One of the great joys of every Christmas season, aside from the general warmhearted sensations of good cheer and holiday spirit, is the satisfaction you get hitting decline on a Google calendar group invite to the annual office party.
Sure, it's Grinchy, but who among us hasn't experienced the horrors of an awkward company gathering?
The bottom rung of office soirees is the in-house affair: sadly decorated break room, unbearable small talk, an untouched Publix plate of cold cuts and veggies, and absolutely no alcohol.
The next rung up includes the same premise, but adds the alcohol back in – either you regretfully make out with Gary, the bore from accounting, or you get to hear the exasperating details of alimony as your newly divorced boss shouts them from the cooler.
Some office managers think they've figured out the secret by ditching potlucks and booking holiday office festivities at restaurants and bars. This almost works until Barbara has six too many tequila shots and attempts to do the Wobble. Best-case scenario, she goes viral on YouTube, either from her sick moves or her epic barfing. Worst-case scenario, you all have to watch Ben, the office creep, attempt to dance with Barbara and crash into an expensive speaker while trying to seduce her via karaoke.
But fear not – it doesn't have to be this way, and Orlando Weekly is here to help rescue something out of this dumpster fire of corporate culture.
We've found several places around town where you can have a good time with co-workers while also making sure your holiday party isn't lame or memorable for all the wrong reasons. Leave a copy of this issue on the head honcho's desk and get ready for a fantastic time.
Your co-workers might love going outdoors, hiking and kayaking, but do you want to get a sunburn in front of those people? You can still do an outdoorsy activity without the discomfort of trying to stay alive in the Florida jungle by going to Topgolf, a 65,000-square-foot golf entertainment complex that includes three floors of bars and 102 private bays.
Either settle into lounge seating or hit microchipped golf balls toward dartboard-like targets across a 240-yard green for points. The balls keep the score, so to speak, so you won't have to bring a pencil. Don't bother fetching them, either – just wave your club over the dispenser and it will release another ball. Topgolf's technology even tracks the flight path of your hit and gives instant feedback on that swing. The menu features cocktails, micheladas and domestic drafts as well as classic burgers, sliders and sandwiches.
For a group of 12 or more, check out Topgolf's holiday packages. Prices range from $65 to $90 per person based on the time and date of your party, but all packages include three hours of play, a selection of menus, unlimited non-alcoholic drinks, lifetime memberships, free club rentals, reserved bays, game demonstrations and a dedicated host. If you have six employees or fewer, you can rent a bay for $30 to $50 per hour, depending on when you choose to go. You don't have to be a Tiger Woods to have fun here – this ultra-modern form of golf will chillax your party. 9295 Universal Blvd., 407-218-7714, topgolf.com/us/orlando
iFly Indoor Skydiving
Forget the ice-breakers and trust falls to build team spirit at the office party – indoor skydiving at iFly creates instant camaraderie as you float in free-fall conditions together.
Located in the heart of Orlando's tourism district, iFly lets you feel like you're falling from a plane parachute-free, without the plane. Large fans in vertical wind tunnels pull up air through the flight chamber that returns in a loop to create a steady stream of air that you can "fly" on.
Instructors guide guests through safety procedures, hand signals and the proper way to hold your body in the capsule. After training, you'll get goggles, a helmet and a brightly colored flight suit that Superman would be proud to wear (but as Edna Mode would say, no capes!).
Inside the flight chamber, an instructor will be with you at all times as you lean into the wind column and let it sweep you up into a surreal experience. You can go all the way and try some flips or sit back and watch the instructors spin upside-down like tops in the twister.
iFly claims to make corporate events extraordinary with unique event spaces, catering and flight enhancements. The price for groups of up to 12 people sharing 24 flights costs almost $660, so if you have more than a dozen employees, you'll want to contact them for a custom holiday package. 8969 International Drive, 407-337-4359, iflyworld.com/orlando
Bowling is a favorite for office holiday parties – it boosts morale by rousing the competitive juices, and Orlando has plenty of locations that don't disappoint like Splitsville, Kings Dining & Entertainment and Aloma Bowl. But we'd be remiss if we didn't mention Colonial Lanes, the beloved Milk District establishment that's been setting pins for almost three decades.
