You’ve come to Orlando with the kids many times. You know that routine as well as you know your workday routine back home.
But this time, it’s just the two of you. And you’d like to do something you’ve never done—spend time downtown enjoying experiences unique to the city. But you’ve arranged only 2 Nights in Orlando, so … what’s your game plan?
Don’t have one yet? Maybe this will help. These itineraries aren’t heavy on bars and nightclubs—you’re on your own there—but they’ll make for two memorable evenings nonetheless. Longtime Orlando residents can tell you all about the recent cultural overhaul downtown. Nowadays interesting art of all varieties is more accessible. Pair eclectic, but fun, cultural experiences with downtown restaurants, which have always been strong, and you’ve got the makings of a plan.
How about making a comedy improv session the centerpiece of your first? Can’t emphasize enough how SAK Comedy Lab, on the second floor of the CityArts Factory, 29 S. Orange Ave., has become one of Orlando’s most fun and original entertainment experiences. But while you’re there, it’s easy to maximize your evening by starting it in the afternoon and turning it into a three-course adventure—all without changing your parking place.
Many SAK patrons show up a couple of hours early and lose themselves in the first-floor exhibits at CityArts Factory. There are six galleries—seven including a coffee shop that exhibits paintings created partly with coffee. Admission to the galleries is always free. They’re open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., but you should be able to comfortably browse them if you arrive by 3:30 or 4. Worth noting: Don’t expect basketball-related art in the Orlando Magic Gallery. The NBA team simply is the gallery’s corporate patron.
Then return to CityArts Factory for the comedy show. The weekly schedule includes sessions in six different formats, yet obviously no two shows are ever alike. Depending on which day and show you pick, you’ll enjoy a full cast of professionals, in-house improv students or a mix. Most formats are competitions judged by the audience. Admission prices are minimal.
If you come early enough, you might find free street parking. If not, park in the Plaza Cinema garage across the street, bring your ticket to CityArts Factory to have it validated, and pay $4 when you drive out instead of $9.
CityArts Factory and SAK Comedy Lab are open Tuesdays through Saturdays.
If the theme of Night 1 is fun, the theme of Night 2 might be romance. Just a few blocks northeast of your first-night frivolity—you can even park at the Plaza again if you don’t mind paying the full $9—is Lake Eola Park. This time the plan is two or three parts, depending on the time of year you visit.
Get ready to hold hands. You’re going to start of with a leisurely stroll in and around the downtown park. Among other points of interest you’ll share are eight spectacular and avant garde public sculptures known as See Art Orlando. Six of the sculptures are inside the park along a walking path, ninth-tenths of a mile, that encircles the lake. The sculptures, provided through private philanthropy, were unveiled in 2013. Among the highlights: “Take Flight, “ a cast-alloy depiction of a flock of birds rising from the lakeshore as one; and “Muse of Discovery,” a 40-foot reclining female figure carved of limestone and partially submerged under mounds of grassy earth. Sit in the cupped palm of her hand and take a selfie. If you’re of a certain generation and never tried a selfie before, it will be apparent to those around you as you take it. But that’s OK—the friendly people of Orlando just might celebrate you as the cutest couple in the park.
Next, move on to a relaxing, no-rush dinner at an elegant, pricey-but-not-too-pricey nearby eatery. Kres Chophouse is one option; another is Ceviche Tapas Bar and Restaurant, (complete with flamenco dancers).
If your two-night Orlando stay is in the summer, you’ll want to be in Eola Lake Park between 9 and 9:30 p.m. That’s when the famous Eola Lake Fountain, illuminated in multi colors, stars in a beautiful, nightly 6-minute show choreographed to music.
Working the fountain show into your plans probably will require you to dine first, then move on the park to complete your See Orlando Art walking tour by nightfall. Otherwise, begin the evening with your park stroll.
As you explore downtown Orlando on foot, you well might discover a friendly place to have a nightcap—or to save for your next visit. But whichever way you choose to spend your two nights downtown, you’ll depart with a better appreciation of just ho much more this vibrant city has to offer than theme parks and family-focused kitsch.
And you’ll have enjoyed some fun and romance.