See why locals love downtown Orlando, including acclaimed dining, nightlife, culture, sports and more.
Orlando is best known for theme parks and attractions, but they only tell part of our story. The rest of the tale unfolds in distinctive neighborhoods, towns and districts throughout the area, where you’ll discover out-of-this-world dining, unique nightlife and entertainment, and compelling culture — including the city’s core, downtown Orlando!
Getting to Know Downtown Orlando
Downtown Orlando’s history can be traced to the mid-19th century, with Orlando officially incorporating as a town in 1875. We gained full-fledged city status in 1885, followed shortly thereafter by the arrival of the historic Atlantic Coast Line Railroad and the debut of Church Street Station, which now hosts some of downtown’s most popular dining and nightlife.
In those early days, Orlando had little to offer outside of cattle and citrus — but that all changed when Walt Disney chose us as the focal point of his company’s theme park empire.
Today, Orlando’s core has award-winning chefs, sizzling nightlife, professional sports teams, a state-of-the-art performing arts center and much more, all within easy driving distance of our tourism district. These features make downtown a favorite haunt of locals... and a place you’ll want to visit when you’re in Orlando.
Dining in Downtown Orlando
Downtown Orlando boasts numerous restaurants you’ll want to experience. For example, Artisan’s Table focuses on seasonally inspired food and beverages, while Ember — which has downtown’s largest outdoor terrace — specializes in Mediterranean fare.
Learn more: Orlando Restaurants
For something wild, check out the weekly drag shows at Hamburger Mary’s Bar & Grille. Sports fanatics can catch all the action at Harry Buffalo, while Lion’s Pride near downtown’s Orlando City Stadium is the place to be for soccer fans.
Other dining points of interest in the immediate downtown area include The Stubborn Mule and The Boheme, the latter of which is inside the gorgeous, art-filled Grand Bohemian Hotel. Downtown even has something for motorheads courtesy of regular car shows at Ace Cafe Orlando, the only U.S. outpost of the famous London original.
Nightlife in Downtown Orlando
Love a good block party? Then you’ll love downtown Orlando’s Wall St. Plaza. Comprised of seven themed bars connected by a central, open-air courtyard, this nightlife hub keeps the party going every night of the week. It really shines on alcohol-fueled holidays like St. Patrick’s Day, Fat Tuesday and others.
Learn more: Orlando Nightlife
You’ll find numerous nightlife hotspots in the Church Street Station area — but none offer a better view than Skylounge at Amway Center. Located on the sixth floor of the Amway Center, which is home to the NBA’s Orlando Magic and ECHL’s Orlando Solar Bears, this unique lounge provides an unparalleled look at the surrounding city.
Downtown Orlando has multiple speakeasies, too. They include The Courtesy, Hanson’s Shoe Repair, Mathers Social Gathering, The Treehouse and The Woods.
Learn more: Orlando Speakeasies
Other downtown Orlando nightlife options frequented by locals include Stardust Lounge, The Social and SAVOY Orlando, the latter of which is geared toward LGBTQ revelers.
Culture & Entertainment in Downtown Orlando
Part of downtown’s landscape since 2014, the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts is the crown jewel of Orlando’s arts scene. At this venue’s three indoor theaters and outdoor plaza, you can catch Broadway shows, performances by the Orlando Ballet, top musicians and comedians, cultural festivals, and much more.
Learn more: Orlando Arts and Culture
Art-lovers will also want to visit the aforementioned Grand Bohemian Hotel’s eclectic art collection and CityArts Factory, which offers free admission and hosts multiple art galleries. Nearby, you can explore 12,000 years of Central Florida history at the Orange County Regional History Center and Heritage Square Park, a Smithsonian Institution affiliate that formerly served as Orange County’s courthouse.
Need a laugh? SAK Comedy Lab has you covered with live improv featuring lots of opportunities for audience participation. And for pure entertainment, test your wits at The Great Escape Room, downtown’s only escape-style attraction.
Sports are another facet of downtown Orlando’s character thanks to the Magic and Solar Bears at the Amway Center, Orlando City Soccer Club and Orlando Pride at Exploria Stadium (formerly Orlando City Stadium), and several NCAA bowl games at Camping World Stadium. What’s more, the Amway Center and Camping World Stadium host a robust selection of live concerts every year.
Various live events take part at Lake Eola Park, too, including the biannual Fiesta in the Park art shows, cultural festivals and more. This centrally located, beautiful park is also the site of Orlando Farmers Market every Sunday, and it’s a great place to relax no matter when you visit.
Speaking of relaxation, hop aboard one the park’s rentable, swan-shaped paddleboats for a self-guided tour of Lake Eola. To hear many locals tell it, you haven’t really experienced Orlando until you’ve taken one of these beauties for a spin!
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