Hankering for a romantic getaway to Key West? How about St. Augustine or the Florida Everglades? If a romantic escape isn’t in the budget, we’ve found the next best thing. Just park your car and crawl your way through the gargantuan atrium at Gaylord Palms, themed after some of Florida’s most distinct destinations. As an added bonus, the sprawling resort and convention center in Kissimmee is home to several date night-worthy restaurants.
Experience this beautiful resort for yourself, no overnight stay required, with our detailed itinerary for a progressive culinary tour of Florida at Gaylord Palms.
Stop 1: Drinks + Apps at Socio
Kick off your adventure by pulling up two seats at the bar at the newest addition to Gaylord Palms, Socio. The upscale, Cuban-inspired lounge features seasonally inspired original cocktails dreamed up by the bar’s mixologists, plus Cuban-inspired small plates to share.
Speaking of drinks, there’s an entire page of creative concoctions to choose from. My visit took place in late May, so the menu was full of light and refreshing summer-inspired cocktails. The options rotate seasonally.
The Guanabo is summer in a glass, crafted with watermelon, vanilla Absolut Elyx vodka, and St. Germain foam. I also enjoyed sipping on the Garden of Eden, a gin-based cocktail with fresh cucumber and strawberry. Drinks are on the higher end of the price scale ($15 and up). If you don’t feel like ordering off the menu, share your preferences and let the bartenders create something custom.
Notable bites include the mini chicken empanadas served with chimichurri for dipping, the tostones con ropa vieja, and the ceviche of the day. Each dish is artfully prepared and presented. Order 1-2 items to share plus two drinks.
While you wait for your food, turn your attention to the TV for a quick cocktail lesson. Several videos showcase a few of the lounge’s signature cocktails and how to make them.
Stop 2: Dinner + Drinks at MOOR
From Socio, begin to explore the resort’s lush atrium during the stroll to your next stop: MOOR. The resort’s seafood-centric eatery is located in the Key West section of the atrium. But the coolest feature is the permanently moored schooner, which serves as the restaurant’s main dining area.
Before heading into the restaurant, stop by the over-the-water observation deck to check out the large tarpon swimming lazily in the water below.
Start your dinner in Key West with a light cocktail. The Lavender Bees Knees is officially my new favorite summertime drink. It’s made with Blue Coat gin, lemon juice, lavender and Winter Park honey simple syrup. The resort’s restaurants utilize local ingredients from Florida farms whenever possible. For something else Florida inspired, try the Key Lime Margarita or Florida Old Fashioned. Cocktails are $16-$17 each.
If you’re not a cocktail lover, there’s an extensive wine list as well as a handful of local Florida beers from breweries like Crooked Can, Cigar City, Swamp Head Brewery and more. It always puts a smile on my face seeing Florida’s craft beer scene represented at resorts and hotels.
MOOR is the ideal place to savor the bulk of your progressive feast. Seafoodies should opt for one of the fresh catch selections, which rotate daily depending on availability. During our visit, we tried the light and flaky golden tile and mahi mahi. For something meatier, Senior Sous Chef Joshua Bushby recommends the wild boar chop.
The portion sizes are just right, the service impeccable, and the views can’t be beat. Soak up the relaxing South Florida vibes before meandering to the best stop of all. (Dessert, duh!)
In between: DIY Walking Tour
It’s impossible not to feel at peace among the dense tropical foliage and Florida-inspired interior of the resort. Before heading to your final stop for the night, make time for a romantic stroll through the St. Augustine and Everglades portions of the resort.
The stunning St. Augustine section includes a Flagler College bell tower, a museum display, and a fort, which is actually a small replica of the city’s iconic Castillo De San Marcos. Climb to the top for a higher vantage point of the atrium.
In the Everglades, you can see baby gators and turtles, wander through themed exhibits (I like the somewhat hidden reptile display) and more. Spend as little or as much time as you’d like exploring the secluded pathways together.
Stop 3: Dessert + Wine at Old Hickory Steakhouse
Ok, let’s be real. Any progressive feast is just several hours spent anticipating the dessert stop. Right? And Old Hickory Steakhouse is a good one.
Their claim to fame is the fresh made chocolate soufflé and it’s worth waiting for. Order it first thing upon arrival, as it takes around 20-25 minutes to make.
While you wait, sip on a glass of crisp sparkling rosé. If you aren’t totally stuffed by now, you can also snack on an artisanal cheese board. Your server will walk you through the available selections, and you can pick 3-6 favorites for your own personal board.
Apart from the heavenly chocolate soufflé, which is finished tableside, the Moonshine Cake is another hearty option. Moist, rich and totally shareable, it comes topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
After so much delicious food and drink, you’ll likely need to be rolled out of the resort. But it’s totally worth it. It should go without saying, but please make sure to plan ahead and use a rideshare service if you plan on drinking at each stop.
Self-parking is $24 per day, or $35 for valet. Both self-parking and valet are validated if you spend at least $75 at MOOR or Old Hickory Steakhouse during your visit.
Extend your date day with a visit to the resort’s on-site spa, Relâche Spa. Self-parking is complimentary with a spa reservation, and you’ll also get access to the adults-only South Beach Pool. (Psst—here’s a sweet Travelzoo deal we found for a couples massage and pool day.)
Restaurant hours vary, but are generally are as follows:
- Socio: 4-10pm
- MOOR: 5-10pm
- Old Hickory Steakhouse: 5-10pm
Disclosure: Gaylord Palms is one of our valued advertising partners. This experience was provided at no cost to the writer.
About the Author/Photographer:
Stephanie Patterson is a talented professional food and travel photographer and writer with a passion for creativity, the beach and great eats. When she’s not taking photos or writing, you can find her exploring the state for her Florida travel blog, Travel Taste Click. Find her online at www.spattersonphotography.com and www.traveltasteclick.com.
All photos by Stephanie Patterson
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