By Emily Sampl//Correspondent
The Arena Grand Prix Series will visit two new cities in 2013, beginning with Orlando, Fla., Feb. 14-16. Florida has long been a hotbed for producing great swimmers, so it seems fitting that the Arena Grand Prix Series will finally be making its way to the Sunshine State. Here are a few interesting facts about Orlando, and a few restaurants to check out between sessions.
If you can’t make it to the meet, you can check out USA Swimming’s live webcast of the event here.
Facts and Figures
1. Rest assured, you will not be bored in Orlando, as the city boasts several world-renowned attractions. Probably the most well known is Walt Disney World Resort, where you can do everything from ride roller coasters to mingle with your favorite Disney characters, or simply shop one of the hundreds of stores in the resort. You can also check out the Animal Kingdom and Epcot, both located in the resort. SeaWorld Orlando and the Central Florida Zoo are also top-notch entertainment stops, and if you’re looking for something low key, the Orlando Museum of Art is a great place to check out.
2. Orlando is home to several colleges and universities, including the University of Central Florida. With an enrollment exceeding 59,000 students including both the main and regional campuses, UCF is one of the largest universities in the country. Take a walk around their lively campus and see what the Knights are all about.
3. Orlando holds several “firsts” and other distinctions. The first-ever water park, Wet n’ Wild, opened its doors in 1977 and remains one of few water parks to stay open year round. The world’s largest Marriott, the Orlando World Center Marriott Resort and Convention Center, is also located in Orlando. Additionally, “The Senator,” a 138-foot tall tree growing in central Florida, is the oldest and tallest bald cypress tree in the world.
4. Among other things, you may notice a lot of these in Orlando: lakes, hotel rooms, Olive Gardens and Red Lobsters. Orlando is the home of the Darden Restaurants corporate headquarters, which owns Olive Garden and Red Lobster. There are also more than 100 lakes in the city, and nearly as many hotel rooms as Las Vegas, the only city in the United States with more.
Places to Eat in Town
Voted best deli in Orlando Magazine’s 2012 Dining Awards, TooJay’s meshes traditional New York deli style sandwiches with local Florida flavors. With a breakfast, lunch and dinner menu and six locations in and around Orlando, TooJay’s is a tasty and convenient post-meet meal option. http://www.toojays.com
2. Cariera’s Cucina Italiana
Need to replenish your carbohydrate stores during the meet? Look no further than Cariera’s, the best Italian restaurant in Orlando. This family-friendly restaurant is famous for its gourmet pizza, flatbreads and pasta, and with so many mouthwatering choices on the menu you won’t know what to order. Check out their delicious offerings here: http://carierasorlando.com/
3. First Watch
Among the top breakfast spots in Orlando, First Watch offers an array of delicious and healthy breakfast, lunch and brunch items, ranging from omelettes to crepes, and oatmeal to pancakes. With three locations in Orlando, you’re bound to find at least one within a short driving distance of the pool or your hotel for a tasty breakfast treat! http://www.firstwatch.com
4. Sweet Tomatoes
If you’re not sure what kind of food you want after the meet but know you’re really hungry, you can bet you’ll find something delicious at Sweet Tomatoes, best known for its world-class salad bar, soups and bakery. It’s a buffet restaurant, which means you can eat as much as you desire without killing your wallet in the process. Sounds like the perfect place to indulge after a long day of racing. Find out which location is closest to you here: http://www.souplantation.com/locations/.