Orlando, Florida is a city mostly known for its alligators, retirees, and long lines at Disney World. Even though tourists flock to Orlando from all over the world to spend time at theme parks, there are plenty of other things to see and do without spending hundreds of dollars on tickets. We’ve put together the perfect weekend itinerary for exploring the creative, eclectic, lesser-known side of Orlando.
The East End Market is a community market located in the trendy Audubon Neighborhood District. This market functions as a collaboration kitchen with a variety of different permanent vendors for visitors to enjoy. As soon as you walk into East End Market, you sense the community and creativity that goes into this place on a daily basis.
You can grab lunch at Farm n’ Haus, a restaurant that only sources local ingredients, or Bird of Paradise, a tropical vegan restaurant and beer bar. If you love coffee, head over to the back of the market after lunch for an espresso or locally roasted pour over from Lineage Coffee Roasters. You’ll love the vibes at East End Market and might find yourself spending a few hours chilling in the courtyard with your delicious lunch.
Orlando’s Design District is a hidden treasure of the city. It’s located across Lake Ivanhoe and is filled with over 40 local shops, restaurants, and businesses. This district is a perfect post-lunch stroll for antique lovers or anyone who loves eclectic vintage shops. You can start at Retromended Vintage, one of the best vintage clothing stores in Orlando, Florida. You can then head over to Rock n’ Roll Heaven, the city’s favorite record store since 1977. If you’re in the mood for a happy hour drink after some shopping, you can sit and enjoy a glass of wine at the Imperial, an antique furniture store by day that turns into a sophisticated wine bar at night.
Domu is the ramen restaurant you’ve been waiting for. They carefully craft their ramen noodles in house, they created a diverse menu that combines multiple Asian cuisines, and they have a bar with perfectly crafted cocktails from open to close. Their decor is mid-century modern mixed with mid 90’s funk, and the environment is trendy and welcoming. The only downside to Domu is the long wait time. They don’t take reservations so getting there early is key, and don’t be surprised if your wait time is close to an hour and a half on a Friday night. The good news is that since their bar is such a fun atmosphere, you’ll have a great time grabbing a few drinks and small plates before your table is ready.
Downtown Credo was one of the first local coffee roasters in Orlando, Florida. They trade directly with their farmers, which provides the best wages for farmers and the highest-quality coffee for customers. They have a donation-based pay model, which means that the price of everything on the menu is in the customer’s hands. This is an awesome place to sit and sip on a hot latte or take a drink to-go before breakfast.
Orlando, Florida is an excellent place for vegan cuisine. The Sanctum is one of the top-rated vegan spots in the city, and their breakfast is some of the best vegan breakfast you’ll ever have. You can try one of their famous breakfast burritos, a freshly made scone, or one of their 10 different smoothie flavors.
Bike along the Urban Trail to OMA (Orlando Museum of Art)
Biking in Orlando isn’t always easy because of the traffic and lack of bike lanes in the street, which is why the paved bike trails in Orlando are a must-see experience. We recommend an afternoon renting bikes and riding them to the Orlando Museum of Art that is located at the end of the trail. Renting bikes through Lime Bikes is your best option because it’s easy and affordable. The Orlando Urban Trail is a short trail, only stretching a couple of miles, but it rides right through the city. You’ll bike past multiple bars and restaurants, the Orlando Science Center, the Shakespeare Theater, and the Orlando Museum of Art.
The Orlando Museum of Art showcases modern art from around the world. You’ll enjoy strolling through and seeing the wide variety of art on display. The entrance fee for one day is $15 for adults, so this is an affordable way to spend your afternoon.
Visit Leu Gardens
If you want to escape the busy city traffic, try spending a couple of hours at Leu Gardens. Leu Gardens is a beautiful 50-acre botanical garden and one of Orlando’s best scenic spots. It’s only 10 bucks to get in, and you can easily spend a couple of hours in this oasis.
Prato is known as one of Orlando’s best Italian restaurants. Its menu is incredibly diverse and is always changing, so you are guaranteed to find something creative and delicious. The food is authentically Italian, but the atmosphere is trendy and modern. Prato’s most popular dish is the Widowmaker pizza, which comes with cheese, fennel sausage, and a sunny-side-up egg. Try this with the meatballs and a glass of red wine.
If you’re looking for a post-dinner late night activity, the historic Enzian Theater is a fun, trendy place to spend the evening. The Enzian is a nonprofit theater that supports community, film, creativity, and shared stories. It is home to the original Annual Florida Film Festival and screens innovative indie films every night of the week. The theater is dine-in style, and their outside bar is top-rated in Orlando for its small bites and creative cocktails. You’ll easily spend hours at this quaint indie theater.
You can’t visit Florida without trying some Cuban coffee. Black Bean Deli is a favorite Cuban spot around town, and their breakfast is hard to beat. They create authentic Cuban food with a modern twist, and they strive to make the best cafe con leche in town. Start your Sunday morning with a cafe con leche or cortadito, a breakfast sandwich, and a fresh empanada. There are vegan and vegetarian options as well, which is hard to find in some Cuban restaurants!
Lake Eola is located right in the middle of Downtown Orlando. It’s a beautiful oasis in the middle of the concrete jungle and is likely Orlando’s best known trademark. You can spend time walking around the lake and stopping by any of the modern art sculptures along the way. You can also rent one of the swan boats, another famous Orlando, Florida staple. The swan pedal boats are $15 an hour, and you definitely won’t need more time than that due to the number of calories you’ll burn from pedaling! It’s a fun activity that will have you and your group laughing while being able to see the center of the city from a different perspective.
Lazy Moon Pizza is one of the best pizza spots in town. It originated near the University of Central Florida, but in the last couple of years they opened up a new location near the heart of downtown. Lazy Moon is known for its enormous pizza slices, $1 PBR pitchers, and indoor bocce ball tournaments. The atmosphere at first resembles your typical sports bar/pizza joint, but you’ll notice the blend of modern trend with old sports bar vibe.
Try their famous Jason’s Mom’s Slice, an eclectic mix of ingredients including chicken, caramelized onions, and their secret Jason’s Mom’s Sauce. You’ll also find vegan pizza options, a couple of vegetarian pizza slices, a “build your own slice” section, a full bar with beer, wine, and liquor, and other menu items like soups, salads, and calzones. You really can’t go to Lazy Moon and not have a good time.
Before you depart from Orlando, make sure you head over to the Avalon Exchange. This is one of Orlando’s best resale shops and is a must-visit for the fashion-forward type. You’ll find brands like Zara, Lululemon, Top Shop, Levi, Urban Outfitters, Nike, Supreme, etc. The prices you’ll see are fair and affordable for the quality you’re receiving. They only buy gently used items, so you’re guaranteed to take home high-quality clothes every time.
Avalon Exchange not only offers awesome and unique finds, but it’s an enjoyable place to shop. Some resale stores are so poorly organized that it ruins the experience. The Avalon Exchange is clean, orderly, and organized in a way that makes your experience easy.
As you can see, Orlando, Florida is not just about theme parks. Some people save for a lifetime and plan an epic trip to see Disney World and Universal Studios. But the reality is that Orlando has so much more to offer than the tourist attractions. If you spend a weekend in Orlando, you’re sure to find high-quality food, historic sights, and creativity around every corner.