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Best of the Best 2017

Our favorite places to eat, drink, shop and live in Greater Orlando

New Restaurant: 1921 by Norman Van Aken

HERE WE GO AGAIN. After spending the past 12 months combing Greater Orlando for the finest food and drinks, remarkable retail shops, soothing spas and more, we’re ready to present our annual Best of the Best picks for 2017. Each year, we willingly take on this task in hopes that we’ll find new discoveries (we did) as well as reconnect with familiar favorites (ditto), all in an effort to showcase the many wonderful things Greater Orlando has to offer. We’ve also let our readers’ voices be heard by including their picks in several categories. From sinfully satisfying cheesecake to the salon that makes us look like a million bucks, we covered lots of ground, but the hard work has paid off with this ultimate list of true winners.


1921 by Norman Van Aken
What can we say about James Beard Award-winning chef Norman Van Aken that hasn’t been said before? His reputation speaks for itself, and since 1921 opened last year, joining the impeccable Norman’s, Orlandoans now have two locations to try his culinary masterpieces—but if you can only go to one, we recommend his latest and greatest. Mount Dora, (352) 385-1921,

Big Fin Seafood Kitchen
As seafood lovers, we adore Big Fin Seafood Kitchen thanks in large part to their Big Fin Swordfish Filet Mignon. The 14-ounce, center-cut filet is blackened and served with the restaurant’s “secret sauce” and sides of garlic mashed potatoes and asparagus. The only downside is the 30-minute cook time, but it’s always worth it. Dr. Phillips, (407) 615-8888,

Maxine’s On Shine
Orlando is blessed with a multitude of brunch options, but unfortunately for us, that fact does nothing to shorten the weekend waitlist at Maxine’s. The reasons are simple: fantastic food, stellar service and amazing atmosphere overseen by owners Maxine and Kirt Earhart, who go out of their way to make patrons feel like family. Colonialtown, (407) 674-6841,

Beefy King
Beefy King has been an Orlando icon for 50 years, even attracting the attention of Jimmy Fallon last year, and quality ingredients and time-tested cooking techniques are why. Served on a Kaiser roll, their signature roast beef comes in junior, regular and extra-large sizes—and don’t forget a side of crispy tater tots. Milk District, (407) 894-2241,

Seito Sushi & New Japanese
Seito is a standout in Greater Orlando’s crowded sushi scene, and deservedly so, but their fresh sashimi is why we return again and again. Pro tip: If you’re more interested in sashimi than sushi, head to their Sand Lake location, which has far more sashimi options than Baldwin Park. Baldwin Park/Sand Lake, (407) 898-8801/(407) 248-8888,

Ten10 Brewing Co.
Greater Orlando’s craft beer scene is practically bubbling over, but it doesn’t stop this Ivanhoe Village entry from being a standout. House-brewed ales, stouts, IPAs and more are on tap (and available for 32- and 64-ounce growler fills), and events like Sunday Donuts and Beer keep the fun flowing. Ivanhoe Village, (407) 930-8993,

Bluebird Bake Shop
Although this Audubon Park gem is arguably better known for its cupcakes, we think the muffins are the real attraction. The only dilemma is deciding which ones to stock up on when we visit, be it Strawberry Streusel, Banana Chocolate Chip, traditional Blueberry or—when it’s in season—a Pumpkin White Chocolate Chip. Audubon Park, (407) 228-3822,

Huey Magoo’s Chicken Tenders
Lots of restaurants make chicken tenders, but for Huey Magoo’s, it’s their raison d’être. Whether you prefer your tenders fried or grilled, you’ll find a wealth of options that include sandwiches and wraps, meal platters, salads, and tenders all on their own, plus an ocean of sauces to go with them. Multiple locations,

Linda’s La Cantina
Orlando has plenty of steakhouses, but only Linda’s La Cantina has been in business for 70 years. Several factors contribute to that longevity, chief among them being superb steak, outstanding service and a certain old-school charm that’s tough to beat. And unlike other steakhouses, Linda’s meals are all-inclusive when it comes to sides, salad and bread. Orlando, (407) 894-4491,

