(Re)Discover what Central Florida has to offer within five miles of Rollins College.
East End Market is home to more than two dozen shops and restaurants. (Photo by Cy Cyr)
Central Florida is fast becoming a cultural hub for people in the know. But don’t take our word for it. The New York Times included Orlando in its list of “52 Places to Go in 2015,” declaring, “Orlando’s restaurant and performing arts scene has grown up in recent years, and it is starting to attract attention from national arbiters of taste.” USA Today pronounced The City Beautiful as a refuge for urban denizens, citing its appeal “as a haven for the farm-to-table movement.” And the bible of Southern lifestyle, Garden & Gun, recognized Winter Park for its beacons of high culture: museums, the annual Bach Festival, and the Sidewalk Art Festival.
Even the real estate blog Movoto got in on the Orlando love fest, listing it as the second Most Creative City in America (tied with Portland and surpassed only by San Francisco). So it looks like we’ve broken free from our reputation for roller coasters and princesses. In fact, a lot may have changed since you last visited Rollins. New restaurants, attractions, and pastimes are worthy of your return. But thankfully, much has stayed the same too. Which means a visit filled with nostalgia and happy memories is just a drive or flight away.
Belly up to the bar at newly opened Dave’s Boathouse and enjoy craft beer, wine, and Florida-focused pub grub. (Photo by Brian Carlson)
1. Stop by the Alumni House.
There are loads of ways to walk down memory lane or see what’s new on the Rollins campus. Begin at the Alumni House, where alumni are invited to enjoy some complimentary water or coffee while hearing campus updates. You can also pick up a campus map, browse through old yearbooks, and learn about alumni programs and events near you.
2. Visit our new community garden.
The new 968-square-foot, student-run market garden, planted last April near the shore of Lake Virginia, is now growing beautifully. Wander over for a look, and perhaps pick a few pesky weeds while you’re at it.
3. Tune into 91.5FM WPRK.
Request a song (407-646-2915), or drop into the studio in the basement of the Mills Building where this 63-year-old, student-run radio station broadcasts 24 hours each day.
4. Wander through the Cornell Fine Arts Museum.
Admission is free at CFAM, our on-campus art museum housing thousands of works of art and featuring four new exhibitions annually.
5. Sleep or sip at The Alfond Inn.
Spend the night in Winter Park’s only luxury boutique hotel, have a memorable meal inside Hamilton’s Kitchen, or simply sip a creative cocktail in the lobby bar. Whichever you choose, know that a portion of the net operating income from The Alfond Inn goes directly to fund scholarships for Rollins students.
6. Scour the archives.
Step back in time and relive Rollins history when you leaf through the archival collections inside Olin Library. From autographed presidential portraits to handwritten notes by Walt Whitman, the archive houses a slew of Tar treasures to explore.
7. Drink a pint at the new pub.
It’s been more than two decades since alcohol was sold on campus, but that changed this fall with the opening of Dave’s Boathouse, a complete nautical-themed makeover of Dave’s DownUnder. Belly up to the horseshoe-shaped bar facing Lake Virginia and enjoy craft beer, wine, and Florida-focused pub grub while catching up with campus comrades.
8. Catch a show at the Annie Russell Theatre.
Central Florida’s longest-running theater since 1932, “the Annie” boasts four shows each season on its historic (and some say haunted) stage. The 2015–16 season includes Molière’s Tartuffe, Expecting Isabel, and the musicals Reefer Madness and Hello, Dolly!
1. Luma on Park
This chic Park Avenue mainstay continues to be one of the area’s best see-and-be-seen spots for sumptuous cocktails and progressive American fare. Consider reserving the chef’s table, where seven or so dishes are served alongside the chef’s signature truffle popcorn.
2. Hamilton’s Kitchen
With Executive Chef Marc Kusche at the culinary helm cranking out highly praised cuisine with Southern leanings, The Alfond Inn’s restaurant has hit its stride and become a neighborhood favorite. The much-loved Get Your Jazz On series returned this fall on the hotel’s courtyard lawn with live music, wine, and a pig roast.
3. Atlantic Beer and Oyster
Tucked into the Hidden Garden Courtyard off Park Avenue, the rustic AB&O is an ideal spot to grab some quick sustenance by way of fresh oysters, shrimp, and craft beers.
