Orlando's Audubon Park Garden District
The charming Audubon Park Garden District, aka Audubon Park, is one of many hidden gems scattered throughout Orlando and its neighboring cities and towns. Part of the Orlando Main Streets program, just 10 minutes from downtown and directly connected to Winter Park, this bohemian district is perhaps best known for one of Central Florida’s most beautiful natural attractions — Harry P. Leu Gardens — as well as East End Market, a trendy community hub featuring locally produced food and merchandise, but much more awaits you here.
Learn more: Orlando Neighborhoods
These factors all helped Audubon Park Garden District earn a Great American Main Street Award in 2016 — the highest honor a district can achieve nationally — making it one of just three Florida districts to receive the designation since 1995. See why you’ll want to make Audubon Park part of your next visit to Orlando!
Please note: Depending on the timing of your visit, some experiences may be temporarily modified. Learn more about healthy travel in Orlando, and check with your favorite attractions, restaurants and other businesses for their current status.
Getting to Know Orlando’s Audubon Park Garden District
Beginning in World War II and through most of the Cold War, Orlando was home to two high-profile military installations: the Naval Training Center (NTC) Orlando and McCoy Air Force Base, the latter of which actually became the area’s largest employer before Walt Disney World® Resort opened in 1971.
Until the NTC’s decommissioning in 1999, these bases brought countless servicepeople and their families to the area. Many of those patriots built homes in what became known as the Audubon Park neighborhood, which — in honor of its namesake, the National Audubon Society — features tree-lined streets named after birds.
Today, the Audubon Park Garden District encompasses not just the original neighborhood, but also a vibrant main strip with sought-after dining, shopping and nightlife. What’s more, land adjacent to Audubon Park that used to house the NTC was redeveloped as the exclusive Baldwin Park neighborhood, which has even more in store for serious foodies and shoppers — as does the neighboring Winter Park. Factor in Leu Gardens and East End Market, and you’ll understand why Orlando’s Audubon Park Garden District is popular with visitors and locals alike!
Ecotourism & Relaxation in Orlando’s Audubon Park Garden District
Located on Audubon Park Garden District’s northwest edge, Harry P. Leu Gardens is a 50-acre botanical garden bursting with color and unusual greenery. You can easily spend hours in the garden enjoying its many offerings. Take a guided tour of the Southern-style grounds or just run through the giant bamboo stalks, hyper-manicured lawns and camellias, which bloom from October through March. (Speaking of camellias, Leu Gardens has the largest documented collection in eastern North America!)
Learn more: Orlando Ecotourism
This impeccable garden has been going strong ever since 1936 when Mr. and Mrs. Harry P. Leu purchased the property. Together they traveled all over the globe to bring back exotic specimens and nearly 750 varieties of camellias.
Learn more: Orlando Gardens & Zoos
If you're on a self-guided tour, you'll find QR Codes listed on each sign. Just scan the code with your smartphone to find interesting facts about the gardens' collection of plants. You can also add an extra element of fun for kids with a geocache — an outdoor, treasure hunt activity.
Learn more: Orlando With Kids
With a diverse collection of more than 6,000 plants, there is plenty to see: A beautiful hibiscus collection, vegetable and butterfly gardens, vine and banana collections, a citrus grove, and a rose garden, which happens to be Florida's largest formal collection. You can even see what's currently in bloom on their website before your visit.
Definitely plan on spending at least two hours to give yourself time to see the entire place. You can also extend your day trip by attending a class. Leu Gardens traditionally offers unique workshops for horticulture, landscaping, fine arts and even summer camps for kids, subject to availability. Also, be sure to stop by the Idea Garden Gazebo for a huge dose of inspiration. On display are mini landscapes and raised table gardens that will have you itching to start some new projects of your own when you go back home. When you’re ready to start a project, travel just down the street to Palmer’s Garden & Goods and pick up all your gardening and planting needs.
Better yet, Leu Gardens' location on the shores of Lake Rowena, among towering live oaks draped in Spanish moss, is the perfect spot to pull up a rocking chair and enjoy the afternoon. Before you plan your trip, make sure to check the Leu Gardens website for class times and movie nights throughout the year.
Dining, Nightlife & Shopping in Orlando’s Audubon Park Garden District
Situated at the heart of Audubon Park Garden District — both physically and spiritually — East End Market features some of Orlando’s top food entrepreneurs, tradespeople, artists and chefs. Take pleasure in discovering treasures from among the dozen or so merchants, all presented in a food hall atmosphere.
Learn more: Neighborhood Shopping in Orlando
Once there, you’ll find delectable bites like artisan cheeses, gourmet pastries and açaí bowls — not to mention truly decadent cookies and cakes from Gideon’s Bakehouse. In fact, the latter is so popular that they had to open a second location at Disney Springs®! Other East End Market eateries and food vendors include La Femme du Fromage, Winter Park Biscuit Co., Old Hearth Bread Company, Domu and Dochi Donuts.
Learn more: Top Orlando Desserts
Vendors at East End Market also offer local produce, handmade goods and gifts for the home, such as La Boutique. And if you’re looking for some entertainment, pull up a chair in the courtyard for live music on Saturday afternoons and other special events, or plan ahead to attend a gardening or cooking class.
Held every Monday night, the open-air Audubon Park Community Market is a weekly gathering of growers, ranchers, fishermen, chefs, artists, handcrafters, musicians and neighbors, with goods ranging from freshly picked produce to fully prepared meals. The pet- and family-friendly celebration takes place in the parking lot of Stardust Video and Coffee, which also happens to be a great place to get a cup of java or even something stronger no matter what day you visit. (And yes, they rent movies!)
Audubon Park even features one of Orlando’s most popular microbreweries, Redlight Redlight, where you can sample their own locally sourced creations along with dozens of other choices that range from the finest Florida brews to eclectic imports from around the world. They also have a “Citizen Program” that invites you to try, rate and learn about 100 beers.
Learn more: Orlando Breweries
Several other exceptional dining and nightlife options can be found in Audubon Park. Try the exclusive sushi-tasting experience at Kadence, or grab gourmet sandwiches, coffee and wine at Bikes, Beans & Bordeaux Cafe. Other options include Sushi Lola, Bem Bom, 1803 Pizza Kitchen, and Junior’s Diner & Mexican Grill. Save room for dessert, too: In addition to Gideon’s Bakehouse, Audubon Park will tempt your sweet tooth at P Is for Pie Bake Shop, Kelly’s Homemade Ice Cream, Sugar Dough Bakehouse and The Salty Donut. After dessert, you can show off your vocal skills at Big Daddy’s for nightly karaoke starting at 9 p.m.
Finally, Audubon Park’s neighbor, Baldwin Park, has eateries that deserve any serious foodie’s attention, including The Osprey, as well as numerous upscale shops and service providers. Explore everything else waiting for you in this fun district during your next Orlando getaway!