If you want to know what makes Orlando, Florida such a special place to visit beyond the legendary theme parks then Michael Thomas is the person to ask.
Please tell us about yourself and your professional background.
I am a Florida “fresh water cracker” living in Central Florida for over half of my life (37 years), starting my journey in Daytona Beach and landing in Orlando. I attended University of Central Florida and obtained a bachelor’s degree in hospitality management and a master’s degree in business administration. I started John Michael Catering (johnmichaelevents.com) in 1995, purchased Weddings, Inc. (a package wedding company) in 2017, and opened Celebration Gardens Orlando (an event venue) in 2018. I am married to my wonderful husband Rustin Davis and soon we will be celebrating our 23rd anniversary. I have 3 children (pugs) named Luna, Suki, and Yogi. I enjoy travel trailer camping in many fun locations, and have a fond place in my heart for the ocean. I love what I do and strongly believe in “the more you give, the more you will receive” philosophy in life.
Where are the coolest places to go for cocktails?
We love anything that offers craft cocktails using fresh ingredients. Some cool places are The Imperial Wine Bar (imperialwinebar.com), Tori Tori (toritoripub.com), The Woods (facebook.com/thewoodsorlando), and Hanson Shoe Repair (thehansonbuilding.com).
What are the best restaurants for a romantic dinner in the city?
A great and sexy place for dessert and dessert inspired cocktails is Better Than Sex (betterthansexdesserts.com). For the food part, we love Slate (slateorlando.com), Maxine’s on Shine (maxinesonshine.com), and The Goblin Market (goblinmarketrestaurant.com).
Who serves the greatest weekend brunch in town?
Hands down Santiagos Bodega (santiagosbodega.com). A transplant from Key West, it has two Orlando locations. They offer an all you can eat tapas style brunch and unlimited mimosas/sangria.
What are the hottest shows in town, and how do I get tickets?
The Garden Theatre (gardentheatre.org) in Winter Garden is a revamped must see and downtown Winter Garden has become a mecca for a nice dinner and seeing a show.
What museums are a must see for visitors?
A hidden Orlando historic landmark is the Maitland Art Center (artandhistory.org). It is one of only four national historic museums in the state of Florida.
What annual events should we add to our “Must See” list?
Come Out With Pride (comeoutwithpride.org) is a must do. It is one of the largest LGBTQ+ celebrations in the nation. You won’t be bored!
Where can you go to get the best views of the city?
Go atop Disney’s Contemporary Resort (disneyworld.disney.go. com) for a great dinner and amazing views, or hop downtown to the Grand Bohemian (marriott.com) rooftop bar. And of course ICON Park (iconparkorlando.com) offers the big wheel to see it all.
Where are the best places to workout?
If you need to get in a quick workout utilize your hotel or resort, they will almost always have workout facilities. If you want something a bit more challenging, try Esporta Fitness (esportafitness.com).
If someone wants a full-service spa, where do you send them?
Hands down The Ritz-Carlton Spa, Orlando, Grande Lakes (ritzcarlton.com); nothing but the best for your face and body.
Designer labels for less—do you have any suggestions for the smart shopper?
We have some of the best outlet malls with the most designer outlet stores, including Saks Fifth Avenue and Nieman Marcus, at a fraction of retail costs. For a complete list of wonderful shopping options go to visitorlando.com/things-to-do/shopping.
What are the best gay/lesbian bars in the city?
Southern Nights (facebook.com/SouthernNightsOrlando) is the place to go, but Orlando is very LGBTQ friendly and you can shake your booty anywhere dancing is happening.
What is the iconic tourist souvenir, and where will we find it?
Anything Disney of course!
Please finish this sentence: Don’t leave Orlando without…
…going to our theme parks, visiting the beach, taking a trip down I-Drive, and spending a relaxing day at your resort pool.
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