Enjoying Orlando Outside of the Theme Parks: An Artist’s Perspective

Every year my husband hosts a meeting in Orlando, Florida. Usually this meeting takes place before the American Craft Fair show in Baltimore and for many years, it was at the Disney Yacht Club Resort. I always went, but was stressed by all I had to do back homefor the show. Fortunately, that was not the case this year! His meeting happened to be scheduled the week after my show and was at the Loew’s Portofino Hotel at Universal, so I happily headed back down to Florida again for some time to unwind.

I know—most people don’t think of Orlando as a place for relaxation and rest. They typically think of high-speed roller coasters, adrenaline-inducing rides, and entertaining experiences. But all that stuff is not for me. I’m not a fan of theme parks so I didn’t go, and I still had an incredible time. Here’s a rundown of what I enjoyed.

Staying at Lowes Portofino Bay Hotel

Even though the theme parks were not on my to-do list, we stayed in one of the Universal hotels. The good news, for me, is that it felt more like I had been transported to a city in an Italy—it was absolutely lovely. The hotel itself felt like a self-contained resort with cobblestone “streets,” Italian cypress trees, and man-made lakes with gondolas drifting by. Even the hotel pool was a sight to see—it was beach themed with an actual sandy beach area and wine bar.

Walking in the sunshine

To my surprise there was also a ton of walking trails right at the resort. The walks through nature might have been one of the most enjoyable aspects of the entire trip. I saw so many interesting patterns and textures that I can use for my handmade jewelry designs—it was truly inspiring.

This shadow pattern reminded me of my reversible hinged bracelet:

The weather was also gorgeous—low 60’s most days and breezy. It was the perfect temperature to walk for miles and miles.

Visiting with family and friends

While I was in town I got to meet up with my roommate from college, which was really great.

On a more bittersweet note, I also got to see my 95-year-old aunt, whose health was deteriorating, for what turned out to be the last time (she passed away four weeks later). To me, this was the most important part of my visit to Orlando, and it was really special getting to spend some time with her. I felt like I got to say my goodbyes, and was able to re-connect with my family’s past. In her house I found this Australian seed pod that my dad carved—looks like my family has been using nature to create art for generations.

Dinning out

We also had a really good dinner at Emeril’s restaurant in Orlando. Located on Universal’s CityWalk, it was refreshing to indulge in Emeril’s fresh culinary cuisine amidst the endless selection of fast and fried food restaurants on the city walk. Also, to my surprise, the food at the Portifino was also outstanding.

Overall, this trip was just what I needed to decompress after the jewelry trade shows I attended this winter. And it goes to show, you don’t need to visit the theme parks to enjoy what Orlando has to offer. 

Lori Gottlieb