Before there was the Heat, Dolphins and Marlins, there was spring training. Attracting fans and stars alike, spring training is what brought the pros to Florida before there were even any pro sports team in the state. It even hosted some of the greats including Babe Ruth, Rogers Hornsby and more. Now, with more than 130 years of MLB Spring Training under its baseball cap, Florida is still one of just two locations in the country to host the favored pastime of America during its pre season. Home to the Grapefruit League, three regions throughout Florida will host spring training Feb. 22 – Mar. 26, including Orlando, West Palm Beach/Boca Raton and Tampa.
Orlando is home field for the Atlanta Braves, whose fans boast one of the largest spring training venues around. The Champion Stadium at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex not only has a seating capacity up to 9,500, it also has a totally eye-catching design. It features a Florida Spanish Mission design with Art Deco flair and double-decked seating. There’s even four luxury boxes and two open-air suites, perfect for catching sight of the four-piece brass band that plays atop the Braves’ dugout. If this sounds like Disneyland for baseball fans, you wouldn’t be far off.
If you ever want to experience a Braves game in this stadium though, the 2019 season is your last chance to do so before the team moves in 2020 to a venue in Sarasota. Fans can score single-game tickets for as low as $15, but to really enjoy the day, the stadium offers home run options for those looking to attend in luxury. The Champion Club offers groups 10 lower-level tickets, a buffet, a reserved table and more. There’s also individual suites and six-person shaded cabanas. And since parking is free, why not splurge a little? To find the stadium from I-4 East and West, take exit 65 for Osceola Parkway West, turn left into ESPN Wide World of Sports at Victory Way and then follow the signs to baseball heaven.
While there’s plenty of dining options in the center or Orlando, travel just 20 minutes northeast to the town of Winter Park to find award-winning chefs, independent restaurants and an upscale vibe. Dig into American favorites at The Ravenous Pig or house made pastas and pizza at Prato. Orlando’s famous Restaurant Row is also home to many options. For an under-the-radar find, visit Pharmacy, a themed speakeasy with farm-to-table eats and hand-crafted drinks. Other can’t-go-wrong picks include the Japanese outlet Dragonfly Robata Grill & Sushi and Southern faves at B.B. King’s Blues Club, among others. For dining served up by celeb chefs, head to Disney Springs where names like Masaharu Morimoto, Rick Bayless, Wolfgang Puck and Art Smith all have restaurants.
The Edison in Disney Springs is an industrial gothic-vibe restaurant and lounge where its nightlife entertainment includes live music, cabaret dancers and aerialists. But not all meets the eye here; don’t miss Enzo’s Hideaway Tunnel Bar, a Prohibition-style speakeasy. Nearby Winebar George caters to vino-lovers and is home to more than 130 wines. And for movie buffs, Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar is styled after the hit Indiana Jones movies. For walkable entertainment, head to International Drive, where you’ll find dueling pianos at Howl at the Moon, a massive nightlife venue at Mango’s Tropical Cafe and a Champagne-fueled ferris wheel ride at ICON Orlando. Other popular picks can be found in Downtown Orlando like the Church Street District or Wall St. Plaza, home to seven bars, clubs and restaurants and known for throwing large block parties every weekend.
Experience the best of Broadway at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts or browse the Orlando Museum of Art, which features a rotating lineup of exhibitions. Catch the iconic Blue Man Group at Universal City Walk or keep things classic at the Orlando Shakespeare Theater. Out-of-towners can jump into an airboat for a cruise across Florida’s wetlands to catch sight of wildlife. Spirit of the Swamp Airboat Rides, Boggy Creek Airboat Adventures and Wild Florida all offer thrilling, yet different experiences.
Since Orlando is the Theme Park Capital of the World, it’s pretty obvious there’s plenty of entertaining options to choose from. Depending on age and interest, thrill-seekers can choose from four distinct theme parks at Walt Disney World, including Magic Kingdom Park, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Or, stay cool at Disney’s Blizzard Beach, Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon or Aquatica. Movie buffs can head to Universal Studios, home to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter or visit Universal’s Islands of Adventure or Volcano Bay. For youngsters, LEGOLAND is a kid’s haven, while animal-lovers can join in the action at SeaWorld or Discovery Cove. To slow things down a bit, Disney Springs is home to more than 100 retail shops, trendy dining outlets and plenty of nightlife options.