Budget Travel

Eat Like a Local in Orlando

Orlando is a pretty sweet place to be any time of year, but this spring is especially exciting. The Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival is in full bloom (as reported in 8 Incredibly Beautiful Places to See Spring Flowers), and the brand-new I-Drive 360, an entertainment center opening in early May that will be home to the 400-foot Orlando Eye observation wheel and the SeaLife Orlando aquarium.

But even some of Orlando's biggest fans (and we count ourselves among them) are a little behind the curve when it comes to the city's food scene. Sure, the fish & chips at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter are magical, and Walt Disney World has a tradition of fine dining choices at its parks, but if your idea of chowing down in the theme park capital mostly consists of chicken strips, French fries, and variations on the fried dough theme, we've got exciting news: Orlando offers an entire world (literally) of choices when you eat the way locals do.

I-Drive offers an array of international food choices (after all, the "I" stands for "International"), including the acclaimed Ethiopian restaurant Nile 07, Indian fare at Aashirwad (winner of a TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence), Italian at Ciao Italia (another TripAdvisor honoree that's been compared to Manhattan's finest Italian restaurants in reviews), and Japanese cuisine at RA Sushi (which complements its fine menu with one of the area's most popular happy hours).

For families looking for healthy comfort food, we're not shy about recommending high-quality chain restaurants: Sweet Tomatoes offers an awesome buffet with something to please even the pickiest little eaters, and parents will appreciate the restaurant's heavy focus on fresh vegetables. And for those craving an upscale take on diner fare, the new I-Drive 360 will include a Shake Shack (the wildly popular burgers-dogs-fries chain that began with a hot dog cart in NYC's Madison Square Park).

TR Fire Grill launched earlier this month, spotlighting locally sourced ingredients, hand-crafted cocktails, and an American bistro atmosphere. And keep on truckin' with Orlando's amazing mix of food trucks: The Arepas El Cacao truck is a permanent fixture on I-Drive you shouldn't miss.

If you want to get a little bit off the beaten path, explore another great food neighborhood like Park Avenue in Winter Park, home to Tex-Mex standout Cocina 214, serving the favorites the restaurant's owners grew up cooking in Dallas.

Orlando has no shortage of beautiful hotels, of course. Right now, we're psyched that the Wyndham Orlando Resort International Drive has rooms starting at $109, plus spring break deals through early April.

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