Fun New Year’s Eve events in Orlando, outside of the theme parks
*** This post is updated to include information for 2016. Bookmark it as updates are added regularly as new information is received. ***
New Years Eve is my favorite holiday of the year. I love the excitement, hope and anticipation for all the wonderful things the new year could bring. It’s the perfect time to get together with friends and celebrate. Orlando has plenty of fun options to choose from. Disney World and Universal Orlando, although quite crowded, have the most spectacular fireworks shows and certainly are a must at least once in your life. For those looking for great food and fun outside of the theme parks, I have lots of great options whether you want a multi-course chef-centric meal, a big fancy party, a show or a relaxed affair. I categorized the fun into nine types of celebrations depending on what kind of mood and experience you want. These are Go Epicurista’s Top 9 most Festive New Year’s Eve Celebrations in Orlando!
1. GO Dine With The Chef!
Want to ring the new year at an epic award-winning chef’s table? Check these spots out:
^ CHEF’S TABLE AT THE EDGEWATER
One of only 2 restaurants in Central Florida selected for the Top 100 restaurants in America by Open Table and Zagat, and consistently voted one of the best restaurants in Orlando by Orlando Magazine, Chef’S Table at The Edgewater owners Kevin and Laurie Tarter will help you ring in the new year in foodie heaven. Offering a four course tasting menu using fresh local ingredients. Call 407-230-4837 or click here for reservations. 99 West Plant Street, Winter Garden. 407-230-4837
^ 1921 BY NORMAN VAN AKEN
Situated in a converted home built in 1921, this newly opened Mount Dora restaurant by James Beard Award-winning chef Norman Van Aken serves as a reminder that Florida’s cuisine is a celebration of Southern and Caribbean recipes and flavors. 1921 by Norman Van Aken is a must visit and certainly worth the drive for anyone who loves fine dining in a relaxed yet artistic-chic setting. A three and four course menu will be served starting at $65 pp including Florida Shellfish Bisque, Wood Grilled Ponce Inlet Wreck Fish. Reservations required. 142 East 4th Avenue, Mount Dora, FL. 352-385-1921
2. GO Tropical Hot!
If you want to welcome the year in a tropical ambiance, with great Latin food and lots of Latin dancing, here’s two options that are ‘Muy Caliente’:
^ CUBA LIBRE RESTAURANT & RUM BAR
Cuba Libre Restaurant & Rum Bar, located in Pointe Orlando on International Drive. Their New Year’s Eve celebration, features an incredible buffet with 35 different items such as grilled sirloin, roasted turkey breast, orange porchetta, shrimp al ajillo, and Ropa Vieja, created by Executive Chef Jose Gonzalez, plus late night admission, DJ and dancing, a champagne toast, reserved table throughout the night, party favors and noise makers to ring in the New Year, all for $75 per person, or $45 for children under 12. An optional open bar package, including three (3) drink tickets for select premium drinks, is available as an add-on for $25, or $99 for both the buffet and bar package, for those ages 21 and older. Reservations for the New Year’s Eve buffet are available for 9, 9:30 and 10:00 p.m. and can be made by calling the restaurant directly at 407-226-1600. For those wishing to dine early, an a la carte dinner menu will be served from 5-8 p.m. The dinner menu features two-time James Beard Award-winning Chef-Partner Guillermo Pernot’s Cuban tapas, appetizers, entrees, cocktails and desserts. Reservations for the earlier seating can be made on Cuba Libre’s website.
9101 International Drive, Orlando FL.
^ MANGO’S TROPICAL CAFE ORLANDO
Also on I-Drive, Mango’s Tropical Cafe Orlando is promising lots of sizzle on New Year’s Eve. Live entertainment, music, and dancing made famous in their South Beach location is now found in Orlando. General Admission gets you access to all 8 bars, the Cafe and the Voudou Room! For Table Reservations call 407-673-4422 and Ring in the New Year in the Biggest New Year’s Party Spot in Orlando!
