Swans in Lake Eola Park in Orlando

Lake Eola Park offers unobstructed views of the Orlando skyline. (Photo: Marriott International)

Weekend Getaways

Discover Orlando, Florida, Beyond Its Theme Parks on a Weekend Getaway

Orlando is best known as the theme park capital of the world, and while those famous attractions are certainly worth a day or two of your trip, don’t miss the city’s other offerings — including unexpected cultural hubs and neighborhoods where the locals hang out.

From museums and celebrated restaurants to the most iconic roller coasters around, here’s how to spend a weekend in this buzzy Florida city.

As always, check for travel restrictions and closures before planning your trip.

Friday: Experience Orlando’s Cultural Side

Start your tour of Orlando with a taste of its non-amusement park activities. Grab breakfast at Artisan’s Table, a creative downtown restaurant that serves seasonally inspired dishes (and cocktails). Try traditional fare like homemade quiche or steel-cut oatmeal or go for the Japanese bowl, which combines bacon, scallions, sticky rice, togarashi and sweet chile sauce topped with eggs.

After you’ve had your fill, head over to Loch Haven Park and choose from a host of museums and galleries, including the Orlando Museum of Art and the Orlando Science Center, both of which boast some surprisingly cool collections.

People lounging in Lake Eola Park
Enjoy views of Downtown Orlando from Lake Eola Park. (Photo: Marriott International)

For lunch, head to Ten10 Brewing Company, one of Orlando’s first forays into craft beer brewing. Order a sandwich or wings, then try out some of the brewery’s ales, ciders and IPAs.

Now that you’re well hydrated, spend the afternoon at Lake Eola Park. There, you can stroll downtown’s most impressive green space, spotting ducks and swans along the water and renting a giant swan paddleboat for a float around the lake.

End your day in the historic district of Church Street, home to the bulk of the city’s nightlife. Get a table at Kres Chophouse, a popular spot for steaks and seafood, then drinks at Cahoots, an arcade bar with a strong selection of beers, whiskeys and cocktails.

Saturday: Hit the Theme Parks

Child smiling while riding carousel
Orlando is the ultimate family vacation. (Photo: Getty Images)

What’s a trip to the theme park capital of the world without visiting some of the best ones? Spend your Saturday at the park of your choice — or if you’re feeling very ambitious, try to squeeze in more than one.

But whether you’re spending two hours there or two days, the most important thing is to have a strategy going in. Take a look at all the rides, shows and eateries in the park, then decide which ones you absolutely cannot miss, factoring in time to take a break from the sun (and the attractions’ lines).

From there, study the map and create a plan of attack, making sure to hit the more popular attractions during less popular times. Also consider whether the upcharge for cutting to the front of the line might be worth it, where available. Do plan on staying into the evening, when special shows and fireworks are nearly always on the menu.

Sunday: Food, Food and More Food

Chicken and waffles and Mac and cheese from Se7en Bites
Start the day with Southern fare at Se7en Bites. (Photo: Marriott International)

Spend your last day in Orlando exploring the amazing art, music and food that is becoming synonymous with the city.

Start your morning with breakfast at Se7en Bites, an LGBTQ-owned restaurant in the Milk District that you may recognize from the show Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. With the kitchen’s focus on comfort food, there’s no way to go wrong, but the famous “7th Trimester” (bacon, egg and a biscuit topped with mac and cheese) is a fan favorite.

Before heading out, be sure to grab a to-go box of assorted baked goods and biscuits, then walk to nearby Pho Hoa restaurant to check out some of the incredible murals painted on its walls.

Next, make your way to the Milk District Spot to shop at some local vendors who have pop-ups there. Continue walking along Robinson Street and Bumby Avenue to visit other unique retailers, where there’s everything from vintage clothes to entertaining household games to records.

It may be tough to imagine ever feeling hungry again after breakfast at Se7en Bites, but if you do find yourself in need of a little lunch, head over to MX Taco, a popular Mexican eatery that serves perfectly seasoned tacos and has a map-based menu, so you can see where your selections originated.

For dinner, experience Orlando’s renowned Tasty Takeover, a weekly event that brings together the best of the local food truck scene. With a different cuisine available at each one, it’s a helpful stop if you’re with an indecisive group or can’t figure out what you’d like yourself. Try bits and pieces from various trucks (think: rice bowls next to tamales next to grits) to create a totally customized menu.

Finish the evening by catching a show at the Plaza Live, which started as the city’s first two-screen movie theater and has since evolved into the best live venue in town for concerts, comedy and everything in between.