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Six Orlando staycations worth your PTO – from super-luxe to summer camp 

Tourist in your own town

Put down the passport. You already live in the world's No. 1 tourist destination. According to Visit Orlando, more than 68 million people visited the City Beautiful in 2016 – a record number – and there's a reason: We have a lot of cool stuff.

Our cool stuff, though, isn't just centered around "the parks." Sure, staying at a Disney hotel and riding the twirl-and-hurls until you actually do is not a bad plan, per se, but curating a true staycation tailored to you is more than possible, too. Art mavens, outdoorsy types and luxury lovers – there's a spot in the sun for all of you.

Orlandoans have a bit of an advantage in the August-September time frame: Most tourists have gone home (the kids are back in school) and hurricane season makes the weather, shall we say, unpredictable. That means hotels are eager to fill rooms with locals, and lines at attractions are shy of hours-long.

This summer, stay local and try one of these themed six staycations. They're so fab, you'll feel far-flung, but they're mere miles from home – just in case you forget the sunscreen.

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Four Seasons Orlando

Luxury Lovers

The luxury hotel is luring locals with a "daycation" deal ($285 per person, Monday through Friday) that couldn't be swankier. The package includes your choice of one of three signature treatments at the ultra-luxe spa and access to the fitness center, including a yoga class on the Spa Lawn. After your sweat sesh, hop into one of the jetted rain showers to prep for lunch at PB&G, the resort's gastropub-inspired overwater restaurant.

Then make straight for the lazy river and float for several hours, or until you're pruny and ready to catch some rays. There are plenty of lounge chairs, and your drink order is the pool butlers' command. Lie back and commend yourself on a life well-lived.

Now for the upgrades: If you're feeling splurgy, rent a cabana at the adults-only Oasis Pool, just outside the spa ($200 for the day). The cabana rental comes with one alcoholic beverage per person, bottled water and a seasonal fruit salad served in a pineapple half – that's how you know you've made it. The infinity lap pool backs up to a conservation area, so you can spot blue herons, white ibis and even gators in the brush.

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Whatever you do, don't miss dinner at one of the on-site restaurants. At Capa, the Spanish-themed steakhouse on the 17th floor, guests can ask chef Gabriel Massip to send out some of his favorite tapas – the roasted cauliflower with capers and coddled egg is a must-eat – then, smart diners order steak. Preferably the bone-in filet; Capa's one of the only places in town to serve that particular cut.

Time your dessert to coincide with the fireworks at Magic Kingdom and Epcot, which begin at 9 p.m. sharp. Take your glass of cava or Capa-ccino out to the viewing deck and take in the magic of Cinderella's Castle from an exclusive vantage point outside the restaurant.

Wanna stay over? Starting room rates for locals during late summer (Aug. 13 through Oct. 1), when kids head back to school and the weather is less than predictable, go for $309 per night.

10100 Dream Tree Blvd., 407-313-7777,

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Airbnb houseboat in Sanford

60 feet of luxury

Sanford has gotten so cool lately, we even suggested it as a day trip in our 2017 City Guide. In fact, the town of 50,000 has so much going for it, you might just want to spend the night. Enter one of the sweetest shoreline Airbnb opps we've ever seen: the luxury 60-foot houseboat owned by a New Jersey native named Rebecca. Yes, you can make your crew mates call you "Cap'n" for the weekend. We'll allow it.

As yet there are no cute boutique hotels here, so the houseboat is really your only non-chain option. It houses six guests in three beds for $175 per night. And no, you can't take it out for a spin; it's permanently docked at the marina on Lake Monroe, a tributary of the St. John's River. Lindenwold includes two beach cruiser bikes with the two-day minimum rental, so you can head over to historic downtown for shopping and eating.

And boy, is there good eating in Sanford.

Hollerbach's Willow Tree Café has long been a First Street mainstay for beer, accordion music and gemütlichkeit. Snarf some sausages and sauerkraut, or take a few fresh ones back to the houseboat and cook 'em there while you watch the sunset. Wondermade's sweet shop is now open with frozen s'mores pops and marshmallows galore. The Tennessee Truffle is a must-lunch. The Smiling Bison recently relocated to Sanford, but even though they're in different digs, the food is still top-notch. If it's been awhile since you've had that duck pizza, go forth.

