orlando guide!

today’s city guide comes to us from summer redwine of fields without fences, sara poindexter of twelve21 gallery, with photos by jennifer o’malley and a gorgeous illustration from anna bond of rifle paper co. summer, sara, jennifer and anna are celebrating orlando, florida today, taking us on a tour of fantastic shops, restaurants, events, and must-visit sites. i’ve always associated orlando with disney world, so i really appreciate the local’s guide to the wonderful non-disney scene around town. if you’re headed south to florida i hope you’ll take this guide with you- the girls did a fantastic job writing it. thanks again to summer, sara, jennifer and anna!

CLICK HERE for the full city guide after the jump!

Welcome to Orlando’s City Guide!  We’re excited about sharing all of Orlando’s wonderful hidden treasures that many vacationers never have the chance to discover.  The guide concentrates on our most favorite neighborhoods including a few shout-outs to the neighboring city, Winter Park.  Hope you enjoy!

Audubon Park District

Stardust Coffee/The Slanted and Enchanted Bar

Stardust is THE epicenter of this hood. Coffee, loose leaf teas, vegan & quasi-vegan food, an extensive collection of international cinema and obscure dvds for rent, a photobooth, free wi-fi, monthly art shows and home of the Monday night Audubon Park Community Market. Around the corner of the main coffee counter you’ll find the Slanted and Enchanted Bar. Absolutely love the look and feel of this bar. It’s made entirely of salvaged doors and windows. They have a full liquor bar and an exceptional beer selection.

Audubon Park District Community Market

The market is a community of growers, ranchers, fishermen, chefs, artists, handcrafters, musicians and neighbors. Take a walk through this market and you may leave with some local blood orange syrup from the DELICIOUS catering and charcuterie company, Big Wheel Provisions, hand dipped chocolate marshmallows rolled in nuts and sprinkles from the pretty ladies at Bees Knees Sweet Treats, and some handcut soap and bath products from Sim-Bliss-ity. This weekly gathering of friends, local food, local art, live music and more takes place in the Stardust parking lot every Monday, from 6pm to 10pm.

Park Ave CDs
Part of the Coalition of Independent Music Stores and an Orlando landmark; Park Ave Cds has been going strong for over 25 years. They specialize in new & used CDs, DVDs, and records. They have an ever expanding and diverse book selection, unique and handmade cards and gifts, designer toys and collectibles. I’ll warn you now, just plan to stay awhile.

Sweet Btq
Cute, hip, and economically friendly clothing, accessories and handmade items.

American Modern & Bead Lounge
A creative boutique and bead lounge. They have a really amazing selection of beads (they import many themselves) and beading supplies. They also carry handmade gift items from Orlando’s growing craft community.

Blue Bird Bake Shop
Chai, Chocolate Guinness, Red Velvet, Orange Creamsicle, Apricot Ginger, and Snickerdoodle are just some of their delicious cupcake flavors. The’ve been delivering their yummy treats to cafes around town, but look for their very own shop opening this summer. Can’t wait!

Junior’s Diner
Just what you would want in a classic, cozy neighborhood diner.

Two of Orlando’s most creative and talented individuals have teamed up to create a space that is a design firm/photography studio during most days, but also serves as host to art shows, special events and gatherings. They say it’s for “no special reason”, but whatever the reason it’s added SO much to this growing community.

Leu Gardens
We are so lucky to have this historical garden right in our backyard! There are 50 acres of gardens including one of America’s largest Camellia collections. There is also a large formal rose garden, a museum in a house from the 1880s, a tropical garden, a butterfly garden, palm, bamboo and cycad plantings and vegetable and herb gardens. The gardens are FREE the first Monday of every month!

R. Nichols Shop
Such a cute shop! Look for the little tricycle that’s always parked outside. All designs begin as intricate hand cut collages and then are turned into whimsical stationery, note cards, totes and other fun gifts.

