Nancy's Notes From Florida

Author Nancy J. Cohen discusses the writing process and life as a Florida resident.

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Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on May 11, 2010

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We could spend a weekend every month in Orlando and not just for the theme parks. There’s a lot to do in this vibrant and growing Central Florida city. Next time you visit, leave time to explore beyond the usual tourist sites.

Re the Theme Parks:  If you think of Walt Disney World as just the Magic Kingdom, think again. There’s Hollywood Studios with its behind-the-scenes glimpse into movie making and its own version of American Idol. Epcot showcases different countries and their wonderful restaurants along with Spaceship Earth and other fantastic rides. My favorite place is in The Land pavilion where you ride a boat and see the wondrous fruits and veggies growing in their hydroponics labs. The Animal Kingdom is the best, especially in Spring and Fall when the weather is warm with low humidity. It’s a habitat friendly zoo and rainforest mixed together with lush tropical foliage. They do animal conservation projects making this an eco-friendly park. Aside from Disney, Universal Studios has two parks including the brand new Harry Potter attraction. Seaworld and Aquatica and Dolphin Cove invite water-oriented exploration. You can spend a whole week at the theme parks, but then you’re missing the real Orlando. So keep your walking shoes on and venture beyond the theme park gates.

Copyright 2010 by Nancy J. Cohen
CHINATOWN: Asian markets and Vietnamese restaurants on E. Colonial Drive
COLLEGE PARK & BALDWIN PARK: Village Centers (shopping & dining)


DOWNTOWN DISNEY  (shopping, dining, attractions, movies, free parking)

FARMER’S MARKETS: Winter Park (Sat.); Lake Eola (Sun.)

FLEA MARKETS: Osceola; International Drive

LAKE EOLA: Sunday Farmers Market, Swan Boats, Lakeside Walking Trail, Amphitheater

MUSEUMS: Morse Museum of American Art, Orlando Science Museum, Albin Polasek Museum and Sculpture Gardens, and more!

NATURE LOVERS: Henry P. Leu Gardens, Mead Garden, Lake Tibet Nature Preserve, Wekiva Springs State Park, Arboretum at UCF, and more.

PERFORMING ARTS : Regional Community Theatres, Orlando Ballet, Broadway shows, Cirque du Soleil, Dinner Theaters, and more.

SHOPPING: Prime Outlets, Premier Outlets, Millenia Mall, The Florida Mall, Pointe Orlando, Festival Bay Mall, Winter Garden Village, Park Avenue in Winter Park, Fashion Square Mall.

SPORTS: Orlando Magic, Disney’s Wide World of Sports, Golf, UCF Knights.

THORTON PARK: Downtown restaurants and clubs.

WINTER PARK: Park Avenue shopping & dining, Winter Park Village, Boat Ride, Saturday Farmer’s Market, Mead Garden, Henry P. Leu Gardens, Museums, Movies.


CASSADAGA (certified mediums give psychic readings)


DELEON SPRINGS STATE PARK and Old Sugar Mill Pancake House


MOUNT DORA (quaint town with shops, restaurants, train ride, nature walk, boat tour)

ST. AUGUSTINE  (Historical Sites, Museums, Shops, Restaurants and Beaches)



7 Responses to “THE OTHER ORLANDO”

  1. Theme parks are fun, but expensive! It’s great to know the area offers so many other things to do.

  2. Wow! Great information, Nancy! Thanks for sharing.

  3. We always find new places to explore and new restaurants to try. It’s a growing city.

  4. Barbara Elness said

    Thanks for the post. I live in Orlando and I’m happy you’re letting people know there is more to Orlando than Disney. Actually my favorite park is Universal’s Islands of Adventure, a fantastic themed park. I’ve been to Leu Gardens, they’re beautiful, and I still want to check out Mead Garden as well.

  5. Mead Garden is quite a bit wilder than Leu Gardens. We saw a snake there and I’d watch out for alligators along the waterways. But it’s an interesting place to explore. Disney has a wildlife preserve hidden away too at the southern end of Orlando. I have that info at our condo there. And there’s another nature trail leading from Winter Garden.

  6. Kristin W. said

    Mt. Dora is so quaint. We went to Blue Springs State Park one time. About 45 minutes north of Orlando. Manatees gather there in the winter for the warmer water. There must have been over 100 when we went. It used to be a river port. Cool spot.

  7. I’m not familiar with Blue Springs State Park, will have to check it out. Thanks for the recommendation.

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