3. GO Craft Cool!
If you’re looking for craft cocktails and local sourced chef-centric bites, these are my top picks:
^ THE COURTESY BAR
The Courtesy Bar in Downtown Orlando is the place to be if you want the best craft cocktails, free-flowing bubbles and cool tunes. Cocktail reception 8pm-9pm, open bar 9pm-12:30am, Special NYE cocktail menu, Release of barrel age cocktails, Endless bubbles, Bites from DoveCote Brasserie, live DJ, Ball drop on tv. $85 per person (includes gratuity!). Email [email protected] for inquiries and reservations.
114 N Orange Avenue, Orlando FL.
Voted as the best new restaurant in Orlando in 2016, DoveCote Chef Clay Miller offers French brasserie inspired classics paired with a killer craft cocktails program by Gene Zimmerman of The Courtesy Bar. Regular dinner service 5:30-10 pm – don’t miss the saison beer mussels and Steak Frites. Special late night menu featuring champagne and champagne cocktails starting at 10 pm. Partake in the New Year’s Eve special of bottle of champagne plus a dozen oysters for $79. New Year’s Day brunch will also be served. 390 N Orange Ave, Orlando. Call 407-930-1700
^ HIGHBALL & HARVEST
Highball & Harvest at Ritz-Carlton Orlando Grande Lakes offers hand crafted champagne cocktails, a five-course menu with live entertainment. Expect a menu filled with local ingredients, including fresh produce from on-site Whisper Creek Farm, handcrafted cocktails by outstanding mixologists. Seatings starting at 5:30pm. $125 Adults, $45 Children 12 & under. Reservations required; 407-393-4846.
^ THE OSPREY TAVERN
The Osprey Tavern in Baldwin Park has earned numerous accolades including Best New Restaurant by Orlando Magazine and Florida Trend. Enjoy a three course chef tasting menu which is sure to include decadent treats from Pastry Chef Kristy Carlucci and champagne toast. A la carte menu is also offered. Don’t miss one of their inventive craft cocktails and charcuterie boards. Click here for more information. 4899 New Broad Street, Orlando.
4. GO Bond Smooth!
Ever dreamed of being in a James Bond movie? Here’s your chance to live it up like Bond.
^ THE ENZIAN THEATER
Enzian Theater’s annual James Bond New Year’s Eve party is a “dress to impress” affair. Enjoy bubbles and signature cocktails, then tango your way into the new year. If you’ve ever wanted to say “My name is Bond. James Bond” or if you’ve ever wanted to be a smoldering Bond Girl, this is your chance! General admission and VIP seating available including open bar and more. $99+ per person. 1300 South Orlando Avenue, Maitland FL. 407-629-0054
5. GO Play!
If you’d rather play games on New Year’s Eve, gather a group of friends and check these spots out:
^ KING’S ORLANDO
GO bowling at Kings Orlando This retro styled bowl-a-rama not only has great bowling plus billiards, games, tons of TVs, DJ, two bars with fun cocktails and a full menu. You can bowl with the family earlier in the day (11:30a-8pm) or after 9pm for those 21+ A variety of packages including champagne toast available based on your group size. The evening festivities include a Gatsby inspired, Roaring 20’s New Year’s Eve Party! Gatsby Themed Food & Drink Specials, Live DJ & Dancing, Lane Packages, Dinner Reservations, Party Favors & More! Vintage 20’s Attire encouraged, but not mandatory. Call 407-363-0200. 8255 South International Drive, Orlando FL.
^ MAIN EVENT ENTERTAINMENT
Main Event Entertainment recently opened its first Florida location at Pointe Orlando, featuring state-of-the-art bowling, the first ever interactive virtual reality game room in the US, loads of video games, a high ropes adventure course, pool tables and other fun activities, along with chef-inspired food, creative cocktails, beer and wine. Their “Eat. Bowl. Play.” motto can be enjoyed on New Year’s Eve with a daytime play pass called “Noon Year’s Eve” until 5pm. Pick your PLAYpass and party with music, dancing, games, prizes and kid-friendly party favors. Don’t miss the mega balloon drop at 1:30 p.m., with thousands of prizes up for grabs! In the evening, from 5pm to close enjoy your PLAYpass with additional complimentary champagne toast and prizes awarded on the lanes every hour from 8 p.m. to midnight. On New Year’s Day – Main Event will open at 11 a.m. and you can celebrate all day long. Each PLAYpass option features the 3-Hour Video Game PLAYpass and All-You-Can-Play Activities Pass, starting at $24.95. Call 407-352-3300. 9101 International Drive, Orlando.
