24 Hours in Orlando, FL

by Sabrina Smelko


One Christmas, my family decided to get away, so we flew down south and spent the entire holiday week in Florida, driving up the coast and waking up to sunny, clear skies and dolphins in the ocean — much different from the snowy-white wonderland I’m used to as a Canadian. The traditional clementines we usually received in our stockings were replaced by (much more superior) fresh oranges that we plucked off the trees in the backyard. My memories of the trip and visiting Orlando are fond ones to say the least, but in the last decade, the city has changed and grown up from its reputation of just being home to fields of orange groves. Its downtown neighborhoods have maintained their tight-knit communities, and the greater Orlando spreads far and wide, boasting a bounty of lakes and oak trees. For photographer , it’s the people and culture that have kept her in love with the city for over 30 years — and her family for over 3 generations! When she’s not traveling, Jessica and her husband enjoy Orlando’s offering of great food, better coffee, and gabbing with the locals. Today, Jessica is sharing her ideal 24 hours in the bright and sunny city of Orlando! —Sabrina



8 am: Start off your morning at. Grab a coffee from and a croissant from . Relax in the garden surrounded by all the pretty plants by , and don’t forget to grab some goodies to take home for later.


9 am: Down the street, nestled in Audubon Park District, is Take a walk through their garden and pick up plants to fill your own beautiful landscapes at home.


9:30 am: Time for a little shopping! has something for everyone. Visit for the perfect gift for him, among some of the best furniture and antique shops in the area, such as and .


11 am: If you are anything like me, you are ready for round two of coffee. is the perfect mid-morning coffee hang. Filled with refinished mid-century pieces and small goods for sale, you get the best of both worlds.


Noon: is one of my favorite lunch spots in town, with locally sourced ingredients and a constantly changing menu. You will always have a great experience. If you want to go for dinner, make sure to get a pretzel served with their house-made pimento cheese.


1:30 pm: , and pie is the perfect after-lunch dessert. From mini pies, to pie pops and — my favorite — the oatmeal pie, you will want to try them all. Also serving , perfect for those hot Florida afternoons.


2 pm: Drive over to Winter Park and enjoy an afternoon picnic with your recent pie purchase in Central Park. Walk the shops along Park Avenue and find so many great boutiques, like and .


3:30 pm: Walk a few blocks down New England Avenue to for a refreshing pressed juice from , grab your favorite stationery goods at ., and personal care products next door at .


5 pm: Happy hour at , where the house-brewed beers are half off and a great selection of appetizers are offered. C&L is a modern take on southern cuisine with an on-site brewery and extensive cocktail list. The bar opens for happy hour from 4 pm to 6 pm and dinner every day. If you are around on Sunday, the brunch menu is incredible. I mean, who doesn’t love Nashville hot chicken and waffles? Yum!


7 pm: Dinner at . Grab a delicious cocktail and an order of their famous meatballs. We love so many items on the menu, the best thing to do is order lots to share — from stone-fired pizzas to handcrafted pastas, there is something for everyone. Try my favorite, the Fiorentina pizza.


9 pm: After-dinner drinks at for beer and wine, or for cocktails. Either way, you will have the perfect end to your day in Orlando.




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  • This is a beautiful view of Orlando. I just moved from Orlando to St. Petersburg, Florida (would love to see a 24 hours in St. Pete ;)) and was thrilled to see Orlando showcased in this way. I was always slightly annoyed when folks just assumed Orlando was only about Disney World and theme parks. As much as I love St. Petersburg, East End Market is one of the many places you featured that I really do miss!

    One of my favorite things to do when out of town guests came to visit us in Orlando was take them on the Scenic Boat Tour! This was a wonderful opportunity to see “old Florida” in all it’s glory.

    Bravo for shedding some light on some of what Orlando has to offer. :)

    Tania Welch

  • I was in Orlando in March for a conference and this makes me sad that I didn’t get a chance to really get around to a lot of place while I was there. I need to go back down at some point and actually sightsee. It was gorgeous down there (what i saw of it, anyway).

  • Great list! P is for Pie is one of my favorite sweet places in Orlando! They have really good banana pudding that comes in a mason jar you can keep! My other favorite is Blue Bird Bake Shop, which is super close to P is for Pie (walkable). They have the best cupcakes (Strawberry and Upside Down are the best!) It’s always tough for me to chose which to go to when I want a treat!

  • YESSS, such a great Orlando guide! Orlando has so many great neighborhoods to explore, I’m so glad to see a local’s view on visiting the city!

