5 Restaurants to Try on I-Drive Orlando

Restaurants International Drive Orlando

Whether you are visiting Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando or Sea World, you can find lots of different and really, really good restaurants along I-Drive in Orlando to end your day with a great meal. Everyone should visit I-Drive at least once when they are in Orlando because after all, there’s more to Orlando than theme parks!

Restaurants I Drive Orlando
Photo Credit: InternationalDriveOrlando.com

International Drive, commonly known as I-Drive, is a major 11.1-mile roadway in Orlando, and is the city’s main tourist strip. The International Drive area is home to the Orange County Convention Center complex, the Pointe Orlando entertainment complex, major hotels, SeaWorld Orlando, Aquatica (Sea World’s water park), Fun Spot America amusement park, the Orlando Eye Ferris wheel, the I-Drive 360 entertainment complex, museums, themed restaurants, bars, outlet malls, mini golf courses like Pirate’s Cove Adventure Golf and other tourism-related properties and tourist attractions such as Air Florida Helicopter Inc, Wonder Works and The Magical Midway. The I-Ride trolley system provides bus transportation along the I-Drive district primarily for tourists and convention attendees. 

Cafe Tu Tu Tango

Located at 8625 International Drive, this spot has a great atmosphere that has artists paint as you eat. It’s a really funky tapas spot with live entertainment plus a patio and a bar. The cafe offers brunch on both Saturday and Sunday with bottomless bloody marys and mimosas. Monday thru Friday, 3:30 to 6:30 you can enjoy 2 for 1 drink specials. Cafe Tu Tu Tango offers an entirely small-plate menu that is extensive, eclectic and diverse with everything being prepared from scratch.

Brick House Tavern + Tap

Located at 8440 International Drive, offers Friday, Saturday and Sunday steak nights and offers brunch on Sunday. Brick House also hosts “Happiness Hour” Monday thru Friday with a dedicated drink and snack menu. Daily and seasonal specials make the Brick House Tavern & Tap a fun spot to visit more than once since the menu will be slightly different with each visit.

Copper Canyon Grill

Located at 9101 International Drive in Pointe Orlando, Copper Canyon Grill offers patio seating, private dining room and a chef’s table. It’s a perfect location for lunch or a glass of wine. You can expect an energetic atmosphere and welcoming staff. The menu features a selection of freshly prepared items daily. Copper Canyon has happy hour daily from 3 to 7 p.m. with a nice selection of appetizers and drinks. The restaurant also has a dedicated gluten free menu.

Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House

Located at 9150 International Drive the restaurant offers two floors, two state-of-the-art bars, four private dining rooms and a picturesque patio. It’s the perrfect place to relax and celebrate. Featuring a diverse wine list of more than 1,200 labels, diners are sure to find their inner Sommelier while they dine. Del Frisco’s offers one of the best happy hours daily from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., except Wednesday when they’ll keep you happy from 4 p.m. until closing! Dinner is served Monday through Friday starting at 5 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday starting at 4 p.m. They also offer a dedicated bar menu with some great choices!

The Oceanaire Seafood Room

Located at 9101 International Drive, The Oceanaire Seafood Room offers fresh seafood and an outstanding happy hour and bar menu. Only fish from the world’s most reputable suppliers is served, and each dish is carefully crafted to ensure the restaurant’s high standards of quality and flavor are exceeded. The menu is based on market availability, therefore selections change each day. Happy hour is every day from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.; Monday through Thursday it starts up again at 9 p.m. to close in the bar only and on Sunday 8 p.m. to close.

Do you have a favorite I-Drive restaurant?




10 Tips for Saving Money on a Trip to Universal

Money Saving Tips Universal

If you are looking for tips on saving money on your next Universal Park trip, you have come to the right place. Universal can be expensive, but it really doesn’t have to be too bad if you do your trip right.

