(Photo: Joel Zatz / Alamy)
Whether or not you have a babysitter, these Orlando spots couple romance with something fun for everyone in the family. Here’s how to take in one of the world’s longest lazy rivers, make pancakes along a freshwater spring and enjoy an evening movie with the grass between your toes.
Explore the Harry P. Leu Gardens
For something truly breathtaking, plan the day around the 50 acres of botanical flowers at Harry P. Leu Gardens, located in Orlando’s up-and-coming Audubon Park Garden District. The afternoon can be spent meandering among the roses, camellias and 200-year-old oak trees set alongside Lake Rowena. Book-lovers will appreciate the first Monday of each month, when the Orlando County Library System hosts a 15-20 minute-long book reading for children up to 5 years old. The gardens also provide an aromatic backdrop for the regular Date Night Movie; for $6 per person, you can bring a picnic dinner and take in a featured film alongside the beautiful natural ambience.
Make Pancakes at The Old Spanish Sugar Mill Grill & Griddle House
Start the day off with breakfast at the Old Spanish Sugar Mill Grill & Griddle House, located in De Leon Springs State Park about 48 miles north of downtown Orlando. A hot griddle makes up the centerpiece of every table, leaving guests to create their own customized breakfasts. Servers deliver pitchers of pancake batter and a long list of topping options like the traditional blueberries, bananas and pecans, as well as sugary delights like chocolate chips and peanut butter. There are regular items on the menu, too, but the piping hot pancakes are a crowd pleaser. Post-pancake, rent a kayak or canoe and paddle the Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge made up of over 21,500 acres along the St. Johns River, Florida’s longest river. For younger swimmers, a freshwater spring plays the part of swimming pool with crystal clear waters and shallow depths.
Be One With Nature at the J.W. Marriott Orlando, Grande Lakes
The 24,000-square-foot winding lazy river at the J.W. Marriott Orlando, Grande Lakes is a spot guests will linger at longer than expected (even if they already have a long list of Orlando attractions on their agenda). Grab an inner tube and float around for the day, steal a moment under one of the waterfalls while the kids splash around, or dry off and take a family walk along the guided paths that weave across the 500-acre property. Come evening, fort-loving kids will freak out when you surprise them with the property’s In-Room Camping experience. A tent, comfy featherbed, lantern, storybook and S’mores will keep them busy for hours leaving you to have full reign of room service.
Catch a Movie at The Enzian
Orlando movie buffs flock to the Enzian for its eclectic mix of showings ranging from the obscure indie flicks to the beloved classics like Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Located in Winter Park just over 7 miles north of downtown Orlando, the theater hosts the popular Popcorn Flicks in the Park event the second Thursday of each month. The featured films are free to the public and displayed outside on the big screen; come prepared with blankets, snacks and even your furry family members (they are pet-friendly here). During intermission, make your way to the Eden Bar for its selection of craft cocktails (and mocktails for the kids) and hearty apps like creamy mac ‘n’ cheese and truffle fries. Also on the calendar: The fourth Sunday of every month is their Peanut Butter Matinee Family Film Series that includes a Create Your Own Peanut Butter & Jelly Bar and a family-friendly movie — all for $5.