Find Orlando Family Magazine on Facebook! Follow Orlando Family Magazine on Twitter!

Best of the Best 2021

It’s hard to say there was anything good to come out of the pandemic, but one of the consequences of spending so much time closer to home is that it made us truly appreciate all the many things Central Florida has to offer. From our favorite spots to grab a bite and the shops we frequent to the unique ways to spend an afternoon or the beauty treatments we couldn’t live without, we have certainly reignited our love affair with this place we call home. And that makes this year’s Best of the Best even more special as we spent the past 12 months revisiting familiar haunts and discovering new ones along the way. And just so you don’t think we were the only ones having any fun, we are also including readers’ choices to round out our most definitive list yet.



For a cup of joe that makes you feel as good as it tastes, consider supporting CREDO’s mission of ethically sourced coffee by enjoying a handcrafted brew made from organic beans and roasted in small batches. Prices are based on suggested value and you can customize your coffee with natural extracts like almond, vanilla or even lavender.


With more than 90 varieties of whiskey, this barbecue spot tucked into Disney Springs is a boozehound’s dream. We love the Rye Flight—WhistlePig 10-year Private Barrel, Bulleit 95 Rye and Michter’s Straight Rye Single Barrel—served as three 1-ounce pours in tulip-shaped snifters.

WINE TASTING, Maggie’s Attic

On the first and third Saturday of each month, this bottle shop hosts a special wine tasting event where guests can sample over 20 different wines along with light appetizers while making their way through historic downtown Mount Dora. The best part? You can get a discount on your favorite bottle after the tour. 

VEGAN COMFORT FOOD, Dharma Southern Kitchen

This Southern-inspired eatery specializes in plant-based comfort dishes—like the Dharma Fried Chick’n paired with a classic biscuit and drizzled with hot agave for a kick of spice—that is sure to satisfy any palate.

DOG BAKERY, Bark Avenue Bakery

A local favorite for over two decades, this bakery creates hand-cut homemade treats that are both nutritious and great for training. The bakery also offers monthly treat subscriptions and custom-order birthday cakes that will have your pup’s tail wagging on their special day.

KOMBUCHA, Main House Market

For a refreshing drink packed with health benefits, visit Main House Market. With ten taps of locally-brewed kombucha and flavors that rotate seasonally, there is always something new to try. The shop is also home to local vendors showcasing pottery, antiques and other unique finds.

LOCAL BREWS, Hourglass Brewing

With 40 beers on tap, this family-owned craft brewery has been a Central Florida staple since 2012. Often featuring food trucks, live music, board games and special events like trivia or morning yoga, this spot promises a fun time for the whole group.

BRUNCH, Bites & Bubbles

You’ll want to make a reservation at this eatery for a late-morning feast that includes everything from a unique selection of fine cheeses and specialty charcuterie boards perfect for sharing to graduated plates like the lobster scrambled eggs with hollandaise. 

CUPCAKES, Sweet by Holly

Whether you’re celebrating a special occasion or just craving a treat, stop by Sweet by Holly for gourmet specialty flavors including Oreo Cheesecake, Tiramisu and Banana Foster. We’re partial to the Matinee Idol—a salted vanilla bean cake topped with marshmallow buttercream and kettle corn.

BAKERY, Sugar Dough Bakehouse

After making its debut earlier this year, this unique bakery immediately caught our attention thanks to its freshly made French pastries with an Asian influence. The cruffins—a croissant and muffin hybrid with a variety of fillings—are divine, but don’t discount the cookies, Japanese milk bread and other items lining the counter.   

Kelly’s Ice Cream

ICE CREAM, Kelly’s Homemade Ice Cream

With a menu consisting of traditional flavors, signature selections, seasonal sorbets and the featured flavor of the month, the choices are endless. As the name states, all of these delectable options are made in-house and whether you opt for a cup or a cone, we can guarantee you’ll be back for more.

DELI, Stasio’s Italian Deli & Market

For those seeking a true original Italian deli and marketplace, look no further than Stasio’s. The handcrafted sandwiches are both delicious and hearty, but be sure to leave room for dessert as there is also a full bakery selection of homemade delights.

