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Go Go Orlando!

I recently partnered with Stephen of Bohemian Traveler and Gogobot.com to write custom guides for a few of my favorite cities. Following a candid recapturing of my home-town, I nostalgically revisited my first home away from home…Orlando.

From food and shopping to activities and nightlife, here are are a few highlights from my “Non-Disney Guide to Greater Orlando.” If you are planning a trip to this sunny Florida city, please do not hesitate to leave questions or recommendation requests in the comments – I would love nothing more than to help you maximize your visit.

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Michelle’s rating:*****
Brunch doesn’t get better than White Wolf Cafe! Not far from downtown Orlando, this restaurant is full of character and great food. You’ll want to get here early for outside seating, otherwise there is plenty to look at while enjoying your meal inside. White Wolf Cafe is decked out with antiques and vintage trinkets. For breakfast or brunch, you MUST enjoy the Cinnamon Buns, Biscuits and Gravy and/or Traditional Eggs Benedict. White Wolf’s Mimosas are a divine addition to any morning meal. BONUS: Do some shopping across the street at Rock & Roll Heaven, Living Morocco and Washburn Imports.

florida

Michelle’s rating:*****
The Maitland Lakes are hidden within beautiful neighborhoods northeast of downtown Orlando, but you don’t have to be a resident to enjoy the beautiful lakes and their stunning canals. There are a few ways I recommend enjoying the Maitland Chain of Lakes. If you’re visiting a friend with a small boat you’ll find docks on Lake Maitland and Lake Osceola – make sure it is a boat small enough to go through the canals. Contact Hau Hele Wai Paddleboard for SUP tours on Lake Maitland, or take a bike ride around the lakes, on sidewalks and trails, through the gorgeous neighborhoods. Lakes: Minniehaha, Maitland, Osceola, Virginia, Berry, Mizell and Sue. BONUS: You’ll want your camera when you visit the nearby Chapel and Mayan Courtyard at the Maitland Art and History Museums.

Michelle’s rating:*****
Downtown Credo is a special little nook near downtown Orlando. Located off of Edgewater Drive, this coffee shop is a trendy way to enjoy a cup o joe while also doing some good. Downtown Credo is a donation only coffee shop. That’s right, you pay what you want for coffee and the proceeds go to help the Guatemalan families who farm these fabulous beans. In addition to providing a cozy place to work or read while sipping great coffee, Downtown Credo also showcases talented musicians and hosts charity events… BONUS: Shop around at Top Drawer Consignment and grab lunch Tijuana Flats; both also located on Edgewater Drive. 


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Michelle’s rating:*****
Another MUST if you’re visiting Orlando over a Sunday. The Orlando Farmer’s Market at Lake Eola, is a highlight to any weekend. From the picturesque setting of the Eola fountains to the lush courtyard and diverse vendors, there is much to love about this weekly event. In addition to great brunch options, the market offers produce, plants and flowers, jewelry, art and more! Lake Eola is home to a wide variety of birds including five types of swan. Make sure you bring bread for feeding because these birds are no stranger to visitors and will get up close and personal – the perfect photo opportunity! BONUS: Graffiti Junction isn’t nearby in Thorton Park; it’s a great place to chill, eat, drink and be entertained.

Photo: healthycentralflorida.org Photo: healthycentralflorida.org

Michelle’s rating:*****
Park Ave was one of my favorite place to spend the afternoon when I lived in Orlando. Located in Winter Park, a small subdivision/neighborhood on the outskirts of downtown Orlando, Park Ave is a luxurious yet casual place to enjoy great food, shopping and leisure. Often hosting markets, block parties, or the occasional movie in the park, this street always has something going on. I recommend coffee at Barnie’s Coffee Kitchen, Brunch at Bosphorous Turkish Cuisine, dinner at 310 Park South, desert at Kilwin’s (get the toasted coconut ice cream) and cocktails at The Wine Room.

NYE

Michelle’s rating:*****
Wall Street is in the center of downtown Orlando and the go-to place for amazing nightlife! From the Cantina and Waitiki to The Other Bar and FinnHenry’s, you’ll find downtown Orlando’s most popular spots all in one place! Wall Street always hosts live music and block parties for holidays or special occasions like St. Patrick’s Day and the Superbowl. There are great spots on Wall Street for food, but the best part about it all is the ability to enjoy cocktails and socializing freely throughout the block. BONUS: If you’re looking for a sushi dinner before your night out, visit Bento Cafe. Only blocks from Wall Street, Bento has my favorite K roll and an amazing happy hour.

Read through the rest of my guide to Orlando here.


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