By Susan and Simon Veness
Let’s face it: you have to eat. Can we also agree that 2 full-on weeks in the theme parks can be stimulus overload, especially with children, and it’s nice to have a few relaxing days during your holiday? Given those facts, we’re all in favour of saving wherever possible, and the Eat and Play Card helps you do just that.
If the kids are clamouring for McDonalds, it’s on the card. Long-time Brit favourites Sizzler, Shoney’s and Ponderosa are included, as are the fun Outta Control Magic Show dinner show, Pizza Hut, and the George and Dragon when you need a taste of home. Absolutely ravenous? Hash House A Go Go has got you covered. For convenience after a day in the parks, there are three locations at CityWalk and one at Downtown Disney. You can even get a decent curry.
Let’s take a look at a few of the restaurants included in the Eat and Play card that you may be less familiar with, though they’re well-known locations to the locals:
Big Fin Seafood Kitchen on Sand Lake Road. We’ll admit it: we’re biased. Orlando has so many excellent seafood places you’re really spoilt for choice. But our choice tends to go to Big Fin, partly for their excellent selection and partly for their reasonable pricing.Fancy a 1 ½ pound steamed whole Maine lobster for under $18? It’s the Monday special at Big Fin.
When you enter the restaurant the first thing you see is the cold case with fresh oysters, crab claws, and crab legs on ice. The main dining room is spacious and open, but if you visit for lunch or on a pleasant evening, the outdoor West Side Patio is ideal. Seafood is their speciality, but meat lovers will find plenty to satisfy them, and there is even a gluten-free menu. Lighter appetites have a good selection of sushi, and children have their own menu, with younger palates in mind.
Denny’s. Breakfast, anyone? We give Denny’s a big thumbs-up when it comes to a hearty, filling breakfast that won’t break the budget. Eggs every way imaginable (some you probably never thought of) paired up with breakfast meats, toast, and oh-so-yummy hash browns. But you can also get fruit, oatmeal, biscuits and gravy, waffles and pancakes. Lighter appetites have a wide selection on the Fit Fare menu, but, if you really want to go all-out, steak is on the breakfast menu, too. Go on…you know you want to try it just to say you did!
Denny’s serves up American diner fare all day long, and makes a great choice when you’re tired and ragged after a long day in the parks. The service is friendly and the menu is extensive, with everything from burgers to pasta to chicken, pot roast, steaks and fish. Plus, kids and seniors have their own smaller-portions menu. Another big bonus? Denny’s is open 24/7.
Santa Fe Cattle Co. Americans do love their beef (apart from a few earthy-crunchy states, like California), and the Santa Fe Cattle Company is a rustic steakhouse with a South-Western flair. Along with succulent steaks, one of the big draws is the tin bucket of peanuts on each table, just to keep you happy while you peruse the menu. There is nothing stuffy or pretentious here, just a family-friendly atmosphere and a selection designed to please.
While steaks are the main focus, the menu also includes fish, chicken, South-West platters, fajitas, soups, and salads, and some of the tastiest ribs you’ll find at such a reasonable price. Start your meal with the Texas Toothpicks, an impressive assemblage of fried oniony goodness, big enough to share, and don’t miss the yeast rolls with honey butter. The Santa Fe Cattle Co is located on Apopka Vineland Rd. in Lake Buena Vista.
TGI Friday’s. Another big hit in the family-friendly line-up, with an extensive menu and wallet-pleasing prices.
Café TuTu Tango on International Drive. Modelled after the tapas bars and the quirky artist colonies of Barcelona, Café TuTu Tango is as much a visual delight as it is a culinary experience. Local artists set up their easels, painting as diners enjoy a meal, and you never know when singers, dancers, or magicians may show up.All menu items are ‘small plate’, a welcome change from Orlando’s normally enormous portions and a real boon in summer when appetites are lighter. It’s all about sharing art, good food, and companionship.
There are several meatless small plates, such as the Crispy Falafel, Tango Hummus, Sundried tomato and goat cheese flatbread, and delicious Steamed Edamame, but don’t worry if you’re a dedicated carnivore. Your tastes are catered for too with the likes of Grilled Guava BBQ Glazed Pork Ribs (heavenly!), Cuban Sliders, and the current craze, Jalapeno Mac and Cheese. For those seeking a light lunch, the flatbreads and a glass of TuTu Tango’s signature sangria makes a perfect combo.
Remember those rest days we mentioned? Take an airboat ride in the morning, then visit Gatorland in the afternoon. You can easily fit 3 I-Drive attractions into one day, choosing from Wonderworks, Titanic, iFlyOrlando, CSI: The Experience, Ripley’s Believe It Or Not, mini-golf, and more. Or, go high-thrills at Warbird Adventure or Sammy Duval’s.
But let’s get to the nitty-gritty: how much can a family of four realistically save over the course of a 2-week holiday with the Eat and Play card? Using Brit Guide reader feedback regarding typical holiday patterns, you’re probably going to eat at McDonalds twice, have breakfast at a diner or buffet 10-12 times, have lunch outside the parks at least five times, and have dinner outside the parks no fewer than nine times (more, if the parks close early). You’ll take at least 2 rest days over the course of 2 weeks, visiting Gatorland, taking an airboat ride, and enjoying the attractions on I-Drive.That represents discounts adding up to at least $252, more or less, depending on the choices you make. If you add shopping, your savings are unlimited. And don’t forget about the 30-minutes in free phone calls to over 100 international locations, included with your Eat and Play card.
Get your Eat and Play Card for just £10 when you purchase your Orlando attraction tickets with Attraction Tickets Direct.