Lake Mary Cheesecake
Starting as a small retail shop in 1999 before expanding into a regional commercial bakery, Lake Mary Cheesecake’s successes can be attributed to one overriding factor: some of the best cheesecake we’ve had the pleasure of eating. And with more than 50 varieties to choose from, chances are you’ll find lots to love, too. Altamonte Springs, (407) 869-4177,

Francesco’s Ristorante
You can’t talk about Italian cooking in Greater Orlando without mentioning Francesco’s, and their Lasagna Bolognese is a leading factor as far as we’re concerned. A traditional meat lasagna featuring layers of Béchamel and Bolognese sauces, it’s a taste of the old country made new every time we bite into it. Maitland, (407) 960-5533,

Teak Neighborhood Grill
Pretzel bread is all the rage these days, and Teak is an expert at making it. The Soft Pretzel Rolls appetizer comes with three rolls paired with melted cheddar cheese and honey mustard. If you want more, consider subbing in a hearty pretzel bun on one of their burgers or sandwiches. MetroWest, (407) 313-5111,

Mamak Asian Street Food
A member of Mills 50’s stellar lineup of Asian eateries, Mamak showcases the flavors of Malaysia and the broader Southeast Asia region— and we just can’t get enough of their wok-fried noodle dishes. We particularly recommend Char Kway Teow, a Malaysian mainstay, with the spicy Singapore Mei Fun a close second. Mills 50, (407) 270-4688,

Hanson’s Shoe Repair
Speakeasies are back, but that doesn’t mean we’ve time-traveled to the Prohibition Era. In our opinion, Hanson’s—one of the first entries in the market—continues to be the best. You’ll need a reservation to check it out, but at least you won’t have to worry about any police raids while you’re there. Downtown Orlando, (407) 476-9446,

Olde Hearth Bread Company
Olde Hearth bills itself as Orlando’s original artisan bakery, focusing on healthy, tasty products using high-quality ingredients for nearly 20 years. Better still, their retail outlet at East End Market stocks many of their best creations, including baguettes, naan, their signature “bragels” (bagels made with bread recipes) and much more. Audubon Park, (407) 622-0822,

Pizza (Whole Pie): Pizza Bruno (photo by Nate Shelton)

Pizza Bruno
Chef Bruno Zacchini has a passion for pizza, as evidenced by the out-of-the-world pies he serves at this casual, family-friendly hotspot. While his wood-fired, Neapolitan-style pizzas can be custom built, we usually go with a house specialty and have never been disappointed. Extra point: The best garlic knots we’ve ever had. Dover Shores,

Negril Restaurant
One of the best aspects of Greater Orlando living is the availability of restaurants representing just about every cuisine, and that extends to authentic Jamaican cooking. Our local favorite is either of Negril’s locations, and the Curry Chicken—complete with rice and your choice of side item—is our go-to dish. Ocoee/Orlando, (407) 347-7449/(407) 297- 5729,

Pastries: Benjamin French Bakery & Café (photo by Nate Shelton)

Benjamin French Bakery & Café
Benjamin Coquillou and his wife Nathalie know from French baking, and they bring that expertise to bear at this quaint café. For our money, their pastries are the star attractions, with flavors such as Napoleon, Tiramisu and Crème Brûlée. Of course, you can’t go wrong with their tarts, macarons and other delights, either. Downtown Orlando, (407) 797-2253,

Loving Vegan Market & Cuisine
From what our vegetarian friends tell us, one of the most challenging aspects of their lifestyle is finding restaurants with a wide range of meatfree dishes. That’s never a problem at this establishment, which has one of the most extensive vegetarian menus we’ve seen—and the market can help you prepare similar fare at home. Winter Park, (407) 790-7642,

Porkie’s Original BBQ
Sure, Porkie’s might not look like much from the outside, but one whiff of the interior told us we’d finally found the barbecue joint we’d been dreaming of. With traditional, hearty flavors born of the owners’ travels throughout the Southeast, the only thing Porkie’s will leave you wanting is seconds. Apopka, (407) 880-3351,

Drunken Monkey Coffee Bar
We love coffee, but given Greater Orlando’s nearly year-long warm temperatures, you can’t blame us if we opt for iced coffee more often than not. Just like their hot coffee, Drunken Monkey’s iced variety is roasted in house using fair-trade, organic or even rain-forest beans— and the food is delicious, too. Milk District, (407) 893-4994,