4. Boca Kitchen Bar Market
It seems Boca has sidestepped a curse that many thought plagued this north Park Avenue address. Where many restaurants have failed, this airy, wonderfully designed, local-focused eatery serving brunch, lunch, and dinner is flourishing. Try the 60 spice chicken and the bourberry, a refreshing take on a whiskey smash.
5. Barnie’s CoffeeKitchen
Of course an artfully designed latte is in order, but so is lunch and Sunday brunch thanks to a terrific lineup of exciting entrées, including coffee-braised pulled pork sandwiches and Florida ceviche. Don’t miss Sunday’s mimosa bar.
6. The Parkview
Formerly the home of Eola Wine Company, a name and ownership change gave this cozy wine bar the chance to roll out a new menu of small bites and wine pairings as well as robust entrées ideal for dinner. Favorites include the baked Brie and the pretzels with beer cheese.
7. Cask & Larder
Chef owners James and Julie Petrakis of The Ravenous Pig showcase their love of Southern fare at this Fairbanks Avenue gem serving dinner and Sunday brunch. For a quick bite, head to Cask & Larder’s jovial bar where snacks like hush puppies and raw oysters pair perfectly with the restaurant’s superb brewed-on-site beer.
8. Paddleboard on Lake Virginia
Take a vertical voyage along Winter Park’s chain of lakes with Paddleboard Orlando, which offers rentals and an easy “Friendly First Timers” stand-up paddleboard tour departing every Saturday morning from Dinky Dock.
9. Scenic Boat Tour
Perhaps you’ve watched this boat tour float by Rollins College, and now it’s time to hop on board this must-do Winter Park attraction. The one-hour tour departs at the top of every hour between 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. Relax on a leisurely cruise through picturesque connecting canals and three lakes in the Winter Park chain.
10. Winter Park Farmers Market
For decades, locals have flocked to 200 West New England Avenue to replenish their stores of local honey, produce, and vibrant flowers. But with its fresh-pressed lemonades and aroma of kettle corn wafting through the morning air, this munch-and-go market, open every Saturday morning from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m., also serves as a terrific spot to enjoy brunch while strolling and shopping.
Though service is only offered on weekdays, this speedy commuter system is still a wonderful way to head downtown for a few hours. Hop on the train at the West Morse Boulevard station and you’ll arrive on Church Street, home to scores of great restaurants and bars, just 15 minutes later.
12. Juice Bike Share
Peter Martinez ’13, Program Director Take to the streets on a loaned bike at one of Juice Bike Share’s dozens of stations scattered across the Orlando area. In Winter Park, snag a cycle at 850 West Morse Boulevard and explore the area for a rental fee of $6 per hour.
13. The Yoga Shala
Krista Shirley ’04,owner A yogi for more than a decade, Krista Shirley opened her Winter Park yoga studio in 2009 and now offers about 30 classes each week. Shirley teaches 10 of those classes in addition to leading yoga retreats around the world. “We really just want to introduce the beautiful practice of yoga,” says Shirley, whose studio focuses on the Ashtanga style of yoga, including a self-guided Mysore practice. “It’s a disciplined practice, but we’re all about helping you find a practice that is yours.” (UPDATE: New location at 3013 Edgewater Drive, Orlando, FL 32804)
14. Sip & Knit
Donna Young ’71, owner It’s been more than 15 years since Donna Young (known affectionately by her friends as “Donni”) decided it was time for a career change. “I was in corporate America, VP of claims for an insurance company. I traveled a lot and had battled cancer twice,” says the English major. “Knitting was my outlet. It was my way of coping with stress.”
Young knew knitting was therapy for many others too. So in 1999, she took early retirement and opened Sip & Knit, an inclusive knitting and crocheting supply store with the aim of bringing people together to knit and chat. “We invite people to come in, sit, and relax. Knitting is kind of like yoga. It’s very relaxing but also good for the mind.” Young hosts open classes four times a week where knitters of all levels can come in for a few hours, sip tea or coffee, gab with friends, and get help on projects. Cost is $10, and no reservations are needed.
15. Be on Park
David Blumberg ’04MBA, co-owner
This fine jewelry store showcases artisan and designer pieces from around the world.
