Houlihan’s chefs unite diners with mouth-seeking meals culled from a menu of inventive recipes produced with local and all-natural ingredients and flanked by expertly crafted cocktails. Savory lunches arrive tableside in 15 minutes or less, swiftly occupying chompers with midday delicacies such as So-Cal fish tacos with tilapia, chipotle mayo, honey-cumin dressing, and pico de gallo ($8.95–$10.95). Dinner announces its approach with sophisticated cocktail heralds including wines, martinis, and specialty mojitos in flavors such as guava, raspberry, pomegranate, and snozzberry ($6.75–$7.75). Garlic-herb cream cheese nuzzles into the center of savory chicken breasts served over gold mashed potatoes and the vegetable of the day ($15.95–$18.95), and wild mushrooms romp through a blend of cheeses within corn tortillas blanketed by smoky mozzarella sauce in the wild mushroom enchiladas ($13.95–$15.95). Crisp calamari crowns napa cabbage and banana in the University Boulevard location's popular calamari salad ($14.95), with an aromatic banana-ginger vinaigrette that's also sold in incense form.
Kissimmee's prime location near the Walt Disney World Resort and Universal Studios makes it a popular home base for park hoppers. For a brief escape from the amusement-park hustle and bustle, the shops along downtown Orlando's Ivanhoe Row are filled with antiques and unusual finds, such as kitschy vintage clothing and Mickey Mouse's childhood report cards. Closer to the hotel, shoppers can stroll down the clean streets of Celebration, Florida, a Pleasantville-esque community designed by the folks at Disney. Pastel-hued specialty shops along tree-lined boulevards hawk home goods, clothing, candy, and jewelry. Fewer than 2 miles from the resort's doorstep, the Walt Disney World Resort's four theme parks and two water parks draw visitors from around the world. Disney's Hollywood Studios recreates the magic of Tinsel Town with décor influenced by the 1930s-era silver screen. Housed in a reproduction of Grauman's Chinese Theater, The Great Movie Ride journeys through legendary moments in cinematic history, including scenes from The Wizard of Oz, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Singin' in the Rain. At the 300-acre Epcot park, the World Showcase presents the culture, architecture, and cuisine of 11 countries.
Orlando, located in the center of Florida, is known for its near-perfect sunny weather and reputation as the center of all things Disney. Theme parks, rides, and restaurants sit a short shuttle ride away from the hotel, and just steps from its door, Downtown Disney's pedestrian-only streets proffer themed eateries, live performers, unique souvenir stores, and a space for mermaids to learn to walk on human legs. Outside of the park, there's plenty of outdoor activities to satisfy adventurers: kayaking day trips on Lake Buena Vista and Lake Bryan, golfing at any of the courses in the area, or discovering South Florida's exotic flora and fauna at nearby sanctuaries and alligator parks.
What began in 1990 as the gymnastics and dance company of competitive athlete and Broadway dancer Christopher Harrison has evolved into something of a worldwide phenomenon. AntiGravity Orlando's staff members are some of the same athletes and acrobats who soar over audiences with the AntiGravity theater group, and who appear in high-profile celebrity musical acts and Hollywood productions. Current director Daniel Stover's work, for example, was featured in the 2012 movie Step Up Revolution, for which he choreographed a scene in which AntiGravity Orlando dancer-athletes vertically scale a wall using bungee cords.
These performers practice and share their knowledge of the aerial arts in an impressive facility, which boasts equipment that is the stuff of sports performers' dreams. It includes a wall-running track suspended 40 feet in midair, which allows athletes to scale the walls, do flips, and easily dust away ceiling cobwebs. The trampoline staircase puts extra pep in climbers' steps, as do custom-enhanced AntiGravity boots that act as jumping stilts and gravity-defying silk hammocks, specialty harnesses, and an aerial cube. In the dance and gymnastics studio, students bounce on competition-style mats and flooring, whereas an outdoor conditioning field helps boot campers get fit, and a pole-dance fitness studio invites people to strut their sultry stuff.
A self-described “gastrolounge,” Hammerheads Beer & Wine Bar serves up creative, satisfying pub dishes alongside craft beers and frozen cocktails. Its dishes add a subtle, upscale twist to pub mainstays: croissant sliders are filled with bourbon pulled pork, and corn dog balls are wrapped in applewood-smoked bacon before meeting their fate in the deep fryer. Boneless chicken wings and their cousins, tempura-battered chicken nuggets, are carried to tables atop beds of savory waffle fries or sweet potato fries.
Alternating red and yellow walls create a cheery atmosphere, as does the collection of framed paintings and pictures scattered throughout the pub. Regular karaoke nights challenge patrons to lock vocal cords with their buddies and demonstrate their crowd-pleasing prowess by making up choreography to accompany each song. Hammerheads also offers a variety of entertainment options each week, including movie nights and live music.
As one out of six children from a family of modest income, a 13-year-old Alfred Mann entered the cooking and hospitality industry out of necessity. Luck finally struck him when, throughout the 1990s, he met face-to-face with John Smoltz, Tyra Banks, and the Orlando Magic basketball team, all in his capacity as a chef. Since then, he's continued to hone his art while cooking for a range of celebrity actors, athletes, and visiting dignitaries as the head of Elite Catering & Events. Chef Mann and his team draw on experience working with culinarians including Emeril Lagasse to perform catering and personal-chef services, letting customers revel in at-home feasts or flaunt the strength of papier-mâché banquet tables. In addition to crafting gourmet fare for large and small events, staff members pass on their culinary legacy through cooking classes and assuage clients' tension with home spa services such as chef nights, massages, and aromatherapy.