King Bao
Plenty of Orlando eateries serve bao—essentially a steamed Asian sandwich—but our loyalty is to the King. If you have a hard time deciding on which flavors to try, the two- or three-bao combos have you covered, especially with some tots on the side, and the pricing is very reasonable. Mills 50, (407) 237-0013,

White Wolf Café
White Wolf Café is an Orlando legend, and while their menu is eclectic, it also boasts many traditional favorites done perfectly—including their Le French Toast. Starting with brioche bread, they dip it in their secret batter recipe before griddling it to a golden brown and adding butter and powdered sugar on top. Ivanhoe Village, (407) 895-9911,

Hot Dog Heaven
If you’re craving Chicago-style hot dogs, you’ll think you’ve died and gone to, well, heaven upon visiting this no-frills establishment. The Vienna Beef hot dogs, poppy-seed buns and toppings are all shipped in fresh from Chicago, ensuring an authentic taste and making it easy to see why they’ve been in business for 30 years. Orlando, (407) 282-5746,

The Smiling Bison
It stands to reason that true poutine would be hard to find so far from Canada, but thanks to the Smiling Bison, the Great White North has never been closer. Their hand-cut French fries get covered with mushroom gravy and real cheddar-cheese curds, and they go down great with a house cocktail or craft beer. Sanford, (407) 915-6086,

Disney’s Candy Cauldron
Disney has a way of turning the ordinary into the extraordinary, and that magic extends to one of the sweetest excuses we’ve found to visit Disney Springs. More than just a place to satisfy your sweet tooth, the Candy Cauldron lets visitors witness the tasty treats being made live in the shop’s one-of-a-kind show kitchen. Disney Springs, (407) 862-0400

Oblivion Taproom
Yes, Oblivion is mostly known for their burgers—which is all the more reason to shine a light on this awesome appetizer. In addition to making this Southern snack better than anywhere else we’ve tried, the spicy-cool “sri-ranch- a” dipping sauce helps ensure the plate will be empty soon after it’s been delivered. Orlando, (407) 704-4757,

Brown’s New York Deli
You don’t have to travel to New York to find an authentic Jewish deli in these parts—not with Brown’s doing business since 2013. In addition to being a full-service delicatessen selling meat, soup, bread and more, they also have robust breakfast and lunch menus when you’re ready to get your kosher nosh on. Maitland, (407) 960-6999,

Bar Harbor Seafood
With Orlando being Florida’s largest landlocked city, fresh seafood can sometimes be difficult to find—and even more so once lobster’s involved. Speaking of which, Bar Harbor’s Grilled Maine Lobster Salad Roll makes for a refreshing lunch that’s perfect for enjoying before or after you stock up in the retail market. Oak Ridge, (407) 851-4001,

Baja Burrito Kitchen
Granted, Baja isn’t the place to go if you’re looking for truly authentic Mexican fare, but we’ve yet to find a local place that serves bigger, better Tex-Mex and Cali-Mex burritos at fairer prices. Our usual choice is the L.A. Burrito, but there are many options to choose from, and their fresh salsa bar can’t be beat. Coytown, (407) 895-6112

Café 34 Instanbul
To think that the humble chickpea could result in such a sublime snack, or that an unassuming restaurant could produce such an exemplary example of the dish. Café 34 purees chickpeas with crushed sesame seeds, aka tahini, with a dash of garlic, fresh lemon juice and extra-virgin olive oil to create hummus that makes us say “yum.” International Drive, (407) 601-7712,

Eden Bar
Want some leeway in your happy “hour?” Then head to the Enzian Theater’s Eden Bar, where food and drink specials can be had from 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. daily, including $6 cocktails, $5 house wines and $4 appetizers. Plus, if you need some entertainment afterward, the movie house itself is right there. Maitland, (407) 629-1088,

Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen
If your sweet tooth’s craving a milkshake and you haven’t been to Universal’s Toothsome Chocolate Emporium yet, drop what you’re doing and head there now. Amid the steampunk scenery, more than a dozen varieties of gourmet milkshakes await, including flavors like Salted Dulce de Leche,Marshmallow Crisp and Key Lime Pie. Universal CityWalk, (407) 224-3663,

