Sanford, Orlando’s more charming neighbor to the north, is always reinventing itself with new restaurants, shops and experiences, but at its eclectic core, it remains the first magical escape off Interstate 4. The latest additions to this town only reaffirm Sanford’s status as a global destination whose cup runneth over with award-winning eateries, craft breweries, concerts, theaters and art galleries.
For a second year now, Porchfest has successfully taken over 10 porches in downtown Sanford, with dozens of musical acts at each one. This free festival transforms yards into front-row seats and street passersby into a captive audience.
The Old Jailhouse Sanford
113 S. Palmetto Ave., 407-548-6964, theoldjail housesanford.com
Sanford's original county jail has been converted into an eatery where delectable plates like Creole lamb, Lowcountry shrimp and sausage, and Sun Belt cioppino reign supreme.
The Sullivan, A Public House
116 E. First St., 407-878-2530, facebook.com/ thesullivanpublichouse
This classic version of the Irish pub is another bar spinoff from Washburn Imports. Aside from featuring the best Irish beers and whiskies, the Sullivan also offers pub bites like bangers and mash, loaded Dublin chips, Scotch eggs, and Guinness-battered onion rings.
206 Sanford Ave., 407-915-7309, luisascellar.com
Luisa's Cellar describes itself as a "wine bar with a craft beer problem," but that's not even the half of it. Luisa's hosts live music and multiple events a week, including a "Monthly Moon Gathering" workshop where you can learn to use tarot, oracle and the moon's energy. Don't miss the dessert room and coffee shop (Wolfgang's) the owners have added – the Blonde Bombshell must be tasted at least once.
Deviant Wolfe Brewing
121 W. First St., 407-878-6239, deviantwolfebrewing.com
One of Sanford's newest breweries, the Deviant taproom overflows with a wide selection of beers, especially sours. There's also a guest tap cider and plenty of wine on hand.
520 on the Water
520 N. Palmetto Ave., 407-325-1376, venue520onthewater.com
After the unfortunate closing of Wolfy's, the spot has been turned into a wedding venue called 520 on the Water. Let the beauty of the St. Johns River set the scene on your special day.
119 S. French Ave., 386-747-3200, facebook.com/119french
This historic home-turned-bar opened last year and is already a hit. Guzzle down a variety of fine wines, draft and bottled beers, and delicious appetizers as you listen to live music on Saturdays.
Hollerbach's Willow Tree Café
205 E. First St., Sanford, 407-321-2204, willowtreecafe.com
Everyone's favorite German gastropub is opening a new rooftop biergarten on the second floor where more gemütlichkeit can continue to happen.