Winter ParkOrlando

There’s more to Orlando than theme parks and fast food. Although some of the first things I noticed before leaving the airport were the Disney Store and Chick-fil-a, I spent my time in Central Florida far from Disney and Universal. Here are some highlights from a non parks-weekend.

1.) Wolfies Pizzamia–After touching down in Orlando, my cousin’s family took me out for pizza at Wolfies Pizzamia. Located in Downtown Orlando (which has some pretty cool architecture) on “Antique Row,” Wolfies is decorated with old paintings and stained glass. The owner, who started out with the White Wolf Cafe, bought up space on this stretch of antique shops and converted it into two different restaurants, Wolfies being the newer of the two. The pizza here was great (I recommend Prosciutto Cruso and Poveglia), and they also have good gluten-free and vegan options.

2.) Gatorland–On Friday we took a drive down Orange Blossom Trail (which now has more ladies of the night than orange blossoms) and ventured to and old Florida theme park, Gatorland. A lot of this park is shaded under awnings and the water helps cool you off which is a definite plus. We checked out the 11:30 Gator Jumparoo, a show where the trainers try to get gators to jump out of the water to eat chicken. We also looked at some of the park’s other animals, like tortoises, panthers, and flamingoes, not to mention the cranes and vultures that were all over the place. For a little additional backstory, a few years back there was a fire at the park but the firefighters were wary of venturing inside as the wooden planks which keep the gators in the water were burning.

3.) Morse Museum–On Saturday, we headed into Winter Park for a day trip.The Morse Museum houses the largest and most comprehensive collection of Louis Comfort Tiffany’s work in the world. The museum showcases pieces from Laurelton Hall, his Long Island estate, and the Tiffany Chapel, which was used for the World’s Columbian Exposition. I particularly liked the collection of his lamps which feature a lot of plants, some peacocks, and magnificent colors. Unfortunately, photography isn’t allowed inside.

4.)Winter Park–After checking out the museum, we spent some time meandering the streets of Winter Park, a swanky town near Orlando with boutiques, restaurants, and the home of Rollins College, whose President McKean and wife Jeannette Genius McKean were instrumental to the creation of the Morse Museum. The area attracts older tourists and locals alike. We visited Barnie’s Coffee Kitchen to escape the heat for a minute. Their baked goods looked incredible, and I loved the Iced Turkish Latte which is made with cardamom and pure sugar cane.

Here are some of my other picks:

Food:

  1. San Jose’s– Great Mexican food: homemade corn chips, spicy salsa, and burritos which were the perfect way to top off the day.
  2. Dandelion Communitea CafeA more alternative cafe that caters to dietary needs well.
  3. Porkie’s Original BBQ for Florida BBQ.
  4. Butterbeer (Wizarding World of Harry Potter)–It’s a sugar attack, but the frozen Butterbeer is a great way to cool off. The food at the Three Broomsticks is better park fare, but don’t miss the Butterbeer and the Forbidden Journey (the ride inside of Hogwarts).
  5. Dole Whips from Aloha Isle (Magic Kingdom)–refreshing treat inside Magic Kingdom
  6. Be our Guest Restaurant (Magic Kingdom)

Activities:

  1. Bookmark Ita cool bookstore that I didn’t get the chance to check out, but they sell a lot of books by Florida authors and host great events with these people

Nightlife:

  1. City Walk (Universal) and Downtown Disney–I don’t know much about downtown Orlando, but if you’re at the parks,  but these two areas are filled with every chain restaurant imaginable and are a good place to walk around after dark.