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Discover Orlando’s Culture

Art Walks and Gallery Hops
Discover Orlando’s Culture
There’s a lot more to Orlando than just International Drive. Cultural finds include farm-to-table restaurants, downtown art galleries, and lovely museums and gardens, leaving visitors with much to explore.
By Jack Barr, AFAR Local Expert
Photo by age fotostock
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    Art Walks and Gallery Hops
    Art Walks and Gallery Hops
    Downtown Orlando is home to a vibrant arts community, complete with everything from sophisticated galleries to pop-up exhibits at bars, cafes, and restaurants. Popular with locals is the Third Thursday Gallery Hop & Art Walk, which takes place every month from 6 – 10 p.m. Groups start at CityArts Factory, then head down Pine Street to NV Art Bar and the Gallery at Avalon Island. Next, they make their way to Church Street to browse the Walk Through Gallery and local art booths before ending at Jai Gallery. For more art strolls, head to the trendy neighborhoods of Baldwin and Thornton Parks.
    Photo by age fotostock
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    Southern Comfort Food
    Southern Comfort Food
    Often forgotten is that Florida has Southern roots, especially when it comes to its food. Four Rivers Smokehouse draws long lines for its brisket, while The Ravenous Pig hosts monthly pig roasts and a Swine Hour with pub fare like BLT biscuits. In a different vein, Cask & Larder redefines Southern cuisine with a seasonal menu of dishes like dry-cured ham with pepper jelly and biscuits, and “wit” beer doughnuts with caramel and citrus glaze for dipping.
    Photo by Thuy Vi Gates
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    Local Teahouses and Coffee Shops
    Local Teahouses and Coffee Shops
    Thanks to several local purveyors, quality coffee and tea percolates throughout Central Florida. In College Park, nonprofit Downtown Credo donates proceeds to fair-trade coffee farmers, helping you feel good about your morning Joe. Pom Pom’s Teahouse and Sandwicheria gets creative with tea and sandwiches in an art-filled space, while Dandelion CommuniTea Café offers organic teas alongside vegetarian and vegan dishes. Also worth visiting is the roomy, relaxed Stardust Video & Coffee, and Austin’s Coffee & Film, which is open 24/7 for hip night owls.
    Photo by Thuy Vi Gates
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    Big Bargains and Little Boutiques
    Big Bargains and Little Boutiques
    Many people cross continents to shop in Orlando thanks to big brands and even bigger discounts. Orlando Premium Outlets and Prime Outlets International offer retailers like Nike, J.Crew, BCBG, and Michael Kors, while The Mall at Millenia offers a slightly ritzier selection, with stores like Cartier, Tiffany & Co., Jimmy Choo, and Versace. If boutiques are more your style, stroll pretty, tree-lined Park Avenue in Winter Park, where you’ll be right in the middle of the neighborhood’s best restaurants. Be sure to also check out the side streets for hidden gems like Rifle Paper Co. on New England Avenue.
    Photo courtesy of Visit Orlando
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    Farmers’ Markets and Food Trucks
    Farmers’ Markets and Food Trucks
    Thanks to a tropical climate and rich soil, Florida farmers can grow such diverse produce as peppers, heirloom tomatoes, mangoes, and strawberries. For a taste of the best local, organic offerings, head straight to Orlando’s farmers’ markets and food trucks. On Saturdays, the popular Winter Park Farmers’ Market offers fresh produce alongside orange blossom honey, cupcakes, and gourmet fries, and, on Sundays, the Orlando Farmers’ Market in Lake Eola Park features al fresco dining, a beer and wine garden, and local crafts. If food trucks are more your style, make sure to hit Tasty Tuesdays in the Milk District, when the city’s best trucks come together for a delicious rally.
    Photo by Thuy Vi Gates
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    Live Music
    Live Music
    In Orlando, you can find a live music venue for almost every genre imaginable. The state-of-the-art Hard Rock Live at Universal CityWalk showcases national and international artists as well as local musicians, while B.B. King’s at Pointe Orlando features live blues, barbecue, and a checkered dance floor. If you’re searching for the next big thing, catch up-and-coming bands at downtown venues like Social, Beecham Theater, and Wall Street Plaza.
    Photo by age fotostock
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    Craft Beer and Breweries
    Craft Beer and Breweries
    Recently, locally owned breweries, pubs, and beer-centric restaurants have cropped up all over Central Florida, creating a thriving craft-beer culture. Orlando Brewing is a great spot for fresh, organic beer, but Redlight, Redlight Beer Parlour and Brewery is the locals’ choice, offering more than 20 beers on tap and some 200 bottles. If you want food with your suds, head to Winter Park, where The Ravenous Pig and Cask & Larder sit just blocks from one another. At the latter, you can even reserve a private table in the onsite brewery.
    Photo courtesy of Gary Bogden/Cask & Larder
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    Wine Bars
    Wine Bars
    Wind down with wine at one of Orlando’s many bars, which range from traditional to trendy. The Vineyard on Apopka-Vineland Road offers fine wine in an intimate, Old World setting, while Imperial Wine Bar & Beer Garden pairs reds and whites from around the world with occasional local bands and DJs. Also worth a try is Eola Wine Company, where you can sample more than 70 wines by the glass, or opt for a specialty wine flight and artisan flatbread.  If you’re visiting on the second Thursday of the month, stop by the downtown neighborhood of Thornton Park for the popular Wine and Art Walk.
    Photo by Thuy Vi Gates
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    Art Museums and Sculpture Gardens
    Art Museums and Sculpture Gardens
    When you tire of the theme parks, slow down the pace and enjoy some art. The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art boasts the world’s largest collection of Tiffany works, while the Albin Polasek Museum and Sculpture Gardens features impressive 20th-century art. Downtown, Loch Haven Park is home to The Orlando Museum of Art, Orlando Shakespeare Theater, Orlando Science Center, and The Mennello Museum of American Art. Surrounded by modern sculptures, a lake trail, and some of the area’s oldest and largest oak trees, the park is also a quiet, comfortable place to relax in the shade.
    Photo by Thuy Vi Gates