While Orlando’s illustrious theme parks may steal the show, there’s a charm and allure in the City Beautiful which is often overlooked. From quaint brick streets brimming with boutiques to a blossoming cultural scene, Orlando’s hidden gems make for a great getaway. Talk to Orlando locals and they will tell you of a vibrant city which exists beyond the perfectly manicured theme parks grounds. To truly experience all the city has to offer step out and explore Orlando like a local.
Stroll Park Avenue in Winter Park
You’ll find well-heeled locals shopping at trendy boutiques and dining at bistros along the tree-lined Park Avenue. Museums, sculpture gardens, sidewalk cafes, and cultural offerings are packed within the charming town. Plan your visit for an early Saturday morning and start the day at the Winter Park Farmer’s Market, a great place to grab breakfast, homemade bread or simply people watch. Explore the world’s most comprehensive collection of works by Louis Comfort Tiffany at the Morse Museum, followed by brunch at a local favorite, the Briarpatch. Be sure to try the signature lemon ricotta pancakes which pair perfectly with a sparkling mimosa.
Visit Ivanhoe Village & Mills 50 District
Ivanhoe Village packs a craft beer bar (Brass Tap), live music joints (Lil Indies & Will’s Pub), farm to table dining (The Strand), and authentic Asian eateries all within a couple of walkable miles. For day to evening fun, explore Ivanhoe Village which is nestled along the shores of Lake Ivanhoe. Spend the afternoon playing beach volleyball or paddle boarding along the lake. After, explore antique stores and eclectic shops of Ivanhoe Village before grabbing a beer at Lucky Lure.
Check Out the City’s Cultural Scene
Whether stargazing from the top of the Orlando Science Center or admiring the 10-12 exhibits on-site at the Orlando Museum of Art, Orlando’s Loch Haven Park offers a collection of cultural options. Loch Haven Park sprawls over 45 acres of lush grounds nestled among three lakes. Picnic under the canopy of oaks and spend the day exploring one of the many museums. Marvel at the works of Earl Cunningham at the Mennello Museum of American Art or take in a show at the Shakespeare Theatre, be sure to check out the park’s website for a complete list of activities.
Visit Downtown Orlando
Grab fresh baked French pastries at Le Gourmet Break and head over to Lake Eola, which is the perfect location to enjoy your coffee and treat. After, take a swan ride around the lake or simply stroll the nearby neighborhoods. Spend the evening taking in dinner and a show. The Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, produces more than 300 shows each year. Take full advantage of an evening in the city by sampling Orlando’s epicurean scene. Enjoy dinner at the gastronomical farm to table gem, Rusty Spoon, located in historic Church St. Station and helmed by James Beard Award Nominee Kathleen Blake.
Swim in the Springs
Escape the Florida heat with a trip to Wekiwa Springs. A short drive north of downtown Orlando, the springs’ 72-degree water draw locals looking to cool off. Explore nature trails by foot or bike or hop in a canoe to experience the true untouched beauty of Florida.
We’ve only skimmed the surface of what Orlando has to offer outside of the theme parks. So, the next time you’re in Florida, be sure to check out Orlando like a local, we promise you’ll be back.