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7 Hidden Gems Outside Walt Disney World You NEED to Visit

Winter Park, Fl.

 miosotis-jade, Flickr (license)

Image: miosotis-jade, Flickr (license)

Disney Springs is a fantastic place to walk around and explore, but if you’re looking for something slightly more authentic than that designed city that never was, Winter Park is among the most quaint small towns in the Southeast — and very easy to see on foot.

Just 40 minutes from Walt Disney World, Winter Park’s main thoroughfare of Park Avenue is chock full of restaurants and shopping that are every bit as charming and delicious as what you’d find at Disney’s shopping center. And, if you don’t live somewhere with many interesting places to walk, you’ll find yourself enamored with the small-town charm of the neighborhood.

With good food, art galleries, and lush sidewalk horticulture, Winter Park is the perfect image of a Florida town — and a perfect break from the manufactured reality of Walt Disney World. 

Lake Eola

 joeshlabotnik, Flickr (license)

Image: joeshlabotnik, Flickr (license)

It’s sometimes easy to forget, but Walt Disney World resides just a few miles away from a proper metropolitan city. As with any city, there’s tons of culture just waiting to be sampled by any tourist — and the culture of Orlando is worth escaping the gravitational pull of Walt Disney World for at least a day.

One aspect of that culture is Lake Eola, a beautiful public park downtown in Orlando that serves as a kind of focal point for public life in the Magic City. It hosts festivals and events, yes, but it’s also just a magnificent public space to explore — on bicycle, roller blades, or even just on foot.

The Disney parks are wonderful, but they are not places for citizens of Orlando to go and congregate and spend time. If you want a real taste of life in Central Florida, Lake Eola is a perfect place to check out. 

An Orlando City SC (or Orlando Pride) soccer game

 highwaytodistraction, Flickr (license)

Image: highwaytodistraction, Flickr (license)

Maybe you want thrills of a different sort, and maybe you want to experience those thrills while surrounded by thousands of Orlando residents communing over a shared love of sport.

Or, maybe you just love soccer and want to see the beautiful game.

Whatever the draw, Orlando City SC is as unique a sports experience as you will ever have. The team plays in a purpose-built stadium right in the heart of Orlando, giving match days an electric vibe unlike anything you’ve ever experienced at a basketball or football game. And, importantly, the whole city loves its soccer team — with Orlando City SC merchandise coming out whenever the team is ready to play.

Additionally, Orlando's women's soccer team -- Orlando Pride -- features several international-level superstars, such as Alex Morgan, Marta, and Sydney Leroux.

As an experience, seeing a match in person is a piece of local culture than cannot be replicated anywhere else. Even if you’ve seen soccer in other places, Orlando has a soccer culture all to its own — and the city truly is a soccer city.

And, if you find yourself starting to miss Walt Disney World while you’re at the match, don’t worry — Disney’s a team sponsor.

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