Cheesesteak Factory
To hear northerners tell it, it’s impossible to find a good cheesesteak in Florida. All we can say is that opinions vary—and that they probably haven’t tried this winner yet. In addition to authentic, 6- and 12-inch Philly cheesesteaks, they also offer twists such as a teriyaki take on the original. MetroWest, (407) 985-1988,

Se7en Bites
We haven’t found a better way to start our day than one of Se7en Bites’ delicious breakfast biscuits. From the decadence of the Se7en Benedict or 7th Trimester—loaded with mac and cheese—to simpler fare like Biscuits and Gravy, they have something for everyone, and best of all, breakfast is served all day. Milk District, (407) 203-0727,

Taverna Opa
Taverna Opa is one of our favorite places to dine on Greek cuisine, and their kebob selections are a leading justification. Served with lemon potatoes and spinach rice, they’re available with chicken, beef tenderloin, lamb tenderloin, and our pick, shrimp, which is marinated with lemon-orange zest, garlic, dill and white wine. Pointe Orlando, (407) 351-8660,

Aku Aku Tiki Bar
Ready for a Polynesian adventure? Then set sail for Aku Aku, an authentically decorated watering hole that hearkens back to the tropical-drink craze of the ‘40s and ‘50s. Classic cocktails and house creations are served in specialized cups that are almost as fun as the drinks themselves; the only thing missing is an ocean. Downtown Orlando, (407) 839-0080,

Linda’s Winter Park Diner
Diners are disappearing from Orlando’s culinary landscape, but this Winter Park eatery keeps the tradition going strong. The reason? Great breakfast and lunch options, with the former being served all day. On most visits, we opt for a club sandwich or a melt complemented by a cozy setting and good service. Winter Park, (407) 644-2343,

French Fries: Chroma Modern Bar + Kitchen

Chroma Modern Bar + Kitchen
In many ways, singling out Chroma for their French fries does the restaurant a disservice, as all of Jason Bergeron’s creations are worth your attention. But no matter what you order, be sure to add a side of the chef’s hand-cut, sea salt-seasoned, expertly crafted fries—your taste buds will definitely thank you. Lake Nona, (407) 955-4340,

Tamarind Indian Cuisine
If you’ve yet to try dosa—a type of crepe that’s popular in Indian fare—then you’re missing out, but Tamarind is ready to help you make up for lost time. They have four varieties to choose from, including our personal preference, the spicy Jaipuri Dosa,with the Mysore Masala Dosa a close runner-up. Winter Park, (321) 644-2343,

Trevi Pasta
Summer is the perfect time to risk brain freeze over an ice-cold indulgence like gelato, and in addition to being an outstanding Italian market and restaurant, Trevi Pasta is a pro at making the Italian ice-cream treat. Available in 16 different flavors, it comes in sizes ranging from small to a full pint. College Park, (407) 985-2577,

Lazy Moon Pizza
Lazy Moon was a hit among University of Central Florida students long before they expanded to their new Mills 50 outpost, and that popularity stemmed from fantastic pizza and oversized slices that are bigger than most patrons’ heads. Whether you’re in the mood for eclectic or traditional, chances are they have your new favorite slice. Mills 50/UCF, (407) 412-6222/ (407) 658-2396,

Fusion: Pig Floyd’s Urban Barbakoa (photo by Nate Shelton)

Pig Floyd’s Urban Barbakoa
“Fusion” is a hot buzzword these days, and few places do it bigger or bolder than Pig Floyd’s. Combining the power of classic barbecue with the flavors of the world—such as Barbakoa Bánh Mì, Piri-Piri Pork or the Korean Kimcheeze Taco—Floyd’s covers vegetarians, too, with no-cost tofu substitutions. Lake Nona/Mills 50, (407) 730-7376/(407) 203-0866,

Petty’s Meat Market
If you love meat, then you’ll love Petty’s Meat Market, where you can get just about any kind of protein you might be after, cut to order with a smile. What’s more, you can try before you buy with any number of fresh sandwiches and salads from their food menu. Longwood, (407) 862-0400,

Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin’
Chef Art Smith has made a name for himself in the culinary world, and he brings all his experience— and love of Florida—to bear at his Disney Springs restaurant. Inside, you’ll discover catfish, fried chicken and other Southern delicacies done right, and they all pair perfectly with a moonshine cocktail. Disney Springs, (407) 939-5277,

