Orlando, Florida, is a popular destination known mainly for its theme parks, but that’s quickly changing. The City Beautiful started developing its sense of culture separate from Walt Disney World or Universal Orlando Resort.
Last year, Michelin awarded the city four Michelin stars (one at each location), with two stars going to restaurants apart from any theme park. This shows that the city is growing, and there is a developing interest in it outside the theme parks.
While Orlando isn’t as developed as other major towns like New York City or Los Angeles, it’s quickly catching up with distinct neighborhoods and tons of gastronomic destinations ranging from street food to fine dining. Hotels are popping up around town with missions of attracting the non-Disney traveler, and its LGBTQ+ scene is becoming one of the biggest in the U.S.
The city of Orlando is one to keep an eye on, and here are five reasons why Orlando is such a popular destination besides Walt Disney World:
@where2nextorlando What are your favorite Orlando things to do? #orlando #orlandothingstodo #where2next #where2nextorlando #orlandoflorida #orlandoadventures #orlandoexperience #centralflorida #centralfloridalife #fun #MakeItGucci #MaiselChallenge #orlandofl #citybeautiful #orangecounty ♬ umm.. yeah – andrew
Orlando has always had diverse neighborhoods, but now they are becoming nationally known. Places like Creative Village in Downtown Orlando are constantly on TV due to their quickly developing status as a place to do business, live in, and study.
Local universities Valencia and the University of Central Florida have moved some of their dorms there. New restaurants like The Monroe have opened, giving travelers and locals a reason to visit. EA Sports moved a section of their corporate employment to the area, providing a basis for local young adults graduating from either university a reason to stay in the place. Recently at Luminary Green Park, 12 memorials were erected for local black pioneers of the neighborhood before the name change.
@ash_hanna72 A nice spot for dinner and drinks! Would you visit? #themonroe #downtownorlando #orlandofoodie #orlandoflorida #foodtiktok #foodies #foodlover #fyp ♬ Wonderful – Burna Boy
Other neighborhoods like Lake Nona are growing at an exaggerated rate. Places like Boxi Park and the Lake Nona Wave Hotel give locals and travelers a reason to head over with innovative food options and plenty of things to do.
The Lake Nona Wave Hotel recently opened during the pandemic and has a sculpture garden with pieces from famous artists like Fernando Botero and Arturo Di Modica. This is giving Orlando neighborhoods a distinctive vibe that is becoming nationally known.
@ystravels13 Lake nona wave hotel. Just opened in 2022 #orlando #lakenonawavehotel #travel #traveltiktok #travelbucketlist #orlandohotels #hotels #disney #disneyworld #disneyworld50 #fyp #trend ♬ Paradise – Bazzi
As mentioned, two Michelin stars were awarded in Orlando, belonging to Kadence and Soseki. Both are sushi spots, and they are a must-visit if you’re in town. Other destinations like Mills 50 are growing incredibly fast.
New restaurants and bars are opening almost weekly, with some having a distinctive style. Take Haan Coffee Roasters, a Korean new-age coffee shop with interiors done by GDPdesignbuild, giving the space a strong sense of Korean architectural traditions combined with modernity. It’s a favorite among locals to work at and meet for coffee.
@roamsick Brand new coffee shop | Haan Coffee ☕️ #orlandoflorida #orlando #orlandocheck #coffeetiktok #coffee #orlandocoffeeshop #thingstodoinorlando #florida #orlandofl ♬ Coffee for Two – Retro Aesthetic Boy
EDOBOY, a standing sushi restaurant, just opened this year and has a lot of buzz surrounding it. The restaurant is creating a new style of Omakase, giving Orlando more notoriety in this area. Other literal cool spots are Sampaguita Ice Cream, a Filipino-inspired ice cream shop that has lines wrapped around the building daily.
@beercutieandfoodie Orlando’s newest Filipino ice cream shop ! #fyp #orlando #florida #thingstodoinorlando #filipino #halohalo #icecream #mills50 #foryoupage #orlandoflorida #sampaguita ♬ animal crossing ~ new horizons lofi – Closed on Sunday
If drinking with many children running around you differs from your vibe, avoid the theme parks and check out some of these places. Spots like AC Sky Bar at the AC Hotel by Marriott Orlando Downtown have a strict no-kid policy and offer fantastic cityscape views of Orlando.
Drinks are affordable and creative, and this place is one of the first bars altering the makeup of the Downtown Orlando drinking scene. More casual than other bars, this is an excellent spot to chill.
@foodie.girly Coolest place to hangout! #orlando #orlandospots #acskybar #skybar #orlandocity #weekendvibes ♬ Please Don’t Go – Mike Posner
Other places like The Moderne just opened and offer a tapas-like menu with imaginative cocktails and a trendy scene. New sites like Bellhop offer a more upscale environment for those seeking a good cocktail. Its decor mirrors Orlando’s past and is part of a new wave of bars opening up in the area. If mocktails are more your thing, check out The BANDBOX. It’s Orlando’s first non-alcoholic tasting lounge with regular live musical performances.
@cheatdayorl ????new to Orlando! ????the Moderne #orlando #orlandoflorida #orlandofood #orlandofoodie #mills50district ♬ cardigan – Taylor Swift
Orlando is reshaping itself as a place to visit if you like good food, great cocktails, and exciting art. The city is growing, and we expect it to be one of the U.S. top destinations (not because of a theme park) in the coming years. Check it out soon.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com