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Orlando Like a Local

Experience Orlando Like a Local

Insider Tips for Orlando's Unique Neighborhoods & Hotspots

ORLANDO, Fla. - Theme parks make Orlando stand out, but the local hiddengems make the city shine. Home to unassuming eateries and stylish nighttime hotspots the "real" Orlando is full of personality and charm waiting to bediscovered. From upbeat and energetic to urban and tranquil, Orlando has asurprising variety of unique neighborhoods to explore.

 

DOWNTOWNORLANDO

Downtown Orlando is a collection of different neighborhoods, all with aunique look and feel. Larger areas include Church Street District, ThorntonPark and Wall Street Plaza, but even single streets stand out with their ownpersonalities. Orange Avenue is central to downtown Orlando and offers uniquerestaurants and cocktail bars, such as Artisan'sTable, DoveCote Brasserie, MathersSocial Gathering and The Courtesy. Anotherhighlight downtown is the Dr. Phillip's Center for thePerforming Arts. The 2018schedule is bursting with big-name musicians, comedians and touring Broadwayshows. New to the scene and first-of-its-kind in the U.S., AceCafé Orlando, is a motor-themeddiner featuring classic British fare, live music and weekend bike, car andmusic festivals. Downtown CREDO invites visitors to experiencefreshly-brewed coffee creations made from fair-trade beans. The menu has noprices, allowing customers to name their price which becomes a donation. Withfour locations throughout Orlando, this 501(c)(3) non-profit donations-onlycoffeehouse brings communities, both local and international, together throughpartnerships with local charities and ensures that donations go towardspreading positivity throughout the Orlando community and beyond.

 

CHURCHSTREET

The ChurchStreet District,located in the heart of downtown Orlando, offers a view of the past with allthe excitement of modern venues, trendy restaurants and nightclubs. Visitorscan explore the district with a downtown Orlando walking tour or catch a game at the AmwayCenter, where the NBAOrlando Magic and Orlando Solar Bears play. Soccer fans can enjoy an OrlandoCity Soccer game at the new OrlandoCity Stadium. Thisdynamic district offers numerous nightlife options and swanky restaurants,including Kres Chophouse, TheRusty Spoon, CevicheTapas Bar & Restaurantand The Boheme Restaurant, located within the boutique GrandBohemian Hotel. The area is also home to several performing arts venues like MadCow Theatre,specializing in both classic and contemporary plays and musicals. Visitors witha special place in their hearts for 80s arcade games can visit JoysticksArcade Lounge and Retro Bar,with games ranging from Pac Man to Mario Bros. A Church Street staple is Ferg'sDepot, comprised offive buildings that were once part of the old Church Street Stationbuilt in 1889. The venue features an upscale restaurant and bar, maindining room, outdoor oyster bar, two separate additional bar rooms and outdoorseating.


THORNTON PARK

One ofdowntown Orlando's most charming neighborhoods is ThorntonPark, the city'scenter and home to new urbanism, unique eateries and the nearby Lake Eola Park.Restaurants in Thornton Park appease a multitude of cravings, with optionsranging from brunch to burgers and tacos. SocoRestaurant, Dexter's and RelaxGrill are just a few ofthe alfresco options available. Harp & Celt and GraffitiJunktion offer sportsfans a fun atmosphere to watch a game. Thornton Park is also home to EolaWine Company and World of Beer. Both have their obvious spiritspecialties but also serve great food. Stay locally at the EOInn & Spa, or getyour authentic Orlando fix with a souvenir from MotherFalcon Clothing. Andopening in March 2018, Herman's Loan Office, a craft cocktail speakeasypreviously located on in Church Street District, will be at its new location inThornton Park.

