How to experience Orlando like a local

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How to experience Orlando like a local
Source: Visit Orlando
June 06, 2022

From lively and energetic to urban and laid-back, the destination has an amazing variety of unique neighborhoods to explore

Church Street District
Located in the heart of downtown Orlando, Church Street District has an eclectic mix of dining, professional sports, live entertainment, night spots and theater. Dating back to the 1800's, Church Street has a rich history and historic buildings with a variety of architectural styles. Nestled amongst historic charm, today's Church Street offers a mix of venues with a lively atmosphere every night. Church Street District is also home to the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts and the brand new, acoustically remarkable Steinmetz Hall – both home to big-name musicians, comedians and touring Broadway shows.

Thornton Park District
Located just steps from Lake Eola Park, Thornton Park District features upscale eateries such as n-home cuisine with an upscale vibe like chicken and lobster dumplings, inviting neighborhood bars and trendy boutiques. Unwind along the picturesque brick-lined streets and colorful landscapes. Home to charming Craftsman-style bungalows and soaring luxury condominiums, this hip urban area hosts community driven events, live music and diverse entertainment on a nightly basis.

The Milk District, named for its location near the T.G. Lee Dairy factory, is a cultural hub with a progressive lifestyle, music and arts scene. The area features diverse culinary experiences like MX Taco's authentic Mexican cuisine; colorful murals; recreational sporting and music venues; unique shopping destinations; community gardens; award-winning bars; coffee shops and more.

Hourglass District is a neighborhood redevelopment project focused on enhancing the unique culture of one of Orlando's most established communities by reimagining its core with fresh originality, local influence and fitting visual appeal. Today, the Hourglass District is the organic culmination of local merchants and residents, offering a vast collection of breweries, like Hourglass Brewing, The Commission Beer Chamber and Claddagh Cottage Irish Pub. The district also features unique eateries like local favorites Pizza Bruno, and Charlie's Bakery, one of Orlando's oldest bakeries. Foxtail Coffee, a local franchise now expanded to nearly 20 Central Florida locations, is at the heart of this modern area, offering high-quality coffee and intuitive workspace for the local community.

Located only 15 minutes from the Orlando International Airport, Lake Nona is a neo-urban community filled with innovation, technology and a health focus. It offers high quality restaurants with almost guaranteed scenic views, such as the lakefront Canvas Restaurant & Market and relaxing hangout spots like the Lake Nona Wave Hotel's new sculpture garden. One of its most reputable areas is Boxi Park, central Florida's first outdoor food hall and entertainment venue built from repurposed shipping containers, a perfect spot for families, kids and even dogs.

College Park is a vibrant neighborhood located just outside of downtown Orlando where visitors can experience urban living with a small-town feel. This community is comprised of unique local retailers like Driftwood Market, Bijou's Boutique, Ritzy Rags. Top Drawer Consignments and Embellish FX is a cosplay emporium with costumes, wigs, masks, cosmetics and everything needed to become a fictional character. The neighborhood is also bustling with delicious dining offerings, award-winning restaurants and small businesses found in Central Florida. College Park's wide selection of services, bungalow-style homes, brick tree-lined streets and many parks and lakes create a vibrant lifestyle and a comfortable place for residents to call home. Adjacent to College Park is the artsy Loch Haven Park, home to the Orlando Museum of Art, Orlando Science Center, The REP and Orlando Shakes.

Located 15 minutes north of downtown Orlando, the historic town of Eatonville was incorporated in 1887, making it one of the first self-governing, all-Black municipalities in the U.S. — and the oldest still in existence today. Visitors will find a collection of restaurants, historical sites and museums. It is also where American Folklorist Zora Neale Hurston grew up and is honored by the Zora Neale Hurston National Museum of Fine Arts, providing gallery space for artists of African descent. Visitors can also explore the history of this community by visiting the Moseley House Museum, the second oldest structure in the town featuring exhibits and early memorabilia of the town, St. Lawrence A.M.E. Church, one of America's most Historic African American churches and one of the first in the area, in addition to the Rise Mural Project, celebrating the culture, history and future of Eatonville.

North of downtown Orlando and anchored by Lake Ivanhoe, Ivanhoe Village is filled with unique bars, such as the Imperial Wine Bar & Beer Garden, a neighborhood bar house located inside a furniture store, restaurants, galleries, retail shops and antique stores. The lakefront district also offers unique paddleboarding excursions with Epic Paddle Adventures and a new full-service food hall, The Hall on the Yard, featuring nine diverse culinary offerings and three premium cocktail bars in an eclectic environment.

Just northeast of downtown Orlando, Mills 50 is home to the largest Vietnamese American community in Florida, with an expanding enclave of authentic Asian restaurants, shops and markets. Visitors can enjoy delicious and diverse Asian cuisine like traditional pho at Pho 88, Asian fusion joints like Tako Cheena, featuring tacos and empanadas with a Pan-Asian filling or pick up groceries for a picnic at Enson Market, an Asian supermarket. 

Audubon Park, also known as The Garden District, is a hip, diverse area just north of downtown Orlando. This district is known for its vintage shops, cafes, eateries, bakeries, music, craft beer and East End Market, a cultural hub and marketplace home to local, independently owned food enterprises. Audubon Park is also home to Harry P. Leu Gardens, a 50-acre botanical oasis with various gardens featuring local flora as well as a beautiful rose garden.

Originally created as a retreat for wealthy northerners, Winter Park is just a short drive north of downtown Orlando. More than 130 years later, Winter Park is still a picturesque, upscale area with 10 tree-lined blocks off Park Avenue with more than 140 boutiques, restaurants and specialty shops. Art appreciators can explore the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art, home to the world's most comprehensive collection of Louis Comfort Tiffany works. Winter Park is also known for its outdoor spaces like Central Park, an 11-acre park hosting numerous of events and activities and the Winter Park Chain of Lakes, linked by a series of Venetian-style canals that guests can experience on the guided Winter Park Scenic Boat Tour.

Formerly a citrus town, Winter Garden is a quaint community west of downtown Orlando known for its old Florida style and charm. Listed as a favorite destination on the National Registry of Historic Places, this historic town features shops, restaurants, theaters, galleries and more. Visitors can rent bikes at West Orange Trail-Bikes & Blades Co. and follow the trail to Plant Street Market, a local community food hub featuring 20 vendors selling natural, organic and handmade food products.


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