106 million people: That’s more than the entire population of the Philippines – and it’s also the number of visitors who flocked to Florida last year, according to the state’s official tourism-tracker, Visit Florida.
So what makes the Sunshine State such a hotspot for travellers from all over the world? The answer is Orlando. Statistics show that 66 million of those visitors came into Florida solely to spend time in The City Beautiful.
Just two years ago, Orlando became the first city in the United States to welcome more than 60 million people, and it’s now by far the country’s top tourism destination. If you have one night to spend in Orlando, you’ve come to the right city; with so much to see and do, you won’t have a dull moment.
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Have you landed in Orlando? Here’s a quick guide to having a night to remember:
3 of the Best New Restaurants in Orlando
- 4 Rivers Smokehouse Not many people associate Orlando with great barbecue, and the ones who do are keeping it all to themselves. Founded not by a world-famous chef but an ordinary lover of properly smoked brisket, this little eatery serves up such favorites as The Texas Destroyer and the must-try Messy Pig.
- Cask & Larder This so-called “Southern Comfort House” prides itself on tasty food, good drinks and great company. And it delivers, too, with beer brewed on site, trendy hipsters aplenty and a few unique delicacies such as Nashville Hot Chicken and Crab & Corn Hushpuppies.
- The Smiling Bison Unpretentious, creative, and even fun: The menu at The Smiling Bison doesn’t try too hard to be cool, and yet it just is. It’s a gastropub dressed as any downtown eatery with a laidback feel inside and a menu that includes roasted okra and smoked kielbasa. But try the poutine: fried potatoes topped with cheese curds, gravy and an egg.
4 Bars the Orlando Locals Love
- The Courtesy Bar Velvet couches, creative drinks. This charming bar is on the small side, so it’s a real favorite with downtown Orlandians. Other reasons for its popularity include music event nights, a generous happy hour and cocktails on tap.
- Imperial Bar Great for a quiet drink outside, under the lights. It calls itself a wine bar, but the beer menu goes on forever, so much so that after a while you might be tempted to order one just because of its name – like the Swamphead Saison Du Swamp Farmhouse Ale.
- The Matador Loud, and proud of it. This is probably as down-to-earth a bar as you’ll find in Orlando, with its busy patio, dark, quieter corners and large selection of craft cocktails.
- Redlight Redlight “Beer Parlor” sounds suspiciously close to “too cool for its own good,” but here it works. Known for its casual, fun spirit, this old-school establishment offers a carefully selected array of beers you’ve never heard of, and really should try.
5 of the Hottest Party Spots in Orlando
- Independent Bar You know those glitzy bars filled with models and bartenders who still haven’t seen you? This isn’t one of those – it’s a New Wave-slash-80s revival hangout where you won’t feel like everyone’s judging your terrible dance moves.
- Backbooth A dance party set in a pub? Yes, and it’s great – especially on Saturdays, at the famous Midnight Mass events, or on the night of one of their live local acts. Wear something you don’t care about – it can get sweaty.
- The Space This is something of an enigma, which is how the organizers like it. Picture a live music venue that doubles as a communal art gallery, thrift store and anything in-between. As the slogan says, “the people make the space” so expect something for everyone.
- Will’s Pub A band-favorite for 15-odd years, Will’s is a staple in the local music scene. Don’t expect DJs or bottle service; this is for people who like their musical entertainment loud, raw and with free WiFi.
- One80 Skytop Lounge On the higher end of Orlando’s high-end dance clubs, One80 is perched on top of the Amway Arena and offers spectacular views of the city. It also serves more varieties of vodka-based cocktails anyone could ask for, and of course there’s the ever-popular Fashion Parties.
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