Orlando is my home, and I'm so proud of my city. It's the underdog that is rising up. When some people hear Orlando they think Disney World. If you know me you've probably heard me complain about this misconception before. Disney IS NOT in Orlando!! It's actually in two cities because it's that big. It's located in Lake Buena Vista and Bay Lake FL. Ok, so I guess Universal theme parks are in Orlando, but it's still pretty separate from the heart of Orlando. Most locals prefer to stay far far away from the touristy areas that are full of nothing but chain restaurants, and souvenir shops. Don't get me wrong. I love a good day spent at Disney or Islands of Adventure, but I don't want anyone to miss all the great things we have to offer!
The city is full of creatives that are single handedly changing the reputation of this growing city. The community here is tight-knit and so supportive of each other. It seems like every month a new local business is opening with rave reviews. The food in Orlando is so so good! We have quickly turned into a foodie city. So come hungry!
The heart of Orlando is full of dynamic neighborhoods each with a charm of it's own. I'm going to share with you my personal favorite spots in Orlando neighborhood by neighborhood. I throw in a few extra things too.
MILLS 50: (Get ready to eat in this neighborhood!)
The Strand - New American cuisine. They use ingredients from local farms. One of my all time favorites!
Tako Chino - Asian fusion. Good vegetarian options. Open late!
Hawkers - Asian Street Fare.
Black Rooster Taqueria - Farm to taco cuisine.
Pig Floyds - BBQ fusion. Everyone raves about the ribs.
Black Bean Deli - Cuban cafe. One of the best spots in the city! It's also a very photogenic space.
Thai House - Classic Thai food.
Pho 88 - No shortage of Vietnamese restaurants in the neighborhood.
Royaltea - A popular tea spot in China that has opened their first US location here in Orlando.
Banh Mi Nha Trang Subs - Vietnamese sandwich shop. Locals swear by it! Especially my husband.
Mamak - Asian street food.
Lazy Moon - Pizza thats so big you only need one slice! For real. There is no way you could eat two!
Dandelion - Organic, eco friendly, vegetarian friendly, and vegan friendly cuisine. It's located in a funky old house.
Hot Dog Heaven - So this place is out of the Mills 50 neighborhood, but I didn't want to leave it off the list even thou it's in a blah part of town. Its literally hot dog heaven! So good!! They always seem to be randomly closed, so check before you go!
The Guesthouse - My personal favorite bar in Orlando. Happy hour is from 5-8pm! They have the cutest mini airstream bar outback.
Wills Pub - Dive bar vibes, and most nights bands preform.
Lil Indies - More dive bar vibes next to Wills Pub. Also try Dirty Laundry bar right outside
of Lil Indies.
Wally's Liquors - The divest of dive bars that pours a stiff drink. It's a landmark.
Rise Above Tattoo - My favorite tattoo shop. All the artist there are amazing! They take walk-ins on Saturday and Sunday, but you got to get there early. Or just call, or go in to book your appointment.
Retromended - Vintage and locally made accessories and clothing.
To Do :
Orlando Science Center - Science rules!
Orlando Museum of Art - Art is cool!
AUDOBAUN PARK (Also known as the Garden District)
Sushi Lola's - Japanese and Korean food. I don't like sushi, but I've been told it's some of the best!
Domu - Ramen! the bar is pretty cute too. You will find it at East End Market that is listed below.
Blue Bride Bake Shop - Cupcakes and all the baked goods!
P is for Pie - Pie and all the baked goods!
Juniors Diner - Classic diner food. They accept cash only. I didn't know that the first time I went and payed in all change. Fun facts!
Lineage - Craft coffee. I'm a weirdo and I don't like coffee, but Lineage is Clarks favorite! It's located in East End Market which is listed below.
Redlight Redlight - Craft beer parlour and brewery.
Stardust Video and Coffee - Coffee, tea, and booze! They also serve light fare that's vegan friendly. On Monday nights they host a farmers market in the parking lot.
Palmer's Garden & Goods - Local garden full of amazing plants. It's always a treat to go there!
Owls Attic - Vintage clothes and accessories with a cool bohemian vibe.
The Lovely - Local handmade, and vintage market.
Park Ave CD's - Records and other fun stuff.
Leu Gardens - 50 acres of beautiful botanical gardens. Every now and again they play movies in the park.
Mesa 21 - Mexican food with a great lake view.
White Wolf Cafe - American cuisine.
Santiago Bodega - Tapas-style restaurant with a late night happy hour.
The Matador - One of my favorite bars in town.
Imperial - It's a wine and beer bar in a bohemian furniture store. It's pretty cool!
Horizons Vintage - Minimalist style vintage clothing, and handmade goods.
Paper Goat Post - Really cute shop with paper goods and fun gifts.
Dora Mae Jewelry - Locally made custom jewelry.
1618 - Vintage funky furniture.
THE MILK DISTRICT: (Small but mighty)
Gringos Locos - Cheap eats Mexican food.
Beefy Kings - Roast beef sandwiches. It's a classic spot. It's been open since 1968.
Pom Poms - Real real good creative sandwiches and tea. They are open late, and on Saturdays they are open 24h
Whippoorwill Beer House and Package Store - Technically I believe it’s located in the “almond milk district” it’s quickly becoming one of my favorite spots. Also houses a coffee shop if you need a good spot to work at during the day.
Sportstown - Booze, food, and pool.