For those of you looking for tips on saving, here are 10 ideas for saving money on a Universal trip:

  1. Buy your tickets online, in advance. If you are planning to go for multiple days, you definitely want to buy your tickets in advance and online. Online ticket sales will save you $20 over gate price for a multi-day pass. Bonus: You don’t have to stand in those long gate lines. Your tickets can be printed out at home and you get to walk right past all of those people waiting to buy.
  2. Stay at a partnering hotel. There are quite a few hotels that partner with Universal that offer discounts to people that are staying in their hotels and visiting the parks. From food discounts to shuttle services, you will find a way to save.
  3. Check your memberships. Do you have any memberships such as AAA, AARP, or Costco?  Double check through your membership package (or call to ask) and see if you are able to buy discounted tickets through them.  
  4. Buy a vacation package. If you are making a full trip of it, why not look into vacation packages?  Occasionally, you might find free tickets thrown in with a hotel stay or possibly a free dining plan during your stay. There are quite a few benefits to booking a vacation package and amusement park vacations are no exception to that.
  5. Plan your trip in September or November. These are typically the slowest months at Universal parks so you will find better ticket rates and far fewer people, which is savings enough for some people.
  6. Drive there. If you live close enough, consider driving to Universal parks as opposed to flying.  Flights often make up for 40% or more of a vacation budget.  If you can swap that out for the cost of gas, you will probably save a lot of money.
  7. Rent a hotel with a kitchen. Plan to cook your own meals and you will save a fortune.  Just because you are on vacation, doesn’t mean you need to be having 5 star dining the entire time.  Make sure you have a fridge and at least a small area to prepare meals.
  8. Study restaurant menus in advance. Check out a list of the restaurants in the park (or nearby) and go online to check out their prices and menus before you leave on your vacation. Doing this will prevent you from walking into a restaurant that is out of your budget.
  9. Purchase souvenirs ahead of time. This is true for just about any big park that you visit.  Souvenirs are expensive when you buy them inside of those gates. If you know that you or your kids are going to want souvenirs from your trip, buy them ahead of time and from a big retailer such as Amazon, etc. You will spend about ⅕ of the price by doing it this way.
  10. Plan a budget and stick to it. You need to be sure to have a budget in place for your trip, or it will be very easy to overspend.  Make sure to plan out what you are comfortable spending and either be very diligent in your spending on your debit/credit cards or bring the exact amount in cash (but be careful!).



Next Time You’re in Orlando – Take a Florida Brewery Tour

Brewery Tour OrlandoI don’t know about you but I know I’m always looking for something to do in Florida that doesn’t have me heading to a theme park. Something the adults can do together without the kids. Something to do with a group of friends – or even a date with my honey! There really is more to Orlando than theme parks!

What could be more fun than a brewery tour!!

Beginning August 3, 2017 there’s a fun, new way to experience Central Florida’s breweries – Hop On! Central Florida Brewery ToursThe bus tour will take you to breweries located in the downtown Orlando area. There are future plans in the works to include locations throughout Sanford, Winter Garden, and other areas.

You can be a part of Central Florida’s rapidly growing craft beer scene and sample some of the finest brews the Sunshine State has to offer! Choose an experience, sit back and enjoy personalized guided tours with local podcast celebrities, games, music, trivia and of course…beer!

The 12 to 14 passenger bus will collect you at the Broken Cauldron Taproom on W. Church St. and have you visit nearby breweries on a four-hour excursion. During the ride, you will enjoy trivia and live-streamed sports games, while the tour guides discuss each brewery’s history. Before arriving at each stop, your guide will tell all about what’s on tap. At each location you will be able to sample the offered brews for approximately 45 minutes. Tickets start around $35 for a four-hour tour.

Photo Credit: Hop On Tours

Here are a few of the other packages Hop On will offer:

Growler Tour: Enjoy a beer flight at each location along with trivia. $55 per person.

What Ales Ya Signature Tour: Local podcast celebrity Brian Quain of the What Ales Ya podcast will lead tour-goers through five Orlando-area breweries. It includes a special glass, tastings and a chance to meet the breweries’ owner or brewmaster. $85 per person.

Orlando City Ticket and Pregame Package: This pre-game tour will take participants on the Growler Tour — and to see Orlando City soccer play. $99 per person.




Taking a Large Group to Orlando on a Budget

My family loves to visit Orlando. During the year one or more of us visit at different times. Once a year I take on the task of planning a trip for the entire family to enjoy together. Four generations head to Orlando early each June for 8 days of family fun and togetherness. There is no doubt that Orlando can be an expensive destination. Over the years I have found ways to save on our yearly trips so that everyone can have the experience they want.

Large Group Trip Orlando Budget
Orlando-Train-Station Photo Credit: WBEEM via Flickr

Orlando is best known for Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando, but there’s so much more to the area. Vacationing in Orlando with 8, 10 or 12 people on a budget can be pretty easy with the right mind-set. As soon as I realized that hotels just won’t work, especially a Walt Disney World or Universal resort, my planning became so much easier. Having space for a large group can get expensive when you think about needing 2, 3 or 4 rooms to accommodate everyone in a hotel or resort.

