Best Of 2019

Best Local Color, Literally
Photo by Kelly Romano/Prismatic

Anna Cruz's coloring wall of Orlando

Discover Downtown, 201 S. Orange Ave.,

The best color is the one you choose yourself, and visitors can do just that at the revamped downtown information center, newly dubbed "Discover Downtown." What was once a narrow space where one could pick up pamphlets for local attractions or bus schedules is now a bright and welcoming space full of Orlando flavor. Our favorite part is Anna Cruz's wall-sized aerial-view illustration of the DTO, done in black-and-white outlines ready to be colored in by you. Too shy to wield your crayons in public? Take home your own oversized "Color Our City Beautiful" poster for $15.

Best Bizarre Love Triangle
Illustration by Betsy Garcia

Queenie and her two suitors

Lake Eola Park;

If you ever needed a cautionary tale about matchmaking, this is it. The story goes like this: One of Lake Eola's mated pair of black-necked swans died five years ago, and Orlando resident Shawn Pennington thought that his widow, Queenie, seemed lonely. So he and City Commissioner Patty Sheehan worked together to find her a new mate. They bought two male black-necked swans, so Queenie could have her choice of new boyfriend – but then one of her suitors died in July, leaving Queenie and Big Boy, the remaining male swan, in an awkward set-up situation. Then, in a plot twist worthy of a reality show (The Birdchelorette?), a necropsy revealed that the dead swan was actually female. We're still waiting to see if Queenie and Big Boy end up billing and cooing after all.

Best Tribute to Orlando Royalty
Photo by Melissa McHenry

Billy Manes Legacy Mural

Burton's Thornton Park, 801 E. Washington St.,

When Billy Manes – the activist, mayoral candidate and longtime Orlando Weekly writer – passed away in 2017, he took a little bit of the city's heart with him (and a giant part of ours). But artists Michael Pilato and Yuriy Karabash worked with Billy's widower, who started a foundation in Billy's name, to put up a memorial mural in Thornton Park. It eases the pain just a little to know that we can bask in a larger-than-life Billy's radiance any time we want to, day or night.

Best Fakeout
Artwork by Betsy Garcia

Announced completion of the "I-4 Eyesore"

Claud Bowers, CEO of independent religious TV station WACX SuperChannel 55, announced the completion of the 18-story Majesty Building, also known as the "I-4 Eyesore," last May. Construction began in January 2001, making it one of Orlando's favorite landmarks – its status is kind of a cross between "beloved" and "butt of many jokes." Activity on the site resumed in July 2018, and amid the signs of life – they even lit up the interior at one point! – Bowers said it would be done in eight to 12 months and they were actively seeking tenants. PSYCH! More than a year later, it's not even close. Maybe next year.

Best Downtown Freakshow
Screenshot from YouTube

Easter Bunny throwdown on Orange Avenue

April 21, 2019

This year's Easter Sunday saw the bridging of two classic Orlando hallmarks: people in animal costumes and downtown what-the-fuckery. An argument between a homeless man and a woman on South Orange Avenue escalated to the point that punches were thrown, but no one expected a grown human being in an Easter Bunny costume to jump into the fray and start landing his own blows on the aggressive man. Thankfully, footage of the fracas – broken up quickly by OPD with no charges filed – made its way to social media, which means we can incorporate it into our own family Easter traditions.

Best Local Tragedy

Demolition of the Orchid Garden and the Ballroom at Church Street

225 S. Garland Ave.

There are precious few event spaces in Orlando that aren't hotel ballrooms, and even fewer with the architectural interest and charm found at the Orchid Garden & Ballroom. (We're biased; we've held our Bite Night and United We Brunch events there for years.) The wrought-iron filigree of the Orchid Garden and the grand stained-glass windows of the Ballroom belie their actual age – Bob Snow opened the venues in the '80s using architectural salvage from all over the world, not in the 1880s, as you might imagine from their vintage looks. In May, it was announced that both event spaces would close as of Nov. 3, and the Ballroom would be demolished this coming winter to make way for the second tower of SunTrust Plaza at Church Street Station. Neither of the spaces is eligible for historic preservation, so we just have to sit back and watch as the concrete rises.

Best Chance to Cozy Up With Local History
Photo courtesy of the Orange County Regional History Center

Fabulous Floridiana auction, Orange County Regional History Center

Aug. 10, 2019; 65 E. Central Blvd.,

Finding the right conversation piece for your interior redecoration projects can be a chore. But just a few weeks ago, the Orange County Regional History Center decided to do some summer cleaning and auction off some display props from old exhibits. The docket included plenty of nods to Florida history and culture, including large alligators, birds, giant hats, a pennyfarthing, decorative Corinthian columns, and even giant Stetson hats. We don't know who nabbed the Red Lobster sign, but we hope you're putting it to good use.

Best "Permit? We Don't Need No Stinking Permit" Moment
Photo by Paul Brinkmann

Dezer tries to sneak an entire car museum into the dead husk of Artegon without telling anyone

5250 International Drive,

Real estate development company Dezer wasn't shy about broadcasting their plans for the former Artegon/Festival Bay Mall property: "Dezerland Action Park" was billed as a one-stop indoor entertainment complex with bowling, laser tag and other activities, along with a bunch of collectible cars from founder Michael Dezer's private collection. But city officials slapped Dezerland with a stop work order on Feb. 8 after discovering that extensive work had been done on the site without proper permits. The Dezerland website still lists an extremely optimistic opening date of Spring 2019, but we have a feeling they're going to miss their target by a few more months.

Wall Crawl

1016 W. Church St.,

Now that giant department stores like Sears and Kmart – formerly home to Olan Mills photo studios – are crumbling, where's a family to go for that well-lit, professionally shot yet affordably priced annual portrait? You probably expected us to grouch about Wall Crawl as a monument to millennial narcissism and the erosion of public life in the age of the selfie – or maybe you thought we'd use the G-word regarding the Parramore location. But we choose to see it as a fresh new business that's employing local artists, while providing an actual service worth paying for. Maybe you're looking for a place to shoot photos for your own business; maybe you need that family holiday card snapshot, or maybe you are in fact a narcissistic millennial. Who cares? Bring your own avocado toast and have a super fun day out.