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. 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 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, acoustically remarkable Steinmetz Hall, which opened in 2022 – both home to big-name musicians, comedians and touring Broadway shows.
Thornton Park District
Located just steps from Lake Eola Park, Thornton Park District features upscale eateries such as Soco, offering down-home cuisine with an upscale vibe like chicken and lobster dumplings, inviting neighborhood bars and trendy boutiques. Unwind along the 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, arts scene and gourmet bites, including Kabooki Sushi, a MICHELIN Guide Recommended restaurant. Other diverse culinary experiences include Milkhouse, a creative space housing some of the most noted Central Florida food and beverage brands offering breakfast, unique tapas, afternoon bites and more; MICHELIN Recommended Se7en Bites, specializing in southern comfort foods with a modern twist. The district also features colorful murals, music venues, unique shopping, award-winning bars, ongoing neighborhood events such as Tasty Takeover – a weekly food truck block party, artisan markets, community bike rides, music festivals, eclectic meet ups and more.
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. Today, the Hourglass District is the organic culmination of local merchants and residents, offering a vast collection of breweries, like Hourglass Brewing, The Commission Beer Chamber and Claddagh Cottage Irish Pub. The district also features unique eateries like local favorites Pizza Bruno, and MICHELIN Guide Bib Gourmand honoree Papa Llama, a Latin American restaurant focusing on the vibrant flavors of Peruvian cuisine. Foxtail Coffee, a local franchise now expanded to nearly 20 Central Florida 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 International Airport, Lake Nona is a neo-urban community filled with innovation, technology and a health focus that is home to a wide variety of shops, restaurants, and activities. The community offers exceptional dining, including MICHELIN Guide Recommended, BACÁN located in the Lake Nona Wave Hotel, offering state-of-the-art boutique accommodations, along with relaxing hangout spots like the Lake Nona Wave Hotel’s 50,000-square-foot outdoor sculpture garden. One of its most reputable areas 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. Visitors seeking a more high-energy experience can enjoy Nona Adventure Park, a floating Aqua Park and Cable Park for wakeboarding/water skiing and Drive Shack, an interactive golf complex.
College Park is a vibrant neighborhood located just outside of downtown Orlando where visitors can experience urban living with a small-town feel. This community is comprised of unique local retailers like Driftwood Market, Bijou’s Boutique, Ritzy Rags, Top Drawer Consignments and Embellish FX, a cosplay emporium with costumes, wigs, masks, cosmetics and everything needed to become a fictional character. The neighborhood is also bustling with delicious dining offerings, 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 Centerza, Orlando Family Stage and Orlando Shakes.
Located 15 minutes north of downtown Orlando, the historic town of Eatonville was incorporated in 1887, making it one of the first self-governing, all-Black municipalities in the U.S. — and the oldest still in existence today. Visitors will find a collection of restaurants, historical sites and museums. It is also where American Folklorist Zora Neale Hurston grew up and is honored by the Zora Neale Hurston National Museum of Fine Arts, providing gallery space for artists of African descent. Eatonville also pays homage to the author with the annual Zora Neale Hurston Festival of the Arts and Humanities, aka ZORA!® Festival, typically taking place in late January. Visitors can also explore the history of this community by visiting the Moseley House Museum, the second oldest structure in the town featuring exhibits and early memorabilia of the town, St. Lawrence A.M.E. Church, one of America's most Historic African American churches and one of the first in the area, in addition to the Rise Mural Project, celebrating the culture, history and future of Eatonville.
North of downtown Orlando and anchored by Lake Ivanhoe, Ivanhoe Village is filled with unique bars, historic homes, acclaimed dining, specialty shopping and more. This includes the Imperial Wine Bar & Beer Garden, a neighborhood bar house located inside a furniture store; Ivanhoe Park Brewing Company, serving homegrown brews inspired by Ivanhoe’s historic past and unique present; Bandbox, a spirit-free speakeasy, tasting lounge and bottle shop; and The Pinery, a MICHELIN Guide Recommended restaurant, featuring gourmet takes on comfort food classics. The lakefront district also offers unique paddleboarding excursions with Epic Paddle Adventures and a new full-service food hall, The Hall on the Yard, featuring nine diverse culinary offerings and three premium cocktail bars in an eclectic environment.
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 the new Filipino Casual Fine Dining, Kaya Orlando, the traditional pho at Pho 88, Asian fusion joints like Tako Cheena, featuring tacos and empanadas with a Pan-Asian filling or pick up groceries for a picnic at Enson Market, an Asian supermarket. The area is also home to colorful, large-scale, street murals created by professional artists and is home to one of the largest concentrations of MICHELIN Guide restaurants in the Orlando area. They include Bib Gourmand honorees, The Strand and Z Asian, as well as Black Rooster Taqueria, Hawkers Asian Street Fare, Shin Jung, Sticky Rice and Tori Tori, all of which are MICHELIN Guide Recommended.
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, award-wining eateries, bakeries, music, craft beer and East End Market, a cultural hub and marketplace home to local, independently owned food enterprises, including Gideon’s Bakehouse, specializing in small batch, handcrafted cookies and cakes and Domu, a MICHELIN Guide Recommended eatery offering house made noodles and creative takes on small plates. The area also boasts the One MICHELIN Star Kadence, known for its out-of-this-world sushi-tasting experience. Guests can explore unique shops such as Freehand Goods, Porch Therapy and La Boutique by LFdF. 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, specialty shops and award-winning restaurants. This includes MICHELIN Guide Recommended, Prato by James Beard-nominated Chef Brandon McGlamery and The Ravenous Pig, a seasonal gastropub that ranked as a MICHELIN Guide Bib Gourmand eatery, operated by Chefs James and Julie Petrakis, also nominated for James Beard Award honors. 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 trail to Plant Street Market, a local community food hub anchored by craft brewery Crooked Can Brewing Company, 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, Theme Park Capital of the World® and No. 1 meeting destination in the country. A not-for-profit trade association that brands, markets and sells the Orlando destination globally, we represent more than 1,500 member companies comprising every segment of Central Florida’s tourism community.
Visit Orlando connects consumers and business groups with all facets of Orlando’s travel community, whether for a vacation or meeting. Home to seven of the world’s top theme parks — as well as refreshing water parks, activities to connect with nature, vibrant neighborhoods, a dynamic dining scene with Michelin recognized restaurants, and a robust calendar of entertainment and sports events — Orlando is a diverse, welcoming and inclusive community for all travelers. Find more information at VisitOrlando.com or OrlandoMeeting.com.
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