  • I am almost 60 yrs. old, I have lived in Florida my whole life. I have a son who works in Orlando, and one who lives, and works there. I also lived there briefly when I was in my early 20’s. So was somewhat curious about the statement: “Waking up to sunny clear skies, and Dolphins in the ocean” the dolphins in the ocean part is very misleading as Orlando is in the center of the state. You would have to get up in the morning and take a beautiful long drive east, to see the ocean and maybe the dolphins. Orlando has some of the most beautiful lakes, but NO ocean views sorry it’s a fact of geography, that needs to be corrected. Otherwise Orlando is a beautiful city to visit. This otherwise is also a beautifully written story, of a probably much needed vacation in the dead of winter.

    • Not exactly what she said. When she starts the story she says, “We’d come at Christmas time and spend a week driving up the coast of Florida”. So that’s where the Dolphins came in. Then she goes on to hone in on central FL.

        • Ooohhhhhhh. My bad :) I do live in Winter Park and Everything on your list is a fav of ours. Many are in walking distance to our home. Some places that others added are also favorites. Like Taco Cheena! And you could still do it in your 24 hour window because their busiest hours are between 11pm-2am :-)

  • I love seeing Orlando like this. I’m sure when people think of Orlando, they think of a crowded, Disney populated area. This shows how Orlando is home to some really authentic eateries and shops. I am such a big fan of Rifle Paper Co. I would love to visit there sometime in the future.


  • Jessica, thank you so much for giving this tour! My husband grew up in Windermere but we don’t do much other than visit family when we’re there. After reading your article, I’ll definetly check out all these places next time we’re there.

  • Let’s not forget our newest jewel in Orlando, Dr Phillips Center for the Performing Arts! Not only shows and performances, but docent guided tours on Wednedays and Saturdays.

  • So glad to see this guide! But man I wish I had known about these places when I was in Orlando in December! I’m a native Floridian and went to college in Orlando, long before we had most of these spots. When I came back to visit, my family and I struggled to find good cafes and shops there (the city is HUGE land-wise.)

  • Love this list!! Orlando does have some fabulous little gems.
    Here are some other places that are worth seeing if you are in town for a weekend.
    – Santiago’s Bodega Sunday Brunch.
    – The Courtesy Bar (craft cocktails)
    – Artisan’s Table great food and drinks
    – Lee & Rick’s Oysters!!

  • What a fabulous list! I loved every spot you chose and as one of the other readers mentioned…I love the “neat + tidy” 24 hour guide. I’ve been here my entire life and the little gems hidden within Orlando are definitely overshadowed by Mickey Land!!

  • This is great! I lived in the Orlando area (north of downtown) for over 10 years and hung out in College and Winter Parks all the time. I just loved living there. Due to a job, my family moved to S. FL about 7 years ago. Although we visited a couple of times a year since, it just isn’t the same…until now. I’m super excited that after years of saving, we just bought a tiny condo near WP to use on weekends. I’m so looking forward to really knowing this place well again and I’m going to be using this piece as a guide.

  • Thanks so much for visiting the market and placing us at the top of this incredible lineup. Definitely must-stops for those seeking an authentic-view of Orlando. Let us know when you’re back in town again! Would love to meet for coffee! Happy Travels! -Heather Grove, East End Market Community Director

  • We LOVE LOVE LOVE design*sponge city guides … during our travels they have lead us to some of the best places all over the world! It was so exciting to see some of our favorite places on your list & read the comments with everyone’s local love for Orlando. Luckily we get to call Orlando home!

    We’re also excited that come Fall we will be opening a stationery & gift store called Paper Goat Post on Lake Ivanhoe Row. Can’t wait to make our shop a design*sponge city guide worthy destination!

    Love & Goats,

  • Thanks for this guide! I used it yesterday on my day trip to Orlando (I’m staying in Madeira Beach for a few weeks this summer). We My friend and I arrived at The Strand just after 3pm and it was closed (we should have checked opening hours in advance), but we did manage to eat delicious pizza at Prato. I went for the Fiorentina, and it was indeed wonderful. I absolutely loved the Winterpark area, and, just our luck, Rifle Paper & Co. was having a sidewalk sale, so we totally scored! Stopped into P is forPie to get treats to go (yum yum). I look forward to a return visit in the years ahead. Thanks for the focused guide!

    • So wonderful, glad to hear someone is getting use from my guide! I might be in Tampa this weekend if you would like to meet up for coffee or a bite to eat, feel free to shoot me an email! -Jess

  • Love Design Droits-Humains guides, I use them all the time! Unfortunately Propagation has closed :/ And Cloak and Dapper are closing their storefront and selling online only. Bikes Beans and Bordeaux has good coffee within a reasonable distance from Propagation.

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