Vacation Home Rental

Once I realized that renting at least 3 or 4 hotel rooms could easily explode my budget, I began looking at vacation home rentals in Orlando. Fortunately I found one that my family loves and we have now used many times.

The positive side of renting a vacation home is cost. Even the cheapest hotel room times four rooms can easily cost $500 or more per night. Times 7 nights, well, that’s lots of money. We can rent an entire home that sleeps up to 16 for much less. Each member of the family also has their own space with private areas so there is never a feeling of crowding each other. The home my family really loves, and has used many times, is Characters Corner Vacation Home. I will admit I was a little concerned going into our trip this year since we have added a new baby. Bringing a 5 month old along was definitely something I haven’t done in a long time. My mom, at 85, is also having a much harder time getting around. The home is set up so well and provides everything a family needs (2 cribs, high chair, ground floor bedrooms with bathrooms) that I was worried for nothing! Six bedrooms and two convertible sofa beds, 4 bathrooms, a movie theater and a pool/kiddie pool/hot tub! What more can a family want! Everything you need is in the home to make your family feel comfortable, relaxed and ready to have a great vacation. All dishes, linens, washer/dryer, Wi-Fi, pool towels, etc., are provided and the home is wheel chair accessible.

My new grandson was also able to experience his first pool time without worry that he would get splashed or afraid in a large resort pool with many other people around.

Cleanliness and customer satisfaction are the top priorities for the owners and there is a property manager nearby, just a phone call away in case of a problem. 

Location – Location – Location!

Location is an important factor for us. Characters Corner Vacation Home is ideal. The home is a short 10 minute drive onto Walt Disney World property (2.5 miles away) and a 15 minute drive to Universal Orlando, Sea World and all the restaurants, shopping and attractions on the heart of International Drive (I-Drive).  Multiple large name grocery stores are within a few minutes drive, as well as many restaurants, shops and attractions.

The home is located in a private, gated community so is a very safe and secure spot for a family.

Dining Out vs. Eating In

No one really wants to go on vacation and cook. When a large group also means a large cost to eat out, cooking easy meals is necessary for the budget. When we first arrive at the rental home, one of the first things I do is head to the grocery store. Not only do I buy a few easy fix meals for the week, I buy breakfast for each day as well as bottled water and snacks to take with us on our trips to local attractions. You’ll be surprised how much you can save by eating breakfast at the house and taking along your own snacks and water! Some evenings we may return to the house before dinner. There is a gas grill provided for easy meals like hamburgers and hot dogs. There are also several local restaurants that will deliver to the community. Pizza and a movie in the theater are a great way to spend a relaxing evening together!

Discount Attraction Tickets

Each member of my family likes to do something different. My granddaughter only wants to go to Walt Disney World. My daughter-in-law and son love Universal. I like Sea World. My daughter likes it all! Even though we travel together I am a firm believer in everyone getting to do what they like. Sometimes it’s necessary to split up and go our separate ways. We have a family meeting each year and everyone gets to say what they want to do and where they want to go. I then use discount sites to purchase the tickets and passes based on the list of things each family member wants to do. If only 2 want to visit Universal, I purchase tickets for those 2 only for one day. If all want to go to Walt Disney World, I purchase park passes for everyone making sure to not purchase tickets for every day of our trip. I try to build in days to see other things or to relax around the pool. My favorite site for saving on park and attraction passes is Undercover Tourist.

Free is Always Good on the Budget

There is so much more to Orlando than theme parks! There are many free and super cheap things to do in the area.

Disney Springs  is a great way to get a Disney experience without the cost of the theme parks. With shopping, dining, and diverse entertainment, you’ll be able to spend an entire day here. You can even pack a lunch, find a shady spot and enjoy a family picnic!

 Clearwater Beach Morse Museum of American Art offers free admission for children under 12, as well as free admission for everyone on Fridays from 4PM til 8PM (November through April). Morse Museum is technically in Winter Park but is less than 20 minutes from downtown Orlando.

Also located in Winter Park, the Albin Polask Museum and Sculpture Garden is home to exquisite art and serene sculpture gardens. Admission for children under 12 is free, admission for adults is $5.

A one-of-a-kind Holocaust Memorial has both permanent and traveling exhibits to communicate the history of the Holocaust. Admission is free.

For the adults in the group, Orlando Brewing Company offers free tours. Call ahead to find out hours and other information.

Several companies offer air boat rides, alligator tours, and more. While the prices aren’t too high, it could get expensive with a large family so be sure everyone wants to go before purchasing tickets.

