Bridal Guide: Orlando is a favorite place for engagements, honeymoons and bachelor/bachelorette getaways. What makes it so special?
Liza Sontos: Orlando is more than its theme parks. Our burgeoning food scene draws gourmands from near and far. We’ve got award-winning golf courses, sporting events, festivals galore — and we’re positioned near a ton of beaches and national parks.
Photo courtesy of The Ritz-Carlton, Orlando, Grande Lakes
BG: Where are the top places to pop the question?
LS: Cinderella’s Royal Table at the Magic Kingdom has an engagement-planning staff that customizes perfect, regal-style proposals, while Orlando Balloon Rides takes your engagement up into the clouds and Lake Eola Park has swan-shaped paddle boats so you can ask for her hand among the baronial birds.
Photo courtesy of Walt Disney World
BG: What are your recommendations for couples visiting Walt Disney World?
LS: The Magic Kingdom offers Ferrytale Wishes, a dessert cruise that takes you out on the water to view the evening fireworks spectacular. One really romantic spot in Epcot for couples to take in the IllumiNations fireworks display is in the UK Pavilion. During the show, a band called the British Revolution plays. The Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground features private horse-drawn carriage rides or holiday sleigh rides. And Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa offers a private dining experience during the fireworks that includes a private butler — it’s ideal for a marriage proposal.
Photo Credit: Kent Phillips/Walt Disney World
BG: What’s your ideal Disney day?
LS: Breakfast at the Grand Floridian Cafe is wonderful. The menu has some seafood options, including the popular lobster eggs benedict. Next stop is the Magic Kingdom for a spin on some of the classic rides, such as the Pirates of the Caribbean or Dumbo, the Flying Elephant. For lunch, Be Our Guest in Fantasyland is a nice choice. It’s the only eatery in the Magic Kingdom that serves alcohol.
After lunch, head to the Animal Kingdom for the amazing three-hour, behind-the-scenes tour called Wild Africa Trek. It’s a great way to get close-up and personal with rhinos, hippos, crocodiles and so much more.
Photo Credit: Garth Vaughan/Walt Disney World
Or opt for the Spa for Two Package at Senses, the spa at the Grand Floridian. It includes a massage and pedicure. It’s the perfect treat for couples who are tired from walking all day. Dinner at Epcot is a must. Le Cellier Steakhouse is one of the highest-rated restaurants; it’s also one of the hardest-to-get reservations. Last stop is Disney’s BoardWalk for dancing at the Atlantic Dance hall, or piano music at Jellyrolls.
Photo Credit: Kent Phillips/Walt Disney World
BG: What are the romantic to-dos at Universal Orlando Resort?
LS: I think Loews Portofino Bay hotel at Universal Orlando is wildly romantic. It’s a replica of Portofino in Italy, and each night there’s Musica della Notte — Music of the Night — where classical singers perform on a balcony that faces the harbor.
BG: We know the theme parks offer a plethora of romantic nooks and crannies. Where else can couples canoodle?
LS: One of the most romantic areas in Orlando is a city called Winter Park, located just a stone’s throw from downtown. A historic town, it has boutique-style shops, museums and restaurants and a weekly (Saturday) farmer’s market. Insider tip: Take the Scenic Boat Tour, which floats along Orlando’s lakefront.
BG: What are some great ideas for an Orlando-style bachelor/bachelorette weekend?
LS: For a Latin, Las vegas-style dinner theater, try Mango’s Tropical Cafe Orlando. The Sugar Factory, a nostalgic candy store/bar/restaurant has a great brunch. Rock hard Revue tantalizes with a choreographed male dance show.
Photo Credit: Jimmy Defilippo/Walt Disney World
BG: What can active travelers do in Orlando?
LS: Zipline at Orlando Tree Trek Adventure Park; ride the swamps on an Orlando Airboat Tour or whiz the tracks at K1 Speed, a go-cart haven.
BG: How does Ritz-Carlton, Orlando, Grande Lakes enhance a honeymoon, anniversary or engagement weekend?
LS: We make your dreams come true! What do you want — rose petals on the bed? Balloons? A midnight feast? We are here for you. I once arranged for a helicopter to pick up a couple who wanted to see the sunset in Miami. A resort “don’t-miss” is a couple’s treatment in our splendid spa. The finale involves champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries (room rates start at $399 a night).
Photos courtesy of The Ritz-Carlton, Orlando, Grande Lakes
BG: Do you have any packing tips?
LS: Pack light! Florida is hot 85% of the time, so you won’t need a lot of heavy clothing. And keep in mind that Orlando has tons of shopping options.