Sunsets, Secrets, and Martinis at Orlando International Airport (MCO)

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fly me to the moon

In other words, let's spend an evening at the airport without having to pack a bag or stand in line at security.

We're always looking for unique experiences and the best ones are the unplanned ones we've just stumbled upon. The Mr. took me to New York City for the first time last Fall. It was a quick trip, only spending about 30 hours in the Big Apple. Our flight left super early on a Saturday morning out of OIA so we decided to spend the night at the Hyatt Regency conveniently located at/in the airport.

That night we added a new watering hole to our favorites list and learned a secret that has us going back for more, even when we don't have to catch a flight (a.k.a. this makes a great date night or adventure with friends)!

The Hyatt Regency Lobby Bar

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Hotel lobby bars are some of the best places to people watch. Add an airport element on to that and you have a gold mine. The Lobby Bar at MCO is a haven for business travelers and conference attendees who become quite entertaining after a cocktail or two.

And the cocktails are not bad either – tasty and boozy enough to make you comfortable with the elevated airport price.

You can also order apps and entrees from McCoy’s Bar and Grill, named for the airport’s original moniker, McCoy Air Force Base (and also why OIA’s airport code is MCO).

Every cocktail, nom-nom, and conversation we’ve had here have been excellent! But time your cocktails near sunset and check out . . .

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The Secret Sunset Spot

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We were wandering the hotel conference area the evening before we left for NYC and noticed a large beverage conference (so fitting!) was wrapping up. We ran into a friendly staff member who kindly explained what was going on and gifted us several new flavors of La Croix. There was a few more minutes of conversation and then she said "Oh by the way, did you know you can go up and watch the sunset from the helicopter landing pad?"

Yes, you too can access the helicopter pad from the parking garage and have a (mostly) private viewing of an Orlando sunset. Downtown Orlando, Disney-area hotels, the Orlando Eye, and the Stanton Energy Center power plant are all visible with this 360 degree view.

The best way to reach the helicopter pad is at the end of the meeting room hallway to the right of the Lobby Bar. Head out into the parking garage and to the elevators. Go to level 11 and you're there! No security. Just you and maybe a couple of employees on break.

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Random Tips

  • It pays to chat up your bartender.
    • On our most recent visit (last Tuesday) we learned that the tram to the new Terminal C was operating and is a fun ride. You don't have to go through security here either and if you get to the front of the tram and get all dramatic-like you can pretend you're flying a fighter jet.
    • He also pointed out that the helicopter pad is a great place to watch rocket launches. 
  • Valet your car at the hotel. You don't have to be a hotel guest to valet here and it's the easiest way to get to the bar.

So if you ever want to get away without spending all that money on a plane ticket, don't feel weird about hanging out at the airport bar like we do. Because we're totally not strange people who go to the airport for fun. Nope.

On another note and bringing it closer to home: we look forward to the growth of Sanford's own international airport and hope that one day soon it'll have a great cocktail bar of it's own (located before security) we can hang out at and watch the world go by.