Adjacent to upscale Winter Park and Loch Haven Park, the city’s cultural hub, you’ll find the Audubon Park Garden District. Developed during the mid-20th century, this “ecodistrict” originally boomed during the heyday of the nearby (and now long gone) Orlando Air Force Base. Today, the neighborhood is home to some of the city’s most beloved local destinations for shopping, dining and events.
Begin your visit with a stop into Harry P. Leu Gardens, a 50-acre botanical garden located in the heart of Orlando. Deeded to the city in 1961, the gardens are home to one of the most extensive collections of camellias in the country, with more than 2,000 plants. In addition, there are gardens that celebrate citrus, bananas, bromeliads and much more. Tell time on the Floral Clock, or pass time in the beautiful Rose Garden.
Looking for inspiration? The Idea Garden is a must-see. Ten distinct areas make use of a variety of plants, and serve to stimulate the imagination of would-be horticulturalists. Designs include Urban Patio, a Bird Garden, Perennial Garden, Fragrance Garden, a Shade Garden and more. The Enabling Garden features raised beds and other features that make gardening accessible to everyone.
The area is also home to several whimsical sculptures by Florida artist Peter Otfinoski. Also, don’t miss a walk through the butterfly garden for the chance to see the lifecycle, and perhaps catch a fluttering hummingbird or two as well.
Next, head to East End Market, the district’s culinary and cultural hub.
The first floor of the market is home to 11 independently-owned businesses, offering everything from fresh baked goods and locally roasted coffee to artisan cheeses, assorted groceries and more. Head next door to Domu, for a satisfying bowl of ramen but don’t leave the Market without visiting Gideon’s Bakehouse to take home some of the outrageous chocolate chip cookies.
Fancy an ice cream cone instead? Kelly’s Homemade Ice Cream is just across Corrine Drive, and features made-from-scratch ice creams and sorbets, crafted right in the shop. You’ll find classics like strawberry and chocolate, but make way for new favorites, such as Unicorn Tracks and Cookie Monster, which features blue velvet ice cream and chunks of chocolate cookies. As for me, I’ll take a scoop of cherry vanilla in a sprinkle-laden sugar cone, please.
Finally, if you’re going to be in Orlando on July 14, 2018, don’t miss the Bastille Day Bash, Audubon Park’s annual event celebrating all things French. From Baguette Fencing (are you Team Monarchy or Team Bourgeoisie?), to Cheese and Wine Pairings and a French Market, there’s no shortage of amusement to be had.