Orlando’s new high-speed train offers quick and convenient trips down South for an unparalleled weekend of fun in the sun!

By Riesa Pascal

After years of construction, months of hype and weeks of eager anticipation, the moment we’ve all been waiting for finally arrived! On September 22nd, Brightline officially opened its newest doors for Central Florida locals and tourists alike to travel easily to Miami on Orlando’s first high-speed train. To say I was excited for my own experience riding Brightline would be an understatement as my companion and I had been looking forward to our Brightline journey to Miami for weeks. The new station was conveniently located near Orlando International Airport’s Terminal C with a similar drop-off/pick-up point, but that’s where the similarities ended. You’ll quickly notice that getting through security for Brightline is a lot less hectic and stressful than TSA’s security for flying. There was no need for passengers to remove shoes or electronics and best of all, no restrictions on liquids—just a quick scan of our luggage and ticket was all that was required. In just a few short minutes, we were on the other side of check-in hanging out in Brightline’s Premium Lounge and awaiting our highly-anticipated departure.

Brightline Orlando Train Station

10705 Jeff Fuqua Blvd

Orlando, FL 32827



Though access to the lounge does require a Premium ticket, many may find the upgrade to be worth it as the spacious area offered cozy seating and complimentary access to various beverages, fruits and pastries that were perfect for our early morning departure. Also unlike airline travels, boarding for Brightline began just 10 minutes before our departure and proved to be just as quick and convenient as check-in. Upon settling into our lush premium class seats, we were soon introduced to our cabin crew for the journey, Evencio and Ann. To say they took care of our every need would be a gross understatement as it felt more like we had been life-long friends by the time we pulled up to Brightline Miami station just a few hours later. Between Evencio’s hilarious quips and Ann’s cheerful spirit, the ride was an absolutely joyful experience highlighted by even more complimentary snacks and beverages including tasty mimosas that we cheered with in celebration of our Miami adventure weekend.

After experiencing the convenience of traveling on Brightline, it only made sense to follow it up with an equally convenient stay at YOTELPAD Miami located just a few minutes walk from the station and directly across the bridge from the world famous South Beach. YOTEL Miami consists of cleverly-designed rooms while YOTELPAD Miami, situated right above the hotel, features sleek, modern condominium style PADs. Using YOTELPAD as our homebase for the weekend while off on explorations proved to be the right choice. Designed for longer term stays for both business and leisure travelers, we loved the hassle-free solution to living accommodations in a comfortable space that felt like a home away from home. After taking a moment to drop off our bags and take in some incredible skyline views from our private balcony, it was time to hit the road again for lunch at Okeydokey in Brickell.

Okeydokey is three floors of ‘eats, drinks and beats’ featuring 6 of Miami’s top restaurants, world class mixologist and a blend of dj, live music and entertainment in one of Miami’s busiest neighborhoods. From Mediterranean at Atlas and Asian Fusion at MAC – Modern Asian Cuisine to Italian at Dalplin and everything in between, be sure to give yourself plenty of time for your dining experience as you’ll need the extra minutes to browse Okeydokey’s extensive menu of mouth-watering offerings. Seated outside in their lush patio, my companion and I ultimately decided on a citrus marinade, half-rotisserie chicken from Little Bird and a grilled salmon bowl from Yoso Ramen. Needless to say, we were not disappointed! The juicy, expertly prepared chicken was perfectly complemented with crispy tostones and a fresh side salad. Meanwhile, my companion’s Scottish salmon served on a bed of avocado, edamame, seaweed salad, cucumber and sushi rice was delicious down to her very last bite.

Following such a satisfying lunch, it seemed like a great idea to let our food settle while exploring an immersive art experience in Allapattah called Superblue. With that being said, put aside whatever notion you currently hold about a typical art gallery with paintings and artifacts hanging from walls, because everything in Miami is far from the ordinary and that includes Superblue. The venue may have looked like a warehouse on the outside, but the large space inside was divided into multiple rooms and experiential exhibits that guests walked through to experience various “Trippy, Meditative, Gorgeous” activations as so eloquently put by the New York Times. In one room was a canopy of 3,000 glowing lights that uses a technology called photoplethysmography to make the bulbs flicker to the pulse of participant heartbeats. Walk into another room and you will find 30-foot ceilings where interactive projections of flowers are growing on the walls. Then swap flowers on the ground with clouds in the sky in the next room as you don a poncho and goggles to experience the eerie sensation of walking through foam-like clouds. We enjoyed all the above and more via this unique, increasingly popular Miami attraction.

