A man on a mission to have a domestic beer in every country on the planet.
My American City: Orlando
As the self-titled theme park capital of the world, Orlando inspires incredible stories like no other. Home to Walt Disney World Resort, Universal Orlando Resort, SeaWorld Orlando, Legoland Florida, and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter(View attraction tickets) – you may just think you’ve landed in one of the most exciting cities on the planet – and you’d be right. But there’s more to this city than just thrills – stunning tree-lined neighbourhoods, a rich performing arts and museum scene, fabulous cuisine and more than 170 golf courses to test your metal.
For an insight into Orlando’s lesser-known thrills, we sat down with Orlando native and renowned restaurant critic Scott Joseph, to understand what makes his American City one of the World’s most visited family destinations.
Sum up Orlando in three words
More than Disney
What does a typical day in the city look like for you?
I like to start with a long walk with my dog around Lake Baldwin in Winter Park. There are numerous lakes throughout Orlando and it’s always nice to make one our destination. Some of my absolute favourites are Lake Virginia and Lake Killarney – they’re just so picturesque. I spend most of the day writing about food, whether it’s a restaurant review or an article about new places or what’s closing. Lake Eola Park is a lovely quiet spot to get some work done, and there are numerous coffee shops nearby. The great thing about my beat is that there is always something new to write about. I have used an article I found on a travel site a few times now, it has great information if you’re looking for inspiration, an itinerary guide for Orlando with different duration sections can really help get you started.
What’s your favourite way to unwind after a long day?
I’ll head to the gym for a workout on the treadmill or a nice long swim — as you can imagine, I have lots of calories I have to burn off. If the weather is good (as it so often is) I choose to run the Orlando urban trail, a picturesque route that takes in 6 lakes and passes popular tourist spots like the Orlando Science Centre, Museum of Art and the Botanical Garden. On rare evenings, I enjoy drinking-in-the-atmosphere of the relaxed, yet classy, Mathers Social Gathering. It has a rustic warehouse feel, with exposed brick walls, and the bartenders are suited up in bow-ties and suspenders. You get the feeling that you’re on a movie set.
Where are your favourite spots to grab a bite to eat?
This is one of the most difficult questions for a critic to answer because the definition of a favourite is one you keep going back to. But when you are in my line of work, you mostly go to the new places. But I have a few reliable, go-to spots: Tap Room at Dubsdread for a burger; Rusty Spoon for something inventive; Prato for a pizza at the bar.
What’s your favourite secret spot in the city?
Little Lake Conway. There’s a boat ramp where I can launch my kayak and just go for a nice relaxing paddle. Secret’s out I guess.
What would you recommend to someone who only has 24 hours to experience Orlando?
To experience the real Orlando, spend your day downtown — the real downtown, where the locals live. There are brick streets lined with trees and a large central park with a beautiful lake to stroll around. Loch Haven Park has art museums and a science centre. In the evenings, there are numerous fantastic restaurants and bars serving just about anyone’s tastes.
What’s your favourite thing about your American City?
There are beautiful, must-see beaches only an hour away, such as New Smyrna Beach, which has loads of charming little shops and cafes, and a thriving arts community. The area is known for its coastal architecture and white sandy shoreline. Orlando is served by two international airports, so it’s a great jumping-off point for just about anywhere else in the world. And if I feel like it, I can be a tourist in my own town just by taking a short drive to one of the theme parks.
What’s your best piece of advice for visitors travelling on a budget?
The major theme parks can be pricey, so gear up for them. If you are open to an alternative, there are lots of other fun touristy things to do, such as visiting an alligator farm or downtown’s remarkable science centre.
When is the best time of year to visit Orlando?
Our winters are absolutely wonderful. So is the autumn. Actually, Spring is pretty great, too. Summer? Well, some like it hot!
Outside of Orlando, where is your favourite place in the world to visit and why?
It’s got to be New York. I love theatre and music, and there’s always something new to try from its burgeoning restaurant scene.
Is there anything about Orlando that particularly appeals to any hobbies that you have?
Well, because of the theme parks, Orlando features a large community of talented people. So that means there’s always some sort of theatre or live music event going on – I love it!