by Felicia Roopchand
Like many before me, I am not native to the Central Florida area, but in the past three years, it has become my home. The task of becoming one of the locals wasn’t easy. Being so close to some of the world’s most popular tourist destinations, too many get sucked into what I like to call the “Theme Park Bubble.”
Whether you work for the Mouse, or know someone who knows someone who does, you tend to spend your free time surrounded by costumed characters, sickeningly sweet treats and overpriced merchandise. This is no way to experience the awesome-ness that is Orlando and the Central Florida area.
Over my years of living here, I found that in order to get a real taste of the city, one must follow the locals. Here are some great places I’ve explored to make you eat, drink, and feel like an Orlando native.
WHAT: Orlando Brewing Company
WHERE: 1301 Atlanta Ave. Orlando, FL 32806
Now, the outside of this building and the surrounding area can be off-putting at first, considering it looks like a sketchy warehouse, but once you get inside, it’s a beer-lover’s haven. Enjoy local drafts and guest drafts, live music, as well as free tours (Monday- Friday at 6 P.M.) of their brewery. On the 30th of every month, join them for “BEER:30,” where all Orlando Brewing beers on tap are $2 off. Patron Carlos Velázquez has been regularly attending this event for the past 2 years and says, “One of the best events in town. Discounted pints of great craft beer.”
WHAT: Austin’s Coffee House
WHERE: 929 W. Fairbanks Ave. Winter Park, FL 32789
This venue may be tiny, but it packs a punch. Enjoy some of Orlando’s best coffee, while playing board games with your friends. The entertainment is quite unique. My personal favorite is the hip-hop night, which is on Mondays. You can watch, (or if you’re brave enough, even partake) in some freestyle rapping. And you can’t leave without getting a slice of their peanut butter pie, it’s the perfect cure for a sweet tooth.
WHAT: Wall Street Cantina
WHERE: 19 N. Orange Ave. Orlando FL 32801
Located in the heart of Downtown, Wall Street Cantina offers a great relaxing vibe for a chill night out. The main event of the week is “Taco Tuesdays,” where this restaurant offers tacos, tequilas, margaritas and Mexican beers, all for $2 each. “The food, drinks, and overall service is quite good,” says Eric Luna, an attendee who’s been to Cantina more than a few times, “You can’t go wrong with cheap, high caliber tacos.”
WHAT: Saturday Farmers’ Market
WHERE: 200 W New England Ave. Winter Park, FL 32789
As hard as it may be to get up early on a Saturday morning, this farmer’s market is worth the effort. From 7 A.M. to 1 P.M., you can purchase fresh and locally grown produce as well as unique array of products from companies such as Winter Park Honey. Finish off your morning with some freshly popped kettle corn and spend the rest of the day strolling down Park Avenue.
WHAT: Independent Bar
WHERE: 70 N. Orange Ave. Orlando, FL 32801
This low-key bar is a great place to go if you feel like dancing, but don’t want to deal with the overwhelming feeling of a nightclub. On Wednesday, try Mac & Cheese nights. No, they don’t serve a giant vat of macaroni and cheese in the middle of the dance floor, but they do play the cheesiest music from the 80’s, 90’s and 00’s. Yes, that includes N’SYNC and Britney Spears.
So, whether you’re looking for a fun evening out or a relaxing Saturday morning, Central Florida offers such a wide variety of things to do. Theme parks no longer have to be your sole option. Immerse yourself in the city, and before you know it, you’ll be one of the locals.