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If you want to spend the evening on a drunken pub crawl, we suggest hopping on a Limo Cycle seat and pedaling your way through some of Sanford's best bars. The 15-passenger bike-bus hybrid is made for bonding, so invite your best buds from around town on the two-hour tour.

Lake Monroe Marina, Sanford,

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The Alfond Inn

For culture vultures

Between the Morse Museum of American Art, the Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Garden and the Cornell Fine Arts Museum, Winter Park is an art maven's dream come true. Just a few minutes away, the Orlando Museum of Art and Mennello Museum of American Art await. It's possible that you've heard of these visual arts temples, but haven't made the time to visit. A staycation based at the Alfond Inn, home to its own collection of contemporary art donated by the hotel's namesakes, is just your ticket.

The AAA Four-Diamond hotel, owned by Rollins College, offers just 112 rooms, making it one of the most exclusive reservations in town – so dress up. But bring your skivvies, too, since the rooftop pool is a prime place for catching rays and resting tired museum feet.

The hotel's "Night at the Museum" package starts at $239 per night and comprises two nights in a classic room; two art-inspired cocktails in the lobby lounge, where you'll sink into the surroundings and plush furnishings; and passes to the three major Winter Park walking-distance museums.

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While you're in-house, take the self-guided tour of the Alfond's collection using the hotel's iPods and corresponding QR codes, or join one of the happy-hour art tours at 5:30 on the first Wednesday of the month, bubbly in hand, or one of the Sunday tours at 1 p.m., which are open to the public.

We'd highly suggest lunching and dining along Park Avenue during your stay (pizza at Prato, pasta at Maestro, seafood at Luma or sushi at Umi), but don't throw away your shot at Hamilton's Kitchen, the Alfond Inn's restaurant. Brunch at Hamilton's is served from 7 a.m to 2 p.m. on Sundays, so you can sleep in. After trying the grapefruit brûlée, crusted with caramelized brown-sugar crunch, you'll wonder how you ever ate it any other way. Pick the Savannah salmon as your entrée, topped with blue crab Hollandaise and served alongside crisp fried green tomatoes. Finish with the sumptuous butterscotch pudding made with Macallan 12-year-old whisky and topped with salted toffee brittle and fluffy whipped cream. Then roll on home – it's not far.

300 E. New England Ave., Winter Park, 407-998-8090,

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Mainsail Beach Inn

Beach. Please.

The great thing and the not-so-great thing about Anna Maria Island are the same: no hotels (for now – Waterline Marina Resort is slated to open in late 2017). The community is full of beach rentals, many of which have a minimum of a one-week stay, but Mainsail Beach Inn features two- and three-bedroom condos with two- or four-night minimums just off the beach, perfect for sharing with friends for a quick getaway. For the $279 starting room rate in mid-August and September, that's about $50 per bestie per night.

Two hours from Orlando, the sleepy gulf-side barrier island is lined with sugar-sand shores and dotted with art galleries and fun restaurants. Rent a bike and ride up and down the streets to find your favorite beach house, and stop at Two Scoops for artisan ice cream in a dipped waffle cone, covered in rainbow sprinkles. Hop back in the saddle and pedal to the beach for the rest of the day – you won't want to miss the sunset.

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Mainsail Beach Inn condos and townhouses all have outdoor grills, so you might want to book a fishing excursion or just pole fish off the famous Rod & Reel Pier on the north end of the island for a small fee. Bring your catch back to your digs, YouTube how to clean a whole fish and throw it on the (well-oiled) grill stuffed with lemon and parsley.

In the a.m., head to the Donut Experiment for classic cake donuts topped with your choice of five icing flavors (chocolate, caramel, maple, vanilla or glaze) and toppings like sea salt and bacon. Visit their Instagram account @thedonutexperiment beforehand to get ideas for a personalized pastry. Try the sriracha donut to add "spicy" to the sweet-salty combo.

101 66th St., Holmes Beach, 888-849-2642,

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Westgate River Ranch

Summer camp for grown-ups

Let's be honest: Summertime camping in Central Florida sucks. Westgate River Ranch, which should be at the top of every local's to-visit list, makes it way more fun.

Settle into your "glamping" tent (it's a combo of "glamour" and "camping"!), which goes for $265 per night in the summer and sleeps four in the comfy, not-a-sleeping-bag beds – one king and two twins. The tent is air-conditioned, but isn't immune to the elements, including skeeters, so be vigilant about keeping the screens zipped. A private, lockable, hotel-style bathroom is just a few steps away. If your pup is under 60 pounds and not on the "aggressive breed" list, you can pack the pooch too.

