No matter where you go in Orlando, you won’t find a boring neighborhood. What started out as a small, out-of-the-way town encompassing only four square miles in 1875 has blossomed into a metropolitan city boasting a population of 2 million people.
Orlando, Florida may be best known for Disney World and Universal, but it has plenty of other things up its sleeve. It attracts around 60 million visitors every year — all of whom come for the nightlife, golf courses, shopping malls, the world-famous theme parks and the warm climate.
The greater Orlando area is home to at least a dozen higher learning institutions. It also boasts of a number of world-famous companies, including The Walt Disney Company, JetBlue, NBC Universal and Federal Express.
In no particular order, below are some of the best neighborhoods in Orlando.
1. Winter Park
Winter Park, an independent city where northern snowbirds dwell, is Orlando’s quintessential “old money” neighborhood. From its bistros and shops to its farmer’s markets and festivals, Winter Park has long been a hotbed for moneyed visitors.
State-of-the-art museums and posh boutiques dot this charming enclave. Wonderful oak trees are the norm here, as are cobblestone streets. You definitely won’t run out of things to do in Winter Park.
2. College Park
College Park is young, dynamic and ethnically diverse. It’s home to thousands of students, most of whom study in the nearby universities. Its name is derived from colleges like Yale, Harvard and Princeton.
The park packs a punch thanks to its low-key beauty and closeness to downtown Orlando. Also, its close proximity to Loch Haven Park, the city’s cultural corridor, as well as the area’s hip specialty stores and restaurants, make it attractive to visitors.
College Park is filled to the brim with lovely lakes. Many are surrounded by parks with playgrounds and paved paths for walking, like Lake Adair and Lake Ivanhoe.
If you go for a day visit, check out some cultural attractions. These include Orlando Shakespeare Theatre, Mennello Museum of American Art and the Orlando Science Center.
3. Thornton Park
Just to the west of The Central Business District and South Eola is the Thornton Park neighborhood. Thornton Park has a very cosmopolitan feel to it , and is home to classy fashion boutiques, fine dining restaurants, and beautifully built condos. Its condominiums include The Waverly and The Sanctuary.
Due to its luxurious nature, Thornton Park always has a steady influx of young urbanites and professionals. The Virgin Olive Market and CityFish Restaurant are a couple of popular stops found in Thornton Park.
Shoppers will definitely love the Zou-Zou store. It stocks designer lines like Ella Moss, Rebecca Taylor, Tracy Reese and Nanette Lepore. It’s been featured in magazines such as Harpers Bazaar, In-Style and Lucky.
4. Lake Nona
Lake Nona offers a neighborhood to suit every lifestyle, from single-family homes to apartment communities. Originally conceived as a 7,000-acre golfing mecca, Lake Nona is best known for the Tavistock Cup competition. The competition features some of the best professional players from Lake Nona country clubs and Isleworth.
Despite a recent downturn in the economy, real estate in Lake Nona is booming. That’s because it’s been recently trading its “golf” image for a more cutting-edge one – a new Medical City. The Medical City is slated to bring in hundreds of new high-income jobs as well as students.
The Medical City will include a 500-acre science and technology office park, a veterans’ hospital, the University of Central Florida’s medical school and the biotech research group Burnham Institute.
Additionally, Lake Nona’s close proximity to the Orlando International Airport makes it ideal for business people and travelers alike.
Lake Nona also has a variety of dining and shopping options. For dining, you will find great restaurant options from quick serve to sit-down, from Asian cuisine to sweet yogurt. As for shopping, there are several small yet trendy boutiques.
5. Ivanhoe Village
Ivanhoe is nestled in one of Orlando’s most historic neighborhoods. It’s filled with retail shops, restaurants, master craftsmen, design centers, art galleries and antique stores.
Ivanhoe Village has something for everyone. You can find jewelry stores, bike shops, vintage record shops and outdoor dining. Those looking to get wet might enjoy stand-up paddle boarding or jet-skiing before hitting the bars, shops, and restaurants in the area.
Most buildings in Ivanhoe Village display an Art Deco style, with streamlined foams and curves that articulate the façade. The neighborhood touts some seriously enticing restaurants that offer a respite from adrenaline-pumping attractions and Orlando’s wild rides.
These restaurants include:
- Backhaus Deli & Bakery
- Pinones en Orlando
- Citrus Restaurant
- The Hammered Lamb
- Shin Japanese Cuisine
- Two Chefs Seafood Oyster Bar
6. South Eola District
Located in the heart of Orlando, South Eola is known as the “Best little neighborhood in Orlando.” It offers a unique dining, shopping and entertainment experience. Also, it is home to numerous events, a plethora of unique dining experiences and great residential spaces.
South Eola is a pretty big chunk of territory. According to the City of Orlando, the South Eola District includes all the attractions and condos surrounding Lake Eola. The area runs from Pine Street over to Summerlin Avenue, and extends south of the lake to the 408 Freeway.
There are plenty of things to do in South Eola. You can enjoy fine dining, as well as a diverse community playground and entertainment hub. It has paddle boating, Disney’s outdoor amphitheater, and the lake fountain’s multi-million dollar light show. South Eola is also home to Orlando’s downtown Sunday Farmers Market.
Orlando is home to some of the best theme parks in the world, but it also houses other attractions and unique experiences. Over the past year alone, it has hosted more than 60 million visitors, making it one of the top tourist destinations in the world.