Down the road just a bit and an absolute must…Redlight Redlight
A craft beer bar with 20 drafts, 2 beer engines, 70-90 bottles at any given time. Not sure what to try? No problem! Ask the owner, Brent or anyone of the other knowledgeable bartenders to recommend something. There’s  also a big chalkboard with current staff faves and binder that has all the beers listed with descriptions. Stop in on a Thursday or Friday night and you’ll get to try some whiskey truffles or absinthe cupcakes complete with a sugar cube on top from Brent’s wife, Erica. She own’s 

Bees Knees Sweet Treats.
In the mood for something more savory with your beer, then look for Lola Pizzeria outside on Friday nights. Dennis cooks up personal pizzas hot off the grill.

Ivanhoe Village/Antique Row

Mama’s Sauce
Boutique print shop using all water and soy based products. Mama’s Sauce can also handle your letterpress needs with this Kluge letterpress.

Qui Studios specializes in custom reclaimed wood furniture with locally found wood from the St.Johns River

Fantastic refurbished vintage furniture at reasonable prices – from midcentury to danish modern, you are guaranteed to find something wonderful for every room of the house!

Twelve 21 Gallery
Housed by branding company, Laughing Samurai, this gallery holds monthly events showcasing local artists.

Hopscotch Boutique
A playful and unique, mom-owned children’s boutique’s 

Twelve 21 Gallery: carry “off -the-runway” clothes and shoes. Charming shop with a picnic table and juice bar.

Heather Handmade Goods and More
Adorable boutique that carries the works of many talented designers as well as Heather’s own handmade designs. She also teaches sewing classes in this space that doubles as her studio. You can also find her on Etsy.

Washburn Imports and The Imperial Winebar & Beer Garden
This place is filled with high-quality imports, furniture, and artwork from Asia and the Pacific Rim, including Indonesia, India, Thailand, Burma, Vietnam and China. Nestled right inside is also The Imperial Winebar and Beer Garden. While you are admiring all of the one-of-a-kind treasures this store has you can sip unique wines and beers. What could be better?

Deja Vu Vintage Clothing
You’ll find funky, vintage, clothes and accessories here. The old high school letterjackets rule!

A 15,000 square foot showroom lighting showroom located in the historic Johnson Electrical building, on Lake Ivanhoe.

The Caboose
A cozy little beer hall that has a friendly staff and cheap drinks.

Theatre Downtown
In their 18th year, Theatre Downtown is still doing a wonderful job spotlighting unique plays and artists.

Stop by Nora’s and you’ll feel you walked over to a neighbors house to have a drink. A great place to hang out, have a beer and chat.

Ethos Vegan Kitchen
Ethos’s is located in a historic circa 1925 building with a charming rustic interior. Sitting outside on the shaded, breezy porch across from Lake Ivanhoe is a treat on hot days. 100% vegan, homestyle food and local beer from the Orlando Brewing Company as well as organic wine. Thank you Ethos, we needed you!

Mennello Museum of American Art
Set on beautiful Lake Formosa, the museum is located in old yellow mansion that was once a private residence. The residence was converted in 1998 to show off the work of a single Folk artist, Earl Cunningham (1893-1977), a “primitive genius”. The Mennello also has offers a series of rotating American art exhibits as well as being home to the Orlando Folk Festival. In the park surrounding the museum you will also find one of Central Florida’s oldest and largest oak trees, “The Mayor”.

Rock and Roll Heaven
A must for any record collector. Huge selection of hard to find vinyl. The pop culture nostalgia and entertainment memorabilia is worth the visit.

The Hideaway
A neighborhood mainstay with good bar food, loyal patrons, strong drinks and cold beer.

Artichoke Red Vegan Market
Convenient one-stop shop that carries a wide assortment of cruelty free groceries, home and personal care, vitamins and supplements.

College Park

Dechoes Resale Emporium
You’ll find a very good selection of designer and vintage. Not at all like a thrift store. You don’t have to dig much to score something great. You can sell them your things too, but they are very picky. Dechose has 3 locations around Orlando and they are all fabulous.

