Wondering what to do in Orlando that doesn’t involve the famous mouse or long lines at theme parks? Here are some ideas.
• Sushi Pop, 310 W Mitchell Hammock Rd., Oviedo. Nestled in the corner of a strip mall in the middle of suburbia is a tasty sushi restaurant with a Japaname theme. The walls are full of colorful pop art, the décor is modern white leather seats, and the bar that shares space with the kitchen is decorated with bonsai trees that look straight out of the Karate Kid movies.
The menu is just as impressive, with an array of unique sushi rolls (our picks were Hot Mess and Drama Queen) at modest prices ($4-$15), or go for the Sashimi Moriawase, an assortment of the daily catch, some imported from Japan, with toppings and sauces, served with imported soy and fresh wasabi for sharing at $36. There is also a regular menu — steak, fish, chicken — for those who prefer more traditional fare, and the dessert selections remind us more of something from a massive suburban chain than from a small boutique restaurant. Make sure to call ahead for reservations, as the place is packed on a regular basis.
Hours: 5-10 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and Sundays; 5-11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.
• One 80 Grey Goose Lounge, 400 W. Church St. Atop the Amway Center, home of the NBA’s Orlando Magic, is a lounge that feels more South Beach than Blizzard Beach. On Friday and Saturday nights the indoor/outdoor space takes advantage of spectacular city views on the terrace and attracts a young, professional crowd who dress to impress. There’s no guest list, but there is a velvet rope to ensure you meet the dress code. Local DJs provide the beats, and the cocktails are topped by Grey Goose classics and bottle service — at Orlando prices, not South Beach prices.
Hours: 10 p.m.-2:30 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 9 p.m.-2:30 a.m. Wednesdays.
• Thornton Park, 800 E. Washington St. Located in a neighborhood of restored bungalow homes, many with wrap-around porches, is a main street with plenty of choices for dinner or bar hopping. From the popular Dexter’s to the Wildside BBQ Bar & Grill, the funky Graffiti Junction and Anthony’s Pizza Cafe on the corner, these four blocks are straight out of a ski town and perfect for strolling in the late afternoon or evenings.
• CSI: The Experience, 7220 Exhibition and Event Center on International Drive. Ready to solve a mystery? This place is part exhibit and part game of Clue. You get to inspect DNA results, blood splatter analyses, toxicology reports and forensic data. The 12,000 square foot space includes a crime scene and a crime lab.
Tickets: $19.95 for adults; $12.95 for children 5-12.
Hours: 9 a.m.-9 p.m. daily
• The Ravenous Pig, 1234 N. Orange Ave., Winter Park. When chefs around the country put this American gastropub on their must-visit list, you know it has to be good. Expect nothing but the best from James and Julie Petraki at the quaint, upscale spot, from the can’t-miss pork porterhouse or charred octopus to Saffron Maltagliati pasta and Pig Tails for dessert (warm cinnamon-sugar tossed fritters, chocolate espresso sauce). Expect to get turned away if you don’t have a reservation. The popularity of this joint is high. Tips: If you can, sit at the bar – it’s more fun and relaxed. And take advantage of the comp valet.
Hours: Dinner 5:30-9:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 5:30-10-30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; lunch 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturday.