Entrance to Gatorland in Orlando FL

How to Orlando – The Unauthorized Guide to Sapphire 2019 (4/4)

If you’re in business in any capacity and you’re in a position where you find yourself attending conferences, you will definitely find yourself in Orlando at some point during the calendar year. In the IT services industry, we at SCM Connections find ourselves there multiple times a year.  It’s at the point where we joke about buying a condo to save on hotel expenses.  So now that you’re going to be there, how do you make the time on International Drive tolerable? Here are a few ideas that will not only provide you with ways to kill time, but experiences to share with your fellow conference-goers.

Find your Favorites

Sure everyone loves Chili’s and Howl at the Moon, but find a few favorites that make it feel a bit more like home.  It doesn’t quite have to be your neighborhood bar, but find a spot or two you actually look forward to visiting when you go.  Here are a few of our favorites:


  • Comfort Food/PizzaNYPD Pizza, close to the OCCC. Great for the day you get in. New York Style pizza I know is not local, but I still look forward to it every time
  • Unexpected SurprisesStrong Water Tavern at Universal. Amazing and unique classy experience.  Great carribean foods, neverending list of rum and rum drinks.  Definitely a must-do
  • Local Favorites – Jai Alai Beer. A local favorite of ours that’s now becoming a bit more popular.  Still our tradition to pick some up at Publix every trip.

Take a Day to Explore

You’re already paying and taking the time to travel, take a day to make it more of an experience and less of a “work trip.” Here are a few nice distractions in the area:


  • Cape Canaveral – Truly a modern wonder. Take a day trip to the Kennedy space center, and make a special trip if there’s a launch.  I saw one of the last shuttle launches here,  and it’s a moment I’ll never forget


  • Clearwater/Tampa – One of my favorite beaches. White sand, relaxing low key town.  Plus Tampa is near by for a bit of a detour 


  • Gatorland – One of the original theme parks and a unique experience to say the least. Feeding time is a testament to the living dinosaurs.

Find some Magic on the Cheap

There are only 3 things that are certain in life: death, taxes, and leaving Walt Disney World with an empty wallet. It might be an open secret at this point, but my family (and myself in particular) are Disney fanatics.  It’s unavoidable at this point to go to Orlando and not make a stop.  However, you don’t need to buy a park ticket and fight the crowds through Cinderella’s castle to get a taste of the magic.  Here’s a few ideas to get a Disney fix on your trip without having to set foot in a theme park:


  • Trader Sam’s at the Polynesian Hotel – A very unique and fun tiki bar at the Polynesian Resort. Creative drinks, unexpected experiences and an entertaining bar staff make this a fun stop at the end of a stressful day.
  • The Void at Disney Springs – Indescribable fully immersive virtual reality experience. Choose either Star Wars or Wreck-it-Ralph to step into their world with your team and truly walk through the movies themselves. An excellent team-building exercise, or an opportunity to freak out some of the more skiddish members of your organization.
  • Jellyrolls Piano Bar at The Boardwalk – Loosen up a bit, and get some of your more reserved team members to come out of their shells. The musicians here seem to know an endless amount of songs, though you’ll probably end up hearing “Sweet Caroline” 6 or 7 times over the course of the night. No worries- everyone’s in a good mood, and it’s a nice alternative to “Howl.”
Your team members may experience mixed reactions to "The VOID"

Sure, the days are long and grueling at Sapphire, but be sure to make some time for yourselves. Find new ways to bond with your team over rum cocktails and Elton John singalongs. Embrace the Orlando- find your own “Florida Man” for the week.


And if you want to chat about  strategies for reserving rides with a Fastpass or have an in-depth discussion about the new Star Wars land opening at Disney’s Hollywood Studios this summer, come see me in booth #1539B.  I’m more than happy to chat over a Mickey-shaped ice cream bar.

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