Sprinkled amid the pixie dust and wizardry of life in the “tourist capital of the world,” there is the occasional nuisance … days when an influx of visitors extends the daily commute or a massive convention makes it impossible to get a reservation at your favorite restaurant.
But in the midst of those minor aggravations, major inspiration also can be found.
It’s wonderful to work in the Orlando office of a firm with national reach, and there’s something truly magical about living in a place the rest of the world dreams about seeing and saves up for years to experience. #ILiveWhereYouVacation, anyone?
And it can’t be denied that those temporary inconveniences are reliable indicators that our community is thriving and growing.
For instance, one in every nine American jobs depends on travel. The travel and tourism industry ranks in the top 10 employers in 49 states, and Florida is second only to California as the most-visited state in the country, with 113 million tourists visiting last year, according to Visit Florida. This makes the travel and tourism industry one of our state’s most important industries for economic growth and stability.
To put it into perspective, tourism in Central Florida alone employs more than 420,000 of our neighbors, and more than one-third of all jobs in the area are supported by the visitor economy. The hospitality industry generates more than $60 billion in economic impact for our region and welcomed more than 66 million visitors in 2015. That’s definitely something to write home about!
And with the official start of the summer travel season right around the corner, what better time to honor the importance of the tourism industry than during National Travel and Tourism Week (May 7-13). Now in its 34th year, this annual event cheers and champions the power of this vital industry. It’s a time when travel and tourism professionals unite to celebrate the unique value travel holds for our economy, our businesses, and our personal well-being.
If all this travel talk is giving you a severe case of wanderlust, check out a local’s perspective for some of the best places to eat, play, and stay in and near The City Beautiful.
Bulla Gastrobar | Winter Park
The bar and open kitchen design sets the mood with an energetic vibe to keep you and your friends laughing all night long. With tantalizing tapas, hand-crafted cocktails, and an impressive wine list, Bulla should rank high on your to-do list. And #PaellaTuesday? Count me in!
Hawkers Asian Street Fare | Mills 50 District
With a fair fusion of just about every Asian culture and flavor, Hawkers lets guests experience street food from the entire continent without ever leaving their seats. Sharing many small plates is recommended, but definitely not required. Hands off my bao buns!
Dandelion Communitea Cafe | Mills 50 District
This plant-based restaurant is one of the community’s most beloved treasures. Even omnivores frequent the establishment for eclectic, unusual lunch and dinner options. With a mellow vibe, live music, art exhibits, and a garden plot around back (where ingredients are locally grown and sourced), everyone’s inner health nut comes out to play.
Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts (DPAC) | Downtown Orlando
Looking for a cultural awakening on your vacation? Catch some amazing shows and Broadway-caliber events in Orlando performances, live stage productions, and concerts. The center was named to Travel + Leisure magazine’s list of “World’s Coolest New Tourist Attractions 2015” and Southern Living’s “50 Best Places in the South Now.”
Winter Park Farmers Market | Winter Park
A booming market in a charming city, the Winter Park Farmers Market is one of the area’s most popular sites due to its unique architecture and historic nature located outside a vintage train depot. Grab some freshly-made morning munchies and stroll the market in search of perfectly picked produce, homemade snacks, and gorgeous plants.
SunRail | Various stations in Central Florida
While technically not an attraction itself, the SunRail is how locals commute to different city centers and hotspots in Central Florida. Hop aboard the double-decker rail car in the heart of Sanford to Downtown Orlando to see Central Florida by way of rail. Don’t forget to make a pit stop in Winter Park for a quick bite … and maybe some window shopping at the unique offerings on Park Avenue.
The Alfond Inn | Winter Park
This four-star Tuscan-style boutique hotel opened in 2013 and won the Condé Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Award for Best Hotel in Florida in 2014, 2015, and 2016. The hotel also showcases The Alfond Collection of Contemporary Art, which is part of the Cornell Fine Arts Museum.
The Courtyard at Lake Lucerne | Downtown Orlando
An intimate historic retreat, the Courtyard at Lake Lucerne is the perfect getaway tucked into a charming garden setting in the heart of downtown Orlando. It’s the perfect compromise for visitors who want to take part in Orlando’s bustling nightlife and also have some quieter alone time.
Airbnb | Various homes in Central Florida
When in Rome, do as the Romans do, right? The best way to learn the true culture of a city – and get some great local recommendations – is to stay somewhere as authentic as possible. Whether you’re looking for that modern Orlando high-rise apartment or a mid-size townhome near the best shopping hubs, living where and how the locals do is the best way to experience Orlando.
Emily is an Account Executive at Sachs Media Group and is a graduate of the University of Florida’s public relations program. She has worked with a diverse range of clients from different industries including higher education, sports, food, travel and tourism and healthcare. Prior to joining Sachs Media Group, she was competitively selected to represent UF in PRSSA’s National Bateman Case Study Competition where she was directly responsible for leading research efforts and securing print and broadcast media coverage for a not-for-profit client.