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Orlando - Beyond the Parks: Update Thornton Park


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I know more and more people look to experience 'local' when they are on vacation. While Orlando's theme parks and water parks are the main reason 70 million people vacation in Orlando every year. There is a real city (2.5 Million in the Metro) with some great urban neighborhoods, local restaurant scene and great cultural places. Thought some people might be interested in the 'other side' of Orlando.

 

So I will kick off with downtown. Along with being the financial and office hub of the region downtown is home to 2 sports facilities, Amway Center (home of the NBA Magic), Orlando City Stadium (home of the Orlando City Pro Soccer Team), the new Dr. Phillips Performing Art Center, the History Museum, Creative Village, the new University of Central Florida downtown campus, Lake Eola (with its famous Swans), lots of local nightclubs and bars and 1,000s of people that call it home. The area is also surrounded by some great urban neighborhoods including, College Park, Thornton Park and Delaney Park (SODO) which I will try and highlight in this thread.

 

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One really nice downtown area near the 192 corridor is downtown Kissimmee. Downtown Kissimmee is located south of Highway 192 on Lake Tohopekaliga. The downtown has come a long ways over the last few years and has a number of local restaurants and shops that are worth a visit. A few restaurants worth checking out is Big John's Rockin BBQ, Shipwrecked in the Islands and Hatfield's Bar and Grill. The downtown is also home to a new Sunrail transit station that begins operation on July 30 of this year. But the true star of downtown Kissimmee is Kissimmee Lakefront Park. This new urban park on Lake Tohopekaliga has a wonderful promenade, kids water playground and the Big Toho Marina.

 

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We took a wrong turn one day trying to find Fun Spot and ended up in downtown Orlando. First, we were shocked that there was actually a downtown that we never knew about in our dozens of prior trips, and second that it was really beautiful, especially that park area with Lake Eola.

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Orlando has grown into a vibrant city with amazing restaurants and nightlife. If you want to grab something good to eat then you need to explore the 50 and mills district (tako cheena and king bao are my favorite) , thorton park district , Ivanhoe district , and milk district. So much to do and see.

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We took a wrong turn one day trying to find Fun Spot and ended up in downtown Orlando. First, we were shocked that there was actually a downtown that we never knew about in our dozens of prior trips, and second that it was really beautiful, especially that park area with Lake Eola.

 

I thought it said Lake Ebola at first. Isn't that in Flint?

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Maybe the best downtown area in the Orlando metro is Winter Park. Winter Park is located just north of downtown Orlando. If you want a local experience that brings the charm of Florida to you Orlando vacation in a laid-back environment this is the place to visit. It is full of local shops and great restaurants, has a Sunrail Transit station and is home to the beautiful Rollins College. Some restaurants to check out include, Boca Kitchen Bar Market, ABO, Briarpatch, Prato, Rome's Flavours and Blu on the Avenue. It is also home to The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art. Honestly this is a great urban downtown to visit in Orlando.

 

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Another nice urban neighborhood in Orlando is Thornton Park. Thornton Park is located just east of Lake Eola and downtown Orlando (2 block walk). This areas has a great traditional housing stock and a great main street area. The area has some nice mural art and a strong following for its local restaurant scene. This includes places like, Graffiti Junktion, Anthony's, Benjamin French Bakery, Dexter's and much more. If you are looking for a laid back 'southern' neighborhood in Orlando this one does the trick.

 

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