HOT DOGS, Hot Dog Heaven 

After one bite of these 100% Vienna beef hot dogs, you’ll feel like you’re in the heart of Chicago. The smoked dogs placed into steamed poppy seed buns are piled high with everything from the traditional mustard, relish, onion, tomato, pickle and hot peppers to baked beans, cole slaw or chili.

CHINESE FOOD, Hai San Chinese Restaurant

Those who say delicious Chinese food is hard to come by in Florida have clearly not tried Hai San. Featuring large portions of freshly made, authentic Chinese cuisine, this kitchen cranks out some wonderful dishes including the shredded pork with garlic sauce and the vegetable mei fun.

TEA, Royaltea

With over 130 locations in China, this specialty tea shop brings a taste of Asia to Orlando. The expertly crafted, freshly brewed teas are made to order and well worth the wait. We recommend grabbing a Royal Bubble Tea, Peach Oolong or the Mousse Matcha. 

POKE, Poke Hana 

Bringing a taste of Hawaii to Orlando, the traditional poke bowls found here offer true Polynesian flavors. Think marinated ahi tuna with fried onions, seaweed salad, edamame and cucumbers or fresh shoyu salmon with shredded nori, mango and cucumbers.

SMOOTHIES, The Smoothie Room

Whether you’re looking for a delicious, refreshing smoothie or a tasty energy boost, this is the place to be. With a variety of flavorful and healthy options including vegetable juices and ginger shots as well as acai bowls, there is something for your every mood. 

JAMBALAYA, Delaney’s Tavern

This friendly neighborhood tavern offers a wide sampling of American cuisine with a refined spin, including the jambalaya soup with chicken, sausage and jasmine rice with a Creole flavor that takes our taste buds to the Big Easy.

WRAPS, 903 Mills Market

Wraps may be a little lighter on the tummy, but the fillings at this scenic café are as hearty as ever. Roast beef, pulled pork, falafel and gyro are just some of the options for these handhelds that are topped with additional fresh ingredients before being pressed on the grill.

PIES, P is for Pie

Sweet, savory, hand pie, whoopie or bite-size—we don’t discriminate when it comes to pie. The menu varies seasonally, from caramel maple pumpkin to strawberry basil and even a cheeseburger hand pie, for the ultimate comfort food any time of day.

MILKSHAKES, Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen

Our diets are out the door thanks to these concoctions. Whether it’s the decadent chocolate X5, the tart key lime pie or vegan pineapple shake, we only need one straw, so don’t expect to share.

The Glass Knife

The Glass Knife

DOUGHNUTS, The Glass Knife

The best recipes are the ones passed down through generations and this bakery has them in spades. The doughnuts are a bite of tradition that starts with house-made brioche dough that is topped and filled with any flavor you can imagine, including strawberry daiquiri, s’mores and crème brûlée, just to name a few.

MAC AND CHEESE, Buster’s Bistro

This brewpub celebrating Belgium’s most popular commodity—beer—uses it wisely in their over-the-top mac and cheese made with a creamy beer-cheese blend of white cheddar, gouda, Swiss and parmesan and coated in flaming hot Cheetos.


This childhood staple has been reimagined with ingredients that fit our grown-up palate, whether it’s fig and goat cheese with basil and honey or the truffle melt with Havarti and arugula, all served on locally sourced artisan bread. 


Served crispy or grilled, these chicken tenders are the perfect bite, but it’s the signature sauces—curry mayo, garlic parm, Nashville hot honey, bourbon brown sugar BBQ—that bring in Guy Fieri’s Flavortown flair and keep us coming back for more.

CREPES, 407 Café

The delicate craft of crepe making is best left to the professionals, like the chefs at this European-inspired café who wow us with their satisfying creations at breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert, or all of the above.

TOAST, Craft and Common

This welcoming coffee shop has figured out how to turn an otherwise bland food into something craveable by topping it with avocado, sundried tomatoes and olives; or smoked salmon with lemon mascarpone, capers, dill and pickled red onion. We haven’t been this excited about toast since, well … ever.

