Orlando may shift into lower-season mode come September as kids head back to school, but that doesn’t mean there’s any less to do. In fact, as the parks enjoy a bit of a respite from peak summer crowds, the city enjoys a similar respite from peak summer weather. Daily highs begin to abate. Outdoor activities beckon, festivals begin to populate the events calendars. In short, there’s tons to do. Here are a few suggestions:
From the Abbey to the Bob Carr Performing Arts Centre to the CityArts Factory, downtown Orlando is awash in everything from fine arts exhibits to symphonies and more. Comedian Kevin James is on deck for a one-night-only appearance at Bob Carr on Oct. 5, while the Abbey’s Monday Night Cabaret series gives music lovers something to look forward to at the beginning of the work week.
Over at CityArts (where admission is FREE) there are rotating exhibits at some seven galleries and a host of evening events in addition to its monthly "Third Thursday Gallery Hop." In fact, its popular Dia de los Muertos & Monster Factory Exhibit and Block Party is coming up on Oct. 16.
More than 400 artisans from all over the country gather each year in beautiful, historic Mount Dora for its eponymous craft fair, which falls this year on Oct. 25-26. It’s perfect timing, in fact. Cooler temperatures greet the more-than-250,000 attendees who come to peruse, nosh and enjoy entertainment – many of them getting their holiday shopping done early.
Arts and crafts encompassing all mediums – painting, sculpture, jewelry, woodworking and more – abound and the many shops, restaurants, bars and historic attractions of Mount Dora serve as an equally alluring backdrop for extra-festival exploration.
Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are
“Gay Days,” an unofficial Disney event that welcomes thousands of people and their families to the parks each June is quite well known outside the Orlando bubble. Come Out with Pride (this year, Oct. 6-12), is vast, as well – but intimately local. It's a festival that not only fosters a sense of community, encouraging LGBT folks to live openly, but also reels in a ton of straight allies for its weeklong fete.
Downtown streetlights are swathed in rainbow solidarity and all kinds of events – celebrity appearances, dance parties, dinners, theatrical performances and more – are scheduled. On official Pride Day (Oct. 11) Lake Eola Park becomes something of a carnival – vendors, events, a Disney-sponsored Kids’ Zone – all of it culminating in a festive, family-friendly parade and resplendent fireworks.
Wild Blue Yonder
“Hang gliding is much less intimidating than you think,” says Malcolm Young, founder and owner of the Wallaby Ranch, a tandem instructor with some 30,000 incident-free flights in his record book. Since 1991, curious would-be adventurers have come to the town of Davenport (about a half-hour drive from the Walt Disney World Resort) to take to the skies and he’s been there to oblige them.
“Sight unseen it’s hard to gauge what it is,” Young explains, noting that oftentimes couples or groups come out and only one or two among them have an interest in flying. “So I’ll take a wife up, let’s say, and the husband will watch. And when she comes back elated and talking and laughing, all of a sudden he decides he wants to do it, too.”
Hang gliding is not skydiving, he notes. “It lasts longer, it’s gentle and serene, you can have a relaxed conversation while doing it.”
Gliders reach cruising altitude – about 2,000 feet – by way of aerotowing. Flights typically last 15-to-20 minutes, allowing participants to enjoy the view from about 2,000 feet up and get instruction on how to control the glider. Tandem “Discovery Flights” run $175 per person; for $60 more you can get a DVD of your flight.