“You’re from Orlando? You must go to Disney all the time!”
This is the first thing that comes to people’s mind when they think of Orlando. I know, it’s the most magical place in the world and yes; it’s right in my backyard. I grew up in a part of Orlando where I could see the fireworks from my backyard at night and hear people screaming from the roller coasters as I was on my way to Geometry.
To answer your question: No, I don’t go all the time.
There is so much more to Orlando than people realize. If you only stay on Disney’s property or stay around the “tourist bubble” then you really haven’t seen Orlando. Go past International Drive, go past the outlets, and go see what Orlando is really about.
I want to show you a whole different side of Orlando and show you 5 places that you should definitely take the time to visit and see why they call Orlando “The City Beautiful”:
Number 1: Historic Lake Eola
If you ask anyone from Orlando what to check out, the first place they are going to tell you to check out is Lake Eola. It’s located in the heart of Orlando and it’s a perfect place for a picnic or a stroll around the lake. Bring your kids; you can feed the famous swans that have been around longer than anyone who can remember why they came to the lake in the first place. You can also ride on a swan-shaped paddle boat at $15.00 per half hour. Every night at the fountain has a 6-minute show with music that changes every season between 8:30 and 9:30. Downtown Orlando is right down the street, Check out Church Street Station, a historic train station.
Sunday’s is the busiest day for Lake Eola. The Eola Sunday Market is becoming one of the best farmers markets in Central Florida. Location on the Southeast corner the market is filled with fresh fruits and veggies, local food, beer, and artwork. If you’re feeling like a Sunday Funday there are a bunch of places that offer bottomless mimosa and a good brunch menu. I’d recommend Stubborn Mule located at 100 S Eola Drive.
Number 2: Winter Park
If you’re hungry and in the mood to see something different, go to Winter Park. It’s a nature lover destination filled with swaying palms, cypress trees and a variety of gardens like the Sculpture gardens and Kraft Azalea Gardens. Take the Winter garden Scenic boat tour and ride on Winter Park’s chain of lakes. You’ll see some beautiful homes, a gator or two, and learn about the history of this beautiful city.
Take a walk down Park Avenue and you’ll soon see that it’s a foodies dream come true! With 40 restaurants to choose some, you’re bound to find something that will meet your need and you won’t be disappointed.
Don’t forget to check out Rollins College, named one of the most amazing college campuses in the US by The Best Colleges. The architecture is breath taking and you’ll soon be left in awe. Winter Park also has a large variety of Museums worth checking out like the Cornell Fine Arts Museum (At Rollins) and the Winter Park History Museum.
Number 3: Sporting Events
Orlando is becoming an important player in the game of professional, collegiate and amateur sports. The Amway Center is a sport and entertainment center in Downtown Orlando and home to the Orlando Magic of the NBA. Check out the schedule for events, concerts, and games happening during your visit here.
Orlando is also home to the Orlando City Soccer Club of the MLS. In 2017, they inaugurated a new beautiful stadium that any soccer fan would be proud of. Expect the stadium to be loud, as all four sides are designed with a metal deck canopy that just amplifies everything. There is also an all-standing section, the first in major American sporting venues, where the true fan and supporting fans come and bring everything they have to field. You won’t be disappointed with a game, check out their schedule.
Number 4: Mills 50
This is an area of Orlando that has been around forever and lately the residents and members of the local government are committed to making the area pedestrian friendly. Nearby you’ll find the Orlando Science Center, the perfect place to take the kids all day. Save this for a rainy day. The science center has so many things too; movies, interactive experiences, performances, and classes which show how science impacts everyday life.
It’s a small part of Orlando but filled with great places to eat. My favorite place is Hawkers. Its Array of Asian street food, you’ll find something for everyone. Plus they have a great beer and wine menu. Go check them at 1103 N Mills Ave.
Number 5: University of Central Florida
Did you know that Orlando is home to one of the largest University in the US by enrollment? Yes, this part of Orlando has grown tremendously through the years and is plenty of things to do. If you’re around football season, Go out on a Saturday and tailgate on campus. Play beer darts.
If you’re not into tailgating, just walk around the campus and see how the student’s campus life is like. If you want to see UCF students in their natural habitat, go to Knight Library or grab a huge slice of pizza at Lazy moon.
Before you go:
Now, this a great way to start exploring what Orlando is all about. There are so many places that I left out, what do you think should have made the cut?
Want more? There is a page on Facebook called Orlando Weekly and you should totally check them out before heading on your trip. It’s a great source for finding out what is really going on in Orlando.
Remember when you give good, you get good.