6. GO Around the World!
Looking for travel inspiration on New Year’s Eve, these hot spots will have you booking your next vacation!
^ TAVERNA OPA
Taverna Opa, Orlando’s favorite Greek/Mediterranean restaurant in Pointe Orlando is known for their lively music, belly dancers and exceptional cuisine. On New Year’s Eve enjoy Taverna Opa Goes Live with live entertainment, family-style appetizers, dessert station, surf & turf entree open bar & champagne toast, starts at 9pm. $65 per person. Get your tickets.. 9101 International Drive, Orlando.
^ BULLA GASTROBAR
Travel to Spain with Bulla Gastrobar, Winter Park’s newest tapas sensation. The Bulla Buzz is filled with energy and fun so you know they will bring out the party on New Year’s Eve. Special holiday menu including “Caldoso de Bogavante”- a one and a half pound Maine Lobster with calamari sofrito, clams and grouper and champagne toast at midnight. 110 S Orlando Ave #107, Winter Park. Call 321-214-6120
^ DRAGONFLY ROBATA GRILL & SUSHI
How about a trip to Japan? Or better yet, On December 30, Dragonfly Robata Grill & Sushi will receive a whole, 100 lb. Bluefin Tuna that the chefs will use to prepare specials all weekend long! New Year’s Eve Specials will include Bluefin Three Ways such as Otoro Tartare ($21) with quail egg, Black tobiko, yuzukoshō, jalapeno ponzu, and tempura nori; Bluefin Flatbread ($16) with jalapeño, avocado puree, heirloom tomato, micro shiso, honey wasabi, pita bread, and Bluefin Composed Nigiri ($19) zuke tare marinade, yuzukoshō, butter torched, ume, tomato relish, micro shiso, black tobiko, jalapeño, gold flake olive relish, red tobiko. In addition to Robata Grilled Lobster, Sous Vide Duck Breast and the unique Salmon Pastrami Roll. For dessert, finish with White Chocolate Panna Cotta. Bar specials all night long, and a free champagne toast at midnight. 7972 Via Dellagio Way, Orlando. Call 407-370-3359 for reservations.
^ EARLS KITCHEN + BAR
The recently opened family-owned, independent restaurant Earls Kitchen + Bar at The Mall at Millenia offers a menu with tastes from around the world where you’ll find something for everyone. For diners who aren’t interested in spending hundreds of dollars on prix fixe menus to bid farewell to 2016, on Saturday December 31, the restaurant will offer a refreshing alternative. Order whatever you like from the restaurant’s expansive global a la carte menu with signature dishes like Tuna Poke, Sicilian Calamari and Jeera Chicken Curry. While you dine, enjoy Earls signature cocktails like the frozen Harvey Wallbanger, or Earls Old Fashioned. A DJ onsite will set the festive mood and complimentary champagne toast at midnight. Earls is open from 11:00 am to 2:00 am on New Year’s Eve; and will open on New Year’s Day for brunch 10:00 am. 4200 Conroy Road in Orlando. Reservations are suggested. 407-345-8260.
^ K RESTAURANT
“A Night In The Big Easy!” themed New Years Eve at K Restaurant is a great way to celebrate! Chef Kevin Fonzo’s College Park eatery is one of my favorites in Orlando and his four course French Quarter inspired menu with the best desserts in town by pastry chef Michelle Hulbert is sure to please. $95 pp, wine specials will be offered as well. Reservations required. 1710 Edgewater Drive, Orlando. 407-872-2332
^ TAPA TORO
The paella pit at Tapa Toro, located in the I-Drive 360 complex, is sure to please on New Year’s Eve! As is typical in Spain, this is a late night dining experience starting at 10pm including a 5-course meal by chef Wendy Lopez, champagne toast, open beer & wine bar, plus flamenco entertainment all night long for $110 per person. Tickets required. 8441 International Drive, Orlando.
