large that it has achieved 'critical mass' and
continues to grow not just because of Disney, but as a result of
all the other attractions in the area as well. Depending
on how you define and count them, there are over 100 different
tourist attractions in the greater Orlando area.
This reduced reliance on
Disney has also allowed for branching out into more upmarket
type tourist attractions and activities (although it should also
be wryly noted that a visit to Disney World itself is not for
the financially faint of heart).
Where to Enjoy Luxury Stays in
Three of Orlando's finest
hotels would include the Reunion Resort and Club, south of the
Disney area, the Waldorf Astoria, very close to the Disney area,
and the Ritz Carlton, close to Seaworld.
Actually inside the Disney
Complex is their Grand Floridian Resort and Span, and at
Universal Studios there is Loews Portofino Bay Hotel.
A downtown Orlando hotel
would be the Grand Bohemian. Another highly regarded
hotel, close to Disney, and which has been around for longer
than most is the Peabody, renowned (like other Peabody
properties) for their ducks.
The Best Places to Dine in
Although there are some
excellent free-standing restaurants in the greater Orlando area,
many of the best places to eat can be found inside some of the
better hotels. Perhaps the most notable of such locations
would be Victoria and Albert's, Orlando’s only AAA Five-Diamond
restaurant, and located in Disney's Grand Floridian Resort.
Also in the Disney complex
is Todd English's Bluezoo at the Dolphin Resort.
At the Universal Studios
complex, two of the best restaurants have a New Orleans theme,
with well known chef Emeril Lagasse operating two restaurants -
Emeril's Orlando at Universal CityWalk, and Emeril's Tchoup Chop
at Loew's Royal Pacific Resort.
Even Seaworld has an
upmarket restaurant - Atlantis.
If you are looking for good
but not quite so extraordinarily great dining, there is a
'Restaurant Row' on Sand Lake Rd in Orlando with over 20
reasonably upscale restaurants to choose from (in particular,
Roy's and Timpano Italian Chophouse), as well as entertainment
Other names to look out for
include Christini's Ristorante Italiano, Del Frisco's Steak
House, Flying Fish Cafe, Jiko - The Cooking Place, Le Coq au
Vin, MoonFish, California Grill, and Norman's.
Orlando isn't just factory
outlet malls, although it sure has a lot of those. Belz
Festival Bay Mall on International Drive, with 1,000,000 sq ft
of retail space is probably the largest, and there is even an
upmarket outlet mall - Orlando Premium Outlets.
The Florida Mall, with 270
stores in 1.85 million sq ft of space is one of the largest one
level malls in the US.
The Mall at Millenia has 150
stores, including Neiman Marcus, Macy's and Bloomingdales as
anchor stores, and luxury stores such as
Chanel, Gucci, Dior, Louis Vuitton, Cartier, Burberry, Salvatore
Ferragamo, Jimmy Choo, Zara, Tiffany & Co., Apple, Abercrombie &
Fitch, Tommy Bahama's, Juicy Couture, Coach and David Yurman
(this is just a sampling, there are many more such as
Swarovski). And if you can't find anything to suit there,
you can always do just over the road to the adjacent IKEA store.
Both the Florida Mall and The Mall at Millenia's department
stores offer personal shoppers, but it is necessary to make an
appointment in advance so as to be sure of having your personal
Orlando Fashion Square is another notable mall.
If you'd prefer something other than an enclosed mall, consider
the area that styles itself as 'Rodeo Drive East' - Park Avenue
in Winter Park.
Orlando also has the country's largest flea market - Sanford
Flea World. This features over 1,700 vendors, and is open
Friday-Sunday on Hwy 17/92 in Sanford.
VIP Touring and Sightseeing in
Disney itself offers VIP
touring these days, with the opportunity to enjoy a 'behind the
For a special time, take a VIP tour at one of Orlando’s famed
theme parks for a unique glimpse behind the scenes. Be a trainer
for the day at Gatorland or interact with marine life at
SeaWorld Orlando, swimming with sharks at Sharks Deep Dive or a
private group experience with an Elite Adventure Express Tour.
More adventurous types can
hop aboard an airboat for a tour of Florida’s wetlands or frolic
with dolphins at Florida Dolphin Tours & Transportation.
You could consider a balloon
ride - the early morning rides are very early in the morning,
but generally preferable to the later in the afternoon rides
(calmer cleaner air).
Perhaps you'd prefer to be
in a powered plane. How about a vintage open cockpit
biplane ride at the Fantasy of Flight Museum? Helicopter
rides and even hang gliding is also available.
If you'd prefer to stay
closer to the ground, consider going for an airboat ride through
the Everglades. You'll probably see an alligator or two,
and maybe even a Bald Eagle.
And talking about speed,
there is the Richard Petty Driving Experience at Walt Disney
World that sees you behind the wheel of a 600+ hp racing car at
speeds of up to 165 mph.
Since it’s first destination spa opened in 1995, Orlando’s many
resorts and hotels have expanded to include special spa
treatments for kids and teens as well as families, expectant
mothers, men, couples and more. No matter how you like to bask
in luxury, Orlando has a way for you to indulge.
traveling with kids, the guys or the gal pals, Orlando offers a
luxurious spa for you. Choose from the healing hands at The Spa
at the Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate, Spa at Disney's
Saratoga Springs Resort, Grande
Lakes Orlando, or the Mandara Spas at both Loews Portofino Bay
Hotel and Walt Disney's Dolphin Hotel.
The region's largest spa is
also one of the better ones. This is the 40,000 sq ft Ritz
The official Orlando and
Orange County Convention and Visitors Bureau
website is a good
place to start.
For more information on
upscale Disney World experiences in
Orlando, see the other articles on our own website.
Our thanks to
JustLuxe.com for the inspiration and background resource for
If so, please donate to keep the website free and fund the addition of more articles like this. Any help is most appreciated - simply click below to securely send a contribution through a credit card and Paypal.
18 May 2010, last update
19 Dec 2013
You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.