The Coolest Things to Do in Orlando, Florida—Beyond Its Theme Parks
There's so much more to this trendy Floridian city than just Cinderella's Castle and Space Mountain. From up-and-coming foodie sites to the burgeoning art scene, here are the coolest spots to check out in Orlando now.
Shop the Markets
Food hubs abound in Orlando’s many neighborhoods. East End Market is home to a working market garden and serves as a gathering space for Central Florida’s top food merchants including Olde Hearth Bread Co., La Femme du Fromage artisan cheeses, and Gideon’s Bakehouse (famous for their chocolate chip cookies).
At the Audubon Park Community Market just down the street, farmers, producers, and other vendors gather every Monday night to sell local and sustainable vegetables, herbs, hand-made pastas, and more. Looking to fill an open weekend? On Sundays, you can find everything from fresh fruit to a beer and wine garden at the Orlando Farmer’s Market in Lake Eola Park.
But First, Coffee and Blueberry Wine
Before heading out for a day’s worth of Orlando excitement, start with a cup of the city’s best coffee. At Vespr, specialty coffee drinks are designed to evoke sensory experiences with their big, bold flavors and creative presentations. Though the menu changes often, past noteworthy creations like the Dick Tracy (maple syrup, espresso, bacon-infused milk, and candied bacon with black truffle salt) and the Barrel-Smoked Sweet Ice Tea (served in a mason jar) make this café a must-try.
If coffee isn’t your thing, sip on a different Orlando attraction: the blueberry wines of True Blue Winery, in nearby Davenport. Their award-winning homemade wines are created on-site and range from semi-dry to sweet flavors.
Taste The Best Vegan Comfort Food
Traditional southern comfort food isn’t traditionally associated with vegan options, but Dixie Dharma pulls it off. The sustainable, plant-based restaurant has earned five-star reviews for its creative take on southern classics. Try the Carolina BBQ Pulled Jackfruit (made with garlic pickles, arugula, and fried onions on Texas toast) or the Florida Fried Green Tomato (breaded and deep-fried with smoked eggplant remoulade and kale) and wash it down with one of the many Florida-brewed craft beers on tap.
Get in Touch with Nature
Need a break from the busy city? Spend some time at one of Orlando’s idyllic parks or nature reserves. The lakeside Tibet-Butler Preserve is known for its well-maintained trails and local wildlife (including gopher tortoises, river otters, and armadillos) while Lake Eola Park in the heart of downtown Orlando features a picturesque fountain and the opportunity to rent swan-shaped paddle boats for lake cruising.
Check Out The Art Scene
Perhaps surprisingly, Orlando is home to a flourishing art scene, with more galleries and museums than you can probably fit into a single trip. After checking off the African and Ancient Americas exhibits at the Orlando Museum of Art, stop by the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art in Winter Park to see an impressive collection of pottery, paintings, and decorative art—including the world’s most comprehensive collection of works by renowned artist Louis Comfort Tiffany.
If your artistic inclinations are more modern and eclectic, pay a visit to Mills 50, an urban district famous for its unique city art projects and murals. For more contemporary art, The Redefine Gallery is a must-see, with new exhibits opening monthly. If you visit Orlando on the third Thursday of the month, you’ll be able to participate in the monthly gallery hop, where thousands of art lovers come together in the Downtown Arts District for food, shopping, and everything else the city has to offer.
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