16. The Grove
Meredith Gardner ’02, co-owner
This clothing, home décor, and gift shop is like a mini department store filled with surprising and delightful finds.
17. Salon Ciséaux
Catherine Imbesi ’97, co-owner
Specializing in curly hair, this cut and color salon also offers nail and spa services.
With an aim to transcend traditional fare (see you later California rolls), Kappo has raised Orlando’s sushi bar with atypical creations served in its seven-seat corner of East End Market. Plan on a wait, but the artful omakase cuisine and interactive vibe is totally worth it.
2. Tako Cheena
A successful marriage of Latin and Asian cuisine has catapulted this tiny, vegan-friendly eatery into legendary status among locals who live to devour favorites like the Chinese barbeque char siu pork belly and the tom yum mojo shrimp tacos.
3. P Is for Pie
With a just-like-grandma-made-it (maybe even better) offering of scrumptious made-from-scratch treats, this dine-in bakery has wowed neighbors in Audubon Park and beyond, creating a following of pie devotees along the way. Stop in for a handheld pie, and you might be hooked for life.
4. The Osprey Tavern
A bright and lively space dotted with whimsical antiques, this Baldwin Park restaurant wows guests with its progressive fare and ever-changing menu. The lamb ribs and baby beet salad are both standouts on the menu.
The cold-pressed coffee at Lineage in East End Market is among the best you'll find anywhere. (Photo by Cy Cyr)
5. East End Market
This local food hub, home to over a dozen shops and restaurants, turned 2 this November and now hosts a slew of food-focused events and seminars. Visit for a quick snack, freshly pressed juice, artisanal coffee (the cold-pressed brew at Lineage is among the best you’ll find anywhere), takeout gourmet treats, books by local authors, or a lovely sit-down meal at the Japanese-inspired Kappo.
6. Quantum Leap
This local winery, straddling the Mills 50 and Ivanhoe Village districts in Orlando, invites wine enthusiasts into its tasting room every Thursday through Sunday. Every second Friday night, the winery also hosts a Wine Down event featuring live music and food truck fare.
7. Pig Floyd’s Urban Barbakoa
Thomas Ward ’05, owner
When lists are made about the restaurants that are contributing to Orlando’s reputation as a top foodie destination, Pig Floyd’s Urban Barbakoa is almost always on them. The brainchild of international business grad Thomas Ward, Pig Floyd’s opened in September 2014 and immediately garnered a cultlike following among barbecue aficionados. But Ward’s success is due not only to his ability to serve up a killer rack of finger-licking ribs—it’s because he prepares barbecue like no one else in the city. “We wanted to do something international, something beyond traditional barbecue,” says Ward, who also opened a restaurant in his native Puerto Rico. “I was looking for the concept to be something different. So we brought in a lot of different flavor profiles from India, Asia, and Latin America.” These days, crowds pour into Pig Floyd’s seven days a week, and Ward plans to open two more area locations within the next year.
8. Park Ave CDs
Sandy Bitman ’93, owner
Located in Orlando’s hip Audubon Park District, this indie music store has hundreds of new and used CDs, retro LPs, and loads of T-shirts and commemorative posters.
9. Harmon Photo
David Harmon ’91, owner
This camera and photography supply store has been a Central Florida mainstay since 1973.
10. The Thirsty Topher
Jason Perez ’10, owner
A no-frills pub in Orlando’s Ivanhoe Village District, this open-air spot known for its plentiful selection of craft beer feels more like a backyard party than a bar.
11. The Strand
Alda Rees ’95, co-owner
While the décor screams urban diner, the farm-to-table fare flying out of The Strand’s petite kitchen is delightfully inventive and delicious.
Take a Food Tour
Make stops at several Winter Park eateries with Orlando Food Tours, or get reacquainted with downtown’s foodie scene on the Downtown Orlando Food Tour. Each of these walking jaunts features tastes, sips, and interesting trivia.
Our temperate fall temperatures make al fresco flicks an enjoyable perk of Central Florida living. See a movie at Leu Gardens on the first Friday of most months, during Central Park’s Popcorn Flicks series every second Thursday, or at Enzian Theater, a Maitland art house theater featuring an outdoor Wednesday Night Pitcher Show a few times each month.