Theme parks make Orlando stand out, but the local hidden gems make the region truly unique. Home to unassuming eateries and trendy nighttime hot spots, the “real” Orlando is full of personality and charm waiting to be discovered. From upbeat and energetic to urban and tranquil, Orlando has a surprising variety of unique neighborhoods to explore.
Church Street District
Located in the heart of downtown Orlando, Church Street District has an eclectic mix of world class dining, professional sports, live entertainment, night spots and theater. Dating back to the 1800’s, Church Street has a rich history and historic buildings with a variety of architectural styles. Nestled amongst historic charm, today’s Church Street offers a mix of venues with a lively atmosphere every night. Church Street District is also home to the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, with a 2020 schedule bursting with big-name musicians, comedians and touring Broadway shows.
Located just steps from Lake Eola Park, Thornton Park District features upscale eateries such as Soco, the winner of Florida Trend Magazine’s 2019 Golden Spoon Award, inviting neighborhood bars and trendy boutiques. Unwind along their picturesque brick-lined streets and colorful landscapes. Home to charming Craftsman-style bungalows and soaring luxury condominiums, this hip urban area hosts community driven events, live music, and diverse entertainment on a nightly basis.
THE MILK DISTRICT
The Milk District, named for its location near the T.G. Lee Dairy factory, is a cultural hub with a progressive lifestyle, music and arts scene, featuring diverse culinary experiences like newly opened, MX Taco, featuring authentic Mexican cuisine, colorful murals, recreational sporting and music venues, unique shopping destinations, community gardens, award-winning bars, coffee shops and more.
THE HOURGLASS DISTRICT
The Hourglass District is a neighborhood redevelopment project focused on enhancing the unique culture of one of Orlando’s most established communities. By reimagining its core with fresh originality, local influence, and fitting visual appeal, the project has shined a spotlight on what’s possible. Today, the Hourglass District is the organic culmination of local merchants and residents, connected by a passion for what they do and the city they love. Foxtail Coffee, a local franchise now expanded to over seven locations, is at the heart of this modern area, offering high quality coffee and intuitive workspace for the local community.
Located only 15 minutes from the Orlando International Airport, Lake Nona is a neo-urban community filled with innovation, technology and a health focus. It offers high quality restaurants with almost guaranteed scenic views, such as the lake-front Canvas Restaurant & Market and relaxing hangout spots. One of its most reputable hangout spots is Boxi Park, central Florida’s first outdoor food hall and entertainment venue built from repurposed shipping containers, a perfect spot for families, kids and even dogs.
College Park is a vibrant neighborhood located just outside of downtown Orlando where you can experience urban living with a small town feel. This community is made up of some of the finest local retailers, award winning restaurants, and small businesses found in Central Florida. College Park’s wide selection of services, bungalow-style homes, brick tree-lined streets and many parks and lakes create a vibrant lifestyle and a comfortable place for residents to call home. Adjacent to College Park is the artsy Loch Haven Park, home to the Orlando Museum of Art, Orlando Science Center and Orlando Repertory Theatre and Orlando Shakespeare Theater.
North of downtown Orlando and anchored by Lake Ivanhoe, Ivanhoe Village is filled with unique bars, such as the Imperial Wine Bar & Beer Garden, a neighborhood bar house located inside a furniture store, restaurants, galleries, retail shops and antique stores. The lakefront district also features the cultural corridor of the city that includes museums, theaters and beautiful parks.
Just northeast of downtown Orlando, Mills 50 is home to the largest Vietnamese American community in Florida, with an expanding enclave of authentic Asian restaurants, shops and markets. Visitors can enjoy delicious and diverse Asian cuisine like traditional pho at Pho 88, Asian fusion joints like Tako Cheena, featuring tacos and empanadas with a Pan-Asian filling and the 1st Oriental Supermarket in Central Florida.
Audubon Park, also known as The Garden District, is a hip, diverse area just north of downtown Orlando. This district is known for its vintage shops, cafes, eateries, bakeries, music, craft beer and East End Market, a cultural hub and marketplace home to local, independently owned food enterprises. Audubon Park is also home to Harry P. Leu Gardens, a 50-acre botanical oasis with various gardens featuring local flora as well as a beautiful rose garden.
Originally created as a retreat for wealthy northerners, Winter Park is just a short drive north of downtown Orlando. More than 130 years later, Winter Park is still a picturesque, upscale area with 10 tree-lined blocks off Park Avenue with more than 140 boutiques, restaurants and specialty shops. Art appreciators can explore the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art, home to the world’s most comprehensive collection of Louis Comfort Tiffany works. Winter Park is also known for its outdoor spaces like Central Park, an 11-acre park hosting numerous of events and activities and the Winter Park Chain of Lakes, linked by a series of Venetian-style canals that guests can experience on the guided Winter Park Scenic Boat Tour.
Formerly a citrus town, Winter Garden is a quaint community west of downtown Orlando known for its old Florida style and charm. Listed as a favorite destination on the National Registry of Historic Places, this historic town features shops, restaurants, theaters, galleries and more. Visitors can rent bikes at West Orange Trail-Bikes & Blades Co. and follow the West Orange Trail to Plant Street Market, a local community food hub featuring 20 vendors selling natural, organic and handmade food products.
About Visit Orlando
Visit Orlando is The Official Tourism Association® for Orlando, the most visited destination in the United States and Theme Park Capital of the World®. A not-for-profit trade association that brands, markets and sells the Orlando destination globally, Visit Orlando represents 1,200 member companies comprising every segment of Central Florida’s tourism community.