Westgate River Ranch is a true old Florida dude ranch, complete with horses and cattle dotting every vista. The ranch covers 1,700 acres, so the $60 per day golf cart rental or $15 per day bike rental is money well spent. Each activity on the ranch is priced individually, from elevated swamp buggy rides through the Florida prairie, gator-spotting on airboats down the Kissimmee River, skeet shooting, archery and more. Wear comfy, light-colored clothes. Glamping may be less "roughin' it" than the average campout, but it ain't fancy.

If you're there on a Friday night, settle into the saloon for cocktails and line-dancing lessons. You might scoff, but the ladies wearing the boots with the blinking LED lights are so into it, the fun is infectious. Ten smackaroos says your honky-tonk badonkadonk will be shakin' before long. If liquid courage is what you need to get out on the floor, down a couple of moonshine shots and make your way out there. Or buy a 32-ounce plastic boot to fill with draft beer for $10; refills are just $5 throughout your stay.

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Don't be surprised if you find yourself longing for a ten-gallon Stetson before long. The ranch has an in-house Western store selling felt and straw hats, boots and other ranch-appropriate apparel.

Saturday night, locals and travelers alike fill the 1,200-seat rodeo arena for what's certainly the best ticket in town. Refill your boot and grab a seat to watch cowboys and girls from as far away as Pensacola and Okeechobee make eight seconds on a bucking bull, perform stunts and beat time trials. Stay late for the street party complete with live country cover band.

Take the long way home. As you exit Westgate River Ranch, turn left toward Lake Wales and down State Road 27. You'll pass through small rancher towns and eventually hit two stops to complete your "old Florida" staycation. First, there's Struthers' Honey house on the left. The specialty grocer and honey producer has been in business since before Walt Disney came around. The raw orange blossom honey is sold on the honor system – no one mans a cash register – so bring cash or a personal check to pay. The sign on the box says "take your honey and leave your money."

A few miles down the road on the right is the Florida's Natural orange juice plant. It's worth stopping at, too, before getting on I-4 and heading home. Pull into the Grove House parking lot and take the tour of the plant, complete with OJ samples. The gift shop sells cool vintage souvenirs of Lake Wales and Florida's orange-growing heritage.

3200 River Ranch Road, River Ranch, 863-692-1321,

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Cabana Bay Beach Resort


Go way back to a bygone era when family vacations were spent actually arguing in person, rather than by sending passive-aggressive texts or inappropriate Snaps. Cabana Bay Beach Resort, the spanking-new “Rat Pack in Palm Springs”-esque hotel complex just outside Universal’s new Volcano Bay water park, harkens back to those good old days with retro styling and mid-century modern decor. (Phone addicts: The bright, geometric murals and ’50s-era motifs are acutely Instagrammable.)

Their Florida resident deals, which begin in August and continue through September, are pretty swingin’, too, with room rates starting at just $104 for a single room and $129 for a family suite, which sleeps six and has an extra-large bathroom and kitchenette.

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The tower expansion is now complete, adding 400 more rooms to the sprawling 2,200-room resort. If you think that means you’ll be sweaty-shoulder-to-sweaty-shoulder all the time, that’s not exactly true. The outdoor space at Cabana Bay is positively groovy. The 6,000-square-foot sand beach and 8,000-square-foot zero-entry pool is enough to convince many guests to snag a lounger and bake in the Central Florida sun, or float around in the lazy river for a few hours.

We suggest pre-shopping at one of Orlando’s myriad vintage boutiques. For ladies, a killer caftan and some oversized sunglasses to really get into the spirit; men, those shortie Moondoggy shorts are back in vogue. Show off your glam gams as you sidle up for a Manhattan or to make friends with Sinatra’s BFF, Jack Daniels, at the Swizzle Lounge. Universal just released its new Florida Resident three-park admission prices, so if you want to climb the Krakatau volcano, say hi to Kong and hit up Jurassic Park, you can travel via complimentary woody-style buses. At minimum, you’ll want 48 hours to ensconce yourself – two days for the Universal theme parks and to explore Volcano Bay. Expect to pay about $230 for the two-day, three-park pass for locals.

6550 Adventure Way, 407-503-4000,

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