Shakers American Café
Pancakes are one of those dishes that seem simple on the surface yet require a deft hand to achieve greatness. The Old Fashion Buttermilk Pancakes at Shaker’s certainly pass that test, and if you’re after a little something extra, the blueberry and banana varieties are sure to put a smile on your face. College Park, (407) 422-3534,

North Quarter Tavern
Chef Matt Wall’s North Quarter Tavern is one of our mainstays, and not just because the food’s delicious, but because we can eat almost everything on the menu with our fingers. Gourmet burgers, pizzas, tacos, sandwiches and more are ready to satisfy, along with the eatery’s pub atmosphere and top-notch service. Downtown Orlando, (407) 757-0930,

Lamb Ribs: The Ravenous Pig

The Ravenous Pig
Orlando Family dining critic Michael Lit has spent the past year on a hunt for the perfect lamb rib, and he finally found it almost literally in his own back yard. Served with fava-bean falafel, Harissa yogurt and plum glaze, they’re sinfully succulent enough to eat each and every time we visit “the Pig.” Winter Park, (407) 628- 2333,

The Soda Fountain
A throwback to a simpler era, The Soda Fountain excels at ice cream—especially when it comes to their sundaes. They have seven varieties to choose from, but we usually go for the Elvis; a creation featuring Nutella ice cream, candied bacon, caramel and—of course— peanut butter sauce for a hunk’a-hunk’a freezing love. College Park, (407) 540-1006, 


Colonial Photo & Hobby
Granted, you can find a lot more than cameras here—including rockets, model trains, RC and slot cars, and even kites—but “photo” is literally their middle name. Besides a wealth of cameras from top manufacturers, they also provide film, accessories, processing and even framing services for every perfect shot you capture. Mills 50, (407) 841-1485,

The Pink Chalet
Women of all ages are catered to at the Pink Chalet, where customer service is a top priority. More importantly, the shop has a wide range of accessories, as well as apparel and gifts, and all from top brands such as Alex and Ani, Lilly Pulitzer, Kate Spade and many others. Dr. Phillips, (407) 363-7465,

Writer’s Block Bookstore
Founded in 2014, and located just a stone’s throw from Winter Park’s historic train station, this full-service, independent bookstore caters to devoted readers in ways that the big chains can’t. Simply put, the staff’s passion for reading permeates everything they do, including special orders and hosting a monthly book club. Winter Park, (407) 335-4192,

When we’re after some vintage clothes or furniture, we always make Retromended our first stop. With stock that’s as hip and eclectic as its Mills 50 environs, the store is the brainchild of stylist/owner Brandy Tezak, who curates a selection of locally produced, handmade accessories along with prized items from the past. Mills 50, (407) 674-8190,

Bay Hill Jewelers
With a decade of service to Greater Orlando, Bay Hill Jewelers has earned a reputation for quality. Inside, you’ll find offerings from today’s top designers, including Gucci, Scott Kay, Verragio and many others, and with two locations to choose from, you won’t have to travel far to peruse their gorgeous stock. Dr. Phillips/Winter Park, (407) 226-6882/(321) 422-0948,

Athletic Planet
With so many places to buy activewear in Greater Orlando, we put a premium on great customer service—and the pros at Athletic Planet deliver it in spades. Not to mention the fact that they boast a deep bench when it comes to today’s hottest athletic footwear, apparel and accessories. International Drive, (407) 248-8485,

The Primrose Shop
Gifts are just about the most special thing we can give to other people—even more so when they come from The Primrose Shop. The delightful store specializes in monogrammed items for when you’re after a personal touch, and they have sorority, maternity and baby gifts for just about every occasion. Audubon Park, (407) 447-4621,

Tim’s Wine Market
Tim Varran, the titular founder of this small, mostly Greater Orlando-located family of shops, has more than 20 years of wine-tasting experience, and that extensive knowledge shines through in his stores’ selection. What’s more, they stock a nice array of accessories for making great cocktails and perfecting your pour. Ivanhoe Village/Lake Mary/Windermere, (407) 895-9463/(407) 876-9463,

