I'm Canadian and, until two weeks ago, I had never been to Florida. I know, shocking.
Why? I thought it was all Disneyworld and Universal Studios, golf courses and, well, aging Canadians. I hadn't stopped to think that people actually live there. And where people live, there's inevitably a unique culture based on history, geography and climate. The same is true for Orlando. I discovered that there is lots to do beyond Disneyland.
But, before I share my discoveries, a bit of practical information. This city requires a car. I usually take public transport when I travel but it's not easy there. Fortunately, I was going to Orlando to speak at The Travel Bloggers Show and Thrifty Car Rental noticed, got in touch and offered me a car. Before accepting I checked with a Rachelle of Inn the Kitchen to see if I needed one. Absolutely she said. So I accepted and was very glad I did.
Discover Winter Park
Winter Park is a beautiful city at the north end of Orlando. True to its name, it has a gorgeous park, (see photo above) as well as other attractions. The main street is Park Avenue and features Peterbrooke Chocolatier, The Wine Room which offers wine by the ounce, The Morce Museum which holds that largest collection of works by Louis Comfort Tiffany in the world and many great restaurants and shops to poke around in. On Saturday mornings there's a farmers market and a couple of blocks off the main street is Lake Osceola. There's enough in Winter Park for a full yet leisurely day.
Discover Great, Organic Local Beer
At the other end of town and the opposite end of the real estate market I discovered some great beer at the Orlando Brewing Company's Tap Room. It's located in a warehouse district and you won”t know that you're on the right track until you arrive. But finding it is well worth the effort. Try their standards like pale, red and brown ale. But then get adventurous with some of their unique blends like Pompous Ass and Blackwater Porter. I tried a flight of 4 brews. Details to come in another story next week.
Discover Lakes and Green Space
When flying into Orlando I was struck by the number of lakes I could see from the air. They were everywhere and, when driving around, you discover just how many there are and what a beautiful contribution they make to the look and feel of the city. While parks (not theme parks but real parks) may not be what you are looking for in Orlando, they do exist and present a nice break from the hype of the city. I spent the morning in Bill Frederick Park at Turkey Lake.
Orlando has plenty to offer beyond the theme parks that one associates with the city. It has a fine art museum and a science center as well as many smaller museums.