A Local’s Culture Tour of Orlando
Orlando is widely known as the Theme Park Capital of the World and rightfully so as they own four of the world’s most famous parks: Universal Studios, LEGOLAND, SeaWorld and of course the Walt Disney World Resort. As you begin to plan your trip to Orlando, use these suggestions to experience some of the best non-theme park amenities the city has to offer.
Food You Can’t Find Anywhere Else
All of your favorite restaurant chains like Red Robin, Olive Garden and Buffalo Wild Wings can be found in Orlando but Orlando is also home to some of the best local eateries the country has to offer. Below are my three standouts and “Must Try” F&B experiences.
- Plant Street Market— Plant Street Market is a local’s hidden gem that houses several unique vendors and Orlando’s finest craft beer selection. One of the highlights at the Market is the gourmet Macaroni and Cheese at Mac’d Out. They offer specialty macaroni and cheese with an artisan twist. My personal favorite is the bacon Mac and Cheese topped with chopped crispy bacon! The Market also houses an amazing BBQ restaurant, Paleteria, Juice Bar, a Donut Shop and Sushi restaurant!
- Sister Honey’s – If you are looking to indulge in sweet treats then I suggest making the trek to the Award Winning Sister Honey’s Bakery. Sister Honey’s is located in the heart of Orlando’s trendy SoDo District and features homemade cakes, pies, and pastries. Everything is made from scratch daily in the shop and served by the slice. Slices are sold for about $5 a piece but are large enough to share. I have to recommend the Pistachio Cake and Strawberry Cream Pie – these are my absolute favorites!
- La Luce – La Luce is hands down my favorite fine dining restaurant in Orlando. They make all of their pastas in house from scratch and have an awesome wine and cocktail list. Their menu does change with the seasons but if you happen to visit while the Bucatini Amatriciana (homemade Bucatini with Bacon, Tomato, Onions, Chilies, and Pecorino Pepato) is available – order it! They also make a Butterscotch Pudding that is served with house-made toffee for dipping. So good!
Explore Like a Floridian
On our off days, I try to thrive and escape the hustle and bustle of our tourist areas. Just outside our tourism areas exists natural beaches, thrilling sporting events, and National Parks. Below are a few of our best-kept secrets that guarantee a day of fun.
- Playalinda Beach – One of the most common misconceptions about Orlando is that we do not have any nearby beaches. This is partially true however one of Florida’s most beautiful beaches is just a short scenic drive away at the Cape Canaveral Seashore. Playalinda is a quiet natural beach unobstructed from any skyscrapers and construction, unlike our South Florida counterparts. Make sure you take lots of hydration options and bug spray as there are no shops nearby. You may even be lucky enough to catch a rocket launch from the Kennedy Space Center.
- Professional Sports – Orlando is home to the Orlando Magic of the NBA, the Orlando City Soccer Club of the MLS, and the Orlando Pride of the NWSL just to name a few. We also have the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex where you can catch amateur soccer games and MLB Spring Training. The Soccer seasons runs through spring/summer while the NBA season can last up to 9 months out of the year leaving you with many options for your sporting needs.
- Wall Street Plaza – Located in the heart of Downtown Orlando is the local hangout spot for nighttime fun. The plaza features seven bars providing its own unique party experience. There’s everything from a laid-back sports bar to a full-blown nightclub. Friday’s and Saturday’s are the best nights to go as the roads are closed off and there is no cover charge creating a massive block party vibe.
- Universal City Walk – Universal City Walk houses a barrage of entertainment that will satisfy your late night needs. There are numerous bars, restaurants, and shops that cannot be found anywhere else. One of the highlights is rock star karaoke at Rising Star. Rising Star isn’t just your ordinary karaoke bar, it’s a full concert venue where you can sing on stage with a live band and a real audience cheering for you on Tuesdays through Saturdays. You even get your own set of backup singers and dancers! The bar is 21 & up on weekends and 18+ during the week. It’s best to go here with a group of friends for a better chance of your name being called to go on stage and perform. Drinks are a little expensive but an experience like this can’t be missed when visiting Orlando.
Orlando is most definitely an experience you don’t want to miss. Proving to be more than just a Theme Park destination, Orlando has many hidden gems. Whether you are traveling for a convention, family vacation, or just looking for a quick getaway – try to squeeze in some time to journey across the town and see why we call Orlando “The City Beautiful.”
To access more information about local restaurants, unique attractions, and special offers in Orlando, visit our Destination Guide, or explore Hilton properties in Orlando below.
Know Before You Go
- If you’re visiting the Walt Disney World® Resort, be sure to pack adequate walking shoes. The resort is close in size to San Francisco!
- At Universal Orlando™, the general parking is $25.
- International Drive is known as the tourist center of the city – you’ll be close to trendy restaurants, bars, and sightseeing activities.