Orlando is home to the world’s top theme parks and water parks, and is known for its dynamic dining scene, with an exceptional selection of restaurants. In 2015, The New York Times even named this Florida city one of the 52 places to go in the world. And with esteemed celebrity chefs opening new venues, and superlative entertainment options popping up, the coming year will see an abundance of reasons to travel to Orlando. Take a look at our guide to what’s on in Orlando in 2016 and start planning your next trip.
Downtown Orlando is the ideal place to start your trip. In the coming spring, four-time semi-finalists of the James Beard Award for Best Chef of the South, James and Julie Petrakis, are opening their fourth venue, DoveCote. With a French-inspired menu, the new restaurant will fit perfectly into the multicultural atmosphere of downtown Orlando.
Fans of locally sourced Southern food will love the new Highball and Harvest at The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes, where ingredients will come straight from the resort’s on-site organic garden. Combine dining and entertainment at I-Drive 360. This new complex on International Drive includes a 400-foot observation wheel called The Orlando Eye, Madame Tussauds Orlando, and an array of new shops and dining venues.
Visit Orlando towards the end of the year, and you’ll be among the first to step into the new restaurants of Downtown Disney, which is set to become Disney Springs after its multi-million dollar expansion. Disney Springs will double the current number of shops and restaurants to more than 150.
Orlando is famous for its theme parks, making them one of the city’s essential experiences, but there are other entertainment options, too. For interactive arts and sports, head to the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts in Downtown Orlando. Having just opened last year, the performing arts centre is about to get even bigger, with the addition of a third performance hall in the coming years, too.
Sports enthusiasts should also look out for the grand opening of the new Orlando City Soccer Club Stadium in spring 2016. Situated within walking distance of the downtown bar district, the stadium will have one of the best locations of any soccer stadium in the country.
If there just isn’t enough time to experience all of what’s on in Orlando’s theme parks, stay in one of their on-site hotels. The new Four Seasons Walt Disney World Resort is central Florida’s first AAA Five Diamond property. As well as a golf course and spa, the resort has a rooftop steakhouse with views of the nightly firework displays.
In summer 2016, the Caribbean-inspired Loews Sapphire Falls Resort will become the fifth hotel to open within Universal Orlando Resort, where the highlight will be a pool surrounded by cascading waterfalls. Visitors coming to Universal Orlando in 2017 will also get the chance to experience the innovative new water park, Volcano Bay.
Further in the future, a new Avatar-inspired land will be making waves at Walt Disney World – with floating mountains, bioluminescent rainforests and after-dark entertainment – as will the new Skyplex entertainment complex at I-Drive, which will offer the world’s tallest rollercoaster.
Virgin Atlantic operates direct flights to Orlando from London Gatwick, making it easier to visit these new restaurants and resorts.
Have you been to Orlando? What are your favourite attractions and what openings are you most looking forward to in 2016? Let us know in the comments section below.
Written by Anne Schwedt