The Other Side of Orlando

By: Kara Chalmers

Shopping, spas, resorts and dining give visitors more facets of Orlando.

Rejuvenation? In Orlando? But isn't Orlando where hundreds of theme-park rides, waterslides, nightclubs and dinner shows compete for your attention? Isn't Orlando where you go when you want nonstop activity and things to do around the clock?

That is one facet of Orlando, but there is so much more to this area. With its world-class resorts, luxurious spas, decadent dining and high-class shopping, Orlando has become a rejuvenation mecca. There are places here that make you feel worlds away from central Florida, like you're relaxing on a beach in Southeast Asia or strolling Fifth Avenue in New York.

Visit some of these spots and you'll leave Orlando feeling the way you should after a vacation – refreshed and renewed.

Deluxe Resorts

Choose among accommodations right in the heart of all the action, near the world-famous theme parks, or in the chic, sophisticated downtown. Or pick a resort that, while just a few miles from the city's hustle and bustle, feels light years away.

One such place is Grande Lakes Orlando, which features both The Ritz-Carlton and JW Marriott on the property. The resort is like an oasis, with its pools, championship golf course, gardens and lakes set in the middle of 500 acres of lush, landscaped grounds. If you really want to splurge, The Ritz-Carlton has two penthouses – 2,700-square-foot suites with balconies and spectacular views.

At downtown Orlando 's landmark luxury hotel, the Westin Grand Bohemian, you can visit the hotel's eclectic fine art gallery, which features more than 100 rare works from world-famous artists.

At Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center, you'll feel like you're on a tour of the Sunshine State . Under its awe-inspiring, glass-domed atrium, the resort contains four Florida-themed areas – St. Augustine, Key West, the Everglades and Emerald Bay.

Fine Dining

From casual to formal, American to ethnic, you can find gourmet cuisine on downtown city streets, at the city's shopping, dining and entertainment complexes, and even at malls and theme parks.

On "Restaurant Row" (West Sand Lake Road at Dr. Phillips Boulevard) alone there are several fine dining choices, including Roy's, which offers Hawaiian fusion; Seasons 52, where the emphasis is on healthy offerings that change with the seasons; Timpano Italian Chophouse, which features steaks and chops, seafood and live entertainment and the Latin Fusion cuisine of Samba Room.

Reserve a table at the romantic Manuel's On The 28th, located on the top floor of the Bank of America building in downtown Orlando, with an amazing view of the skyline from the floor-to-ceiling windows.

Enjoy a steak dinner at Del Frisco's Prime Steak & Lobster, a favorite of locals for years and consistently called "extraordinary" by the Zagat Survey.

Revitalizing Spas

Take advantage of the wide array of facials, body wraps, polishes, massages and hydrotherapies at Orlando's world-class spas, many of which can be found at resorts throughout the area.

The Ritz-Carlton Spa Orlando, Grande Lakes offers citrus-inspired spa treatments like the decadent, two-hour Tuscan Citrus Cure, which includes a citrus scrub, zesty lime shower, aromatic massage, soak and a sweet orange body wrap.

At Universal Orlando's Portofino Bay Hotel, try the exotic Balinese treatments, such as the signature four hands massage, at Mandara Spa.

And the Palace Spa at the Buena Vista Palace Resort & Spa has just the thing for amusement-weary travelers' sore legs and feet. Its signature treatment is the Theme Park Leg Relief Wrap.

Superior Shopping

If you want to shop in Orlando, plan ahead because you'll need at least one full day at each of the following shopping centers to experience them to the fullest – leisurely lunches and adequate browsing time included.

The Florida Mall offers a staggering 270 stores including the department stores Macy's, Nordstrom, Dillard's and Saks Fifth Avenue. Restaurants include Buca di Beppo and California Pizza Kitchen.

As soon as you enter the Mall at Millenia, you know it's a classy place. Stores include Gucci, Chanel, Dior, Tiffany & Co., as well as upscale department stores and restaurants such as The Cheesecake Factory and P.F. Chang's China Bistro.

Downtown Winter Park, located just north of Orlando, boasts tons of shops and art galleries along its quaint Park Avenue.

Rejuvenation, indeed.

For more information on the above resorts, restaurants and spas, or for help in planning your own luxury getaway to Orlando, go to or call the Orlando/Orange County Convention & Visitors Bureau Inc. Official Visitor Center at 407-363-5872.

Sponsored listings by VISIT FLORIDA Partners

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