Urban Backpacker Travels: Orlando

I spent two weeks in Orlando over the past month so this post will summarize the highlights of both trips.  Keep in mind that both trips were for work, which didn't leave time for too much exploring, but I there are a few things I have to share!

Lodging:

 Both weeks I stayed at the Hilton Lake Buena Vista,  which is just a short walk from Downtown Disney.  While the hotel itself is not the nicest or fanciest, the staff were amazing.  Since this was a work trip, all of our breakfasts and lunches were served buffet style, which is always difficult to navigate as someone with specific dietary needs.  The servers both weeks were especially attentive and worked with the chef to have special meals ready for me.  There was a bit of a mishap the second week - a mango went missing from my room (still unclear what happened).  Word of this traveled to the hotel management and the next time I returned to my room there were 8 beautiful mangoes waiting for me.  Needless to say I was a happy camper.

Eats:

Like I mentioned, most meals were provided so I don't have much to report on the food front.  I did spend 2 weeks in Orlando last year, so instead I will share some of the spots I found then.

-Sweet Tomatoes - Huge salad bar + baked sweet potatoes + fresh bread + dessert.  Really what more could you ask for?  Great choice if you want something quick and fresh that will please everyone.

Salad bar forever

Sweet Tomatoes - Pretty much my dream dinner.

 - Babycakes Bakery- Vegan, gluten-free, soy-free, and refined sugar free baked goods.  Seriously so good.  I was really disappointed to hear that they closed their storefront in Downtown Disney this summer (although their products can be found at some Disney locations).  Good thing they are based in NYC which means I can still get my fill of their uber yummy baked goods.

-Ethos Vegan Kitchen - Located in Winter Park, this is a vegan restaurant that all can enjoy.  I went for brunch and got the tofu scramble, which was really tasty.  I would love to go back to try their regular fare.

Parks:

We only went to the parks one evening very briefly, so I can't provide much insight as to eating vegan while visiting Disney.  That being said, I have read that Disney is much better than Universal in catering to food allergies and specific dietary needs.  From my limited experience, this held true - the folks at Harry Potter World (Universal) wouldn't serve me butterbeer without the dairy topping even when I said I had an allergy.  Sad, but I still enjoyed the rides and a normal beer!

Special guest at Harry Potter World

Look out for the Muggles!

Butterbeer on draft + scary boar head

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My key to staying vegan while traveling?  Be prepared, but also be flexible.  Pack snacks - I always travel with trail mix and fresh fruit.  Do your research and find a grocery store, natural foods store, or some local veg-friendly options, but don't get all upset if plans take you elsewhere.  While it's nice to try local fare, sometimes it more important to see the sights, or spend time with family or friends (who may not be too keen on trying the tiny raw foods joint 15 miles away).

See this post for more tips on keeping up your healthy lifestyle while on the go.

I hope you all are enjoying these travel recaps.  I'm back in NYC for a few weeks, so I will get back to posting recipes and adventures from the Big Apple!

Urban Backpacker Travels: Miami

Okay so I've been pretty bad at keeping up the blog lately.  I'm not making excuses but like I mentioned in my previous post (over a month ago!), work was crazy busy and monopolizing my life.  This continued through April and into May, but things really should slow down now so I hope to get back to posting more frequently, especially since the weather is beautiful now and I have lots of fun adventures planned over the upcoming months.

Let's rewind a bit: three weeks ago I was lucky enough to go to Miami for work.  While most of the week was spent in the classroom, I did get to explore a bit and would love to share some of my adventures.

First, let's talk lodging.  I was traveling with a group for a work training, so I did not get to pick the hotel, but I was very pleased with my firm's choice:  Kimpton's Epic Miami. This was probably the nicest hotel I had ever stayed in while traveling for work (not saying we don't stay in nice places, but this hotel was really nice!).  Highlights: a different fruit infused water in the lobby every day (hello hydration!), yoga mats in every room, an Exhale mind body spa located in the hotel, and bath products that were both organic and cruelty free.  Needless to say, I felt like I was on vacation!  My room had a balcony, so most evenings I did some yoga in the sunshine looking out over the water.  One night I decided to check out a yoga class at Exhale, and I was not disappointed.  The class, taught by Eben, was physically challenging but also super calming.  Since I was with work, meals were provided during the day, and I usually had plenty to choose from - lots of fresh fruit for breakfast, and always some sort of salad for lunch. I was surprised to see dragon fruit on the buffet a few mornings- I definitely scooped that right up! Thank you antioxidants!

As I mentioned, most meals were provided through work, but I did find a few veg-friendly spots for when I was on my own for eats:

-10 Fruits- This juice and smoothie spot was just 1/2 mile from my hotel, so I stopped here a few mornings after my run.  I tried the Back to Work and Stay Green juices, which were good but not great (I'm spoiled by Organic Avenue's seriously good juices here in NYC. And my own concoctions, obviously).  I did however love their Brazil nut milk. I love to make my own, and this tasted similar - simple and pure with only a bit of vanilla and cinnamon for natural sweetness.  I didn't get a chance to try the Acai bowls at 10 Fruits, but if I'm ever back in Miami I would love to!

-Choices Vegan Cafe- Choices (Downtown) is a super cute spot with just what the name implies- lots of vegan choices!  I clearly found something for me since I came here twice during my short time in Miami!  The first time I tried the Deluxe Pesto Wrap on a bed of quinoa and one of their Cookie Dough balls. While the dish did not look like much, it was delicious and exactly the wholesome meal I needed.  The second time around, I got The Refresher juice with apple and The Everything Salad (minus the Daiya cheese).  The juice was phenomenal, not too sweet and really refreshing.  The salad was also amazing, and HUGE. The only thing I wasn't a fan of was the veggie chorizo, but then again I'm never really a fan of fake meat products.  If I am ever in Miami again, I will definitely hit up Choices - I would love to try their breakfast (offered every day!) and one of their smoothies. 

Overall, Miami was a great little getaway even though I was technically working.  I got to meet some awesome people that I will be spending quite a bit of time with this summer, and got to check out a few of the local veg spots.

Next post I'll recap my more recent trip to Vegas and the Wonderful World of Disney (aka Orlando).  Until then, hope everyone is getting outside on this beautiful spring day!