Like a Local: Orlando’s College Park District
Orlando's theme parks and attractions made us famous, but we're more than the sum of those parts. Venture away from our tourism district and you'll discover neighborhoods and towns bustling with delicious dining, eclectic retailers, vibrant arts and unforgettable entertainment. College Park is one of the most charming in that regard — and it's just 10 minutes from downtown Orlando!
Getting to Know Orlando's College Park Neighborhood
Orlando is one of many U.S. cities with a College Park neighborhood. In most cases, the name marks the area closest to a college — but in Orlando, it's because numerous streets are named after colleges. Drive around for a bit and you might even find your own alma mater!
If that strikes you as a quaint system, it's probably because the community itself is quaint. But that doesn't mean its residents and visitors want for the finer things in life.
"Although I really prefer big cities, I grew up as a small-town kid," says Jeff Kurtz, executive director of College Park Main Street. "My initial impression was that College Park really combines the best of both of those elements.
"On the one hand, you have world-class cultural and entertainment opportunities that present themselves in College Park specifically but also within Orlando as a whole. On the other hand, College Park retains that hometown, close-knit community feel, where you can still know the people you interact with every day."
Learn more: Orlando Main Streets
As Kurtz notes, that's a hard combination to beat — especially once you factor in the area's dining, shopping, culture and entertainment.
Orlando Dining & Nightlife in College Park
Come hungry to College Park, because it has several eateries you'll want to try. One of the most notable is K Restaurant. Locally owned and operated since 2001, it features an ever-changing menu using responsibly sourced ingredients. On a related note, this restaurant's founder, Chef Kevin Fonzo, partnered with one of the world's most famous celebrity chefs for College Park's Emeril Lagasse Foundation Kitchen House and Culinary Garden, which teaches the next generation of gourmet superstars.
Learn more: Orlando Dining
The Tap Room at Dubsdread is another longtime local favorite thanks to fresh seafood, prime cuts of steak, homemade desserts and more. And golfers, take note: This restaurant is the official clubhouse for Dubsdread Golf Course, a public, 18-hole course that opened in 1924.
Learn more: Orlando Golfing
In recent years, College Park has gained even more stellar dining options. Operated by two graduates of The Culinary Institute of America, RusTeak Restaurant & Wine Bar is a New American eatery with upscale casual fare and extensive selections of wine, beer and cocktails.
Nearby, Outpost Neighborhood Kitchen specializes in downhome, from-scratch cooking, as well as craft beer and wine. You can also dig into some of Orlando's freshest pasta, gelato and other Italian favorites at Trevi Pasta, or enjoy Pan-Asian plates at Jade Sushi & New Asian. You can even learn to cook at another local culinary school, Truffles & Trifles, which hosts fun classes perfect for date nights.
For something more casual, look into hidden gems like Infusion Tea, Christo's Café or Gabriel's Sub Shop, which just celebrated its 60th anniversary at the same location. And when you're ready for something sweet, The Cookie Cousins, The Soda Fountain and Sugarbuzz Dezert Company are ready for you.
If you're looking for grownup fun in College Park, The Local and Ollie's Public House are popular watering holes with tasty food menus. For a more refined experience, grab a seat at Digress Wine, which recently changed its name from Cavanaugh's.
Read more: Orlando Nightlife & Entertainment
Orlando Culture, Entertainment & Relaxation in College Park
Famed author Jack Kerouac started writing The Dharma Bums while living in a College Park cottage from 1957 to 1958 — the same period during which On the Road was published. Today, The Kerouac Project gives a rotating lineup of up-and-coming authors the chance to write and sleep in the same historic home.
Learn more: Orlando Arts, Culture & History
College Park also hosts several fun cultural events, beginning with April's Dancing on the Drive. Taking over the neighborhood's main thoroughfare, Edgewater Drive, it features a giant dance floor, food trucks and vendors. November's JazzFest features 10 bands on three main stages, and December's Holiday on the Drive turns the area into a wintery wonderland.
If relaxation is your favorite form of entertainment, head to The Spa, which has been voted as one of Orlando's best. Services include massage, waxing, nail and skin care, body treatments and a Dermalogica Skin Bar, as well as an outside cabana area with a hot tub.
Orlando Shopping in College Park
College Park boasts a number of memorable shopping opportunities, starting with The Shoppes of College Park's collection of bespoke vendors. Other local retailers with a wide range of merchandise include Driftwood Market, Bijou's Boutique and Top Drawer Consignments.
Learn more: Orlando Shopping
You'll find much in the way of specialized shopping here too. For example, Orange Cycle has anything and everything to do with bicycling. Foundation is a hip music and clothing store, and Naked Bar Soap Co. is an amazing source for handcrafted soaps and other bath and body products.
Last but not least, if you want to look your best for MegaCon Orlando or other comic-book conventions, stop by Embellish FX. It's a cosplay emporium with costumes, wigs, masks, cosmetics and everything else you'll need to become your favorite fictional character.
Written by Nate Shelton, consumer content writer at Visit Orlando. He's an experienced journalist and native Floridian who enjoys the entertainment, cultural and culinary aspects of Orlando and Orange County.
Stay Connected to Orlando!
Never miss a second of what happens in Orlando! Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for the latest offers, exclusive tips and live feeds from our newest attractions and fun events, and subscribe to our eNewsletter for more information from Orlando: Theme Park Capital of the World®.