If your appetite for fun is bigger than your wallet, Colonial Lanes offers party packages that include pizza, fountain drinks and two games of bowling among 32 wooden lanes (with shoes) for $17.50 per person. Home to a pro shop, game room, snack counter and pool tables, this bowling alley also features a cool sunken bar filled with cheap drinks and gritty yet lovable bartenders.
There's a touch of nostalgia around the place after word came out that a developer had filed plans this past summer to tear down the building and replace it with a storage facility. Pour one out for a great place and try not to bust your ass getting out of the vinyl rolly chairs. 400 N. Primrose Drive, 407-894-0361, coloniallanes.net
The Great Escape Room
Orlando has a plethora of escape rooms, but none is as accessible to downtown (and importantly, downtown's healthy selection of bars) as the Great Escape Room off Magnolia Avenue.
Venture up a cramped flight of stairs to find mysterious hosts and three different rooms based on the tales of detective Sherlock Holmes. Peculiar wardens will lock in you and your teammates to search for the hidden clues you'll need to break out in 60 minutes. Be prepared to look for hints in the same place at least 30 times. Finding the correct pieces is only half the battle – you'll also need good deductive reasoning and a knowledge of algebraic equations, the solar system, the Greek alphabet and other esoterica to break down the puzzles together. The trick to the Great Escape Room isn't being a genius – it's knowing how to communicate well with others and working in a team, which makes it a great way to build up your squad.
If you want to make the room private for your holiday party and don't want outside players involved, purchase all available tickets in the room, which range from $20 to $28 per person. Contact the Great Escape Room if you'd like to accommodate larger parties at a private event.
23 1/2 S. Magnolia Ave., 386-385-8860, thegreatescaperoom.com
Burn off all the energy you've accumulated through the year sitting in your windowless cubicle with a round of WhirlyBall against your fellow cube-dwellers.
For the unfamiliar, WhirlyBall is a game that combines basketball, hockey, jai-alai and the irresistible lure of bumper cars. Split into teams of five, you and your office mates will ride electrically powered red and yellow vehicles called WhirlyBugs around a 4,000-square-foot court. Players use a jai-alai style plastic scoop to toss around a whiffleball toward a scoreboard for points. You don't need anything other than shoes you feel comfortable driving in and some quick reflexes.
WhirlyDome also features laser tag, arcade games and an in-house pub. The attraction also offers customizable food and beverage packages for groups and can accommodate parties of 10 to 700 people comfortably. Reach out to their party planners to see what would be the right price for your corporate celebration. 6464 International Drive, 407-212-3030, whirlydome.com
All right, you caught us. While earlier we suggested bars may not be the best places for holiday office parties because people lose their inhibitions in ways that get them sent straight to HR on Monday, we've made an exception for Icebar Orlando because it's too damn cool – literally.
Icebar claims to be the "largest permanent ice bar in the world," with over 70 tons of hand-carved ice sculptures displayed among majestic lighting and music. The ice is kept frozen by bringing the temperature down to a chilly 22 degrees. Upon arrival, the bar's "Ice Princesses" hand out thermal parkas and gloves free of charge. All those coats you have no use for in the Florida heat suddenly become very tempting, don't they? Cocktails are served chilled in custom-carved ice glasses. Next door to the cold room, Icebar also houses the nightclub Fire Lounge, which includes a live DJ and drink specials with no cover.
Private events are available for groups from 50 to 500 people, or up to 1,200 guests if you include the outdoor area. If you do book a private event, add-ons include cigar rollers, event photographers, custom ice sculptures, flair bartenders and staff dressed as polar bears. Contact Icebar for information on pricing. 8967 International Drive, 407-351-0361, icebarorlando.com
Player 1 Video Game Bar
Chances are you're going to go home and game a bit after a boring holiday party, so why not do it together with (or against) your office mates?
Player 1 Video Game Bar takes you on a geeky throwback to the '90s with classic arcade games, retro and modern gaming consoles, and a motion gaming dance floor. Billed as "the ultimate video game lounge experience," Player 1 only serves a curated selection of craft beers, sakes, meads and wines – no liquor here. There's a Lord of the Rings trivia night, a Ladies of Overwatch meetup on Wednesdays, and a chance to try new beers and play a game of Smash Bros. with friends on Mondays, all for a cover of $5.
This gaming spot offers party packages for guests, so if you're interested, send them a message through Facebook. 8562 Palm Parkway, 407-504-7521, facebook.com/player1orlando