 

MILLS 50

Just northeastof downtown Orlando, Mills 50 is an expanding enclave of authenticAsian restaurants, shops and markets and is home to the largestVietnamese-American community in Florida. Visitors can enjoy delicious anddiverse Asian cuisine at restaurants like HawkersAsian Street Fare, Pho88 and ShinJung. A variety ofother cuisines are worth a try, including modern Mexican at BlackRooster Taqueria, BBQat PigFloyd's, andvegetarian at Dandelion Communitea Cafe, TheSanctum and Marketon South. Ten10Brewing  offers a wide range of beer brewed with localingredients and hosts the popular Sunday "Donuts and Beer" event. Cocktaillovers are also in for a treat at The Guesthouse, a sleek bar with top-notch cocktailcreations. Local markets like Dong A Supermarket and 1st Oriental Supermarket are alsoworth a stop for authentic Asian foods. Florida's only sustainable winery, QuantumLeap, welcomesvisitors to the tasting room and a free tour upon request.

 

THE MILKDISTRICT

Anup-and-coming neighborhood just over a mile from Downtown Orlando, The MilkDistrict is named for its location near T.G. Lee Dairy and is a thriving areaknown for its funky shops and weekly food truck gatherings. Local favoritesinclude Pom Pom's Tea House and Sandwicheria, BeefyKing, Se7enBites, DrunkenMonkey Coffee Bar andBull & Bush. And every Tuesday evening, foodiescan enjoy savory dishes during Tasty Tuesdays, featuring local food trucks - about12 out of 30 on rotation each month - with everything from vegetarian plates toAmerican gastropub favorites. Visitors and locals hunt for cool vintage findsat Etoile Boutique,and visit The Plaza Live for musical performances, comedyshows and cultural events.

 

SODO

Formerly knownas Downtown South Orlando, Sodo is a home to Orlando Health and an emergingcommunity hub. Restaurants include SodoSushi, Vanbarry's Public House, a local favorite with nightly live music or satisfy thesweet tooth Sugar Divas Cakery serves decadent cupcake creations. FreshKitchen createsdelicious, nutrient-filled dishes prepared with flavorful, in-seasoningredients. Opening in March of 2018, The Delaney Hotel, will be a 54-room boutique hoteloffering high-tech conveniences for visitors.

 

IVANHOEVILLAGE

Ivanhoe Village,named one of the top five most romantic main streets in the U.S., is just twomiles from downtown Orlando. The area features a number of vintage-inspiredshops, including Rock & Roll Heaven and ElephantWalk Interiors and Antiques.TheImperial is a localfavorite with an extensive beer and wine menu, located inside a unique shop, WashburnImports. Locals flockto The Hammered Lamb and WhiteWolf Cafe & Barfor a causal bite to eat as well as Santiago's Bodega. Neighborhood staple, Better Than Sex,is a scintillating experience focused on decadent desserts, fine wines andspecially created drinks. Guest looking to squeeze in "me" time can treatthemselves to a "Happily Dying of Chocolate" foot massage at TheBarefoot Spa.

 

COLLEGEPARK

Locatednorthwest of downtown Orlando is the distinct neighborhood of College Park,with streets named for famous Ivy League universities such as Harvard, Yale andDartmouth. The neighborhood is home to various colorful shops and businesses,including Metal Works Gallery and Trufflesand Trifles Cooking School.More unique shops include Bijou's Boutique, Annabelle & Co., Naked Bar Soap and The Shoppes of College Park. The JackKerouac House iswhere the writer penned his famous "On the Road" and is the current home of a"writer in residence" program. PaddleboardOrlando offerslessons and unique adventure tours of College Park's Lake Killarney. TheSpa provides visitorswith a stress-free tranquil environment with a list of luxury treatments. ACollege Park dining staple is K Restaurant, nationally recognized for itseclectic American cuisine with an Italian influence. Other unique eateriesinclude Infusion Tea, which also houses an art co-op shop,and ShakersAmerican Café, ahome-style breakfast joint.  Adjacent toCollege Park is Loch Haven Park, where arts and culture thrive at the OrlandoMuseum of Art, OrlandoScience Center, OrlandoRepertory Theatre andOrlandoShakespeare Theater.

