I am not a theme park person. I don’t like crowds, and I’m way too impatient to wait over an hour for a ride that lasts two minutes. I also worked at SeaWorld as an intern one summer and got my fill. This was my sweet ride at the time.
When I tell people I’m from Orlando, the first thing they ask me is “Do you go to Disney often?” My answer is “No.” It makes me a little sad that people associate Orlando only with theme parks, because it really is so much more than that. (No offense to Mickey). So I thought I would post about my favorite non-theme-park-related activities in Orlando for those who want to see my side of town.
1. Winter Park Farmers Market
I love the Winter Park Farmers Market. Every Saturday at the old train depot, you'll find all types of vendors selling everything from fruits and veggies to dog toys, but the best part is just walking around and people (or dog) watching.
2. Park Avenue
Park Avenue in Winter Park is filled with local restaurants and shops. Most of the restaurants have outside seating, so it’s fun to sit, eat and people watch—can you tell I like watching people? You'll also find some of the best eateries in town here.
3. Downtown Orlando
If you’re in the mood to really party, go downtown. There are tons of bars, but my favorite place to go is Wall Street, which is a pedestrian-friendly alley full of bars that you can easily hop in and out of.
4. Baldwin Park
I have a soft spot in my heart for Baldwin Park because it’s where I used to live. It’s basically a little village of houses, townhomes and apartments all walking distance to restaurants, a grocery store, pharmacy, banks and businesses. There’s a big lake with wide paths that wind around the neighborhood, and it’s filled with runners, walkers and bikers. It’s easily my favorite running spot in town.
5. East End Market
6. Amway Center
This arena hosts all the major concerts and Orlando Magic basketball games. I strongly suggest going to a Magic game while in Orlando. At halftime, go to Gentlemen Jacks, a cool outdoor patio bar overlooking the skyline.
7. Orlando's Dining Scene
I saved the best for last. Here are some of my favorite places to eat in O-town:
- The Briarpatch—Delicious brunch spot and perfect for eating outside. 252 N. Park Ave., Winter Park, 407.628.8651
- Bikes, Beans and Bordeaux—My favorite quick and inexpensive coffee/breakfast/lunch spot with plenty of healthy options. 3022 Corrine Drive, 407.427.1440
- Black Bean Deli—Delicious, authentic Cuban food. The fried plantains are a must. 1835 E. Colonial Drive and 325 S. Orlando Ave., Winter Park, 407.628.0294
- Pom Pom's Teahouse & Sandwicheria—If you walk inside and everyone has tattoos, you're in the right place. This spot is a little unique, but the food is amazing, with so many teas to try, too. 67 N. Bumby Ave., 407.894.0865
- Orchid Thai Cuisine—Great Thai food. What else can I say? 305 N. Park Ave., 407.331.1400
- Hawkers Asian Street Fare—This is like food truck-meets-restaurant with small-plate Asian food that's really yummy. 1103 N. Mills Ave., 407.237.0606
- PR's Taco Palace—Okay, so the food may not be the best in Orlando, but it's one of those hole-in-the-wall places you can't help but love. It's right next to the railroad and really fun—like every time a train goes by everyone gets tequila shots-type-fun. 499 W. Fairbanks Ave., Winter Park, 407.645.2226
- Prato—My favorite spot on Park Avenue; get the meatballs—you'll thank me later. 124 N. Park Ave., Winter Park, 407.262.0050
- Hillstone—While this might be a chain, it's certainly worth a visit with its beautiful lakefront dock and garden. 215 S. Orlando Ave., Winter Park, 407.740.4005
- Pharmacy—A hidden speakeasy with really cool drinks and food. 8060 Via Dellagio Way, 407.985.2972
- The Ravenous Pig—Farm-to-table goodness. I haven't tried one thing I didn't like. 1234 N. Orange Ave., Winter Park, 407.628.2333
- Kabooki Sushi—Don't be fooled by the strip mall. This new(ish) sushi place is really amazing. Save room for dessert. 3122 E. Colonial Drive, 407.228.3839
- The Taproom at Dubsdread—This pick seems random because it's the restaurant for the public golf course, but they have the best burger in all of Orlando. Promise. 594 W. Par St., 407.650.0100
- Blue Bird Bake Shop—Best.Cupcakes.Ever. 3122 Corrine Drive, 407.228-2822
Christa Collins is the author behind the blog, Living Unbalanced, which focuses on living a healthy, full life in a messy world. Christa’s blog follows her life as she balances planning her wedding, eating real food and working out, amidst all the crazy, unbalanced fun that life brings.