When you hear the word “Orlando” chances are the first thing that comes to mind is “Disney.” And then “Universal”….and then that’s it. Orlando has been painted as a tourist destination and frankly, it is! But behind the major theme parks and all the memorabilia those entail, Orlando is a unique, vibrant city, and I’m thankful to call it home. While the traffic from tourists may be awful at times, the REAL Orlando is full of hidden gems, and I can’t wait to share them with you today!
Orlando may be known for huge theme parks, but my favorite part about this beautiful city is the local gems. Each neighborhood in Orlando has spots that are special and deserve to be celebrated just as much as any theme park! Plus, the lines are a lot shorter at these places than Disney (just another reason I love them!)
I consider myself pretty hip to Orlando’s foodie scene or places to just hang and catch up with friend. I love our community, it’s grown in a way that is so amazing. I’m proud to share some of my personal favorite must-visit spots!
If you love a good low key family friendly block party, Baldwin Park is the place for you! The First Friday block party happens monthly and features local merchants and artists. I love seeing authentic, local arts on display and it’s so fun to browse through each tent. I usually arrive right on time when it opens to take a peak at all the merchants, maybe purchase a few items, grab a nice cocktail at The Osprey Tavern or some tasty sushi at Seito! Perfect little stroll for date night or even the family.
My favorite shops within are Florida and Co. Porch Therapy and Gideon’s ( OMG these cookies are UNREAL)…ok ok, Skyebird Juice Bar, Lineage…ALL OF THEM! Ha! There is always something beautiful that catches my eye and I can’t help but walk out with a little treat or trinket (or two! Guard your wallet closely here!) I love grabbing a latte from Lineage and sitting outside on their greenery courtyard to catch some rays and enjoy the outdoors. If you’re local, you’re bound to bump into someone you know here!
The best way to beat the Florida Heat (Which happens everyday!) is with a refreshing Acai Bowl. Clean Juice is one of my favorite spots in Orlando to grab a delicious acai bowl and some freshly pressed clean juices. After a work out, just because or you something healthy and fresh! Clean Juice is located in the Winter Park Village center where you can find shopping, places to catch a bite, a movie theatre and more!
Coffee that packs a punch not only in taste and strength but aesthetic, say hello to Foxtail Coffee! Think of Foxtail as the Central Perk of Orlando. It’s the local popular hangout where you’re bound to run into old friends and make some new ones along the way. In addition to incredible people, Foxtail has amazing coffee and treats. A hub for creatives to work on their laptops, catch up with friends and work meet ups, this is the spot for the creatives!
Need a new place for date night? Prato is the date night destination of your dreams. Whether it’s you and your man or girls’ night, Prato’s amazing drinks, specially handmade pizzas and fantastic cocktails never disappoint! My personal favorite dish that I could probably eat every single night if I could, is the “Mustard Spaghettini Cacio E Pepe”. Their cocktails, stylish environment and who’s who vibes sets the tone for the perfect evening out with your significant other or gal pals.
Raise your hand if you love donuts! The best donuts in Orlando are at Valhalla Bakery and the best part? They’re vegan! Yup, like 100% and your taste buds will be thanking you! Which means that they’re essentially health food and it’s fine to have two..or three! Right?! Located close to downtown Orlando, this quirky bakery not only has amazing Vegan donuts, but cupcakes, cakes, lunch and more!
Maybe you’ve noticed, but it can be pretty toasty in Orlando most days. The best way to beat the heat is with a delicious, sweet treat. Kelly’s has incredible homemade ice cream and is a local gem you won’t want to miss. After dinner treat? Take a drive down to Kelly’s and choose from their many delicious homemade flavors! I try to taste a new one each time! Kelly’s gives me a nostalgic, simple feeling of being a kid again, and I just adore it!
If you’re looking for a spot to walk off said donuts and ice cream while still enjoying a beautiful view, Lake Eola is the place! Nestled into downtown Orlando, it’s a beautiful landmark or Orlando to spend a relaxing afternoon. You can take the swan boats out for a spin or just enjoy a leisurely walk around the park.
Chances are you’ve spotted some beautiful Rifle Paper Co. art either at Anthropologie or Urban Outfitters. But my favorite place to browse their stunning collections? At their flagship shop in the heart of Winter Park. Winter Park is a charming place to spend the afternoon and Rifle Paper Company is so beautiful, you’ll definitely be tempted to spend a couple paychecks there too.
Gems on the go? That’s what Gypset is! It’s an adorable mobile jewelry store that is one of Orlando’s hidden gems (pun intended.) Make sure to follow them on social media to find out where they’ll be located each day. Handmade and uniquely beautiful you can find a collection of rings, bracelets, necklaces, earrings and more!
The Sanctum Cafe is one of my favorite spots for a healthy lunch! Their menu is packed with vegan and organic options, everything is delicious and good for the soul. And hey, a healthy lunch means there is always room for dessert, right?
If you’re a fan of homestyle service and quality BBQ…4 Rivers Smokehouse to the rescue! Founder John Rivers is a Florida native from Jacksonville whose southern cooking roots started out not far from Orlando. I love a good ole’ plate of southern sides and 4Rivers has it! Fried pickles to mac n’ cheese and bread pudding, this is a must stop for lunch or dinner! Prices are great and servings are plenty! Locations are spread out through Central Florida so be sure to find one nearest to you! Now I’m hungry!