Orlando (Northern), Florida, USA
When people think of Orlando, theme parks automatically come to mind. However, “The City Beautiful” has so much more to offer!
Orlando has a fantastic food scene with multiple James Beard award nominees helming kitchens throughout city. For sports fans, Orlando City Soccer and Orlando Magic have stadiums in the heart of downtown. Both have a great pre-game atmosphere. Nature lovers can travel just outside the city to Blue Springs State Park where manatees flock during cooler winter months. As the mother of a young T1D child, my perspective of the city has been refined by what opportunities are available those seeking an active lifestyle and quality food experiences. Fortunately, both are easy to come by in this magnificent city!
Park Avenue in Winter Park has been described as the “Rodeo Drive of the South”. The cobblestone street is lined with premium stores and high-end restaurants such as Prato and Luma on Park. This area is adjacent to the Winter Park train station on the new SunRail commuter train (which also runs to Sand Lake Road near “Restaurant Row”, as well as the major downtown Orlando hospitals). If visiting on a Saturday morning, check out the Winter Park Farmers Market in the old train depot. Afterwards, take a break to sight-see for an hour and catch a ride on the Scenic Boat Tour, a guided pontoon boat that showcases the affluent homes and greenery bordering a chain of lakes and canals less than 5 minutes away from Park Avenue.
A hidden gem in Orlando is the Dandelion Communitea Café, “Orlando’s Organic, Vegetarian and Celiac Friendly Gathering Place”. This is the epitome of happy, healthy eating and has a following to prove it. Best for a casual lunch, you won’t miss meat while enjoying top favorites such as the “Best of Orlando” hummus, the black-bean burrito, and Green Goddess sauce.
In downtown Orlando, Ceviche rises to the top as a Spanish tapas restaurant with naturally small plates and a large gluten free menu. Banderillas Mixtas, Berenjenas Asadas, Gambas a la parilla are all tasty delights, as is a pitcher of their famous Sangria. Indoors features a fun Spanish décor perfect for date night, while a patio seat allows you to people watch. The beauty of tapas is that you can order as many or as few as you’d like, or pass them around so that everyone tries a new bite.
Wekiva Island is a spot the locals flock to on the weekends. Located at the headwaters of a spring-fed river, this hangout offers a variety of fun things for all ages. Get in a game of beach volleyball, swim in the river, or form a bean bag toss competition. Spectators can watch and relax from the deck on the Adirondack chairs or rent one of the cabanas. Those wanting to explore a bit can rent a canoe, kayak, or paddleboard and check out the rest of the Wekiva River. On-site bathrooms and full-bar amenity area make this a destination that you will want to enjoy for hours.
For an ultimate day of relaxation, saunter over to Spa Orlando (formerly The Spa at Thornton Park), a popular East-meets-West spa in a quaint setting. They offer a “Day of Pampering” package featuring a massage, facial, body exfoliation, body wrap, and manicure/pedicure. After you peel yourself out of Spa Orlando, visit Blo me dry bar. Think of this as a hair boutique, with its upbeat décor and hair menu. Sit down in a club chair and allow their stylists to wash, dry, and style your hair into one of their many offerings, such as the fishtail “go fish” look or the stick straight “executive sweet”. Expect the look to last all day, which makes this a fantastic treat before a date night. (Parking is validated!) Blo and Spa Orlando are both located near Lake Eola, the iconic lake near Orlando’s downtown. Leisurely strollers around Lake Eola will often encounter the famous white swans that live by the lake. Feed them or take a quick ride on one of the rentable swan paddle boats before heading off for the night.
Downtown Orlando transforms at night. Instead of a business district, it becomes the prominent nightlife hub for the area. You will find dozens of dive bars, dance, live music venues, LGBT, rooftop bars, and late-night eateries all within a 6 block area. If you are looking for family friendly activities, nearby Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts hosts the Orlando Ballet performances, as well as top vocalists, comedians, and musicals. A night of Dancing with the Stars Live! might be followed the next day by a Hall & Oates concert.
Orlando is home to a large contingent of adult and pediatric hospitals. Downtown Orlando features two top hospitals within miles of each other:
24 HOUR PHARMACY
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