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Summer Sizzles in Orlando

by Dan Allen

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Thursday June 9, 2022

Summer Sizzles in Orlando

Orlando shines all year long, but never more so than during its summer months — especially for LGBTQ+ travelers, given the importance of the city's vast array of Pride events. And this summer, just as travel returns somewhat to normal, Orlando is offering a dazzling array of new attractions and venues to keep things especially fresh and exciting for visitors.

Orlando's Profound Pride

Few cities pack as much into Pride Month — and with as much significance — as Orlando. The first few days of June kick off in festive high gear with the full-on fun of GayDays, Girls in Wonderland, One Magical Weekend, and all of their many related parties and events.

The Pride tone then turns commemorative for a series of vital and mostly free events remembering the Pulse nightclub tragedy — and this year will be extra special, as it marks the first year since 2019 when all memorials will take place during their traditional month.

University of Central Florida's Main Campus east of downtown Orlando as part of UCF Remembers, and the campus's Millican Hall will be lit in the colors of the LGBTQ+ Pride flag. At UCF's Downtown Campus, onePULSE Foundation will present the inaugural International Culture of Remembrance Symposium on June 10 and 11, bringing together leading international scholars and experts to help foster a global dialogue around memorial culture. On the evening of June 10, downtown Orlando's Thornton Park District will be the site of reflection and fun under the stars for the second annual United We Dance, with DJ Scott Robert spinning music designed to honor the resilience of Orlando's LGBTQ+ community, first responders, Pulse survivors and The 49.

Gay/straight alliance advocacy organization The Dru Project presents its Tropical Memorial Party on June 11, with Hawaiian-inspired brunch dishes, a drag show, raffles and more at The 808 in downtown Orlando. For three days only from June 10 to 12, the Orange County Regional History Center in downtown Orlando will host Pulse Memorial Crosses on Display, including free admission to the museum. At noon on June 12, downtown's First United Methodist Church of Orlando will host the official 49 Bells, which invites churches and other locations throughout the world to ring 49 bells in honor of the Pulse victims. Also on June 12, onePULSE Foundation holds its annual Remembrance Ceremony at the Pulse Interim Memorial, bringing together the families of those whose lives were tragically taken and providing them a space to remember their loved ones in peace, and also honoring survivors, first responders and trauma teams. Rounding things out on June 18 at Ace Cafe in downtown Orlando, Keep Healing Orlando is a holistic wellness event founded by Impulse Orlando and QLatinX, including massage, yoga meditation, workshops, speakers and vendors promoting wellness, selfcare, positivity and respect.

Orlando Summer Freshness

Beyond Pride, there's plenty more Orlando excitement in store for Summer 2022, including a slew of brand-new attractions and venue openings. EPCOT's first "other-world" showcase pavilion Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind has just opened with a 360-degree storytelling coaster and the first reverse launch on a Disney coaster. SeaWorld Orlando's first launch coaster Ice Breaker features four launches, both backwards and forwards, culminating in a reverse launch with the steepest vertical drop in Florida. And Aquatica Orlando's newest water slide, Reef Plunge, offers twists and turn though 330 feet of fiberglass.

On the hotel scene, the Tuscan-inspired, 126-room ette Hotel Orlando has just opened near Disney World. Alcohol-free and focusing on wellness, the hotel offers The Spa at?ette alongside culinary experiences in partnership with acclaimed chef Akira Back. Opening June 30, the AC Hotel by Marriott Orlando Lake Buena Vista will offer a state-of-the-art 24-hour fitness facility, inventive chef-tailored dining, and signature cocktail service. At the London House — no longer a members-only private club — chef Rikku Ó'Donnchü presents the new boutique restaurant Immersion, featuring a tasting menu-only concept with a sensorial dining experience focused on science, climate change, sustainable farming and zero waste. Three-time James Beard Award semifinalist and "Top Chef" contestant John Tesar has brought his concept Knife Burger to the JW Marriott Orlando, featuring a slightly more expanded menu than the original Texas location. And the newly opened Lake Nona Wave Hotel recently unveiled the all-new Lake Nona Sculpture Garden, a 50,000-square-foot outdoor space featuring lush landscaping and a collection of world-renowned sculptures, including one of the most recognized in the world, the Charging Bull (also known as "the Wall Street Bull") by Arturo di Modica.

Outdoors in Orlando

Of course there's no better time than summer to get outdoors in Orlando, and there's no better place to be — other than a theme park, naturally — than one of the city's many zoos and gardens. Long-running Orlando attraction Gatorland features fascinating reptiles, as well as large cats, gentler animals, exotic birds, plant life and fun attractions. The Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens, located about 30 minutes north of Orlando's main tourism area,?presents a relaxing, entertaining and educational experience featuring more than 400 animals representing over 150 local and exotic species. Wild Florida, best known for its stunning airboat tours, also features a gator park and a drive-thru safari featuring more than 100 exotic animals and native Florida wildlife. The Harry P. Leu Gardens, located in Orlando's Audubon Park Garden District, feature 50 acres of cultivated gardens boasting more than 40 diverse plant collections from around the world. Also on site is the Leu House Museum, an 1880s-era family home that's listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Dan Allen covers travel and LGBTQ culture for numerous outlets around the world including NBC Out, CBS Watch!, the Los Angeles Blade, Passport and Fodor's.