June 1, 2005 9:26 PM   Subscribe

So I'm staying in Orlando June 4-11 with my wife. We'll be there for Microsoft's TechEd. Outside of the typical conference-related activities and attendee parties, what is there to do?

We're not completely the amusement park type (although my wife wants to do the WDW thing, I'm just not much on strollers or screaming children or heat or lines or "It's A Small World After All"), but we probably would like to check out some cool local bars in the I drive area (I think that's what it's called, we're staying at the Wyndham Resort thingy) and ...

Bonus if you find good concerts outside the usual HRL crap.
Double bonus if you know where to find the Iranian community. We want chelo kabob and other assorted Iranian foods (unable to find it in Baton Rouge, so we look any time we're traveling)
posted by kuperman to Travel & Transportation around Orlando, FL (5 answers total)
My wife and I enjoy Downtown Disney a bit, and House of Blues has some nice bands every now and then. Too bad you'll be missing Los Lonely Boys by two days. There's also the House of Kabob in Winter Park, a little north of Orlando, but I've never been there. And I doubt Los Lonely Boys will be playing there.
posted by icontemplate at 9:19 AM on June 2, 2005

Last fall, work sent me to Orlando for a few weeks. I was mostly in the downtown-ish area and I found a lot of pretty bad restaurants in Orlando, but there were a couple of good ones. Cedar's is kind of a Middle Eastern restaurant (if I'm remembering correctly, it's really close to your hotel). It was good - I'd go there again.

One of the best dining experiences I've ever had was at Le Coq au Vin. It's a small, pretty traditional French restaurant that's in an area you wouldn't expect to find this kind of food (lots of strip malls and tire stores). I dropped by early, mid-week, without a reservation - but I'd recommend getting one. The few tables seemed to fill pretty quickly.

On the weekends, I'd pick up a copy of the Orlando Weekly for art or bars or music. For some unsettlingly cheap happy hour food specials, try McCormick & Schmick's (it was attached to a mall).
posted by milkrate at 10:12 AM on June 2, 2005

It's going to be damned hot so plan your schedule so you do as much outdoors stuff at first light and spend mid-day inside or in some shade. Disney's newer Animal park is good for that and actually pretty okay, if you can ignore the endless Lion King & Jungle Book marketing mixed in with the animal exibits (but don't trust a damned thing they say about lemmings.)

You're not going to find anything really interesting in the non-corporate-planned sense on International drive. If you're stuck in the general area and with shuttlebusses and things I'd say that of the parks you'll find the above mentioned Animal park, some of Epcot and some of the MGM park the most interesting. MGM in the early days had a lot better "behind the scenes" kind of stuff than now but there's still some non-ride things to enjoy there.

the Downtown Disney stuff is also good, as mentioned. The Circue du Solei is fun, if expensive. If you've got a car and want to do some bar crawl without too much hunting the Church Street area is the way to go. Given the heat you'd also be well advised to try some of the Disney water parks.

For finding Iranian food I'd suggest you do some searching on Chowhound, specifically the Florida boards. It's the most goddamned awful interface ever but in my experience it's one of the best food finder sites out there. If you can't find an old thread with info just post the question yourself.
posted by phearlez at 10:17 AM on June 2, 2005

Ugh. Stay away from I-Drive as much as possible. At least the part from Kirkman to Sand Lake Drive. Everything from Sand Lake to Vineland is tolerable, but it's mostly hotels, Mercado and timeshares from there on out.

Mercado has a great piano bar in the back that I used to have a lot of fun in. There's also a restaurant called Tu Tu Tangos that's like a pretend artists' commune. There are Flamenco dancers, painters, sculptors, etc. all working during the dinner hours and some interesting local art all over any available surface that are for sale.

If you want to do the Disney thing, but not so much the Small World thing, consider EPCOT. Great food, alcohol every ten feet, and not so many kids. The park is kinda (but not really) educational, so the kids lose interest fast and they Park-hop away. I would love to recommend the Studios (I worked there as a character to put myself through college), but some people don't care for the stuff there. It's mostly stage shows with the exceptions of The Tower of Terror, the (horribly named) Rockin' Rollercoaster Starring Aerosmith, and Star Tours (my fave, but it's showing some wear lately, due for a rehab).

The actual downtown in Orlando has been undergoing a revival. Just when we thought it was dead for sure, the new development has brought it back. There may be some new bars in the Wall Street area or the Thorton Park, but I would stay away from most of the Orange Avenue area. Paris Hilton just put in a club down there, and between that and the Backstreet Boys' Tabu, I don't like to think about what that area looks like now. The Club (formerly the Club at Firestone) was one of my favorite places to hang out on a weekend, but it may not be your scene. It's a straight friendly gay club and it can be a bit wild.

My two favorite places for live music have closed or changed so much to be unrecognizable in the last few years, otherwise I could tell you about the Sapphire Supper Club and Harold and Maudes. *sigh* So, unfortunately I have no recommendations for concert venues.

On preview: Le Coq au Vin is a fantastic restaurant, somewhat off the beaten path for the average tourist and totally worth it. There are some terrible dining experiences in Orlando (this is where Darden took off. Yay Red Lobster!), but there are some great things too. Ask some locals, if you can find them and check the Weekly.

Also, last I heard, they closed Church Street and they were going to demolish it any day to put in some condos. Church Street has been dying a slow death for ten years, but I will miss nickel bears at Phineas Phogs.
posted by Elsbet at 10:23 AM on June 2, 2005

You might consider spending part of a day doing a canoe trip or just swimming at Wekiva Springs State Park which is North East of town, about 30 minutes from the disney area in good traffic. For live shows checkout The Social or Will's, which are close to the downtown area. I 2nd the Tu Tu Tango recommendation, but it and everything else on I Drive will be packed that week. Another great place on I Drive is Texas de Brazil. We've got a few guys attending tech ed also from my company. I live about 5 minutes from Weikva Park and am usually out and about during the week from Wednesday night onward. I moved here from New Orleans 5 years ago and can tell you that this is no great food town.
But there are a few gems to be found. if interested in an amazing Thai place, drop me an email, I don't wanna spread the word too much.
posted by white_devil at 2:47 PM on June 2, 2005

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