Cheap eats and cheaper beer lace the outline of the student stronghold, but there are gems to be found like natural beauty, innovative sips and UCF's MFA programs, which have reinvigorated Orlando's literary and fine arts communities.
In the realm of college jobs, tossing 3-foot pizzas at pie giant Lazy Moon on University Boulevard has to take top rank. No longer a dank punk-rock dive, Lazy Moon's new-ish digs are open and breezy, and we could pretty much slurp our way out of a vat of Jason's Mom's sauce.
Lazy Moon, 11551 University Blvd., 407-658-2396, lazymoonpizza.com
Across Alafaya Trail from the circus that is Waterford Lakes Town Center is Vespr Craft Coffee & Allures, a minimalist storefront peddling single-origin beans and using mad-scientist-worthy brew methods like the Japanese Hario siphon method to produce the smoothest cup of java.
Vespr Craft Coffee & Allures, 626 N. Alafaya Trail, 407-476-3093, thevespr.com
Jay Blanchard Park is the launching ground for canoes and kayaks on the Little Econlockhatchee River, which flows 18 miles from its mouth in Oviedo to unincorporated Orange County. Paddle through the tributary (filled with fish and native birds), which runs parallel to the Little Econ Trail (filled with runners and cyclists).
Jay Blanchard Park, 2451 N. Dean Road, 407-254-9030, orangecountyfl.net
Ditch Dunkin and head to Brooklyn Water Bagel for boiled dough rings that are actually Everything. Iced coffees here are filled with coffee ice cubes so they don't get watered down as the ice melts, and black-and-white cookies rival any from that SoHo corner bakery you love. (It's not dead-center UCF territory, but it's invariably full of hungover Knights on weekend mornings.)
Brooklyn Water Bagels, 4026 N. Goldenrod Road, Winter Park, 407-681-4011, brooklynwaterbagels.com
Perhaps your first thought when you set foot on the quad at UCF was, "Man, I'd really like to jump in that fountain." If so, just wait for Spirit Splash, voted one of the best college homecoming traditions in the country. In mid-October, students clad in just their skivvies descend on the fountain for an afternoon of guest speakers, live music and fountain swimming.
University of Central Florida, 4000 Central Florida Blvd., 407-823-2000, ucf.edu
When he doesn't have a gaggle of creative writing students swarming him in a workshop, professor and screenwriter Pat Rushin has another screenplay up his sleeve. In 2013, his script for The Zero Theorem (from his novella The Call) was made into a feature starring Christoph Waltz and directed by Terry Gilliam.
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