When most people think of Orlando, the first thing that comes to mind are theme parks. The big ones are here, for sure, and there are so many off shoots from the main ones as well. It’s also hard to discount the 60+ million visitors, mostly tourists, that visit this city yearly, adding to the theme park image and row upon row of ugly hotels and endless food chains.
But, once you get out past that version and truly explore, as I’ve said before, you will find a different Orlando, one that is growing rapidly, hungry for great restaurants, art and culture. No where is this more evident than around the Downtown Orlando area.
There are multiple neighborhoods such as Thornton Park, the Milk District, Ivanhoe and Mills 50, to name a few, that are alive with incredible street art, amazing local restaurants and vibrant culture.
Whether I’m in the mood for an organic breakfast at Sanctum, amazing Cuban empanadas at the Black Bean Deli, or Laotian street food at Sticky Rice, I can find it right there. Forget the big chains, there are an incredible array of small local places that are setting food trends with wonderful quality, interesting menus and diverse cultural selections.
I can spend a beautiful warm morning walking around wonderful Lake Eola, taking in the swans and turtles, just before I visit the weekly Farmers Market for an amazing tamale breakfast at the Tamale Company booth. Better yet, stop by any one of the Vendors to get your fill of everything from specialty beef jerky to homemade dumplings. Yum!
There’s also an amazing mix of street art by incredible artists, galleries and events that you can participate in yourself. The Snap Gallery is a favorite of mine with an incredible ever changing curated show focused on a wide range of amazing Photographers. Or, for those that are Artists themselves, stop by Sam Flax to pick up your canvas, paint and anything else you might need to join this creative revolution. You can even sign up for workshops and classes throughout the area with everything from professional painters to real glass blowers.
Lastly, the diversity of people, lifestyles and perspectives truly make the Downtown Orlando area feel welcoming for all. It doesn’t matter if you want to join the Orlando Pride Parade or partake in the Food and Wine Festival, there is absolutely something for everyone, and here’s the most important part, it won’t cost you an arm and a leg or your families life savings like some of those other places down the Highway (you know which ones).
So grab a cocktail at Hanson’s after a great day about town and enjoy the spectacular Orlando sunset while you’re around. You just might find yourself enjoying it!