Author: 
Heather Wilkie & Erika Cooper

Orlando: The City Beautiful

Next week, 2,000 prevention professionals will head to Orlando, Florida for the 17th Annual Mid-Year Training Institute, filled with training sessions, networking opportunities and dynamic speakers! While the days are jam-packed with learning and training, take advantage of free time to explore our host city of Orlando! Local coalition leaders Heather Wilkie and Erika Cooper from the Zebra Coalition penned a few suggestions about attractions for attendees while they visit the city.

When most folks hear about Orlando, they typically think about three things: Walt Disney World, Universal Studios and oranges.  Whereas Walt Disney and Universal Studios have maintained their fierce frenemy relationship; oranges have sunk off to the way side being replaced by tenacious and zealous entrepreneurs inspiring Orlando to be a mecca for small businesses passion and creativity. 

The theme parks certainly deserve recognition for their commitments to magic and mystery; experiences such as Toy Story Land, Pandora, Harry Potter and Marvel provide the eyes of a child walking into a candy store with the excitement of being told it is all yours. Right in our back yard, we have roller coasters such as Toy Story's Slinky Dog Dash, thrill rides with Pandora's Flights of Passage and Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. Restaurants such as California Grill offer stunning views of Magic Kingdom’s nightly fireworks and a romantic escape of the boardwalk-theme inspired Flying Fish. Disney Springs is shopping magnet, offering any store you could possibly desire from Legos to Levi's. Depending on whatever your interests lay, Orlando certainly delivers.

Orlando experiences summer year-round allowing locals to enjoy all that the outdoors can provide from kayaking through Wekiva Springs, Orlando City Soccer Club's passion-filled games and scenic bike trails, such as the Cady Way and Urban Trails, which provide an intimate six mile connection from east Orlando to the downtown area. There is the Winter Park Scenic Boat Tour, a true safari ride through Winter Park’s famous chained lakes. A walk through Leu Gardens will have you experiencing tropical horticulture and quirky seasonal events such as dinosaur statues and fairies hidden throughout the myriad of flowers. Maitland's Enzian Theatre not only features independent films year round and the Florida Film Festival, but also sponsors a family-friendly programming of "Popcorn Flicks in the Park"  the second Thursday of each month in Winter Park's Central Park, providing the community an experience all can enjoy. Park Avenue is a charming area of Winter Park, which hosts nearly a mile worth of boutiques, shops, and restaurants. For those looking for some indoor activities, Loch Haven Park blesses us with the Orlando Museum of Art, Orlando Science Center and Lowndes Shakespeare Center featuring events year-round, including the Orlando Fringe Festival which proudly boasts the title of the longest running fringe festival in the United States. 

The Pandora's box of Orlando's culinary scene provides all perspectives a voice in this melting pot of a big little city. Award-winning restaurants such as The Ravenous Pig located in Winter Park or The Rusty Spoon in downtown, small neighborhood eateries such as The Strand in the Mills50 District or Pizza Bruno in Dover Shores, vegan and vegetarian with The Sanctum in Colonialtown or Ethos in Winter Park. Looking for international cuisines? Try Ramen at Domu in Audubon park, Mexican at Reyes Mezcaleria in downtown's north quarter, Vietnamese at Anh Dong in little Vietnam, or a classic French brasserie at Dovecote in downtown.

We would be doing our readers a disservice if we didn’t also mention on of the main reasons we love Orlando: the people. Up until about ten years ago, central Florida was considered to be a transient location and it was rare that you meet a second generation local. Due to our rapid growth and booming economy, we have people with a strong desire to put down their roots in Orlando. We are a vibrant and diverse group from all backgrounds and we welcome you to experience the wonderful opportunities our “City Beautiful” has to offer.