When summer days begin to slowly drift away, Orlando quickly turns up the heat on a packed events schedule. One of America’s top food festivals serves up culinary adventures. Orlando is home to more nights of haunted thrills than any other destination. And dazzling light displays, glorious parades and supercharged fireworks punctuate one of the most memorable times of the year to visit.
Orlando’s Food & Wine Festivals
Nationally, Orlando has emerged as a prominent culinary destination. Home to five semifinalists in the 2014 James Beard Awards, the city has been named one of 10 Best Wine Travel Destinations for 2015 by Wine Enthusiast magazine, as well as one of the New York Times’ 52 Places to Go in 2015. Food-lovers can get the most out of their time in Orlando by timing their visits to these renowned food & wine festivals:
- At the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival (Sept. 25 – Nov. 16) at the Walt Disney World Resort, guests can sip, sample and savor treasures from some of the world’s most famous wineries and celebrated chefs as they circle World Showcase. New delicacies include Pepper Bacon Mac ‘n Cheese at the Farm Fresh Marketplace and refreshing sips like the Scottish Citrus Thistle at the Scotland Marketplace.
- Food & Wine Weekends at Waldorf Astoria Orlando (late September – mid November) celebrates fine wine and culinary arts. Taking place on a series of weekends, the events include a variety of chef created menus and pairings.
- The Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Food & Wine Classic (Oct. 30 – 31) features wines from around the world and a variety of culinary dishes prepared by award-winning chefs. Educational seminars range from wine blending to crafting Brazil’s most famous cocktail, the Caipirinha.
- Guests dine on haute cuisine without burning through their budget during the 10th year of Visit Orlando’s Magical Dining Month, when Central Florida’s top restaurants feature three-course, prix fixe dinner menus for $33 during of the entire month of September. Joining the lineup of this year’s participating venues is Txokos Basque Kitchen and Italian restaurant Ravello at the new Four Seasons at Walt Disney World Resort.
Halloween Capital of the World
Halloween celebrations in Orlando are like nowhere else in the world, with more than 80 individual events during the six weeks leading up to Oct. 31.
- At Walt Disney World Resort during Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party (Sept. 15 – Nov. 1), guests can trick-or-treat throughout the Magic Kingdom, catch the “Boo-to-You” Halloween parade or Disney Villains Castle Show and stay for the bewitching “Happy HalloWishes” fireworks.
- SeaWorld’s Halloween Spooktacular (Oct. 3 – 31) at SeaWorld Orlando invites youngsters to trick-or-treat among friendly sea witches, octopuses, mermaids and pumpkin fish in an underwater “fantasia.” Cookie decorating and candy galore make this a sweet Halloween event for families to splash into.
- Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights (Sept. 18 – Nov. 1) at Universal Orlando Resort allows guests to face their deepest fears in themed haunted houses, “scare zones” and mazes inspired by critically-acclaimed movies and television series. This year’s terrors include Freddy vs Jason and Jack the Clown, with big name (and big scare) additions still to be announced.
Holidays at Orlando’s Theme Parks
Orlando, the theme park capital of the world, celebrates the most magical time of year with balmy weather, special events and spirited live entertainment, creating an unforgettable and festive setting for a winter getaway, snow boots and mittens not required.
- Walt Disney World Resort offers an array of holiday fun (Nov. – Jan.), including a transformation of Cinderella Castle into a glistening ice palace at Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party; a ‘Frozen’ Sing-Along Celebration’ and the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Hollywood Studios; or the Candlelight Processional at Epcot.
- Universal Orlando Resort invites guests (Dec. 4 – Jan. 2) to the Macy’s Holiday Parade at Universal Studios, where the streets are filled every evening with the same larger-than-life balloons seen in Macy’s famous Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City. Meanwhile, at Universal’s Islands of Adventure, families will light up with holiday cheer as Grinchmas comes to life throughout Seuss Landing.
- Waves of holiday spirit splash over the park during SeaWorld Orlando’s Christmas Celebration (Nov. 21 – Dec. 31). Here in a wintery, watery wonderland, guests of all ages will enjoy stunning live shows inspired by the natural world, and journey to the North Pole on THE POLAR EXPRESS Experience.
- LEGOLAND Florida Resort offers families one-of-a-kind photo opportunities with a life-sized LEGO Model Santa Claus or 30-foot-tall LEGO Christmas tree during Christmas Bricktacular, select dates in December.
Seasonal Shopper’s Paradise
A favorite Orlando activity, shopping sales have launched both the Mall at Millenia and Orlando Premium Outlets into the 10 highest sales-generating shopping locations in the U.S. for 2014, according to Fortune Magazine. The destination’s diverse shopping options include unique boutiques, theme park retailers, as well as 12 malls and outlet centers.
- As one of the city’s most luxurious shopping locations, Fashion Week at the Mall at Millenia (Sep. 17- 24) is a not-to-be-missed event for fashionistas, including in-store activities, runway shows, guest appearances and more. Less than a month later, the trendy area of Winter Park, hosts Park Avenue Fashion Week (Oct. 11-17).
- For those visitors looking for fantastic deals, Black Friday is the best time to shop. The day after Thanksgiving (Nov. 29), many stores, malls and even Orlando’s outlets open early or stay open late to offer extreme discounts. Retail highlights include The Mall at Millenia, offering over 150 high end stores; The Florida Mall, the area’s largest shopping experience; and the Orlando Premium Outlets, two world-class outlet centers.
Orlando’s Cultural Side
Currently in the process of a renaissance, Downtown Orlando is making room for art, music, sports and more as the cultural hub of the destination. From new venues to returning festivals, a whole new side of Orlando comes alive this fall and winter season.
- With the completion of the Orlando Citrus Bowl Stadium renovations, the new, state-of-the-art facility serves as a sports center, concert venue and beyond. Currently, it is the temporary home of the Orlando City Lions, the city’s first professional soccer team. Guests can catch one of the lively home games through the end of October. The venue is also one of nation’s few neutral stadiums for college football, with three bowl games, and dubbed “The College Football Capital of the World,” by the Orlando Sentinel.
- The Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, the new multi-theater home for Broadway productions and Orlando Ballet, welcomes several electrifying shows in the heart of downtown including “Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella” (Nov. 10 – 15) and “Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical” (Dec. 8 – 13).
- Art and culture lovers can catch one of the many art and craft festivals of the season, like the Winter Park Autumn Art Festival (Oct. 10 -11). These events feature work by outstanding Florida artists, live entertainment and food provided by local restaurants.
- The Orlando Film Festival (Oct. 21 – 25) includes events in and around the heart of Orlando, where patrons enjoy great films in exciting venues while experiencing Orlando’s downtown lifestyle.
- Winter Park Concours d’Elegance (Nov. 13 – 15) is one of the most highly-regarded, judged exotic car shows in the United States, featuring more than 120 rare automobiles on display and an exotic car parade.