7. GO Disney Springs! !
Disney Springs (formerly Downtown Disney) has a variety of fun restaurants to choose from to ring in the new year in Lake Buena Vista. My favorite is to walk around from restaurant to restaurant, enjoying libations and bites from their walk-up windows, or you can choose one of these outstanding restaurant options for the night. Either way, you are in for a fun night!
^ RAGLAN ROAD IRISH PUB
Go Irish at Raglan Road Irish Pub. It was built in Ireland and brought to Orlando! You won’t need luck to enjoy great Irish food by celebrated Irish Master Chef Kevin Dundon, the perfect pint of beer, cocktails and live music from 12 noon on two stages throughout the evening including the award-winning Raglan Road Dancers. Plus you get to toast the New Year when it’s midnight in Ireland (7pmEST) and again at midnight with complimentary champagne. No cover and free parking. Call 407 938 0300 or click here for reservations.
^ MORIMOTO ASIA
Go Pan-Asian at Morimoto Asia, the swanky restaurant by legendary Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto. You can enjoy an amazing feast featuring Peking Duck, epic fall-off-the-bone sticky ribs and picture perfect sushi in the expansive restaurant or the intimate Forbidden Lounge. Lots of Sake choices and cocktails to choose from to ring in the new year in style. Call 407-939-6686.
ART SMITH’S HOMECOMING KITCHEN
For a true taste of Florida, celebrity chef Art Smith welcomes you home! At Homecoming Kitchen, gather with friends around the table and enjoy dishes like Chef Art’s succulent Fried Chicken, spicy Shrimp and Grits and a slice of his world famous Hummingbird Cake. The Moonshine Flights and Shine cocktails are sure to make the evening jolly! Live entertainment is found in the outdoor patio.
With a live DJ pumping dance tunes, a variety of cocktails and a menu to tempt your tastebuds, the modern steakhouse and chic lounge atSTK Orlando, is sure to be a happening spot on New Year’s Eve. Reservations recommended.
8. GO Relax! !
If you’d rather enjoy a relaxing getaway, a mini staycation to start the year rejuvenated, here’s a dinner and spa package deal you’re sure to love:
^ ROSEN CENTRE HOTEL
Rosen Centre Hotel is offering an amazing New Year’s Eve package! Start with a four-course dinner by award-winning chef Fred Vlachos and a bottle of wine or champagne in Everglades Restaurant. After dinner, head to Sam & Bubbe’s Lobby Lounge to watch the Times Square ball drop and partake in midnight festivities with party favors and champagne toast. Spend the night in deluxe accommodations, indulge in an extensive breakfast buffet for two on New Year’s day and start the new year relaxed with Swedish massages for two at The Spa at Rosen Centre. Call 407-996-9840 or click here. International Drive, Orlando FL.
9. GO Fancy!
Orlando is home to some of the fanciest resorts for those of you that want to live it up in style! Book a room and spend the night or simply visit for dinner, either way, welcome the new year in style!
^ FOUR SEASONS RESORT ORLANDO AT WALT DISNEY WORLD RESORT
Capa Steakhouse and Bar at Four Seasons Resort Orlando serves up fantastic steaks and seafood with one of the most striking views of Orlando in an ultra sexy space. Be sure to start with one of the crafted cocktails, their gorgeous Capa Gin and Tonic and tapas in the lounge. On New Year’s Eve a three course first seating or five course second seating dinner is available. The view from the top floor includes the spectacular magic of Disney fireworks at midnight! Call 407-313-6840. For a more casual setting but equally exceptional cuisine, visit Ravello, the Italian specialty restaurant features Executive Chef’s Fabrizio Schenardi’s favorite dishes in a sumptuous buffet. You can also get your tickets for a private New Year’s Eve celebration held in the Grand Ballroom from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. featuring a DJ, a dance floor, balloon drop and more. A champagne toast, desserts and appetizers are included and a cash bar is available. Tickets are $75 per person. To learn more click here. 10100 Dream Tree Blvd, Lake Buena Vista, FL.
