As a Florida native, there are many places I visit time and time again, as well as some really amazing new places I’ve been stoked to find. I recently wrote about drinking around the world at Epcot for the very first time, and while Disney has employed many of my friends over the years and the Mouse can be a powerful voice of good these days, it really wasn’t for me so, I tend to be more interested in other things to do near Orlando.
Partially, because I’d much rather small, intimate experiences than the craze of theme park crowds and activities. Also because I’m fortunate enough to live in a “small world” of my own here in Queens with access to a world of cuisines, drinks, and cultures on the regular. And, of course, because I love to travel the world and it’s hard for the Epcot version of any place I’ve been to come even close to comparing (not that I expected it to!). But most importantly, because I am committed to the art of craft alcohol and artisan makers…and as you might guess, there is not a lot of that going on at Disney properties!
If you’re more akin to me in these regards yet you find yourself heading to Orlando for a Disney filled vacation allow me to introduce you to some great discoveries and day trips all relatively close to the Magic Kingdom. Let’s dive into some of my favorite things to do near Orlando…
On Your Way Out Of O-Town
Instead of getting drunk with costumed characters, as I mentioned, I prefer a more coastal vibe.
Before you head on your journey away from the birthplace of the Backstreet Boys, however, grab brunch at Maxine’s on Shine. Great craft beer selection and food at this husband and wife owned gem!
If you need to stay in Orlando, you could also go total Florida tourist mode and hit up Gatorland. Or stick with the theme park…uh theme…wave your wand and wind up at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal sipping a Butter Beer. Make sure you plan to bring hydration on your journey, last time I checked simply saying Aguamenti did very little for us Muggles.
The Oldest City in the USA
My favorite school trip in elementary school was the yearly tour of Saint Augustine-– I still navigate the streets by the landmarks I learned as a child: the fort, the fudge shoppe, the oldest wooden schoolhouse. Every winter my family would drive up the coast to see the Nights of Lights, a yearly free festival featuring millions of tiny twinkle lights in every tree. Later, I would visit the city with friends to take ghost tours, visit the pirate museum, and pose for old timey costume photos around Halloween. The city itself has plenty to do for all ages but let me tell you, going back as an adult is pretty rad.
Check out the St. Augustine Distillery, housed in the restored building complex of St. Augustine’s ﬁrst power and ice complex, built in 1907. Make time for food and drinks next door at the Ice Plant Bar, the back bar is full of amazing craft spirits and the original ice crane is still mounted overhead.
Thirsty for Florida craft beer? Pop over to Dog Rose Brewing! In the mood for live music and an extensive craft beer selection? Stogies Jazz & Cigar Bar has a knowledgable staff and solid beer list (if you don’t mind the smoke). I’ve heard great things about Boat Drinks and Odd Birds, bookmarking those for next trip!
Things To Do Near Orlando? Visit My Hometown!
Drive an hour east of Epcot and visit my hometown: Daytona Beach. Daytona is known for a great many things: rum running, which lead to Nascar, spring break, which led to…well things that are better left unsaid unless MTV Spring Break happened to catch them on camera, Bike Week, and oh yeah, the “world’s most famous beach.” We also are home to a drive-in church and drive through liquor stores.
The Daytona area now boasts several craft breweries and an Ale Trail. When I’m home, I like to visit Ormond Brewing Company, the first craft brewery to open in the area back in 2013! I’m a big fan of the taproom and brews, I’m also partial to their beer cat, Tom. Not in the mood for craft beer? Check out a bar named for another cat: Madeline’s Wine Bar! Or drop by my fave spot Zen Bistro for delicious cocktails (pictured) and Thai food! Hit up Hull’s Seafood for the “best seafood in Florida,” or cruise A1A a la Jimmy Buffet to Snack Jack’s for fried fish and the ocean view (whenever you see them on a menu, order hush puppies).
Hop The Brightline to the Magic City
Once your friends finish drinking around the world at Epcot, snag a ticket on Florida’s high speed passenger train and head south! Get on Brightline in Orlando and off in Miami or Fort Lauderdale. Ok, ok…are these things to do near Orlando? That might be a stretch, but depending on your schedule I highly recommend a side trip.
To quote the Golden Girls, “Miami, Miami you’ve got style blue skies sunshine white sand by the mile! There’s ball- clubs and night- clubs all with in reach, dance the samba till morning then lie on the beach. Each view is a postcard each day a great time!” Hit up a few bars off the 50 Best lists, chosen by folks whose literal jobs are to drink around the world : Cafe La Trova and Sweet Liberty. Take a stroll through the Fairchild Botanical Garden and learn more about America’s first “food spy” and his travels.
Or stay a little more low key in Fort Lauderdale with a visit to The Riverside Market or Laser Wolf for their huge craft beer selections. Check out the whimsical taxidermy and rad brews at Invasive Species Brewing before walking over to No Man’s Land for cocktails, snacks, and a “refuge from the ordinary.” Spend the day paddle boarding and then make a res to grab dinner at Heritage, it is worth it. Fort Lauderdale also has their own craft brewing Ale Trail!
Wish You Were Here…Greetings From Florida!
Whether you’re headed to the Sunshine State to drink around the world at Epcot, find fun things to do near Orlando, or simply sit on one of our many beautiful beaches, there is no shortage of alcoholic libations to be had. From Florida craft beer to world renowned cocktail bars, craft distilleries to biker bars, you can take your pick to belly up to.
Cheers to drinking around Florida and the world!
Jena is an event host & contributing writer for The Crafty Cask, as well as an award-winning bartender, cocktail educator, Cicerone Certified Beer Server, and Executive American Whiskey Steward. Based in NYC, Jena has been working in the craft alcohol world for the last 15 years with recipes appearing in Manhattan restaurant/bars & multiple publications. She is the 2019 Nikka Perfect Serve Global Runner Up and a 2020 Cognac Connection winner.