The Milk Bar - They got the beer.
Spacebar - Apparently you can bring your own vinyl records and play DJ.
Whisky Lou's Lounge - If you are in the mood for a good dive bar.
Etoile - Vintage and locally made goods. I got to model for a fun look book they did!
Eco Base Collectibles - This is Rebel Reprints storefront. In the back they print high quality stickers, and in the front they sell art prints, toys, accessories, and of course stickers. They also carry some Hellcats Inc!!
Tasty Tuesday - Every Tuesday night from 6:30-10pm enjoy a variety of food trucks, and most of the bars and shops offer some sort of discount.
Doghouse - Creative hotdogs and loaded tater tots!
The Soda Fountain - Your classic old fashion soda shop. If you get a hot dog from next door at Doghouse you get $1 off ice cream. Bonus!
Credo - A donation coffee shop. It's a great spot to sit and work. They also have three other locations throughout Orlando.
Infusion Tea - Cafe & shop with vegetarian food options and tea.
Naked Bar Soap Co. - Locally made all natural soaps and beauty products.
Form Function Form - Locally made leather goods and accessories.
Food & Drinks:
Reyes Mezcaleria - Mexican food with a large selection of tequila-mezcal. It's such a nice spot!
North Quarter Market - A small market place that houses Credo Coffee who I mentioned above, The Pop Parlour which sells gourmet popsicles, and The Farmacy that offers local organic produce. The space is really lovely.
THORTON PARK: (Historic neighborhood with my favorite houses)
Food & Drinks:
SOCO - Souther contemporary cuisine.
The Stubborn Mule - New American food and cocktails.
Aku Aku - Tiki bar!
Things to do:
Greenwood Urban Wetlands - This might not technically be considered Thorton Park, but it's close enough. It's a beautiful park with a paved trail that goes around a lake surrounded by cyprus trees. It's also right next to the Greenwood Cemetery which is Orlando's largest cemetery.
Dovecote - French-inspired food and raw bar. Great date night spot!
Hanson's Shoe Repair - A former shoe repair store turned speak easy. Here are some instruction I'm copying from a Thrillist review - you must make a reservation after listening to a coded voicemail message, at which point you will receive a text with the passcode.
Hermans Loan Office - The same name it had in the 1940's when it was an actual loan office. It's now a cocktail lounge with a cozy Victorian feel.
The Courtesy - Craft cocktails in a small, but beautifully designed space.
Things to do:
Lake Eola Park - The park has a paved trail that goes around the lake. Lots of grassy areas to have a picnic and enjoy the view of Downtown Orlando. The lake is also home to giant Swan paddle boats! It seats 4 people for only $15! I grew up going as a kid and it never gets old.
Orange County History Museum - I'm a big history buff, so I love this place!
WINTER PARK (Not technically Orlando, but a neighboring suburb)
Food & Drinks:
Hunger Street Tacos - Amazing street tacos in a fun casual environment.
Prato - Modern Italian food in a gorgeous setting.
Cocina 214 - Mexican food and great margaritas! One of my favorite spots!
Garp and Fuss - Weird name, but good food in a charming tucked away spot.
KrungThep Tea Time - Sandwiches, amazing desserts, and a variety of drinks. The num yen (pink milk) is like heaven in a glass!!!!
Swine & Sons - Southern stye comfort food. Mostly a takeout spot, but they have some cozy spots to sit and eat.
Ravenous Pig - A good date spot. They serve New American fare, beers brewed on-site and cocktails! They own Swine & Sons next door.
Buttermilk Bakery - Family-owned bakeshop with American and French food, plus the best pastries in town. It doesn't hurt that the shop is super cute!
Rifle Paper Co. - Their flagship shop where they sell stationery, paper goods, and all kinds of other pretty things! I worked there for over 3 years, and met my husband in the storefront!
New General - Contemporary general store with food, coffee, apparel and home goods. Probably the most stylist shop around.
Things to Do:
Winter Park Scenic Boat Tour - Leisurely and informative boat tour through the lakes of Winter Park. Very picturesque.
Charles Hosmer Morse Museum - This museum houses the largest collection of Louis Comfort Tiffany's work.
A few other noteworthy local businesses to mention:
Gypset - Sam who owns Gypset makes beautiful handmade jewelry in an adorable vintage camper. She also has an online shop. You can catch her set up for pop up shops in front of local businesses throughout town. She also has workshops where you can make your own masterpiece! Find her on Instagram to see where she will be next @gypsetco
FIBER - Sara who owns Fiber is a talented fiber artist. She has workshops where she will share her skills and teach you how to make awesome macrame pieces of your own! She also frequently has pop up shops around town at local businesses. Find her on Instagram @findyourfiber
Hellcats Inc. - Is it weird to mention my own business? If it is I don't care! My husband and I make and sell paper goods, accessories, and other fun gifts. You can always find us online or catch us when we have pop up shops around town! @hellcatsinc
*Places that I don't know what neighborhood they are considered in! Feel free to educate me, and I'll put them in the right spots.
Se7en Bites - Creative Southern food and amazing baked goods!! It's so so good!
Pizza Bruno - Wood-fired pizza and beer. The garlic knots are kind of amazing!
I hope the next time you visit Orlando you take the time to explore all the amazing things we have to offer! I'll also be updating this post as new things continue to pop up. Like I said before there are always new places opening!
Thanks for reading. Happy exploring!
- Brittany Reagan