One of the more beautiful things about South Florida is the diversity of culture which is perhaps most heavily reflected in the variety of cuisine offerings. I had never had the experience of dining on Israeli cuisine, but our trip offered the perfect opportunity to explore Tel Aviv while in the heart of Miami at Branja in Upper Buena Vista. Branja’s bold and creative remixing of Mediterranean and contemporary worldwide recipes brought our first day to a phenomenal close with a lovely dinner of crispy chicken schnitzel for myself and seafood paella with fisherman’s catch, creamy orzo, peppers and other fresh ingredients for my companion. In the semi-open outdoor dining room, guests sit at hand-crafted terrazzo-top tables and reclaimed synagogue benches under the bows of a magical bodhi tree. Retro art vignettes combined with Branja’s vibrant bohemian decor sparked a feeling of genuine shalom that stayed with us for the remainder of the evening.

The following morning kicked off with a hearty breakfast at Yotel Miami’s Vela. Though evening hours sees the 84-seat bar and restaurant turn into a vibrant nightlife lounge offering classic cocktails with a twist and scrumptious food, the morning menu included a selection of breakfast options that proved to be the perfect fuel for our day of explorations in Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood. More than 75,000 gallons of paint and 100,000 spray cans has turned the Wynwood Walls into a globally renowned street art museum consisting of art by over 100 artists from 21 different countries. With 35,000 square feet of photo-worthy wall space, the museum has transformed the definition of modern art and helped to make Wynwood one of the world’s most celebrated urban revitalization projects and an oasis for cutting-edge creativity. Walking through the colorful grounds and gorgeous exhibits was a definite highlight of our weekend and an experience I would encourage anyone visiting Miami to partake in.

Following our Wynwood adventure, we made our way across the street to Bakan for a flavorful, authentic Mexican lunch in a beautiful outdoor setting. I decided to order the hand-crafted robalo chileno tacos with seabass, veggies, yuzu-basil, guacamole and black beans while my companion opted for the popular pollo con salsa de tomatillo-chipotle quesadilla with oaxaca cheese, pulled chicken and tomatillo-chipotle salsa. As exquisite as both of our dining choices were, I would be remiss to not mention our deliciously refreshing mango margaritas that made it abundantly clear why Bakan totes themselves as being experts in tequila and mezcal. A second round of drinks followed later that evening at YOTEL’s Sunset Happy Hour at Vela Sky which is a must-do activity during your stay. Located on the 12th floor, the rooftop bar offers a bird’s eye view into the magical city of Miami while allowing patrons to enjoy light bites, island inspired cocktails and even a dip in the rooftop pool as the sun sets around you.

When night fell, we departed for Miami’s famed Little Havana to close out our fabulous weekend with an unforgettable dinner show at Calle Dragones. A tribute to Cuba and its cultural influences, Calle Dragones resembles the streets of Old Havana and features Asian-Latin cuisine blended with Chinese and Caribbean ingredients and cooking techniques. My companion and I absolutely devoured a char siu pork belly appetizer before our savory duck confit fried rice main was served. As if their carefully crafted menu wasn’t enough reason to stop by, our dinner was also accompanied by world-class performances with some of the city’s most acclaimed musicians and talented performers. As the evening continued, a live latin band playing various hits got us up and dancing the night away with other laughing guests on the crowded dance floor.

The following morning it was time to make our return to Orlando though we managed to squeeze in a few hours at The Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science located downtown just minutes from YOTEL. Sitting on four acres, the 250,000-square-foot museum is divided into four distinct buildings: the Aquarium, the Frost Planetarium, and the North and West Wings. The unique campus-like setting takes guests on a journey from the ocean to the Everglades, and from the human cell to outer space investigating life as we know it while exploring the process of science and innovation. Perfect for children—and the curious inner child in all of us—including Frost Science on your itinerary is a great choice, but be sure to leave enough time to take in all six floors of interactive exhibitions that the attraction has to offer!

Unsurprisingly, our trip home on Brightline was as quick, convenient and enjoyable as our journey down. Our train departed promptly at the scheduled time and the hours of travel flew by as my companion and I reminisced on the incredible weekend we experienced in Miami thanks to Orlando’s new, hassle-free method of high-speed train travel South. Brightline’s complimentary Wi-Fi and power outlets even made uploading and posting about our many memories a literal breeze. With stops in Aventura, Fort Lauderdale, Boca Raton, and West Palm Beach in addition to Miami, I am confident that I will be back on Brightline and the success they’ve already experienced in just their first full month of operation makes it evident to me that others in our city are feeling the same.