Recently, our president Paige Zutavern was blessed with the opportunity to host a foreign exchange student. Jöelle, who arrived in August, travelled from her home in the Netherlands to spend her senior year in the United States. She is currently attending Waverly High with Paige’s youngest son, Zane, who is a sophomore. So far this experience has been particularly exciting for Paige, who always wanted a daughter, and the first thing up on the agenda after getting Jöelle acclimated to her new surroundings was giving her a good taste of one of the best tourist destinations in the United States—Orlando, FL! Originally, the three were taking a quick vacation together but when Zane was unable to go because he couldn’t miss an important football game, Paige made it a girls’ trip and invited one of Jöelle’s friends, Floortje, who is also a foreign exchange student from the same country.
Needless to say, both of the girls have been eager to take all of the new experiences abroad and this was no different. It was really interesting to see Orlando—a hot spot for tourists that we’ve visited so many times over the years—through the eyes of two teenage girls from another country. We had the chance to visit some great local attractions and take in the food, entertainment and experiences that Orlando is world famous for and as always, it was amazing!
Café Tu Tu Tango | (407) 248-2222 | cafetututango.com
Café Tu Tu Tango offers an amazingly artistic atmosphere that is infused with creativity, diversity, and tons of color. On a heavily trafficked strip that is primarily full of restaurant chains, Café Tu Tu Tango is a locally owned and operated gem. This one-of-a-kind venue integrates local art and artists into the dining experience, and stands apart on its strip as the only locally owned and operated restaurant. All of the vibrant art displayed in the restaurant, from paintings to sculptures and more, is the work of local artists and can be purchased by patrons. Additionally, artists work among the diners and interact with them–with the diverse line-up of live entertainment that also includes performances from musicians and dancers you’re always in for a treat and you’ll never see the same thing twice.
Creativity also extends into the culinary arts here, as Café Tu Tu Tango boasts a menu that is all made from scratch. Their menu not only features eclectic and delicious offerings from all around the world, but also incorporates artistic flare into the presentation of each dish. Everything on the menu is meant to be shared, which was perfect because we all had the opportunity to try new things that we wouldn’t normally have chosen for ourselves. Our favorites included the Guacamame (a combination of chickpeas, roasted garlic, cumin, tahini, garlic oil, edamame, avocado, and salsa roja served with tortilla chips), Alforno Roasted Pears (pecan crisps, crumbled blue cheese and arugula), Mediterranean Marinated Olives and Feta (which also included a combination of artichoke hearts, oven roasted mushrooms and sun dried tomatoes—yum!), and a Gaudi Flatbread Pizza (with goat cheese, ricotta salata cheese, hazelnuts, leeks, dates, balsamic reduction, and watercress). Among the wide variety of menu items, we also tried the Spiced Alligator Bites, Dynamite Shrimp with a sweet chili aioli that was to-die-for, Hazelnut Lemongrass Fish, Cajun Chicken Egg Rolls, Asian Marinated Steak Skewers, and Braised Beef Short Ribs. It may seem like we opted for the “order one of everything” approach–which honestly was really tempting–but that was just the tip of the iceberg! Their beverages and desserts were also a treat, and were just as colorful and amazingly crafted as everything else at Café Tu Tu Tango. The featured drink, Warhol’s Velvet Banana, was incredible and their Rocky Road Cookie Pizza (cookie crust, marshmallows, salted peanuts, chocolate chips, locally-made vanilla gelato, and house-made Drambuie caramel sauce) and Banana Pizza (hand tossed pizza, cinnamon streusel, fresh bananas, locally-made salted caramel gelato, house-made Drambuie sauce, and whipped cream) were absolutely divine.
We also can’t say enough about how great our server, Brittany was during our visit. She later shared with us that there is some serious competition and she had to wait in a long line for the job, so it’s not too surprising that exceptional service is part of the experience. We agree with Brittany, Café Tu Tu Tango would definitely be among the best places to work in Orlando! She was friendly, upbeat and helpful with everything from sharing fun facts about the restaurant and the décor to guiding us through the menu and recommending the best drinks to pair with the items we ordered. Overall, if you are looking for a unique experience full of art, culture, and a fresh culinary perspective, Café Tu Tu Tango is at the top of the must-visit list for anyone who is taking a trip to the Orlando area.
Giraffe Ranch | (813) 482-3400 | girafferanch.com
Safari Wilderness | (813) 382-2120 | safariwilderness.com
Giraffe Ranch and Safari Wilderness are neighboring wildlife attractions–sister ranches, if you will–that are home to some of the most amazing animals on Earth. Not to be confused as a zoo or theme park, these are hands-on real working wildlife preserves where animals have plenty of room to roam. The best part by far, especially with respect to Giraffe Ranch, is that you get extremely up close and personal with the animals as you safely interact and engage with them. Have you ever fed a giraffe or a water buffalo? Have you ever seen a herd of animals indigenous to Africa running free? How about hugging a rhino or getting into a cage and playing around with a group of lemurs? We have, and those memories will last us a lifetime.