BURGER, Russell’s on Lake Ivanhoe

There’s been a lot of buzz about this burger amongst Orlando gourmands and every bit of the praise is deserved. Served on a toasted buttery brioche bun, the patty’s well-seasoned, crusty exterior gives way to a tender, succulent inside that is bursting at the seams with flavor.

COOKIES, Crumbl Cookies

The offerings here change weekly, which means there’s always something new to satisfy your cookie cravings. While you can expect showstoppers like Key Lime Pie or Pumpkin Roll—a recent seasonal favorite—don’t overlook the always available Milk Chocolate Chip.

BREAKFAST, Se7en Bites

Everything from the buttermilk garlic biscuits cloaked in rich sausage gravy to the 7th Trimester—biscuit, over medium egg and applewood smoked bacon covered in macaroni and cheese and finished with a potato chip bacon crumble—are standouts at this place were “southern deliciousness” is served up all day.

CREAM PUFFS, Light on the Sugar Bakery Café

These oversized, indulgent cream puffs are delicate works of art that come in eye-opening flavors like green matcha, Fruity Pebbles or the otherworldly ube—a sweet, purple yam that is a staple dessert ingredient in Philippine cuisine.

BARBECUE, Bubbalou’s Bodacious Bar-B-Que

Beautifully charred ribs, delicious pulled pork and tender brisket headline this barbecue staple where you’ll also want to be sure and add stellar sides like fried okra, collard greens and mac and cheese to any order.

CHURROS, Bao Castle

We’ve written about how amazing the bao buns are at this place before, but no meal is complete without an order of the homemade churros. Dusted in cinnamon sugar, topped with Nutella or guava and cheese, the crispy-yet-airy bits of fried dough are the perfect grand finale.


You know goes well with great wine? Everything on the menu at The Imperial. Think soppressata flatbread with buffalo mozzarella, basil pesto, tomato and red onion or a duck confit sandwich with creamy brie, caramelized onions and a lingonberry aioli.

COCKTAILS, Hanson’s Shoe Repair

Not only do the skilled barkeeps at this speakeasy-vibe watering hole know how to craft your your favorite classic cocktails, but they’re also well-versed in modern mixology and amaze the crowd with quality libations made with the finest ingredients.


Flavorful ribbons of roast beef are piled into a toasted split-top roll with provolone cheese and thinly-sliced shallots, the sweetness of which counterbalances the heat from the accompanying horseradish sauce.


While the fast food chains battle it out over who makes the better chicken sandwich, we’d kindly let you know the best one is found here. Tender, juicy dark meat is fried, glazed with spicy honey and outfitted with pickles, lettuce, tomatoes and generous amounts of homemade blue cheese.


Everything from the Lobster Tostadas and Chipotle Calamari to the assortment of specialty cocktails and wines by the glass make this the ideal spot to celebrate in the early afternoon from 2 to 5 p.m. or in the evening when the party runs from 9 p.m. until close.


Sitting down to piping hot bowl of ramen at Domu is a culinary adventure every serious Orlando-area foodie will tell you is a true treat. From the homemade noodles to the intoxicating blend of aromas and complex flavor combinations, the menu is full of sensational dishes that raise the bar.  

CALZONES, Tomasino’s

The sizable calzones come in a few different varieties and while you can’t go wrong with the traditional cheese offering, we love the “special” packed with creamy ricotta and melty mozzarella, pepperoni, sausage, onions, mushrooms and bell peppers.


ANTIQUE SHOPPING, Adjectives Market

With three locations across Central Florida, this antique market features carefully sourced and curated furniture, home décor and clothing. They also feature the work of local artisans and because the shop receives new items every day, you are sure to find pieces to complement your unique style. 


Whether you’re looking for something for the office, for a cocktail party or the seamless outfit that will take you from day to night; this boutique carries a wide range of designer looks that any fashionista can appreciate.

