The rows of pastel bungalows and wrap-around porches might speak to Key West more than Central Florida, but this "neighborhood for locals" is one of Orlando's best-kept secrets (and we hope it stays that way). With new brunch spots, art galleries and its own micro-downtown shopping district, Thornton Park has all the walkable charm Orlando can muster.
GRAB A BITE
Benjamin French Bakery & Cafe
716 E. Washington St., 407-797-2253, benjaminfrenchbakery.com
Probably the best quiche in the city, not to mention the best croissant. There aren't many seats at this tiny enclave, but the espresso is hot and there are French pastries overflowing from the case – unless you get there too late and they're sold out. Tough luck.
The Pop Parlour
431 E. Central Blvd., 321-348-7677, thepopparlour.com
Gourmet popsicles in a storefront just outside the Lake Eola Farmers Market spot proves that ice pops aren't just for kiddos. Boozy combos like mimosa and Nutella-Maduro (made with Tampa's Cigar City brown ale) are fun for over-21s.
629 E. Central Blvd., 407-849-1800, socothorntonpark.com
This resto answers the question "Can there be too many Southern restaurants in one city?" with a resounding negative. Fast becoming one of Orlando's top spots for a fancy midmorning meal, Greg Richie's newest concept dishes up BBQ pork-belly biscuits topped with chow-chow and other well-balanced combinations.
HAVE A DRINK
Aku Aku Tiki Bar
431 E. Central Blvd., 407-839-0080, akuakutiki.com
Statues of Easter Island heads and flaming rum cocktails served in coconut shells. Tiny parasols galore. Lush greenery, rattan furniture and tropical fish. Orlando's only true tiki bar is like a little slice of Oahu's North Shore just steps from Lake Eola's south shore.
819 E. Washington St., 407-423-3060, thefalconbar.com
Half watering hole, half art gallery, this corner spot on Washington is full up with character and characters. If you're unattached, affix your photo and bio (ask the bartender for a form to fill out) to the wall o' local singles trolling for a night out. No need to swipe left or right; just pick up the phone.
CHECK THIS OUT
100 S. Eola Drive, 407-704-6103, abbeyorlando.com
Performances almost every weekend of the year featuring some of the city's best-loved performers, ranging from comedy to live music to local theater to cabaret and the occasional off-Broadway show. On non-show nights, it's an open-space lounge for the upstage crowd.
Thornton Park Block Parties
Various holidays throughout the year, Washington Street at Summerlin Avenue
The most popular being Halloween and New Year's Eve, the block parties that close off Washington at Summerlin are a local's answer to the insanity just a few blocks away at Wall Street Plaza. Arrive by Uber or Lyft if possible, though, as parking can be frustrating.
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