Gianni Vincent
For the past 40 years, Gianni Vincent has been a premier Orlando source for the finest in jewelry, and for two main reasons: quality and expertise. In addition to carrying top brands, the store also boasts an interactive design center, allowing you to visualize the piece you’ve been dreaming of. Windermere, (407) 217-7625,

Games Shop: Coliseum of Comics (photo by Nate Shelton)

Coliseum of Comics
Nobody plays games with the intention of losing, and shopping for games at any of Coliseum of Comics’ locations makes us feel like winners. In addition to a huge number of role-playing games, table-top games and even board games, the Coliseum’s weekly gaming events also give you the opportunity to play. Multiple locations,

Casa di Bella Bridal Boutique
Krista and Dina Engler, the mother-daughter co-owners of Casa di Bella, want every bride’s special day to be perfect, and they do their part by providing a high-end, albeit relaxed, boutique and a wealth of beautiful dresses. Private appointments are also available, allowing bridal parties to have the whole place to themselves. Celebration, (407) 566-9198,

Magic Pet
Unlike the big chains, Magic Pet is focused solely on the needs of pets in Greater Orlando. Like the big chains, though, they have everything you need to keep your pets happy and healthy. And if your dog or cat needs some freshening up, numerous grooming options are available, too. Baldwin Park/Oviedo, (407) 730-3089/(407) 622-0909,

Orange Cycle
If you want to really enjoy Orlando’s miles of awesome bike trails, you’ll need an awesome bike, and Orange Cycle has been connecting people with wheels since 1972. Regardless of your cycling abilities, they’ll help you choose the right bicycle, and they also have extensive stock of apparel and accessories. College Park, (407) 422-5552,

Eden Park Avenue
Eden doesn’t just have clothes to die for—their talented team of stylists will also ensure that you look your best in them. The team prides itself in providing each customer with a personalized shopping experience, and a range of creations from in-demand designers is just icing on the cake. Winter Park, (407) 644-6522,

Rock & Roll Heaven
Vinyl records have been enjoying a comeback in recent years, but at Rock & Roll Heaven, they never went away. The staff can help you fill in the gaps in your vinyl collection—including hard-to-find jukebox 45s—and accessories and memorabilia are also in stock, including album- cover frames for your most cherished finds. Ivanhoe Village, (407) 896-1952,

In Bloom Florist
Whatever the occasion, In Bloom Florist likely has the perfect arrangement for it. Everything about the operation, headed by the husband-wife team of John and Sally Kobylinski, is geared toward ensuring that the final product is uniquely tailored toward the emotion behind it—and it’s all done one bloom at a time. Downtown Orlando/Heathrow, (407) 608-7474/(407) 608-7656,

Let Us Frame It
Planning on displaying a special work of art or photo on your wall? Then you’re going to want an equally special frame for it. Since 1978, Giovanni Vianello of Let Us Frame It has been a proven master in that regard, and his onsite services will match you with the perfect frame. College Park, (407) 422-7692,

Absolutely Fitting
You’ll look decent enough wearing a suit off the rack, but a custom job will really make you shine, and Absolutely Fitting is ready to create yours. The expert staff will help you select the fabric, style and look that’s right for you, and for considerably less cost than you might expect. Winter Park, (407) 645-4889,

Goldsmith Jewelry
For more than a quarter-century, Goldsmith Jewelers has been beautifying the Greater Orlando area one sale at a time, and their gorgeous selection of high-end necklaces is a leading contributor to that longevity. No matter the price range, no matter the look, they’re sure to have the right piece for you. Orlando, (407) 297-8000,

Big J’s Toys
If there’s one thing the team at Big J’s loves, it’s toys, and they’re all about sharing that love with Greater Orlando. With more than 2,000 square feet of retail space, this family-owned business can stand toe-to-toe with the chains while providing individualized attention and encyclopedic knowledge that those competitors can’t. International Drive, (407) 930-6073,

Shoe Land
Although Shoe Land has continued to grow since its launch, with its reach now extending into Georgia, it started right here in Kissimmee in 1997 and continues to have the best service and selection around. And if you can’t make it to one of their convenient local outlets, their stock is also available online. Kissimmee/ Orlando, (407) 933-7117/(407) 523-7222,