Infusion Tea
A charming neighborhood cafe/teahouse that serves a vast selection of teas and tasty vegetarian/vegan menu.

Artistree Co-op
Boutique and art gallery that showcases and sells handcrafted and locally made merchandise from Orlando’s designers, crafters, and artisans.

Fresh, eclectic and seasonal creations served up Chef Kevin Fonzo (James Beard Award nominee!). Try the fried green tomatoes with crab, roasted corn and grain mustard dressing or anything and everything. It’s all delicious!

Christo’s Cafe
Home-style neighborhood diner that is always delicious and fresh.

Winter Park/Maitland

Orange Tree Antiques Mall‎
90 dealers of  toys, books, dishware, deco, mid-century modern, Victorian, vintage and other collectibles.

Eco-friendly woman’s boutique in the historic Hannibal Square shopping district.

It’s obvious that a lot of thoughtful design, craftsmenship and love go into these laser etched leather bags, totes and wallets . Each beautiful piece is timeless and quality.

Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of Art
Located in the heart of downtown Winter Park, is the the world’s most comprehensive collection of works by Louis Comfort Tiffany. Stunning!

The Ravenous Pig
A Gastropub speacializing in seasonal menu that changes daily. As soon as you sit down order the gruyere biscuits. Heaven!

Enzian Theater
An integral part of Orlando’s arts community this unique, single-screen, non-profit, alternative cinema has been around for 25 years. They serve beer, wine and a full menu that uses local farmers, brewers, and artisans, whenever possible.

Thurston House
If you are looking for a place to stay that is not your typical chain hotel. Built in 1885 and completely restored in 1991, the inn combines all the charm of a period Queen Anne Victorian Farmhouse with the modern room amenities of a fine, small hotel.

A kitchy dive that serves cheese steak hoagies, sweet potato fries, the BEST milkshakes, and just good ol’ fashioned American food. It is exactly the same way it was when I was 5 years old.

Miller’s Hardware
Starting out as the Ben Franklin 5&10 store in 1940, it is still the a good ol’ family owned neighborhood hardware store. They also carry a lot of things your typical big box hardware store may not have.  

Winter Park Scenic Boat Tours
The Winter Park Boat Tours began officially on January 1, 1938.  The boat tour is an 18 passenger pontoon boat ride that meanders through a 12 mile scenic tour of the Winter Park Chain of Lakes and canals. You’ll see the true beauty of Winter Park (“Venice of America”) which includes Rollins College, Kraft Azalea Gardens, Isle of Sicily, tropical birds, plants, flowers and magnificent mansions. The comical, older gentelmen captains that narrate the boat tour are worth the $12 ticket fee.

Rifle Design
A boutique paper and design studio.  Check out the Orlando City Guide image for a sample of their work! Beautiful. 

Four Rivers Smokehouse
Hands down, best BBQ in the Orlando area. Good things come to those who wait, right? Prepare to stand in line a bit. Worth it!

Maitland Art Center
The Art Center is one of the few surviving examples of “Mayan Revival” or fantasy architecture in the Southeast. Beautiful shady gardens and courtyards.

Skycraft Parts and Surplus Warehouse
Feeling crafty, need a random electronic part, building a robot?  This is a self service store and D.I.Y heaven.

Orlando Vintage
1200 square feet of stylish vintage. The owner, an Orlando native, has a passion for vintage and it shows.

Black Bean Deli
Cheap, fresh, and yummmy cuban food with a super friendly staff.  This place is really tiny so you may want to grab it to go and head to a park.

Winter Park Fish Co.
Dear Winter Park Fish Co., Thank you for offering fresh seafood and not frying everything! Absolutely delicious, gourmet food served up quick and inexpensive in a kitschy, but not too kitschy atmosphere.

Milk District
The Milk District is Orlando’s newest and tiniest district!  Located next to a dairy distributor, this neighborhood is literally one street of shops, restaurants, and bars.  We’ve also included a few places down the road for your enjoyment.

