Wouldn’t it be lovely to hop on a plane with your sweetie and land in an exotic place far from the ups and downs of modern parenting? When such a getaway is out of reach, consider recreating the experience locally. We’ve uncovered five Orlando spots that will take you around the world on your next date night.
Designed to model an Italian seaside village complete with cobblestone streets and an expansive harbor piazza, the Loews Portofi no Bay Hotel (loewshotels.com/portofi no-bay-hotel) transports couples to the charm of Mediterranean Italy. Reserve a table at Mama Della’s Ristorante, where strolling musicians soulfully serenade while diners enjoy antipasto, bruschetta caprese, Mama’s veal sorrentina and tiramisu. Wander to the piazza for Musica Della Notte (Music of the Night), a nightly musical performance on one of the balconies overlooking the harbor piazza.
With its location at Disney Springs, you may expect Raglan Road (raglanroad.com) to be a kitschy, Americanized version of Ireland’s famed pubs. Prepare to be surprised. Raglan Road feels like someone plucked a watering hole from Dublin and plopped it in the midst of mouse ears and roller coasters. Adorned with dark wood and stained glass, Raglan Road serves classic Irish cuisine inspired by Master Chef Kevin Dundon, an Irish native. Expect dishes like shepherd’s pie and fish and chips for lunch and dinner as well as a full Irish breakfast with black and white pudding at the Rollicking Raglan Weekend Brunch. Toss in a few pints of Guinness, a live Irish band and award-winning Irish dancers, and you’re in for quite an Irish party.
Tucked in a plaza on International Drive, Nile Ethiopian Restaurant (nile07.com) will celebrate its 10th anniversary this years. Servers dressed in customary Ethiopian attire treat guests to a traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony lasting as long as two hours, where coffee beans are roasted at your table, ground by hand and then served in a clay pot known as a jabena. Another surprise at Nile is the lack of cutlery; you’ll be using bread to scoop up stewed and sautéed dishes such as kik alicha (split peas) and doro wat (chicken). Opt to sit at a straw table with stools instead of a traditional table. Those willing to channel their inner traveler will find this gem to be a delight.
It will feel as though you’ve just discovered a Cuban cafe hidden down a bricked Havana side street when you arrive at Cuba Libre (cubalibrerestaurant.com), a dining and night life spot at Pointe Orlando. Authentic Cuban food (including more than a dozen varieties of mojitos) dominates the menu, which is why the 15 Tastes of Cuba experience is ideal. Guests choosing this option are treated to small plate versions of the restaurant’s signature dishes, including ceviche, plantains and empanadas. After dinner, this elaborately designed locale turns into Orlando’s hottest Latin dance club with DJs and salsa dancers spinning indoors and outside on the patio.
Tucked inside the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Hotel, the Mandara Spa (mandaraspa.com) is the closest most of us will come to a Balinese getaway. Thankfully, this 12,000-square-foot ancient Asian-inspired retreat truly immerses guests in the spirit of the tiny Indonesian island that is world renowned for its healing and restorative traditions. Book the Coconut Poultice Massage, a 75-minute signature service using heated and scented coconut poultices with a blend of coconut and sweet almond oils, lotus flower milk and yogurt. After this epic pampering, sip a fresh juice or tea in the meditation garden, both spectacularly crafted with Balinese-inspired design to inspire serenity and calmness.