Sun Mist Custom Spray Tanning
Yes, living in Greater Orlando gives us a direct line to natural tanning, but our skin can only take so much of that if we want it to be healthy when we’re older. Enter the pros at Sun Mist, where the tans are always perfect and the pricing affordable. College Park, (407) 964-1420,

The Spa
Nothing melts away our stress like a day at the spa—or in this case, The Spa. Choose from ala- carte indulgences such as massages, body treatments, waxing and more, or achieve maximum rejuvenation with a spa package. Large parties are no trouble, either, and savings can be had with monthly specials and memberships. College Park, (407) 898-7737,

Oh La La Brow Bar & Waxing Studio
Boasting two locations these days, Oh La La is the culmination of owner Natasha’s lifelong love of beauty. Brows, including tinting, 3-D brows and brow embroidery, are obviously their specialty, but they also provide waxing, eyelashes, body art, skincare, makeup and even teeth whitening to keep us feeling and looking gorgeous. Wadeview Park/Winter Park, (321) 236-1095/(407) 790-4059,

Pilates: The Pilates Loft

The Pilates Loft
Pilates is a term that’s been thrown around a lot for the past decade or so, but it can be difficult to find teachers who really know what they’re doing—at least until you visit The Pilates Loft, where certified instructors lead classes for all fitness levels and ages, seven days a week. Downtown Orlando, (407) 898-4641,

Studio CARA
Our makeup’s always picture perfect when we leave it to Studio CARA. Headed by Leslie Christin, who possesses more than a decade’s experience as a film and TV makeup artist, the studio also offers a makeup school, bridal packages and photos, massages, brow & waxing services, and a monthly membership plan. Maitland, (407) 622-1999,

Jusincredible Cutz
When a barbershop has premium talent, products and atmosphere, you expect to pay premium prices, but that’s the other thing we love about Jusincredible: Reasonable pricing that won’t set you back any more than a big chain. Their services include express and hot-towel shaves, as well as call-ahead groom’s parties. Thornton Park, (407) 228-0080,

Atelier Skin Care
Atelier owner Sara Tafrishi has provided clinical skin care for more than two decades, and that experience informs everything her staff does. Whether we need a facial or peel, threading or waxing, or more involved procedures such as body treatments or microdermabrasion, we always know we’re in good hands here. Dr. Phillips, (407) 492-1321,

Forte Fitness Boot Camp & Personal Training
Ready to get serious about your personal-fitness goals? Then report for duty at Forte Fitness, where owner Jennifer Montgomery and her team will help you get results with their unique boot camp program. Plus, in-home personal training is available if you’d rather get into shape in a more private setting. Orlando, (407) 340-7618,

Dermi Wax Center
Unless you’re a masochist, you don’t want to trust an amateur to your waxing. Fortunately, we’ve encountered nothing but seasoned pros at Dermi, which specializes in strip-less, green, hard wax that’s guaranteed safe for your skin. Many other services are available, too, and at prices that won’t break the bank. Southwest Orlando, (321) 332-8100,

Dolce Vita Salon
The sweet life—and a sweet new ‘do—can be enjoyed at either of Dolce Vita’s locations, both of which feature highly skilled, creative stylists and a relaxed ambience. Extras like adjustable shampoo bowls, satellite radio, and complimentary Wi-Fi and beverages (including wine and beer) make the experience all the sweeter. Downtown Orlando/Winter Park, (407) 650-1811/(407) 374-3333,

Just Blow It
Unlike many local blow-dry bars, Just Blow It is family-owned and operated. It also takes that business model to a rarified level, serving as a social spot for women who want to look their best. There are plenty of options beyond blowouts, too, such as styling, accessories, cosmetics and personalized grooming solutions. Waterford Lakes, (407) 982-1855,

Rosewood Holistic Health
Monica Leibacher, the founder of Rosewood Holistic Health, prides herself on staying ahead of the massage game and bringing true relaxation to her clients. Rosewood’s offerings go beyond therapeutic massage, too, extending to craniosacral therapy and essential oil aromatherapy— all of which leaves us feeling loose as a noodle. Celebration, (407) 566-8852,

Coloring: The Color Spa Salon

The Color Bar Salon
Dreaming of a bold, new hair color, or want to maintain your current look? Owner Nadia Cuellar’s team of experts can make those color dreams come true—regardless of your hair type. Cuts, waxing and threading are also available, as well as hair extensions and hot or cold keratin treatments. UCF, (407) 574-2267, The-