^ WALDORF ASTORIA & HILTON ORLANDO BONNET CREEK RESORT
The Waldorf Astoria’s famed Bull & Bear hosts one of the fanciest New Year’s Eve celebration in Orlando. Indulge in a prix fixe menu of seven courses, unlimited Perrier-Jouët champagne, live entertainment and dancing all night to ring in the New Year. Formal wear is suggested. Call 407-597-5413 for reservations. La Luce, Hilton Orlando’s Italian specialty restaurant, serves up family recipes handed down from generation to generation. Delight in a La Luce classic, or try a dish from the New Year’s Eve menu, featuring Chef’s holiday favorites. Pricing varies. To make a reservation, call 407-597-3675. For something more casual, Zeta Bar “Bubble Lounge”
at Hilton Bonnet Creek will feature a DJ until midnight, a selection of champagnes and a live screening of the ball drop on 10 large-screen televisions. No charge; no reservations required. How about a Twilight Cabana? Celebrate New Year’s Eve with your friends and family in a private cabana poolside at Waldorf Astoria. Each cabana rental includes a bottle of champagne, decorations and the best vantage point to watch the fireworks show. Twilight cabanas are available from 8pm-12am for $400. Reservations required – limited availability, please contact Concierge, Aquamarine or call 407-597-5500. At midnight, Bonnet Creek Resort celebrates with a private fireworks show . Prime viewing locations include the pool deck and Signature Island at Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek. (weather permitting.) 14200 Bonnet Creek Drive, Orlando FL.
^ THE ALFOND INN
The Alfond Inn’s 4th Annual New Year’s Eve Gala dazzles with live performance the The Buzzcatz, chef stations in the Conservatory, premium open bar and champagne toast at midnight. Live streaming of the Times Square ball drop. Event starts at 8pm. $169 pp or you may reserve the chic Midnight and Beyond Dance Party from 10pm – 1am. Price will include open Premium Bar, passed hors d’oeuvres, and party favors. $99 pp. Don’t miss taking a stroll around the property to delight in the fantastic art collection from the Cornell Fine Arts Museum at Rollins. Click here for reservations. 407-998-8090
^ JW MARRIOTT & RITZ-CARLTON ORLANDO GRANDE LAKES RESORT
JW Marriott and Ritz-Carlton Orlando at Grande Lakes offer a plethora of choices to ring in the new year. We mentioned above Highball & Harvest, but you can also indulge in celebrity chefs restaurants. Melissa Kelly’s Primo Restaurant at JW Marriott serves up a five course dinner filled with Florida bounty. Ring in 2017 with a champagne toast, live entertainment from 6 – 10 p.m. Five course menu $150 Adults; Four-course Menu: $40 Children 12 & under. Norman’s at Ritz-Carlton is Chef Norman Van Aken’s mainstay Orlando restaurant. The elegant restaurant serves up Chef Van Aken’s internationally acclaimed “New World Cuisine”, an exciting, healthful and delicious fusion of Florida with the power of Latin, Caribbean and Asian roots. For reservations, Call 407-393-4333
^ HYATT REGENCY GRAND CYPRESS
Hemingway’s Restaurant at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress offers legendary dining in a relaxed resort setting. Enjoy three course chef’s menu with petite filet and lobster for $75pp as well as their a la carte menu. 1 Grand Cypress Blvd, Orlando. Call for reservations 407-239-1234
^ LOEWS PORTOFINO BAY HOTEL
Welcome the New Year under the twinkling lights of the Harbor Piazza with Loews Portofino Bay Hotel’s New Year’s Eve Party on the Piazza from 8:30pm. A selection of wine and gourmet food from the hotel’s restaurants plus a midnight sparkling wine toast is included. $159/adult
Where will you choose to ring in the new year? Wherever it is, I hope you have a great time with family and friends. Go #MakeSomedayHappen and have a Happy New Year!