MENSWEAR, Current by John Craig

This Winter Park clothier is where Orlando’s dapper gentleman go to get outfitted in the latest by the likes of John Varvatos, Ted Baker, Citizens of Humanity and other couture labels. And with plenty of shoes and accessories available to complete your look, it’s a one-stop-shop.


This College Park spot shines a light on independent designers, makers and brands, each one hand selected by owner Chelsea Santos. The resulting selection is a kid-friendly, sustainable aesthetic in a variety of colors and textures that can’t be found in any chain retailer.


Since 2006, Etoile has collected hand-picked vintage clothing, handmade jewelry and locally-designed brands. Over 100 vintage pieces are added to the store each week—with styles ranging from the 1950s-1990s. Lovers of vintage will also want to check out the boutique’s special pop-up events. 

NURSEY, Lukas Nursey and Butterfly Encounter

With a large selection of landscape, patio and indoor plants, Lukas Nursery has reliably served Central Florida for over 100 years. Don’t miss their 4,000-square-feet butterfly and bird conservatory, which offers a one-of-a-kind experience to interact with exotic, colorful creatures.

PET SHOP, Woof Gang Bakery

To meet all your pet’s needs in one stop, visit Woof Gang Bakery at any of their multiple area locations. Pet lovers and their furry friends will delight in stylish accessories, grooming and wellness products in addition to an array of tasty treats.

FLORAL SHOP, In Bloom Florist

In business since 1990, this family-operated shop creates expertly designed arrangements for any occasion, from birthdays to banquets, and offers a plethora of “plant-based” accessories for your home.

STATIONERY SHOP, Rifle Paper Company
Based on the hand-painted designs of co-founder Anna Bond, Rifle’s bright and whimsical prints are featured on everything including planners, pillows, gift wrap and greeting cards, and sure to put a smile on anyone’s face.

GIFT SHOP, Ryan’s Hallmark

Even though the holiday season is upon us, a trip to this independently owned Hallmark is worthwhile any time of year. With a selection of specialty jewelry, figurines, candles, drinkware and of course their famous ornaments, this is an ideal shop for finding that perfectly memorable gift for your loved one.

BRIDAL SHOP, Something New Bridal Boutique

On her wedding day, all eyes are rightfully on the bride, and that’s also the motto at this premier bridal boutique. Bask in the VIP treatment while trying on gowns in boho or traditional silhouettes—and everything in between—during your private shopping appointment. The decision won’t be easy, but it will be unforgettable.

PROM WEAR, So Sweet Boutique

Proms are not only a rite of passage for teens, they are a veritable runway showcasing the latest fashion trends. So Sweet boasts one of the largest selections of designer gowns, ensuring young girls will find the drop-dead dress they deserve for this special occasion. 


Need something to help mark that special occasion or perhaps looking for that statement piece that will be the envy of your family and friends? Then Be on Park is just the place to visit. With their dizzying array of stunning baubles, you’ll have no trouble standing out in a crowd.

BIKE SHOP, Winter Garden Wheel Works

Avid cyclists love this shop for its stellar inventory of bikes, parts and apparel, not to mention the expert staff who are always ready to help with service, repairs or help get you fitted for your next ride.

CIGAR SHOP, Corona Cigar Co.

You don’t have to subscribe to Cigar Aficionado to appreciate all this place has to offer. Expect to find all your favorite sticks from Ashton, Montecristo and the like, plenty of accessories and access to whiskey pairings, meet and greets and other special events.

HARDSCAPING, Royal Landscape Nursey

When it comes time to boost your home’s curb appeal, turn to Royal Landscape which houses the region’s largest paver display with plenty of customizable options. And the skilled installers have more than 30 years of experience, meaning they’ll have no problem transforming your driveway or outdoor living space.



HIKING TRAIL, Greenwood Urban Wetlands

Start the day with a relaxing stroll through this park which offers a scenic lake view and wildlife sightings before unwinding at one of the shaded picnic tables for lunch. The paved trail is also friendly to joggers, bikers and dog walkers.

GAME NIGHT, Arcade Monsters

Boasting over 200 games—ranging from classic favorites and pinball to experiential games and VR—this is the largest arcade in Florida. And when you need a break from the action, the bar offers a menu of Cuban and American street food as well as specialty cocktails, beer, wines and other libations. 