 

AUDUBONPARK

Audubon Park, also known as The Garden District,is a hip, diverse area just north of downtown Orlando. EastEnd Market is amust-visit cultural hub and marketplace home to local, independently owned foodenterprises, offering everything from fresh juices at SkyebirdJuice Bar to artisanalcheese at La Femme du Frommage. Redlight Redlight Craft Beer Parlour offers seemingly endless beer optionswith more than 200 bottles, including a vast selection of vintage and sourbeers. Bikes, Beans & Bordeaux is a haven for urban cyclists withdelicious and healthy sandwiches. An eclectic mix of shopping venues, such ThePrimrose Shop, R.Nichols (a localartist), and Dear Prudenceoffers everything from designer fashion to DYI jewelry and more. True to itsname, Harry P. Leu Gardens is a 50-acre botanical oasis with various gardensfeaturing local flora as well as a beautiful rose garden.

 

BAKERY DISTRICT

Located inAudubon Park is a sweet-smelling cluster of bakeshops, making up the BakeryDistrict. This unofficially-designated district now has five bakeries in thearea, all with unique menus and themes. Using all-natural ingredients, The Gourmet Muffin offers a wide range of breakfast and dessert items, suchas cookies, biscotti bars and cruffins, a croissant-muffin hybrid. Right downthe street is Blue Bird Bakeshop, serving specialty cupcakes, and Gideon'sBakehouse, baking vintage-themeddesserts and "Earth's best cookie." Those with a sweet tooth can findmade-from-scratch artisan pies and desserts at Pis for Pie. The BakeryDistrict wouldn't be complete without a fresh-baked bread shop. TheOlde Hearth Bakery insideEast End Market is an award-winning, artisan bakery that serves fresh-bakedbreaks and rustic breakfast pastries with no added preservatives or artificialflavors.

           

WINTER PARK

A short drivenorth of downtown Orlando, Winter Park was originally created as a retreat forwealthy northerners. More than 130 years later, Winter Park has been known as apicturesque, upscale area. Popular spots include Central Park and ParkAvenue, where 10tree-lined blocks of more than 140 shops offer everything from high-endfootwear and designer lingerie to fine wines and pooch-friendly pastries,alongside the headquarters of popular stationary and lifestyle brand store, RiflePaper Co.  Noteworthy restaurants such as BocaKitchen Bar & Market,Lumaon Park and Prato help contribute to Winter Park'sreputation as a foodie hub in Orlando, while Mon Petit Cheri Café serves Orlando's Signature Dish, "Orlando's Honey NougatGlace." Winter Park is also home to local-favorite 4Rivers Smokehouse andTHECOOP, its sisterrestaurant focusing on southern comfort food, both owned by John Rivers. TheRavenous Pig fromJames Beard-nominated chefs James and Julie Petrakis is another Winter Park gemthat serves new American cuisine. The neighborhood is also becoming the coffeeshop mecca in Orlando with Barnie's Coffee & Tea Co., FoxtailCoffee Co. and Austin's Coffee.

 

WINTERGARDEN

Formerly a citrustown, Winter Garden is a quaint community west of downtown Orlando. Situated inthe city's historic downtown, PlantStreet Market is a local community food hub featuring 20 vendors selling natural,organic and handmade food products all in one building. The cornerstone of themarket is CrookedCan Brewing Company, boasting an on-site tap and tasting roomcomplete with two bars and indoor and outdoor seating. Visitors can check outthe weekly Farmers Market held on Saturdays or a performance at the Garden Theatre, hosting over 200events a year. Other notable hang-outs with great drink menus are Axum Coffee and The Attic Door. The historicdistrict is also home to many shops from Grace's Gift to Ms. Bee's Gourmet Popcorn and CandyStore. Those looking for an intimate night out will want to experience TheChef's Table at the Edgewater, one of the most highly regarded restaurants inOrlando.