Special-Occasion Dining for the Holidays in Orlando

From making s'mores and gingerbread to experiencing high tea and cooking classes, when it comes to hands-on dining experiences, Orlando steps up to the plate.

Mom always said, “Don’t play with your food,” but luckily there are exceptions to every rule. From edible experiences filled with holiday cheer to hands-on, interactive eats visitors can enjoy all year long, Orlando’s epicurean offerings are attractions in and of themselves. 

Gingerbread Delights

Let your creativity fly via a crafty and delicious gingerbread house at the Gingerbread Decorating Corner presented by PEEPS, one of several attractions and experiences at this year’s ICE! at Gaylord Palms Resort. Be sure to check out the new ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas theme inside the winter wonderland, hand-carved from nearly 2 million pounds of ice. Returning again this year is the Alpine Rush Snow Tubing, an 18-foot, eight-lane giant snow hill created with 1.5 million pounds of real Florida snow.

Of course, a visit to Orlando over the holidays just wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, where a life-size gingerbread house will leave you awestruck from Nov. 19 to Jan. 1. Now a tradition in its 17th year, this 16-foot-high abode is created with 1,050 pounds of honey, 700 pounds of chocolate, 600 pounds of confectioner’s sugar, 35 pounds of spices, 800 pounds of flour, 140 pints of egg whites and 180 pounds of apricot glaze. And trust us; it smells as good as it looks.

Disney's Grand Floridian Resort in Orlando, Florida

Santa Celebrations

Featuring an all-you-care-to-eat menu of holiday favorites (including roasted turkey, honey-baked ham, cornbread stuffing and mashed potatoes) and delicious desserts, Santa’s Fireside Feast at SeaWorld Orlando gives guests the chance to dine with the big guy in red and his cheery spouse. Held at the Seafire Inn Café, this dinner-and-a-show package includes complimentary family photo as a memento of the unforgettable night. 

Santa's Fireside Feast at SeaWorld

Girl’s Lunch Out

It’s been a year since the 15,000-square-foot store American Girl store opened at Florida Mall where shoppers can now choose from thousands of American Girl dolls, clothing items and accessories. Besides a Doll Hair Salon, where little girls and their dolls get pampered, the Orlando American Girl store also features a 60-seat American Girl Bistro where guests can enjoy a meal, dessert or have tea with their doll. Reservations recommended. 

American Girl doll store and bistro in Orlando, Florida

Foodie Fun for Grown-Ups

Snag the best seat in the house at one of dozens of chef’s table experiences dotting Orlando’s culinary landscape. The seven-course, kitchen-side spread served by Chef Brandon McGlamery at Winter Park’s Luma on Park  is a party for the senses. So, too, is the five-course, local-focused feast served at Highball & Harvest inside The Ritz-Carlton Orlando. Finally, fans are raving about the chef’s table at Hamilton’s Kitchen, the Alfond Inn restaurant where Chef Marc Kusche dotes on diners as if they were in his own home.

Hands-On Desserts

You don’t need a campfire or a hot summer nigh to enjoy a delicious serving of s’mores. A handful of Orlando eateries serve them all year round. Enjoy some tableside roasting at Hamburger Mary’s, a campy and colorful diner on Church Street that’s always a hit with the kids. Across the street, adults will love the Grown-Up S’mores at Rusty Spoon where Chef Kathleen Blake takes this much-loved dessert to a whole new level. Using a pretzel and graham-cracker crust, Blake layers in a bittersweet chocolate mousse made with Kahlua and brandy and then tops with homemade marshmallow and salty caramel brittle.  

Tea Time

It’s a fete fit for a princess every Sunday year-round during the Royal Tea inside the Waldorf Astoria Orlando. Weekly from 2 pm to 4 pm, the hotel’s Peacock Alley takes on elegant airs as guests sip tea and savor tea sandwiches, scones, tarts, tea cookies and macaroons. Live piano music and glasses of champagne make the scene all the more regal.  

 Sunday tea at the Waldorf Astoria in Orlando, Florida

Adventure for Foodies

New for 2015, Walt Disney World is offering the Disney Family Culinary Adventure at Disney’s Contemporary Resort where guests get backstage access to the epicurean excitement Disney is famous for. This interactive evening aimed at guests 9 and older, includes hands-on cooking with the Disney chefs plus a festive, five-course dinner with beer and wine served in the kitchen. Cost is $175 plus tax, $125 plus tax for ages 9 to 12. To book or for more information, call 407-WDW-PLAY.