If you're heading to Orlando, Florida, this week with Citrus Bowl tickets in hand, you'll probably be scouting out what to do before or after LSU takes on the Louisville Cardinals at Camping World Stadium at 11 a.m. Saturday. (The game's on TV here at 10 a.m.)
Sure, you can always visit "the big mouse" or catch the Golden Band from Tigerland in the Florida Citrus Parade at 11 a.m. Thursday downtown. But the city and its outskirts offer so much more, from fun for the kids to cultural events.
Here are 10 suggestions:
1. A fan's gotta eat
If you want to know the best places to grab some grub, ask a local. Our 30-something Orlando connection calls Teak Neighborhood Grill "our place." She says Teak is a popular spot for award-winning burgers and craft beers and has a huge patio to watch the game. As for downtown's big night scene, try Finnhenry's or Wall St. Cantina. For a more upscale evening, hit Park Avenue in Winter Park, she says. "Nice restaurants and bars. And then there's International Drive. It's a touristy area, but can be a lot of fun … miniature golf, Dave & Busters and a really cool, upscale bowling alley."
2. M-I-C-K-E-Y ... Walt Disney World Resort
At Disney's Epcot, immerse yourself in "Holidays Around the World" through Saturday. There, you'll find storytellers, a daily character tree-lighting ceremony and a twinkling display of snow-white lights. The candlelight processional includes celebrity guest narrators accompanied by a choir and orchestra for a retelling of the Christmas story. Admission is included in regular park ticket price.
3. "Rudolph, how do you do?"
SeaWorld's Christmas Celebration added a meet-and-greet this year, so bring the kids for an up-close look at the Red-Nosed Reindeer and his friends. Check out the park's festive decorations, snowfalls at The Waterfront and live holiday music from classical musicians and carolers. Admission is included with the regular ticket.
4. Take a tour
Bok Tower Gardens, a National Historic Landmark in nearby Lake Wales, is offering Holiday Home Tours through Jan. 8. The garden's 20-room, Mediterranean-style mansion, Pinewood Estate, is a glittering showcase, thanks to the central Florida designers who transformed the 1930s winter retreat, using the theme “I’ll Be Home For Christmas!” Admission is $20, adults; $9, children ages 5-12.
5. Everybody loves a parade …
Especially if it's a version of the famous Macy's Parade. At Universal Studios through Sunday, the holiday march features some of the most popular balloons and floats from the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City. There's also a festive tree-lighting ceremony by Santa Claus each day. Admission is included with the park ticket.
6. Now on stage: the Grinch
Grinchmas at Universal’s Islands of Adventure also runs through Sunday and is based on the beloved Dr. Seuss tale and Universal Pictures’ and Imagine Entertainment’s movie “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” Seuss Landing at Islands of Adventure is colorfully decorated for the season. Guests can take in a live, musical stage show and meet the Grinch in his lair, complete with authentic movie props and gadgets. Celebration included in the regular park admission.
7. A leg up on the decorations
Legoland hosts its Christmas Bricktacular through Friday. See a 30-foot-tall Christmas tree made of thousands of Lego and Duplo bricks, festive decorations, a life-size Lego Santa, reindeer and sleigh. There are also holiday-themed scavenger hunts with prizes and opportunities to build with Legos alongside the master model builders. Meet Lego Santa and Toy Soldier and end the evening with a fireworks show set to classic Christmas melodies.
8. Ringing it in Orlando style
After the game, take a breather and then head out to usher in 2017. The party's on at Universal CityWalk, with live performances by national acts, a gourmet buffet, a Champagne toast and live entertainment at its nightclubs. Over at Disney's Epcot, celebrate the New Year "around the world" with DJs and evening dance parties, a special presentation of the "Illuminations: Reflections of Earth" lights, lasers and fireworks display. Disney’s Hollywood Studios offers multiple presentations of "Fantasmic!" a spectacular of Disney movies and music, along with its "Lights! Camera! Happy New Year!" fireworks spectacular and a DJ dance party. Magic Kingdom will have special presentations of the Main Street Electrical Parade and multiple nighttime fireworks displays. Theme park events are included in the regular park admission. At Legoland's kids party, the fireworks over Lake Eloise explode into millions of tiny Lego bricks with special viewing glasses. Admission is included in regular park admission.
9. Soaking in some culture
It's a mix of traditional and modern when it comes to the Orlando arts scene. Our top three artsy spots? The Orlando Museum of Art, the Cornell Fine Arts Museum and the Orlando Science Center. Four current exhibits at the OMA are "The Conversation Continues: Highlights from the James Cottrell and Joseph Lovett Collection," "J. Hyde Crawford and Anthony Tortora Collection," "People and Places" and "Who We are Now: Selections from the Dr. Robert B. Feldman Collection of Contemporary Art."
10. Game day partying
On Saturday, the official bowl pre-game tailgate party starts at 8 a.m. at Tinker Field next to Camping World Stadium. Look for interactive games, inflatables, face painters and the Buffalo Wild Wings Blazin’ Challenge. Food and beverages will be for sale. The event is free with your game ticket.