For a unique date night or group outing, sign up for one of the many Latin dance classes offered at this studio. Group and private lessons in salsa, bachata, cha-cha, and ballroom are available for both kids and adults. 

LOCAL TOUR, Leu Gardens

This 50-acre artfully-designed botanical garden includes outdoor sculptures, roses, camellias, a vegetable garden and a butterfly oasis. For the complete experience, book a tour of the historic Leu House Museum or peruse the art exhibits inside the Garden House Welcome Center.


Learn the method and history behind your favorite classic cocktails. Participants will be provided the materials to make three full-sized cocktails and the opportunity to socialize as they enjoy their creations at the bar. Classes are offered the first and third Saturday of each month. 

HORSEBACK RIDING, Hidden Palms Ranch

Whether you are a longtime horseback rider or novice, this family-owned business in Seminole County provides private and guided horseback trails through the picturesque Lake Jesup Conservation Area. The exciting, yet relaxing, experiences are customized based on the age and skill level of each rider. 

MOVIE NIGHT, Cinèpolis Luxury Cinemas

This movie-going experience is enhanced with fully-reclining leather seats, cutting-edge projection and sound technology. Waiter service is available with the push of a button and food offerings are plentiful from gourmet snacks to restaurant quality entrées, as well as a full bar selection. 

FARMER’S MARKET, Winter Garden Farmers Market 

If you are looking to experience a community staple offering a huge selection of locally grown produce, baked goods and live entertainment then bring the entire family down to Historic Winter Garden every Saturday from 8 a.m. until 1 p.m.

KID’S PARTY SPOT, Obstacle Academy

Does your child dream of being a ninja warrior? With qualified instructors leading the way, partygoers have unlimited access to all of the obstacles offered as well as use of a private party room, making this the perfect place to let your little ones burn off some energy. 

MINI GOLF, Pirate’s Cove

Ahoy, matey! Discover adventure on this well-designed mini golf course nestled among lush landscaping and cascading waterfalls and streams. Experience legends of infamous 18th century pirates come to life as you putt your way through mountain caves and a full-scale pirate ship. 

DOG GROOMER, The Dirty Dog

Treat your furry loved one to the most compassionate of grooming experiences. With a wide range of services offered, from a (not so) basic bath to a blueberry facial, these friendly dog-loving professionals will ensure that your pooch is pampered head to paw. 


A perfect opportunity for the young theater enthusiast to take in a live production with the whole family or try their hand at performing through the various youth programs and camps offered. Kids of all ages will come away feeling enriched, entertained and enlightened. 

LIVE THEATER, Orlando Shakes

The skilled performers here help set the stage for a lineup of diverse productions that please audiences both young and old alike. They also connect with the community thanks to a series of classes and workshops that just might be responsible for cultivating the next big name you’ll see in lights.

WATERSPORTS, Buena Vista Watersports

For those who love being out on the water, this is the place for you. Hopping on a jet ski, taking some wake surfing lessons or chartering a boat for the entire family to enjoy a day of tube rides are just some of the ways you can splash the day away. 



SALON, Salon Dulay Aveda

Offering a wide array of haircare services including custom cuts and coloring that are specifically tailored to your needs, the salon exclusively uses Aveda’s plant-powered, naturally derived and 100% vegan products. As an added bonus, clients receive a relaxing hand massage with every service.  


If your hair is a daily battle against dryness and frizz, a trip to this salon is just what the doctor ordered. Here, professionals use the latest technology to diagnose your hair and prescribe the best treatment, from deep conditioning masks that repair to keratin systems that leave hair smooth and shiny. 

HAIR COLORING, Alchemy Hair Salon

Whether you want to shake up your style or maintain your signature look, Alchemy’s stylists—who specialize in everything from vivid color to blonding—will make sure you love your tresses.

BARBERSHOP, Atomic Barber Co.

