Things To Do In Orlando This Week: October 4 - 9, 2010

An Expensive Indulgence: La Coquina at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress
Two exceptional dining experiences have returned, as La Coquina reopens its doors for autumn. Take your choice of a Saturday night Chef's Tasting Dinner or a spectacular Sunday Brunch -- either way, you are in for a culinary experience that you won't soon forget. On Saturday nights, you watch from an in-kitchen table as the chef prepares an exquisite tasting menu, plus available wine pairings. The menu changes daily, based on the best ingredients, local produce and the kitchen's own creativity. For something less intimate but just as delicious, go for Sunday Brunch and enjoy table after table, room after room of sumptuous choices. Brunch features everything from fresh seafood to made to order breakfast entrees, fruits and salads, waffles and pancakes, and a dessert table that will tempt you to skip everything else and just dig straight into the sweets. I've done both brunch and dinner -- if you can manage the same, do it. Reservations recommended. (1 Grand Cypress Boulevard,
407-239-1234)

A Cheap Treat: Share a pot of gourmet tea at Pom Pom's Teahouse
It's $5 for a small pot and $6.50 for a large; with at least 19 different flavors to choose from, you won't have any trouble finding the perfect pot for you and a few thirsty friends (My favorite is the Jasmine). Pom Pom's is a hidden gem in an unremarkable strip mall on Bumby Avenue near downtown Orlando. Hipsters, local families and food-savvy tourists pack the tiny space (open 24 hours on weekends) for desserts, sandwiches, breakfast (grits of the day are becoming a local legend) and more. Most servings are easy to share, so savor your pot of tea while you sample some other delicacies. Admire the local art on the walls, too, and maybe take a piece home -- it's all for sale. (67 Bumby Avenue, 407-894-0865)

Free Fun: The 37th Annual Winter Park Autumn Art Festival
Take a drive over to Winter Park for this annual event, sponsored by the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce. This sidewalk show features work by local and statewide artists, plus entertainment. This year, 150 carefully-chosen Florida artists will gather in beautiful Central Park to present their work in
painting (all media), ceramics, fine crafts, drawing & graphics, fibers, sculpture, jewelry and photography. Kids can even try their hand a making their own masterpieces -- the Crealdé School of Art will offer free art workshops for children on both days of the festival.
Stroll and admire at your leisure on Saturday and Sunday; the event is open from 9am to 5pm both days. Central Park is located near Park Avenue, which is lined with shops and restaurants that are also well worth a look. (111 N. Park Avenue, Winter Park, 407-644-8281)

Cool for Kids: Sea World's Halloween Spooktacular
Opening on Saturday, October 9, Sea World's Halloween Spooktacular is the only theme park Halloween event that is included with your regular theme park admission -- no extra tickets to buy! Let your kids dress in their Halloween finest and trick or treat throughout the park; a special Spooktacular map will show them the way to the treasure stations where treats await. There will also be special shows and strolling entertainment, along with everything else Sea World Orlando has to offer. The event runs on weekends through Halloween and it will get more crowded as the end of the month nears. Go this weekend to get an early dose of Halloween fun, without the scary crowds. (Sea World,
888-800-5447)

Great for Grownups: The 39 Steps at the Orlando Shakespeare Theater
Get seats for this two-time Tony winner, based on the critically-acclaimed Hitchcock film of the same name. But this adaptation is more Hitchcock by way of Monty Python, with a bit of hardboiled crime novel thrown into the mix. It's hilarious and fast-paced, with only four actors taking on all the characters in the film -- men, women, children and even the occasional inanimate object! It's "gut-bustingly funny" and filled with "visual comic treats." The critics aren't kidding, either. I was lucky enough to see the show's West End debut a few years ago and I've been recommending it ever since. The Orlando Shakespeare production is only running until October 10, so catch it before it closes. (812 East Rollins Street, 407-447-1700)

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