Orlando, Florida, Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, and Charleston, South Carolina are not generally known for their cuisine. Charleston, for example, is known to attract history buffs. Yet, these three regions are all brimming with an array of decadent dining options. Those who enjoy food and wine will truly enjoy these three Outdoor Traveler destinations:
1. Charleston, South Carolina
Charleston, South Carolina is a charming and historic city featuring important landmarks, lovingly-preserved 18th and 19th century architecture, and cobblestone streets. In the Historic District, one can gaze at the multitude of well-preserved churches, history museums, and charming homes from the cozy backseat of a horse-drawn carriage, or meander through the cobblestone paths on foot.
While Charleston embodies quintessential Southern grace and old-world charm, it also provides an in-depth culinary experience for food and wine aficionados. In addition to its beachfront and marshes, Charleston is known for its abundance of fresh, delicious seafood.
Hyman’s Seafood Company is a great choice for salmon and other fresh seafood favorites, and Station 22, Sullivan Island’s oldest restaurant, features a variety of classic Southern fare. Hyman’s Seafood Company, operating in the same location for 112 years, originally began as a dry goods shop and now features an array of fresh crab legs, shrimp, Hyman’s famous salmon croquettes, and traditional shrimp, salmon, and grits. Station 22 started in the 1980s as a trolley service running through the Isle of Palms to Sullivan’s Island and back to Mount Pleasant.
For those interested in baked goods, the Old City Market is a great place to find local treasures, with over 100 merchants selling goods every day. It’s also a good place to see local artwork and purchase a souvenir or two to bring back home.
Local nightclubs and jazz lounges also offer unique, Southern-style bar food, as well as the sounds of smooth and melodic jazz hits.
If fresh produce sounds appealing, you can spend a day at the historic Boone Hall Plantation & Gardens, picking a variety of fresh tomatoes, pumpkins, strawberries, and peaches.
2. Orlando, Florida
Orlando, Florida, might bring to mind world-famous theme parks, African safaris, and swimming with dolphins, but Orlando has much more to offer than just the magical adventures of SeaWorld® Orlando, Disney’s Animal Kingdom®, and Universal Orlando® The city is also a diner’s delight, with cuisine from all over the world and many local culinary hotspots.
International Drive, a 14.5 mile section of road, features a wide variety of restaurants, including the world’s biggest McDonald’s Playplace, 24-hour diners, B. B. King’s Blues Club, and Italian eateries. Whether you’re in the mood for Indian cuisine, Caribbean dishes, seafood, or just a juicy, well-made burger, International Drive has plenty of options.
Not only is Bluegreen’s The Fountains resort nestled in the heart of International Drive, but it also has fantastic dining opportunities. Located on 54 acres of land and surrounded by the serene water of Lake Eve, The Fountains boasts the Wakoola Grill, a poolside eatery that offers both comfort food and innovative interpretations of classic grilled dishes. Not far from Wakoola Grill is H2O, a playful water-themed restaurant that features The Fountains’ award-winning “bubble” bar and tons of great signature cocktails. If you’re a fan of caffeinated beverages in the morning, Mug o’ Joe’s has a lineup of gourmet lattes, cappuccinos, and macchiatos, including the chocolate hazelccino and the caramel latte foam, which are customer favorites.
Another fine-dining experience can be found in Orlando’s Walt Disney World. A two-time winner of the AOL City’s Best award, the Victoria & Albert’s restaurant features exquisite cuisine with exotic, international ingredients. Creating its dishes with fresh Ohio herbs, Japanese beef, North Carolina poulet rouge, North Florida oysters, Italian truffles, and only the finest caviar, Victoria & Albert’s has established a reputation as a creative and innovative restaurant that places emphasis on dining as an “elegant ritual.” Wine pairings are recommended with each course, creating a holistic and memorable dining experience.
What really makes Orlando a hub for food and wine lovers, though, is the annual Epcot International Food and Wine Festival at Disney’s Epcot Center each autumn. With numerous seminars and demonstrations featuring world-renowned chefs, food and beverage pairing events, dining packages, and more than 30 different global marketplaces, this in-depth food and wine experience is unlike any other.
3. Shenandoah Valley, Virginia
Located between the Allegheny Mountains on the west side and the Blue Ridge Mountains on the east side, Shenandoah Valley is a destination brimming with rich natural beauty and historic landscapes.
With extremely fertile soil, Shenandoah Valley produces some remarkable wines. Most vineyards lie along the Shenandoah Valley Wine Trail, a stretch of more than 20 vineyards, including Hunt’s Vineyard, The Winery at Kindred Pointe, and Valerie Hill Vineyard & Winery. The trail is also dotted with interesting sights: historic lodges, Dinosaur Land, battlefields, national parks, and beautiful lakes.
Bluegreen’s Shenandoah Crossing is located in the heart of the countryside, close to many of the local wineries, the Farmer’s Market, and Shenandoah Valley Flea Market, where you can purchase fresh regional produce and interesting antiques. Each summer, the Wine Trail hosts two festivals: the Wine and Trotter Festival and the Wine and Jazz Festival. Each event features local wine tastings and delicious food.
An emerging regional leader in wine production, the Shenandoah Valley is undeniably one of the most exciting areas to visit for wine lovers, especially those who also have a penchant for gorgeous natural landscapes.