The talented crew at this barbershop know that it’s all about the details, which is why discerning gentlemen trust them with their grooming needs. From stylish cuts to straight-razor shaves that will leave your face smooth as Michael Jackson’s dance moves, we couldn’t imagine going anywhere else.

CHILDREN’S SALON, Pio-Pio Kids Salon

Parents know the pain of getting kids to “boring” appointments, which is why this family-friendly salon is anything but. Kids are welcomed with comfortable seats, a lollipop and their choice of TV show or movie while their hair is cut and styled, which can even include braids or ballerina up-dos.

EYEBROWS, Modern Beauty Bar

Masking up during the pandemic made eyes the feature everyone wanted to highlight, eyebrows especially. Using microblading, ombre powder, tinting and other techniques, licensed estheticians have perfected their craft of giving clients flawless face-framing brows that will catch anyone’s eye.

NAIL SALON, Tipsy Salonbar

Manicures and pedicures are essential self-care for some of us and they are made even better with an adult beverage in hand. Whether it’s the latest ombre dip manicure, something clean and classic or an indulgent hot stone pedicure, we always keep our tab open until our nails dry.

SKIN TREATMENTS, Sanctuary Salon and Med Spa

Along with a range of customized facials and body scrubs, the medical-grade skin treatments at this day spa give longer-lasting results. With microneedling and sublative rejuvenation, clients experience the latest technology to achieve younger, healthier-looking skin without downtime.

GOAT YOGA, Alaska Farms and Co.

For an experience you’ll never forget, enroll in this yoga class where baby goats will hop right onto your back as you practice your downward dog pose. Stick around after the class for a farm tour and a unique photo op with the animals.

PILATES, Pilates Center of Winter Garden

While the whole world seems caught up in that other “begins-with-a-P” fitness trend, Pilates offers an alternative that builds real strength and stability within the body. Beginner through advanced students will find personal attention in classes that develop flexibility, coordination and endurance, resulting in better function in all activities.


If you’ve hit a wall with exercise options then you just might need to hit the floor at this dynamic dance studio. Between jazz, hip-hop, Zumba, country line dancing, Pound and even lightsaber fitness classes, your body will be challenged in countless ways and never bored.

FLOAT THERAPY, Afloat Wellness Spa

There is no better way to escape the daily barrage of stress and anxiety than floating weightless in a tank of salt water. Float therapy has been shown to improve sleep, relieve pain and aid athletic recovery, and the knowledgeable staff can curate your experience to help achieve optimal wellness.

IV THERAPY, Prime IV Hydration & Wellness

Imagine feeling a boost of energy or the immediate relief of a migraine without taking a pill. That’s the goal at this medically supervised facility where skilled nurses create individualized IV cocktails full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fluids that are delivered directly into your bloodstream for maximum absorption.

SPA, Poseidon Spa at Grande Bohemian Hotel

Pampering yourself never felt as good as it does after a visit to this elegant hotel spa where custom massages, facials and mani-pedis are just some of the blissful ways for you to spend a lazy afternoon.

FACIALS, Serenity Spa

Whenever we feel the need to be refreshed and rejuvenated, we head to this spa where any number of the facials offered—we absolutely ove the platinum hydrafacial—exfoliate and rehydrate the skin while leaving us with a radiant glow.

MEN’S FACIALS, The Body Cave

Guys who know how to properly take care of themselves head straight to this men’s-only spa and book an appointment for the signature cleansing facial where each pore on their face is extracted one at a time for remarkably renewed skin.



Clothing Accessories

Ten Thousand Villages, Winter Park

Dog Daycare

Dogtopia, Downtown & Winter Park

Personal Fitness Training

Body Coach, Windermere

Home Accessories

Foreign Accents, Orlando

Hotel Spa

The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes, Orlando

Kickbox Fitness

9 Round, Multiple Locations

Juice Bar 

Clean Juice, Multiple Locations

Pet Food

Pawsitively Pure Dog Food, Orlando

Pet Boarding 

V.I.Pet Resort, Orlando

Stretch Studio

Stretch Zone, Multiple Locations

Veterinary Care

Winter Park Veterinary Hospital, Winter Park