Departures is published by Meredith Corp. and owned by American Express. While American Express Card Member benefits are highlighted in this publication, including through the links indicated below, the content of this article was independently written by the editorial staff at Meredith. Other Departures content paid for by American Express is explicitly marked as such.
It’s true: Disney may be one of the biggest draws for those traveling to Orlando. But whether you’re heading there with your family for the park or you’re passing through en route to a beach getaway, you’ll be spoiled for choice when it comes to food, accommodations, and beautiful sites to see in Orlando. In fact—Disney World aside—this Central Florida metropolis is worth planning an entire trip around, even if it’s only 24 hours. Here’s what you shouldn’t miss in Orlando, Florida.
10:00 am: Start the morning with an ample breakfast at Briarpatch, an iconic brunch joint located in the idyllic Winter Park (just a quick 35-minute drive from the Orlando Airport). Pro tip: order a few plates to share, as there are just too many good dishes to try. Some must-haves are the raspberry lemon cream pancakes, the wild mushroom omelet, the breakfast torta, and the short rib benedict.
11:30 am: Wander across the street into Central Park. Take your time meandering past the magnolias and through the lush rose gardens over to the old train depot. If you’re in town on a Saturday, you can experience the Winter Park Farmers Market, where you’ll find loads of local goodies like fresh produce, flowers, baked goods, and more.
12:30 pm: If you’re ready for a little break from the sun, head to Winter Park’s esteemed Morse Museum, where you can wander among the varied 19th- and 20th-century works of Louis Comfort Tiffany. Or you can head to the Orlando Museum of Art, one of the finest cultural institutions in the region where you’ll discover a unique celebration of growth through Florida art and culture.
1:30 pm: After your fill of Winter Park, head to downtown Orlando, and begin your afternoon with a walk around Lake Eola Park, where you’ll get some beautiful views of the city.
2:30 pm: Hop in the car and drive about 10 minutes to the Audubon Park Garden District to East End Market, a two-story food venue that showcases some of Central Florida’s top food entrepreneurs, bringing together local farmers and food artisans. Wander through the first floor where you can pick up delicious goodies like roast coffee, fresh breads, flowers, cheese, and more.
3:00 pm: After all that exploring, you’ll likely be more than ready for a late lunch. Get a true taste of Florida at Florida & Co, a restaurant that focuses on local, natural ingredients and fresh flavors. The farm-to-kitchen joint serves up dishes like red snapper ceviche, wild Florida shrimp lettuce wraps, and various bowls that combine flavorful, local ingredients. Be sure to check out the rotating craft beer selection.
4:30 pm: After lunch, take some time to stroll down Audubon Park Garden District’s distinctly cool Corrine Drive, where there’s no shortage of local businesses like hip boutiques, vintage stores, cafes, bookshops, and more.
5:30 pm: Dinner will be in the general direction of Winter Park (about a 10-minute drive from the shops on Corrine Drive). We’re taking you to Hillstone, an elegant indoor-outdoor restaurant nestled on the lush banks of Lake Killarney. You can sit in an Adirondack chair on the sloping front lawn and enjoy a glass of wine and appetizer (if they’re in-season, absolutely order the roasted artichokes) while the sun sets over the lake. When you’re ready for dinner, head into the warmly-lit dining room to order (must-haves include the emerald kale salad and the crispy chicken sandwich).
8:30 pm: After dinner, drive to your hotel — you’ll be staying at the Ritz Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes, an American Express Fine Hotel & Resort property (roughly a 20-minute drive from Hillstone). Check in and drop your bags, drink in the luxury atmosphere, and head to Norman’s (one of the hotel’s 12 restaurants), helmed by James Beard award-winning chef Norman Van Aken. Have dessert and a nightcap on the balcony overlooking the sweeping golf course while you wind down for a restful evening at the Ritz (and maybe consider playing 18 holes in the morning or hitting the spa before your departure).