What are your best tips when visiting Orlando with a group?




Dates & Menus Announced for 8th Annual WDW Swan and Dolphin Food & Wine Classic

WDW Swan Dolphin Food Wine Classic

Without a doubt, one of the events in Orlando that I look forward to each year. The two day event is full of music, fun and great food! Each of the restaurants located on the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin property showcase their best and each sampling leaves you wishing for a full sized portion, and makes you want to visit the restaurant as soon as you can.

I always like to use this event as an opportunity to meet up with old friends, sip a few cocktails, enjoy delicious treats and listen to great music. It’s an event that everyone should experience at least once. I know that once you go – you’ll want to be sure to be there every year!

The Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Food & Wine Classic will return for its eighth year Friday, October 27, and Saturday, October 28, with exciting new dishes debuting alongside returning festival favorites. Fans can now visit www.SwanDolphinFoodandWineClassic.com to view the 2017 food menu as well as book overnight packages and purchase tickets.

Highlights of the 2017 menu include featured items from the hotel’s signature restaurants: Kobe beef mini burgers with truffle aioli, Applewood smoked bacon and roma tomato chutney from The Fountain; seared Yellowfin Tuna salad from Todd English’s bluezoo; ricotta gnocchi with wild mushrooms, baby spinach and fennel sausage from Il Mulino Trattoria and oven-roasted beef ribeye with mashed potatoes and sauce bordelaise from Shula’s Steakhouse. Returning dishes include the popular dragon sushi roll from Kimonos and fish ‘n’ chips with sea salt and vinegar potato chips from Garden Grove.

Also returning this year will be Carnival Corner and Chinatown, offering specialty cuisine in immersive themed areas, as well as the Sunday Bubbles Brunch on Sunday, Oct. 29. Original dessert offerings will once again be served by World Champion Pastry Chef Laurent Branlard. For a full list of current menu offerings, please visit www.swandolphinfoodandwineclassic.com

The Swan and Dolphin Food & Wine Classic offers guests unlimited tastings at more than 50 stations featuring culinary selections from the hotel’s award-winning restaurants and wine from more than 30 wineries amidst a festive backdrop of live entertainment on the hotel’s scenic causeway. Upgraded ticket options allow guests to enjoy access to a beer garden featuring a wide selection of craft beers and Oktoberfest-inspired cuisine. The event also includes hands-on seminars with the hotel’s chefs and certified beverage experts.

Overnight and multiple-night package options are available for the eighth-annual Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Food & Wine Classic and can be booked by phone at 1-888-828-8850:

  • One-night packages start at $424, and include room accommodations and two tickets to the outdoor festival (seminar tickets and beer garden tickets may be added for an additional fee)
  • Two-night packages start at $824, and include room accommodations and two tickets to the outdoor festival for both nights (seminar tickets and beer garden tickets may be added for an additional fee)

Individual ticket options are also available for the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Food & Wine Classic and can be purchased at www.SwanDolphinFoodandWineClassic.com (pricing is inclusive of tax and service fees):

  • Advance-purchase, event-only tickets to enjoy unlimited tastings on the causeway are $115 per person
  • Upgraded tickets, including unlimited tastings on the causeway and access to the beer garden, are $140 per person

With 17 restaurants and lounges, and a distinguished culinary and beverage team, the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Hotel continually earns national recognition for its food and beverage program. The hotel features more than 70 certified wine sommeliers and 1,400 wine selections.

For the latest information about the event, guests can visit www.SwanDolphinFoodandWineClassic.com, like www.facebook.com/swananddolphin or call 1-800-227-1500.

About the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort

In the heart of the Walt Disney World Resort, the award-winning Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort resides amongst the greatest theme parks and attractions in Central Florida. The resort is located between Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and nearby Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park and Magic Kingdom Park. Guests can discover 17 world-class restaurants and lounges, sophisticated guest rooms with Westin Heavenly Beds and the luxurious Mandara Spa. The resort features five pools, two health clubs, tennis, nearby golf, complimentary transportation throughout theWalt  Disney World Resort, the extended park hours benefit, where each day, one of the four Walt Disney World Theme Parks is open extra time for guests to enjoy select attractions (Valid Theme Park admission and Resort ID required) and Disney FastPass+ service, where guests can reserve up to 3 select theme park experiences up to 60 days in advance of their visit. The resort can be reached at 800-227-1500, www.swandolphin.com or through Facebook at www.facebook.com/swananddolphin.