You might think Central Florida is for land-locked losers, but the theme park capital of the world is the newest of Florida’s four major metro areas. No longer just for snowbirds, chain restaurants, and Mickey and Minnie, the land of lots of lakes is home to communities chock full of local markets, innovative restaurants, and funky bars. Plus, its central location provides easy access to the Gulf and the Atlantic. Scroll on for our favorite O-Town neighborhoods.
Orlando’s first Eco District, Audubon Park is serious about sustainability. The hipster haunt is located just north of Downtown. Locals refer to the area as “the Garden District” due to Leu Gardens, a 50-acre botanical oasis full of lush, native plants. The area is also home to “Central Florida’s food and culture hub,” the East End Market, where coffee roasters, brewers, bakers, and butchers sell their goods alongside fresh local produce from local farmers in a converted church.
Picture perfectly manicured lawns and safe streets and you’ve got this quintessential American neighborhood. Once an Army Air Corps and Air Force base, and later the Orlando Naval Training Center, city planners took the deserted space and set out to create a thriving new urbanist community, just a couple miles east of Downtown.
Now the renovated development is a friendly upper-middle-class place to raise a family. The expertly planned community was designed with walkability in mind. Lake Baldwin provides scenic views, with trails for bikes, walking, and jogging. New Broad Street serves as its main commercial artery, with Baldwin Park Village Center anchoring its core. Everything you need—
grocery store, bank, drug store, shops, and restaurants—is right there within walking distance.
Presently home to precisely zero colleges, but with streets named for Ivy League institutions, College Park is close to Downtown Orlando, boasting easy access to main roads. Young professionals and retirees alike reside in bungalows on streets lined with oversized oaks and bougainvillea.
This highly walkable area has a small-town feel and plenty of green space. The area is surrounded by lakes, like Lake Ivanhoe and Lake Adair, plus parks. Edgewater Drive, aka “The Drive” serves as the neighborhood’s main street, housing hip specialty stores, eateries, and nightlife spots. College Park is also popular for its close proximity to Orlando's cultural corridor, Loch Haven Park.
Formerly known as “Antique Row,” Ivanhoe Village is home to breathtaking lake views and gorgeous green spaces, as well as retro retailers and art galleries. Paddleboard, jet ski, or waterski on Lake Ivanhoe. Ivanhoe Row boasts indie shops, restaurants, and bars in Art Deco style buildings.
One of Orlando’s most treasured historic neighborhoods is expanding to encompass the lakeside alcove of Loch Haven Cultural Park. Loch Haven hosts various cultural offerings and festivals and is home to several museums, including one of the best museums in the South, the Orlando Museum of Art, the Orlando Science Center, and Mennello Museum of American Art. It is also home to theaters, namely Orlando Shakes and the Orlando Repertory Theatre.
If food trucks, street parties, and outdoor entertainment are up your alley, then look no further than this edgy little area just east of Thornton Park. Once home to a dairy plant, The Milk District is now a progressive area, boasting a bustling music and arts scene, diverse culinary choices, and colorful murals. Small WWII-era homes, eclectic shops, and funky bars dot the streets of this cultural hub.
Located northeast of Downtown next to Ivanhoe Village, this residential neighborhood boasts views of the city skyline and houses on the lakefront. The area is home to the hoity-toity Lake Highland Prep private school, so you know its safe. Its also fairly walkable. The nearby Urban Trail winds by several lakes, as well as Loch Haven Park.
The nearby Mills 50 District offers Orlando’s most diverse collection of restaurants, indie shops, bars, and restaurants. Its also home to the city’s largest Vietnamese population, so head to Mills 50 for delish authentic Vietnamese cuisine.
The cobblestone streets of this lively neighborhood are situated just a few blocks from the heart of Downtown. Thornton Park’s sidewalks are lined with new brownstones, Craftsman-style bungalows, and large oak trees, dripping with Spanish moss. Young professionals enjoy a relaxed yet upscale urban lifestyle. Here, you can walk to hip hangouts, restaurants with live music, and boho-chic clothing boutiques. Wine bars, cafes with outdoor seating, and a decorative fountain give Washington Street kind of a European vibe.
This charming residential ‘hood features easy access to Downtown’s largest collective of art galleries, CityArts. Plus, its only one city block from Orlando’s main urban park, Lake Eola Park, which offers swan boat rides and a trail (just shy of a mile around) that circles the lake.
On Sundays, shop local produce, crafts, and more at the farmers’ market. The area hosts a monthly Second Thursday Wine and Art Walk year-round, featuring DJs, live music, and art vendors.
Nestled north of Orlando, this city served as a snowbird paradise for many years. The upscale Winter Park screams old money, with beautiful buildings, neat lawns, and cobblestone streets. Pristine tree-lined Park Avenue is packed with posh boutiques, bistros, cafes, fine-dining destinations, and specialty shops.
The city offers a few museums as well as outdoor spaces, including leafy Central Park, an 11-acre park with fountains and a rose garden. Its also home to the beautiful campus of Rollins College, Florida's first college. Shop the Winter Park Farmers’ Market Saturday mornings at the city’s restored train depot.