Safari Wilderness offers a huge expanse of land full of wildlife with spread out attractions to explore, while Giraffe Ranch is more focused on intimate, interactive experiences with the host of exotic animals. Highlights of our visit included feeding the lemurs, giraffes and rhinos and even riding camels. During the feeding experience, the animals would gently pull on your hand or nudge you, which was so much fun for everyone. While both were fantastic, we especially enjoyed Giraffe Ranch because of the smaller tour group of 10-12 people, which allowed us to as a lot of questions and spend most of our time up-close with the animals.
Our expert tour guide, who was also the owner, was extremely knowledgeable as he has been in the zoo industry for years. This added a very important educational piece to the overall experience. He was informative and engaging in just the right amounts, which we definitely considered to be an added bonus to the main attraction of the animals themselves. It was also really cool that a main part of the experience also included learning about conservation efforts and how these two popular tourist attractions are helping to preserve species that are endangered or extinct in the wild. As Nebraskans, we also found it to be a fun fact that every night up to 200 sandhill cranes can be found roosting on the grounds!
The Walt Disney World Resort | (407) 939-5277 | Disneyworld.disney.go.com
It’s an undeniable fact that you just can’t go to Orlando without stopping by the always magical Disney World! While we could go a million times and not get tired of it, this visit was particularly great because Jöelle and Floortje got to experience an authentic Disney theme park for the first time. They both said it was their favorite part of the trip, and we don’t blame them! We can report that the new adventurous family roller coaster, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, is now open in Fantasyland and it is awesome! Racing through the diamond mine straight out of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is a thrilling experience that we highly recommend—in true Disney fashion, you really feel like you are transported to another world. The girls’ favorite rides were the Tower of Terror, Space Mountain, and Expedition Everest (more commonly known as the Yeti)—as to be expected from most teens they really did gravitate towards the most daring, scary rides in the park! It’s essential to be prepared to keep up with the energy level all day—we arrived at the park when it opened at 9 a.m. and stayed all the way until 1 a.m. (in total, a 16 hour day!), which was well worth it but also completely exhausting. As always, Disney World is an amazing place where everyone gets to enjoy “The Happiest Place on Earth” and a heavy dose of everything Disney!
Cirque du Soleil La Nouba | (407) 939-1929 | cirquedusoleil.com
During our trip to Walt Disney World, we couldn’t turn down the opportunity to attend a Cirque du Soleil show! La Nouba is described as “a boundless and festive journey of the imagination”, and we completely agree that this sums it up perfectly. The show is a mixture of dreams and nightmares, where performers are either from the fantastic world of circus artists or the dark world of “urbanite” street performers. As with most Cirque du Soleil shows, it is highly entertaining and geared towards an adult audience. However, this show is also one that kids can enjoy too. Among the performances, a great part of this show is that it incorporates classic circus acts such as bicycle and motorcycle stunts, aerial performers (what’s a circus without the high wire and flying trapeze?), and goofy clown acts that boost the energy of the crowd. La Nouba was in line with what we have come to expect from a Cirque du Soleil show, a journey into a brightly colored, bizarrely enchanting experience that will draw you in and keep you mesmerized throughout the entire show. The girls were absolutely blown away by the entire show—if you haven’t ever experienced a Cirque du Soleil performance, you are missing out big time!
Visit Orlando | (407) 363-5872 | visitorlando.com
For those who are planning a trip to Orlando, we highly recommend utilizing Visit Orlando. In addition to providing a wealth of information about all things Orlando, discounts are offered for a variety of local attractions—basically everything you need for putting an itinerary together on a budget. Go Orlando Card is available for those who want to hit it hard and see all of the sights, and the Orlando Explorer pass is a step down, which we opted for because our visit was on the shorter side. The Orlando Explorer pass allows you to sample four of the listed attractions for one low price, which is a significant discount from the normal admission cost for each venue. There was a great selection of attractions included in the pass, and we were highly satisfied with the ones we chose. After all, nobody knows more about vacationing in Orlando than the official tourism association for the most visited destination in the United States!
Titanic – The Experience | (407) 248-1166 | Attraction Included in Visit Orlando Pass
Titanic – The Experience is an interactive artifact exhibition, where visitors get to explore full-scale recreations of the Titanic’s most famous locales. This includes the chance to check out the ship’s interior, learn about the expedition to the remains of the Titanic, and discover answers to what happened the night of the sinking. One of the parts we found to be fun and interesting is that each guest assumes the identity of a real passenger on the Titanic, and at the end of the tour everyone finds out if they survived or died that fateful evening. Luckily, and strangely enough in light of the stark statistics of living through this major historical tragedy, everyone in our group was a survivor! There is an option for the tour only, as well as an upgraded Dinner Show experience available by reservation. This glimpse into the enigmatic story of the Titanic captured our interest throughout the entire experience; simply put it was really cool!
Yet another trip to Orlando has come and gone, and again, we can’t say enough about how much we enjoy ourselves every time. The best part of this trip (besides everything we’ve already mentioned!) really was sharing all of these experiences with Jöelle and Floortje, who were taking in everything for the first time. It was also really nice to soak in the Florida sunshine just in time to help get us through another Nebraska winter. Honestly, Orlando has SO much to offer that it’s no surprise we keep going back!
We already have some new adventures planned for 2015, so make sure to check out where we end up next in our upcoming issues!