25 Reasons We Love Orlando
You'd have to work hard to have a bad time: Here's where to eat, sleep, and scream your lungs out in America's funnest city.
21. Havana good time
"I have one client who has been driving in from St. Augustine every single Saturday for 11 years," says Bob Castro, owner of Cuban Sandwiches to Go! "He buys 10 sandwiches and then takes them back to his family." No wonder: Fresh Cuban bread is layered with thin-sliced ham, moist roast pork, imported Swiss cheese, pickles, and mustard, and then it's pressed—with butter—to finger-licking perfection. Enjoy yours while sitting on the unpretentious patio. 1605 Lee Rd., 407/578-8888, $4.
22. Just call us socialites
The Social, located downtown, is one of the top spots for live music in Orlando. A brick-walled space with a well-tended bar, it has a low stage that makes you feel as if you're hanging out with the band. Sorry, kids: Concerts at the Social are mostly 18 and over. 54 N. Orange Ave., 407/246-1419, thesocial.org, cover varies.
23. Eat your heart out
The ambience is next to nonexistent, but that's not why people jam into Johnson's Diner. The fried catfish and succulent meat loaf have kept this family-run soul-food institution hopping for a quarter century. (Celeb patrons include Shaquille O'Neal and Charles Barkley.) Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are served—but on most nights, Johnson's closes by 7 p.m. 595 W. Church St., 407/841-0717, johnsonsdiner.com, catfish with three sides and corn bread $8.
24. The state lobby
If you don't have time to get to other parts of Florida on your trip, no worries. At Gaylord Palms Resort, guest rooms surround a giant atrium containing replicas of Key West, St. Augustine, and the Everglades (complete with steam and live gators). It sounds theme-parky, but the grown-up amenities—a sushi bar, a steakhouse, and an outpost of the Canyon Ranch SpaClub—keep the place buzzing with couples and business travelers. 6000 W. Osceola Pkwy., Kissimmee, 407/586-0000, gaylordpalms.com, from $159.
25. Take five
Every visitor to Orlando has a favorite ride. Our top five are the Hulk (at Universal's Islands of Adventure); the Kraken (SeaWorld); Jimmy Neutron's Nicktoon Blast (Universal Studios); Soarin', a majestic simulated flight over California (Epcot); and the campy Rock 'n' Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith, which hurls you around to tunes such as "Dude Looks Like a Lady" (Disney's Hollywood Studios).