It has been quite cold in Cincinnati, so when Tyler and I had the chance to go on a mini-vaca all we could think about was sunshine and higher temps so we headed south to Orlando. Of course, the first question most people asked was if we were filling our days with Disney, but we were more interested in the sunshine, Harry Potter and checking out some of the local flavor.
If you are anything like Carly and I, you are always hunting for one-of-a-kind places whether that is in your home city or on vacation, but that can be trickier than it sounds. So I thought I would share some of our favorite spots from our trip. As nerdy as it may be, I am a HUGE Harry Potter fan having read all of the books multiple times to watching all 8 movies more than I can count. So our first major stop in Orlando was Universal and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and I have to say it didn't disappoint. Tyler and I spent a solid 10 hours at the park spending the majority of our time in Hogwarts and Diagon Alley. The Harry Potter World was honestly the most magical unbelievable thing with children waving $50 wands throughout the park creating magic all on their own. There were adults just as excited to be there as the children. We even ran into a group of adults at the Three Broomsticks that were in full costume and character enjoying a butter beer as if it were an everyday occurrence. It all just seemed so real and right out of the books, all the way down to the tiny details. Fortunately there weren't long lines, but honestly the amount of detail even in the cue was astounding. So much to look at, that honestly I think I would have been okay with waiting in a few lines. With a full day at Universal, and Tyler's feet covered in blisters we headed on to Big Fin for a casual evening of delicious seafood and drinks.
The rest of our time was mostly spent in and on the outskirts of the lovely neighborhood, Winter Park. The neighborhood, although being the oldest in Orlando with its original cobblestone roads, was a very hip, up and coming area with cute shops, restaurants and a seemingly large support for local ventures. One of my long time favorites (which I had discovered online) was Rifle Paper Co. The shop, sitting right on New England Ave, was set in the perfect location for a store and studio combo. Although, the store was quite small, it had a large assortment of cards, paper goods, iPhone cases and other small treasures, which I proceeded to peruse and then purchase.
With no beach insight, but the weather being so delightful, we found ourselves exploring the Leu Gardens. It was one of the most relaxing beautiful parts of our trip. It was unlike any other botanical garden I had visited before, with its giant tropical plants and Spanish moss hanging from tree limbs it seemed a bit enchanted. As we finished up with the gardens, I was on the hunt for a small local deli. Checking out Yelp I found the Black Bean Deli, a Cuban cafe, that wasn't too far away. I was thrilled when we pulled up to the deli. It had the most crisp black and white exterior that just oozed with cuteness. Besides the deli having a great black and white, fresh retro vibe, the food itself was delicious! I hadn't personally ever tried Cuban food, but I wasn't disappointed to say the least. I ordered a turkey and avocado sandwich and the black bean soup with a touch of rice. I honestly couldn't even finish it all, but sitting in front of the large windows with the sun beaming in was just what we had wanted!
Another stop that seemed to be a requirement in Orlando was the East End Market and the Blue Bird Bake Shop. We made this our last stop before heading home. Neither one of us knew what to expect at the East End Market, being that every market seems to have different specialties whether it be food or shops, but we weren't disappointed when we found a lovely mixture of both. We got there pretty early on a Tuesday, so many of the shops were enjoying a lazy morning after the weekend rush, so we were able to meander about and decide on what we wanted. My goal was to visit as many spots as possible. So we explored the craft coffee with Lineage, some savory cheese and charcuterie at La Femme Du Fromage with a fresh sparkling wine and beer from Local Roots, and we couldn't leave without making a small purchase of a succulent of sorts in a gold planter and a large gold beetle at Porch Therapy. Everyone was beyond friendly, chatting and telling us passionately about their product. Across the street, the Blue Bird Bake Shop beckoned us. Even though we had quite a fill at the Market, we couldn't resist trying the delicious sweets at the bakery. Again, Orlando didn't disappoint with a quaint robin's egg blue and natural wood interior and the most delectable sweets. We probably could have just split one, but Tyler got a peanut-butter and chocolate whoopi pie, and I chose the red velvet cupcake with cream cheese icing.
It was a bit of a whirlwind of a trip, but was all that we imagined filled with magical roller coaster rides, delicious treats, cute shops and sunshine. Although Orlando often gets the rep for family vacations with long lines at amusement parks, the sunny city offers a whole lot more, and I highly recommend checking it out if you are in need of a mini vaca!
'Till next time Orlando...