Etoile Boutique
Orlando’s hippest boutique featuring vintage clothing and locally handmade clothing, craft, and jewelry.  Be sure to check out owner Katie Reynold’s own line, A Rare Bird, when you stop in.

Fantastic skate shop and hang out.  Located down the street from the Orlando Skate Park.

Social Chameleon Cozy nook offering fresh flatbreads, greek dishes, and salads served tapas sytle.  Menu includes inexpensive, quality wines as well as microbrew and craft beers.

Bull and Bush
A small English Pub that plays great music.  

Milk Bar
Craft beers and wine while playing xbox and board games.  Out of the ordinary but definitely worth a peek inside!

down the road…

Plaza Theater
Great venue showing anything from Jazz to Zydeco.  Also holds a farmer’s market every Saturday that’s worth checking out.

Drunken Monkey Cute cafe that caters to vegans, vegetarians, and meat-eaters alike! Order the vegan paella if you have a chance to stop in, delicious.

Pom Pom’s Tea House and Sandwicheria
A local favorite, this place serves the most unique sandwiches and a wide assortment of teas.  It’s open 24 hours which also makes it a great late night hang out.

El Coqui Mexicano
Authentic mexican and puerto rican food with an open kitchen.  Their spicy guacamole sauce is to kill for.

The Book Worm This place is small, but it’s laid back and comfortable and has a few hard-to-find reads.


Lure Design
Local design shop.  Check out their hand-printed cards and journals at the L2 Store.

Orlando Shakespeare Theater
Best place in town to catch a local or traveling act.

The Peacock Room Best bar for a martini.  Also features great rock shows, dj’s, and art opening depending on the night.

Orlando’s favorite hole-in-the-wall.  Known for their strong pour, this place is a little reminiscent of old Vegas inside.

Best place to see local bands play, Wills has been a staple of Orlando for many years. 

Tony’s Deli
Authentic Middle Eastern dishes not to be missed!

Say It Loud
Really great advertising firm that rents out their photography studio for art shows and modern dance events.

Dong-A Co.: This section of town is covered with wonderful asian markets, shops, and restaurants.  Dong-A Co is one of our favorite shops but the whole area is worth exploring. 

Pho 88
Fresh Vietnamese soups.  The building also features really vibrant grafitti art on the outside wall by local artists which makes this place unique.  Again, this area is known for it’s array of Vietnamese and Thai eateries – all are about equally delicious.

Great place for a glass of wine after a day of shopping.

The Black Sheep Carries needle arts supplies and accessories for needlepoint, cross stitch, knitting, and crochet.  Great place to shop or just hang out and stitch!


Raphsodic Cooperative Company
This vegan bakery was opened recently by a young couple in town.  Not only are their cupcakes and brownies delightful, they also did a fantastic remodeling job that transformed the space into a place as sweet as their cakes.

Dandelion Communitea
The best organic vegetarian/vegan eco-friendly eatery in town.  Located in a bright green wooden house with an edible urban garden out front, this restaurant is as charming as it gets.

Homegrown Local Food Co-Op
Really helping to push the slow food movement in Central Florida.  They also have film screenings and potluck events where you can enjoy local food snacks.

Funky Monkey Wine Co.
Serves fresh sustainable line caught seafood and local beef and veggies.

Colonial Photo and Hobby
From cameras to old school train sets and model planes, a shopping experience both the parents and kids will enjoy.

Sam Flax
Best art supply shop in town.  Also carries art books, strange toys, and knick knacks – you can spend hours in this place.

Thai House
Not only is this one of our favorite places for Thai food, but the decor is authentic as well.

International Market and Deli
Specializes in Russian delights, everything from fresh deli meats to imported chocolates.

The British Shoppe The place to get your London fix.  Also sells adorable tea pots and sets.

Downtown/Thorton Park/Eola

The Eõ Inn & Small boutique hotel including 17 smartly decorated rooms each with its own private bath.  Most rooms also include balconies overlooking one of Orlando’s best parks, Lake Eola.  The Inn also includes a full service spa, jacuzzi, and pool access.