Public Park: Lake Eola Park (photo by City of Orlando)

Lake Eola Park
If there’s a better public park in Greater Orlando, we’ve yet to find it. Between the iconic fountain, swan-shaped paddle boats, shows at the Walt Disney Amphitheater, the Farmers’ Market, great nearby restaurants and Lake Eola itself, we’ve spent many a day enjoying the bucolic- urban ambience of this iconic gem. Downtown Orlando, (407) 246-4484,

University of Doglando
Don’t just train your dog; get him or her a degree from the “Home of Scholars with Collars,” as this university is known. Dog training, including in-home options, is their main focus, but their doggy day care services—which include a “dog bus” and weekly baths as options— are worth a look, too. University Park, (407) 574-3160,

Orlando City Soccer Club
This was the Magic’s town for decades, but we’ve been seeing more purple than blue ever since Orlando City joined the MLS. Heralded as a model soccer franchise, the Lions have already brought us plenty of thrills, and now that they’re in their own self-funded stadium, the future looks even brighter. Orlando, (855) 675-2489,

Spotlight Dance Center
We’ll admit it: Our dance repertoire could use some new moves. As we’ve discovered, though, Spotlight Dance Center is more than happy to help us in that regard, offering traditional classes such as ballet and jazz, as well as newer twists like hip hop and Zumba, and kids’ classes are available all summer. Tangelo Park, (407) 370-9411,

CityArts Factory
Downtown Orlando’s largest art-gallery collective, the nonprofit CityArts Factory rotates local and international works of art on a monthly basis. Not only is admission free, but they’ll validate your parking, and they’re happy to host your next event or even lease an entire gallery if your work needs a larger audience. Downtown Orlando, (407) 648-7060,

Bass Pet Resort & Spa
When you take a vacation but can’t bring your pets along, you can at least do the next best thing by giving them a vacation, too. In addition to dogs and cats, other domestic pets are welcome to stay and be pampered, and training and grooming are also available. Kissimmee, (407) 917-8329,

Florida Film Festival
Thanks to the theme parks, Greater Orlando attracts a lot of celebrities, but the Florida Film Festival (FFF) is no slouch in that area, either, including previous visitors like Susan Sarandon, Christopher Walken, Emma Stone and many others. Not to mention that the featured movies themselves have plenty of star power. Maitland, (407) 629-1088,

Crealdé School of Art
Don’t let your artistic talent or that of loved ones go to waste—hone it into a thing of beauty at Crealdé. Founded in 1975, the school offers numerous classes for visual artistic expression, including painting & drawing, jewelry & glassmaking, photography and more, and kids are covered with the Young Artist Program. Winter Park, (407) 671-1886,

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
We might have a new favorite once Star Wars Land opens at Hollywood Studios, but for now, all hail the Boy Who Lived. Diagon Alley, the Leaky Cauldron and other Harry Potter locations are amazing, but rides like Flight of the Hippogriff and Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey are the real stars. Universal Studios Orlando, (407) 363-8000,


Antique Shop
Adjectives in Winter Park

Card/Gift Shop
Walk on Water in Lake Mary & Winter Park

Children’s Boutique
Once Upon a Child in multiple locations

Woodhouse Day Spa in Dr. Phillips

Gym/Workout Center
RDV Sportsplex Athletic Club in Maitland

Hair Styling
Salon JW in Orlando

Ice Cream
Kelly’s Homemade Ice Cream in Audubon Park

Italian Ice
Jeremiah’s Italian Ice in multiple locations

Italian Restaurant
Peperoncino in Dr. Phillips

G.R. Bridges Jewelry in Maitland

Tipsy SalonBar in Winter Park

Men’s Clothing (Casual)
Outfitters Ave. in Winter Park

Pastry Shop/Bakery
Charlie’s Bakery in Orlando

Pet Services
Woof! Orlando in College Park

Pet Supplies
Woof Gang Bakery in multiple locations

Romantic Restaurant
310 Park South in Winter Park

Women’s Clothing (Casual)
Susie Q Boutique in Winter Park

This article originally appeared in Orlando Family Magazine’s June 2017 issue.