Cheers Sippin Gypsy Team Rum! This post comes to you while enjoying a refreshing Sippin Gypsy Mojito with Wicked Dolphin Rum from Cape Coral FL. See all my Sippin Gypsy tips for Orlando and Central Florida HERE.
I love living in Central Florida. I'm halfway between two coasts and have a myriad of options for food and entertainment at any given moment. What I love even more about Florida is the weather. I was raised in the north. Snow and ice are not anything I enjoy...at all. I've learned to not bother really styling my hair in the summer (the humidity ruins it within seconds of stepping outside) and as a local you actually look forward to the refreshing afternoon rain storms that cools everything off before a perfect evening and sunset.
I'm constantly asked "why Orlando!?" My friends know I love history and culture. Every moment I get I'm driving up to Savannah GA or St. Augustine FL or preparing for my upcoming trips to Europe and South America. But Orlando is central to the great things that Florida offers. Orlando is full of amazing people from all over the world who are hard working and open minded. Just this past week I had dinner with a friend from Bulgaria, drinks with a friends from Poland and Puerto Rico and relaxed by the pool with friends from Brazil. The cultural immersion in this city is growing and its been fun to watch a cornucopia shops and restaurants open up boasting goods and recipes from all over the world.
I will not hide the facts. I do enjoy the theme parks. I have a Disney Pass and frequent the parks regularly. But I also enjoy the quaint neighborhoods around Orlando and Central Florida. They each have rhythm all their own with unique spots to make an afternoon or evening there a lot of fun.
1. Lake Eola
Created as a result of a sink hole, Lake Eola has become the center of a posh community of professionals who all congregate around the lake to walk their dog, jog, grab a glass of wine or enjoy a weekend festival. Lake Eola cradles an outdoor theater that hosts everything from Shakespeare to local bands. At the holidays, Lake Eola is festive with a Fourth of July show to rival Disney and charming lights through out December to add to the magic of the season. Check out The City Of Orlando page to see what Lake Eola is hosting while you're in town. Sunday is a definite day to visit downtown to select some great treats from the Farmers Market. While downtown, you're not far from a few of my favorite spots. The Rusty Spoon and Ceviche are regular spots for dinner then Mathers Social Gathering is the spot to be seen (or not, since the entrance is well guarded for a speakeasy feel) with great cocktails in a comfortable but chic environment.
2. Baldwin Park
This charming community offers a bustling street with shops, restaurants and bars nestled against beautiful Lake Baldwin. This a great community to visit for an evening of shopping, dining and cocktails. The Baldwin Park community also hosts fun festivals and events regularly. I use the Baldwin Park Events page to help me plan out when to venture to this side of town. When you make it over to Baldwin Park, please enjoy a cocktail or three at my favorite bar in Orlando The Nest. The interior is eclectic and cozy and the drinks are hands down the best in Orlando.
3. Winter Park
Swanky and sophisticated with a well balanced blend of shops as well as cocktail and cuisine spots, Winter Park has definitely earned the title "foodie capital of Orlando". There are so many tempting food options and charming boutiques, you should plan on enjoying the whole day here. Break up your time eating, drinking and shopping with a boat ride the Scenic Boat Tours. Winter Park hosts their own great festivals and community events as well as a Farmers Market. I use the City of Winter Park page to plan out my times to Winter Park. While you're in the neighborhood, you really can not go wrong with any of the restaurant or lounge options, Wine Room andLuma are two of my usual go to spots for a little pre or post dinner sippin. Wine Room is a fun wine tasting concept that allows you to pick from a vast variety of wines to try. Luma offers creative cocktails and a truly posh lounge perfect for a special date or girls night out. When it comes to cuisine Winter Park delivers: I typically do not like to just list spots, but there really are so many that I enjoy! My top locations I frequent in the Winter Park area are:
Domu: Ramen cuisine in with a great lounge area with well crafted cocktails. There will be a wait, so come early and enjoy a cocktail or 3!
Annas: The spot for authentic Polish cuisine in a comfortable homey environment. The portions are filling! Make sure everyone orders something different so you can try more!
Prato : Italian cuisine in a very comfortable chic atmosphere. Prato is my go to in Winter Park when hanging out with friends.
Ravenous Pig: A casual but posh environment for American cuisine. Each dish is flavor packed not afraid of flavor and supports locally sourced produce. I really appreciate their cocktail menu, creative and bold with playful twists on classics.
4. Historic Downtown Kissimmee
If you are staying close to the attractions, some of my other suggestions may be quite a drive for you. Downtown Kissimmee can be a short excursion and break from the crowds of the theme parks. What I enjoy most about downtown Kissimmee is the antique shops and boutiques. I usually head down to Kissimmee for lunch at Nadias for the best gyros in Orlando, then spend my afternoon browsing through the antique shops like Lanier's then find super cute outfits and jewelry at Branded B Boutique. In the evenings, 3 Sister Speakeasy is a fun spot to grab drinks and catch live music.
5. Other Must Dos
The challenge with Orlando is that her offerings are very spread out. A few of the following locations are also listed in my Sippin Gypsy Tips for Sippin' in Orlando, but these four locations really are a fun experience and worth the cross over from a cocktail and cuisine post to an activity post. All of these locations are perfect for a group and create such a fun environment that these are easily a place to hang out for the evening with great friends. I wanted to make sure I offered you a few of my other favorite spots. I live near the tourist areas of Orlando, and I find the following locations worth my drive on a regular basis:
The Pharmacy: A hidden gem in the Dr. Phillips area of Orlando. There is no sign outside, you simply find the correct elevator door and push the button to 'go up' and in! The cocktails are strong and respect prohibition style craft. The food here is amazing! Enjoy an experience at The Pharmacy, you won't forget it!
Canvas: This delicious spot sits in the blossoming neighborhood of Lake Nona. Canvas is nestled right on a lake, so the sunsets are spectacular and the cocktails and cuisine are delicious and packed with flavor. Canvas also has a charming market with fun and unique gifts.
Santiago's Bodega: Not too far from the reaches of downtown Orlando, Santiago's has been the go to spot when wanting great cocktails and cuisine while out with friends. The environment is artsy and posh and the food is so enjoyable and easy to share to try more.
Cafe Tu Tu Tangos: I know this post is referring you to spots away from the tourist traps and theme parks. But as a local this truly is one of my favorite locations, and I would make the drive to Tu Tu Tangos no matter where the location in Orlando would be. I have frequented Tu Tu Tangos for the better part of 12 years, enjoying the revolving menu based on seasonal flavors and the eclectic assortment of art available to view and purchase. While dining, local artists create on location, artists painting, sculptors sculpting and belly dancers dancing. Tu Tu Tangos is such a fun location to experience while in Orlando!
5. State Parks
I can image you might be about done of the eating and shopping and ready to just get out and really enjoy nature. Orlando has several State Parks that all offer hiking, water activities and relaxing. If you have your own boat or canoe, Lake Louisa is a great spot for hiking and secure water craft activity. Wekiwa Springs has a lot of variety from canoeing, paddle boarding swimming and snorkeling. Kelly Park is another Spring that is absolutely beautiful and even less visited and very relaxing. Many of the parks offer camping options as well. Please note, Florida does have her share of Alligators and other dangerous wildlife, but if you follow the advisories and rules per each park, you will have a fun, safe and memorable time.