April 6, 2015 | By Dan Beckmann
Written for "Where Magazine"
There’s no shortage of entertainment for travelers and families coming to Central Florida for work or vacation. What you may find surprising, though, is the growing list of interesting activities couples can do together.
The “Mad Men” mentality of yesteryear, where society dictated activities based upon on the type of chromosome one carried, no longer applies. Sure, there are things couples still enjoy doing separately. Few men have yet to embrace the indulgences of a good foot soak and nail buff. But couples coming to the area are not only finding more and more things to do together, they’re finding enrichment while doing them.
Truffles and Trifles in College Park has been an Orlando institution for over 30 years. What started as a cooking class, attended primarily by women, is now a sought after date-night event. “Ten percent of our customers were men that first year,” says owner and award-winning chef, Marci Arthur. “Today it’s about half.” And there’s more than just food getting hot. Over the years, 24 couples have gotten married after meeting in Marci’s kitchen. Today, all of them are still together … heating it up at home. Near Disney in Celebration, U Can Cook offers classes for both children and adults. At Downtown Disney, Portobello’s chef Tony Mantuano teaches couples how to cook classic Italian dishes. That’s amore!
More and more families and couples are golfing together, and Orlando offers so many family-friendly courses, from Disney's 9-hole Oak Trail Golf Course to golf schools like the Brad Brewer Academy at the Rosen Shingle Creek.
Skydiving used to require a perfectly good plane and a testosterone-driven and death-defying leap through the clouds. Now, everyone can experience that thrill—indoors—just a few feet off International Drive, where I-Fly Indoor Skydiving creates true free-fall conditions. “We have couples and families of all ages flying with us every day,” says Nick Romeo, National Sales Director of Tour and Travel at I-Fly. “Moms and dads aren’t just watching their kids, they’re keeping up with them.” Couples and families aside, businesses big and small are jumping in, as meeting planners book flights for team-building exercises. “The office staff is becoming more adventurous.” Says Romeo. “Women kick off their heels for sneakers. Men take off their jackets and put on casual shirts. Everyone gets a jumpsuit, and we get them airborne.”
For those seeking greater heights, The Orlando Eye, a 400-foot observation wheel also located on International Drive, offers breathtaking views of Central Florida from a birds-eye perspective. A variety of experiences and packages are offered for families, convention goers, corporate events, private parties and couples. Service animals are permitted, wheelchairs are allowed and for each paying disabled guest, a caregiver can be brought along free of charge. But one of the most talked about packages being offered is the VIP Experience: a 30-minute romantic sunset flight with champagne and a personal host. The gentle journey, inside fully enclosed air-conditioned capsules, takes you far above the busyness below, delivering spectacular sights in all directions.
For couples searching for unique experiences in Winter Park, The Orlando Shakespeare Theater’s Opening Night Party delivers. With the opening of each new show, the audience gets to dialog with the director, costume designer and other staff. It’s a half hour, very relaxed Q&A session allowing the audience behind the scenes insights of the show. “The perception that only women drive our ticket sales is not true,” says Melissa Braillard, the theater’s director of marketing and communications. “We’re seeing more and more couples every day. Our first Opening Night Party three years ago … only 25 people showed up. Mostly women. This past January, when we opened 'To Kill a Mockingbird,' we had over 150 at the party. Most were couples.” The Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, Cirque du Soleil and Blue Man Group are other fun theater options for couples.
Central Florida continues to blend cultural lines with a variety of options: from zip lining over alligators at Gatorland to tastings at Quantum Leap Winery downtown. And for those who love the outdoors, there are manatee tours in Sanford, hot air balloon adventures over Celebration, horseback riding in Ocala and kayaking at Kissimmee’s Paddling Center on Shingle Creek. All of which are seeing a wider cross section of couples having fun together.
Oh, and about that mani-pedi. Go with your significant other and exfoliate your cares away. Your arches and cuticles will thank you.