Lake Eola
Urban park known for it’s large population of swans.  A festive farmer’s market with live music and a wine and beer garden is held every Sunday.

Grand Bohemian Hotel
Orlando’s most luxurious hotel within the inner city.  The hotel includes an art gallery featuring 100 works of art by local, regional, and international artists as well as a beautiful bar, the Bosendorfer Lounge.  The Lounge, named after it’s piano, showcases the best jazz acts in town every weekend.

The Dessert Lady
Cozy cafe serving decadent handcrafted desserts, artisanal cheeses, and an extensive wine list.

Mother Falcon
A hip shop based on custom printed t-shirts.  The shop holds an event featuring designs by a local artist each month.

Zou Zou A Chic Boutique
Says it all in the name!  Beautiful clothes.

So, as with most downtown nightlife areas, it’s best to explore the streets and discover places that fit your style.  With the high tourist population and young college crowds, it’s sometimes difficult to find the gems, but here are a few suggestions: Best downtown art galleries: Blank SpaceGallery at Avalon IslandRoho Art and Coffee Best downtown venues for live music: The SocialBackboothFirestone Best downtown bars for dancing: Sky60 (rooftop bar); Independent Bar

  1. Linda says:

    Great local gems featured. don’t forget the Orlando Museum of Art! Local artists now sell their artwork at 1st Thursdays – 6 to 9pm every month, and the gift shop carries local art as well.

  2. Vicky says:

    El Coqui Mexicano is closed.

  3. S.Robert says:

    A great new coffee shop just opened in College Park. It’s called Credo Coffee. They are a non-profit and it’s all donations based. On Smith St right over Edgewater in the yellow building (behind Orange Cycles.) Go support them!

  4. Ashley says:

    I have lived in Orlando for 10 years and downtown for almost 4 yrs. now. This is a GREAT guide and very accurate. SOme things to add:

    the same owners of both the Milk Bar and the Social Chameleon have opened a new place called “Sppoky’s Black Cat Cafe” almost directly across from the Festival Bay Park (right down from the other 2 businesses) that serves some of what the Chameleon serves, but also is waaay more Indian influenced and also has ribs, etc. Definitely worth a try! It’s also a bit bigger, but no outside seating.

  5. Anna says:

    This is great! I am new to Orlando and get tired of the whole Disney thing! Celebration would be awesome to add featuring Emperium, Columbia, Irish Pub, etc. Also, Downtown Winter Garden is precious! This guide is very helpful!

    1. Anony says:

      Rest in peace Mark and rest in peace Fireside Inn :(

  6. MJ says:

    THIS IS GREAT!! Love to see “S.E.A. Thai Restaurant” on the list, too :)

  7. Katie says:

    A few updates: Ethos Vegan Kitchen has moved to Winter Park (no more outside seating); Mother Falcon has a hip bar next door called The Falcon with a Red Rum room; Blank Space and Roho Art and Coffee have closed. I would also add The Beacham as one of the best downtown music venues. And I second MJ’s motion to add S.E.A. Thai Restaurant to the list!

  8. Robin Deja Vu says:

    After 28 years on Ivanhoe Row, Ivanhoe Village, Deja Vu Vintage Clothing & Accessories is relocating to Winter Park Oct. 1st 2013. The new location is between N. Orange ave. & Fairbanks on Michigan Ave. by the Eat More Produce & Krispy Cream. 1210 Michigan ave. Lots of cool little shops, restuarants, businesses & antique malls. Check it out when your toodling around.

  9. Monica says:

    I don’t think Funky Monkey is all it’s cracked up to be here. I would highly recommend The Strand instead if you’re in the Mills50 area! They have a real commitment to local and seasonal items.

  10. JOHN says:

    Thank you so much of the guide–we’re off to Orlando for almost a week over Thanksgiving. Was planning ahead and noted El Coqui Mexicano and The Peacock Room (and the Red Fox Lounge!) from your list have closed.

  11. Justin says:

    There has been one major addition to Orlando since this list was created: East End Market. Definitely worth checking out!


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