The City Beautiful, my hometown for almost 15 years – Orlando Florida – is also called Tourist Town, Mouse House and other creative nicknames.
I was born and raised in the north…Ohio to be exact…but Orlando has always felt like home to me. This confuses my friends. They know I love history, architecture and small town charm, so “Why Orlando!?” I am asked often. I suppose having lived here for so long, and knowing the spots to go makes it easy to forget that there are three major theme parks within miles of me.
Orlando is a modern town with a diverse and transient community of young professionals. People come and go quickly here, but there are people that have been born and raised here too. Others have given up on icy winters and established a new life with palm trees and beaches while others have left their life in other countries for a bite of that “American Dream.” We are not a city built around a sports team alone, nor does our world revolve around a university or college, but we do have sports teams and colleges and universities that are coveted to attend.
What Orlando does offer is variety. She is a sprawling city with communities that are diverse and eclectic. We have a modest but clean downtown with a beautiful lake that was built by a sinkhole that turned into a picturesque community hub for amazing festivals and seasonal celebrations. In Orlando we love to eat and drink with friends from around the world. We love to go outside and enjoy nature and the water. In Orlando we love to get involved in our communities and indulge in the arts.
Many of the towns surrounding Orlando proper are centered around beautiful lakes. Downtown Orlando hosts Lake Eola. Each week Lake Eola sets the stage for a Farmers Market and concerts or plays in an outdoor theater. Any time of the day or night you will find people walking the path around Lake Eola. There is a beautiful fountain that sits with our skyline as her backdrop. I recommend using the City Of Orlando website to help plan when to visit Lake Eola. I try to get downtown where there is an art festival, concert by the lake or of course for the Farmers Market. Often, we catch a show at the Dr Phillips Center then head out for a stroll around the Lake Eola.
Baldwin Park is another favorite community of Orlando. Also nestled on a peaceful body of water, Lake Baldwin. This community has really progressed with great spots for cocktails and cuisine. Baldwin Park also hosts fun community events that turns its main street into more of an artsy block party. I consistently check on Baldwin Park Events to see what the community is doing. One of my favorite bars in Orlando is here in Baldwin Park, The Nest Bar crafts amazing cocktails with an eclectic charming ambiance to enjoy while you sip.
Orlando is also perfectly located half way between two coasts. So for those that visit Orlando, they have easy access to water sports and other coastal activities. For those who enjoy surfing, the Atlantic Ocean has consistent majestic waves that test your skill and endurance. Cocoa beach is a favorite of Orlando locals. Most of us can reach the coast within 45 minutes. Personally I like to park near or at the Cocoa Beach Pier. There are several restaurants and bars, as well as bathrooms and a foot washing station to clean off before heading back home. For relaxing and some incredible cuisine options, I love Clearwater Beach near St. Petersburg and Tampa along the Gulf Coast. For either beach, make sure you have cash with you. Some of the parking options are cash only, or the option to rent chairs and umbrellas may ask for cash only depending on where you settle in the sand.
Orlando is also surrounded by many beautiful State Parks that offer kayaking, canoeing, paddle boarding as well as fishing, hiking and even camping. A few of my favorite parks include Lake Louisa, Wekiwa Springs and Kelly Park. Be sure to check the park’s webpage for the most current information about hours and how to arrange camping, fishing and water craft restrictions. During the late spring and summer these parks can fill up to capacity by late morning. So if planning on a day trip to one of these beautiful parks or any of the Central Florida Parks, plan to start your day early. Many of the parks have food options onsite, but still allow you to bring your own. Arranging to spend a few nights at these parks can be a much more affordable way to visit Orlando. The parks are easily accessed and modern comforts are never too far away including Publix Grocery Stores, gas stations, walk in clinics and shopping centers.
Orlando has truly been a great home base for myself and my family. We love to travel and get outdoors. Staycations are just as enjoyable living here.
For more tips and suggestions for food, lodging and activities in Orlando, check out my other posts with Quick Tips about Orlando. I hope your travels bring you by my beautiful city! Cheers, and happy travels!!
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