By Vince Font
Most people taking spring break vacations and summer vacations to Orlando aren’t aware that there’s actually more to do after the sun sets than there is in daylight. Beyond the walls of Disney World,though, is the city’s lesser-known dark side. Here are a few tips for all you night owls out there, as well as those who simply want to squeeze as much fun out of every waking hour of their Orlando vacations as possible.
After hours for grownups
If you’re in the mood for an after-hours party regardless of the occasion, whether it’s Cinco de Mayo or the Fourth of July, you’ll always find some hip action at Howl at the Moon, an Orlando night club that attracts both locals and tourists for its lively atmosphere and staple dual piano performers. Moving a little further south on International Drive, you’ll come across a place that’s rightfully known as the “coolest bar in the USA” – the ICEBAR Orlando, an exciting nightclub that has its interior carved entirely from ice. We’re talking ice glasses, ice seats and complimentary thermal capes and gloves for all customers. Both clubs are located close to Homewood Suites by Hilton, an elegant and extremely affordable hotel within walking distance of tons of dining and shopping, not to mention nightlife.
After hours for the kids
In town with the kids and aren’t hip on the nightclub idea? If you’re taking your young ones to visit Mickey and friends, swing by the Epcot theme park just before closing where you can take in the dazzling combination firework/laser/water show called IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth. Staying at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort will give you the quickest route to the closest lodgings, but your budget might be better served by hitting the Royal Plaza instead, which is near enough that you won’t have to go far to reach a comfortable bed. Just a few miles away, from June 25 through August 14, SeaWorld comes alive after dark with extended park hours that run ‘til 10 p.m., entertaining the late night throngs with everything from firework shows to combination killer whale performances and light shows. Staying at the nearby Days Inn gets you a free shuttle to and from the park, so you never have to worry about losing your rental car in the theme park’s vast parking lot.
Insider tip: If you’d rather play your nightly explorations by ear, wander to the many hot spots near the intersection of Central Boulevard and Orange Avenue, which is effectively the epicenter of the bar-hopping district.
Vince Font is a travel writer with a deep love of weird, wacky, and off-the-beaten-track vacation destinations.