Guest Author Sunday
Meet this week's Guest Author Rebecca Bew here with some tips from an Orlando native of other things to do when visiting this beautiful area.
So, you are visiting Walt Disney World and have some extra time on your hands. You ponder to yourself whether or not people actually live in Orlando and what those odd souls do in Orlando. Perhaps you want to see what the Orlando area has to offer without a lot of fellow tourists. As a resident of Orlando for the past seven years, here are some of my family’s favorite activities…
SAK Comedy Lab – Tucked away in an unassuming building in downtown Orlando lays one of Orlando’s hidden treasures. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights around 7:00 pm (shows start at 7:30) you may spot a line of locals waiting to buy tickets to one of the few family friendly comedy clubs anywhere. Up the stairs is a small theater. Although “family friendly comedy club” seems to be an oxymoron, this spot nails it. The show is much like TV’s improv show “Whose Line is it Anyway?” In fact, Wayne Brady got his start at the SAK lab. The show features two teams of hilarity duking it out in games of spontaneous wittiness. No two shows are alike. All of the humor is small child appropriate. We started taking the Teeny Wahini as an infant (she loved it and the cast worked her antics into the skits. She was even picked to be a judge!), but even my mother loved it. If anything seems remotely un-kid friendly, the contestant gets the “smut box” placed over their heads. We have seen this invoked only once. A cast member misspoke and awkwardly blended the words “to what” into one. Just be certain to dodge the flying tootsie rolls! http://www.sak.com/
Loch Haven Park area – The spaces around this park are filled with some great things to do. The Orlando Science Center has great hands on exhibits and children’s activities. The Teeny Wahini and the Teenier Wahini would spend every day here if they could! This is a hub for the arts. There are Art Museums, The Orlando Shakespeare Theater, and the Repertory Theater. The park itself plays host to large festivals nearly every weekend, it seems. We’ve randomly stumbled upon Vege-fest (yes, it was a festival dedicated to everything Vegan… quite entertaining!), but what my family loves most is the Annual Target Family Theater Festival. This free event keeps kids exploring the arts and features free concerts from various children’s recording artists. We have even seen Jim Henson’s daughter and Orlando resident, Heather Henson, put on a screening of some of the Muppet Movies in the same interactive format as “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” here. Great times! http://www.cityoforlando.net/fpr/html/Parks/LochHavenPk.htm
Sweet by Good Golly Miss Holly – This is the Holy Nirvana of Cupcake (and Frozen Yogurt) heaven! Hollis Wilder opened her shop in 2008 and her sweet treats have been garnishing accolades ever since. She won the Food Channel’s Cupcake Wars not once, but twice (one of her winning cupcakes was even a salmon-lemon cupcake with a caper frosting). Her shop is also featured in the show Cupcake Confidential. A trip to her shop, although a 30-45 minute drive from the House of Mouse, is well worth it. In my household, my husband is a fan of her red velvet cupcake, I prefer the key lime or white chocolate raspberry cupcakes, my five year old Teeny Wahini (who typically dislikes cupcakes) will do anything for a black out cupcake, and my two year old Teenier Wahini (with her severe dairy allergy) can eat the vegan chocolate cupcakes. Don’t worry; you’ll burn those calories walking around the parks! http://www.sweetbyholly.com/
Downtown Winter Park – People may be shocked to learn that there was an Orlando before Walter E. Disney came to town. Winter Park is one of these historical places. Park Ave in Winter Park is a great place to just roam and explore with a Central Park that often hosts festivals as well. Their annual arts festival is of epic proportions. They even have a festival dedicated to doggy art! There are many quaint restaurants and businesses to check out. Winter Park is also home to art museums and Rollins College (Mister Rogers of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood studied there!). We love sitting out at street cafes here and just people watch for hours. There are also monthly free, outdoor “Popcorn Flicks” sponsored by a local artsy cinema/café called the Enzian. http://cityofwinterpark.org/
The Beaches – Many people have this image in their heads that Disney World is located in Central Florida so it must be far from the beaches. This couldn’t be further from the truth! We actually get choices in going to beaches to see the sunrise (the Atlantic ones) or to see the sunset (the Gulf ones). About an hour’s drive to the east lies tranquil Cocoa Beach. If you like to go to very isolated, not built up beaches, check out Playalinda Beach! This is a public section of Canaveral National Seashore. You are on NASA property at the Beach! You actually drive right next to launch pads 39 A and 39 B where NASA launched people into space. How could you escape the feeling of pride that builds up in your chest when you see this site?! The beach is divided into different sections that have entrances that protect the dunes and a primitive restroom facility and these are numbered from 1-13. Just be careful to know how to talk about these. Area 13 has a reputation for being, ummm… Eye opening (?) and you may not want to go that far up the beach with the kiddos, so to speak… My family’s favorite beach on the Gulf Coast is either St. Pete Beach or Clearwater. Both are amazing places where we always see wild dolphins swim by. The Teeny Wahini is a major fan of visiting Winter the Dolphin (and her prosthetic tail) at the Clearwater Marine Center. http://www.nbbd.com/godo/cns/ , http://www.beachchamber.com/
There are lots of things to do in the Orlando area. This is just a sampling of some of my family’s favorite places. Of course, Orlando residents do have a tendency to “go tourist” on the weekends and hit some small, local parks. You may have heard of them. They’re called Disney World!