A mecca for international and domestic tourism, Orlando, Florida, has more to offer than big-named theme parks and family resorts. A far cry from the hustle and bustle of the tourist district, resident Orlando is characterized by the leisurely beauty of its natural resources and by the diversity of its people. Here is how to spend a perfect day in Orlando without the mouse.
Begin your day at the BreakFast Club of Orlando. Although the name changes occasionally, the quality remains consistently good; and the prices remain fair at this Pine Street perennial. On the lighter side, try the rruit crepes or the summer oatmeal. For the heartier appetite, nothing satisfies like the gravy train omelet.
After breakfast, head two blocks north on Rosalind Avenue. Here you’ll find one of the crown jewels of Orlando: Lake Eola Park. First established in 1883, Lake Eola Park offers a quiet refuge amidst the turmoil of the city. The nearly one-mile path around the lake is a haven for joggers, dog-walkers and casual strollers. Take advantage of the beauty that surrounds the lake: tropical gardens, cypress trees and wildlife thrive in this oasis. Listen to the soothing roar of the fountain, which has adorned the lake since 1957. For a romantic encounter, rent a swan boat or a gondola and gently paddle across the soothing waters.
On Sundays, the park plays host to the Lake Eola Farmers’ Market. The weekly market features fresh vegetables, prepared-food vendors, local artisans peddling their crafts, and live entertainment. It starts at 9:00 a.m. and runs until mid-afternoon. The park is also home to the Walt Disney Amphitheater, which hosts a Shakespeare festival in the spring and concerts on the weekends.
Once you’ve circled the lake, head to North Orange Avenue, where you’ll find the “Bohemian” or “Antique District,” a lively, little section of Orlando known for its eclectic shops and restaurants. Visit BOOM-ART, the gallery of Glenn and Sandy Rodgers, for whimsical one-of-a-kind works of art. Glenn is always a pleasure to meet and loves to chat about his work.
Across the street, be sure to stop in to Rock ‘n Roll Heaven, a tribute to all things music. Take time to study the walls, which are covered with 50 years of music industry memorabilia. Discover that hard-to-find album or simply reminisce about an old favorite. Peruse through the antique stores that pervade the area and find that special something for which you’ve been looking, a possible treasure in waiting.
When you feel like a break from the action, head to The White Wolf Café. Since 1991, this antique store and café has been serving locals fresh, handmade salads, soups, sandwiches and flatbread pizzas. The outdoor seating is a relaxing place to sip a glass of wine on not-too-hot days, and the interior offers a wonderfully vintage atmosphere. Try the White Wolf club or the hearts of the Mediterranean salad.
Afterwards, head over to Harry P. Leu Gardens on North Forest Avenue. Leu Gardens is the former estate of Mr. Harry P. Leu, a businessman and avid plant collector who traveled the world and often brought home exotic species to add to his collection. There are more than three miles of walkways to explore. The garden features the largest collection of camellias in America, outside of California. It also features a butterfly garden, palm and bamboo garden, vegetable and herb garden, and a tropical stream garden, just to name a few. There are also tours of the Leu House Museum throughout the day. Be sure to bring your camera and capture the beauty of this modern-day Eden.
As dinner-time approaches, find your way to the Little Saigon district of Orlando, often referred to as the ViMi district. Browse the Asian markets for delicacies and wares from all shores of the Far East. Fashion, music and decorative items are all part of the shopping experience in this Orlando sub-culture.
For dinner, visit Viet Garden. This traditional Vietnamese restaurant also serves Thai dishes prepared to order. Try the Garden Rolls served with a spicy peanut sauce or the Chicken Satay. The Vietnamese soups are huge and bursting with noodles and fresh ingredients.
As night falls, head back to downtown Orlando. Visit Church Street for a plethora of bars and nightclubs to fit everyone’s taste. For a casual atmosphere, try Latitudes.
Located atop the roof of two other bars, Chillers and the Big Belly Brewery, Latitudes has great views of the city, the ideal place to sip a margarita and relax. The tropical ambiance and open-air setting are an excellent way to end a perfect day of outdoor activity in Orlando, Florida. Hope you now have some great ideas how to spend a day in Orlando without the mouse.
Planning a trip to Orlando?
What & Where
BreakFast Club of Orlando (63 E. Pine St; 407-843-1559)
Lake Eola Park (195 N. Rosalind Ave; 407-246-2827)
Swan Boat info (407.232.0111)
Farmers’ Market info (321.746.5855)
Harry P. Leu Gardens (1920 N. Forest Ave; 407-246-2620)
White Wolf Café (1829 N. Orange Ave; 407-895-9911)
Rock ‘n Roll Heaven (1814 N. Orange Ave; 407-896-1952)
Boom-Art (1821 N Orange Ave; 407-895-0280)
Viet Garden (1237-1239 E. Colonial Dr; 407-896-4154)
Related Article: Winter Park: Orlando of Old
Anthony Baker is an English teacher and freelance writer. A native Long Islander, he currently resides in Altamonte Springs, Florida. Mr. Baker is currently pursuing his master’s degree at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida, and working on a book of poetry, several short stories, and a screenplay. Questions or comments can be sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org.