The norm for vacations in America, allotted by employers nationwide, tends to start at ten days per year. We often use these days for holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas, and leave little room for actual traveling, vacationing, and exploring. Our perspective is such that a vacation is only something we use these ‘vacation days’ for. That we must travel on a plane or take a long road trip. We plan out our week of work, figure out who on our team will handle any issues that may arise in our absence, and stress over how many emails we’ll have when we get back.
Sure, vacations are crucial to mental health and productivity when it comes to our work lives. Actually, I wholeheartedly believe in this theory; work plus rest equals success. However, we should never underestimate the power of the weekend getaway.
I believe in periodic moments of total escape. Weekend getaways keep you sane; they help you avoid the black hole of vacation emails, allow you to clear your head and prepare you for the week ahead, and they refresh you of responsibility.
Living in Florida, I’ve always looked to other cities for getaway bliss. Denver is beautiful mountains, Washington D.C. is historic monuments, New York is another world. What is Florida? Beaches, tacky tourist traps, humidity beyond belief? Actually, it’s more than that.
Weekend getaways allow you to explore the nooks and crannies of your very backyard. Last weekend, courtesy of Visit Orlando, I traveled to Orlando, Florida for said weekend getaway bliss. A place I’ve only, really ventured to for mouse ears and tea cups a few times in my life, Orlando is full of character, fantastic food, wonderful people, and small town wonders.
Here’s what I did with my 48 hours.
Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek
Christian and I stayed at the Hilton in Bonnet Creek – a stunning resort complete with lazy river (to Christian’s pleasant surprise) and world-class cuisine (to my pleasant surprise). Our room was beautiful and the location was perfect; we were right down the street from Disney World, and just a 20-25 minute drive to Universal Studios or Winter Park. Orlando at this time of year, smack dab in the middle of Fall, is perfection. You’re able to utilize the pool facilities as it’s not chilly out, but there’s a bit of a breeze. Additionally, I recommend sitting outside at night for dinner. Again, perfect time of year!
Food & Wine Weekends
Christian and I visited in mid October, which means we were lucky to experience ‘Food & Wine Weekends’! The ‘Food & Wine Weekends’ is a weekly food event put on by the Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek and the Waldorf Astoria, which are connected together in the Bonnet Creek resort park. The event runs from September 13-November 16, and gives you a taste of local food and wine that you’ll never forget.
Each restaurant in the hotels provides a special ‘Food & Wine Weekends’ menu, along with special ‘Food & Wine Weekends’ stations with fun offerings like a ‘macaroon bar’ or ‘cocktail creations’. Christian and I enjoyed a wine tasting at La Luce, followed by a four-course food and wine pairing. Friends – this was the best food I’ve had in a long time. This is not a test. You all know I’m a sucker for Italian cuisine, and I felt as though I’d been transported to Rome and was enjoying conchiglioni outside a restaurant with scooters zooming by, wine glasses clinking under the stars. I highly, highly recommend enjoying La Luce if you’re an Orlando resident, or if you’re enjoying a weekend getaway.
Thanks for snapping some shots with your iPhone, Christian!
In my sixteen years of Florida living, I’ve known plenty of friends to have come out of Winter Park, Florida. I imagined it as just another Florida suburb, but it certainly doesn’t fall short in the charm department. Brick streets, unique boutiques, and mom-and-pop eateries cover its historic district, making for the perfect place to simply walk around with loved ones, admiring local business and small town attraction.
Scenic Boat Tours
Beyond its quaint, familial atmosphere, Winter Park is ironically known for its large homes and historically lavish living. We ventured into Winter Park’s various lakes with Winter Park Scenic Boat Tours; $14 for adults and $7 will get you an hour boat ride with a local tour guide. You’ll learn all about Winter Park’s history and get to gaze at gorgeous real estate, each home accompanied by its own historical chronicle. Note: tipping boat captain is encouraged.
Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art
To be brutally honest, I’m not typically an art museum person. My sporadic mind and impatient nature don’t coincide well with leisurely strolling through a collection of artwork. However, the Morse Museum of American Art in Winter Park was certainly a sight to see. Beautiful stain glass, mind blowingly intricate paintings, colorful glass workings, all with the historical readings to go with them. For the art lover, I definitely recommend checking this little gem out in the heart of Winter Park.
East End Market
After exploring beautiful Winter Park, we headed to Orlando’s Audubon Park where East End Market lives, breathes, and sells fantastic food. This ‘market’ is a large building containing ten food businesses, from a Japanese shop to a farm-to-table chef service. Christian and I enjoyed each a sandwich from Houndstooth Sauce Company – him a chicken avocado sandwich with bacon, and me an egg and avocado sandwich. We enjoyed our sandwiches on the outdoor picnic tables, which are located next to a small herb garden! If you’re a food lover like me, I highly recommend checking this spot out.
Epcot Food & Wine Festival
To end our weekend getaway, we enjoyed a food-filled Sunday at the Epcot Food & Wine Festival. After wanting to attend this event for years, I was ecstatic to finally get an opportunity. I’ve always loved exploring the different ‘countries’ of Epcot, but the Food & Wine Festival gives an extra ‘umph’ to Epcot’s culinary offerings. A few things to note regarding the Epcot Food & Wine Festival: you must pay your way through the park.
Your ticket simply grants you entrance, and each tasting costs money. If you’ve been to Disney World before, you know how it goes (as in, it isn’t fun for your wallet). But hey, it’s a getaway! Live a little, right? The tastings cost between, on average, $5 to $9 each. They are a decent size, and Christian and I were able to enjoy ourselves on a budget of $100, including a full-size lunch in ‘France’.
I am always amazed at the way Disney is able to completely bring your imagination to life. Standing in Italy, I truly felt as though I was in Italy. Eating in Chefs de France, I truly felt like I was eating in a Parisian restaurant. I am so glad I finally made my way to this event – I highly recommend it to any food and wine lovers out there!
Lunch in France!
All in all, I was truly shocked at the amount of weekend getaway bliss that exists right in my backyard. From the Bonnet Creek’s Food & Wine Weekends, to Winter Park history, to local Orlando Eats, to Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival, there really is a laundry list of things to do in Orlando.
The next time you’re caught up with work, wishing and praying for a vacation, remember the simplicity of a weekend getaway. Just 48 hours can help you feel revitalized, de-stressed, and can show you just how much your city has to offer.
Here’s a bit more information on what Orlando has to offer during the Fall season: