101 Things to love about Cen­tral Florida

Read­ers shared hun­dreds of peo­ple, places, ex­pe­ri­ences and in­sti­tu­tions for the 2019 edi­tion of our annual list.

Orlando Sentinel - - FRONT PAGE - Scott Maxwell Sen­tinel Colum­nist

It’s time again to give thanks for all the things that make Cen­tral Florida a spe­cial place to live. Read­ers of­fered hun­dreds of sug­ges­tions for this year’s list of “101 Things to Love about Or­lando.”♦ Some are old fa­vorites. Oth­ers are newer ar­rivals you might want to look up or check out. All make Or­lando unique. Here’s this year’s list:

The M Bar on North Or­ange Av­enue — a place with more than 60 rare and clas­sic cars packed into a play­ful down­town bar that many peo­ple drive right past with­out know­ing what’s in­side.

The boat tours in Win­ter Park Boat and moonlight walk­ing tours at Green­wood Ceme­tery.

Easy ac­cess to five cruise ports.

Great white egrets, great blue herons and great big blub­bery man­a­tees.

The Hour­glass District, the Milk District and the fact the Or­lando keeps adding so many cool, neigh­bor­hood dis­tricts.

Linda’s La Cantina in Or­lando, Francesco’s in Mait­land and Shan­non’s Ca­sual Café near Edge­wood.

Mount Dora’s art fes­ti­val, Kis­sim­mee’s Lake­front Park and San­ford’s River­walk.

Teeny tiny Song­bird Park in Audubon Park, where all the bird houses are repli­cas of the nearby small busi­nesses.

The re­turn of play­off bas­ket­ball for the Magic. The in­sanely pas­sion­ate fan base of Or­lando City Soc­cer. And the women’s World Cup play­ers who play for the Pride. (They cap­ture the world’s at­ten­tion

ev­ery four years. But you can catch them on Or­lando’s home field on a reg­u­lar old Satur­day night.) The Or­lando So­lar Bears. The Blue Bam­boo Cen­ter for the Arts in Win­ter Park and the Sharon L. Morse Per­form­ing Arts Cen­ter in The Vil­lages.

Phi­lan­thropists like Alan Gins­burg, Jim and Alexis Pugh, and Har­ris and Tr­ish Rosen.

Or­lando Fringe, Pecha Kucha and Night of Fire at the Cre­aldé School of Art.

Mad Cow The­ater and the Or­lando Shakes.

So many trails, in­clud­ing the West Or­ange, Cross Semi­nole, Spring-to-Spring and Cady Way.

A world-class air­port with non­stop flights just about any­where you want to go. Fox­tail Cof­fee. Coli­seum of Comics. Kelly’s Home­made Ice Cream. The mu­rals of Mis­ter Rogers, Bob Ross and Fred­die Mer­cury on the sides of Floyd’s bar­ber­shops.

The abil­ity to wear shorts in De­cem­ber.

Keep Or­lando Beau­ti­ful’s annual Trash 2 Trends fash­ion show — where ev­ery eye-pop­ping dress is made out of re­cy­cled ma­te­ri­als, rang­ing from pop tops and bi­cy­cle tires to old Keurig cups and plas­tic bags.

The Enzian The­ater and Or­lando Shuffle.

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive and Mer­ritt Is­land Na­tional Wildlife Refuge.

That Or­lando is di­verse … and wel­come to new­com­ers … and open to new ideas.

An abun­dance of good health care op­tions and a com­pas­sion­ate net­work of hos­pice choices.

Park Av­enue, Sand Lake’s restau­rant row and Boxi Park in Lake Nona.

Stay­ca­tions and Florida-res­i­dent dis­counts.

East End Mar­ket and Mar­ket on South.

Movies at Leu Gar­dens and mu­sic at the Yalaha Bak­ery.

Dog parks, yoga at Lake Eola and the en­tire mu­seum-, art-, the­ater- and science-filled cul­tural com­plex at Loch Haven Park.

Knowles Me­mo­rial Chapel at Rollins Col­lege and the RE­STORE Clinic at UCF.

The League of Women Vot­ers, the Cen­ter Or­lando and Or­lando’s Touch­down Club.

So many other clubs that do so much good — in­clud­ing the Ro­tary, Ki­wa­nis, Lions and Elks.

So many lakes. And farm­ers mar­kets.

Hol­i­day tra­di­tions, in­clud­ing the Fes­ti­val of Trees, the Mes­siah Choral So­ci­ety, Bach Fes­ti­val So­ci­ety and Mo­ra­vian Love Feasts in Long­wood and else­where.

The lo­cal li­brary sys­tems and the armies of vol­un­teers and “friends” who sup­port them.

Beaches less than 90 min­utes in each di­rec­tion.

The Vic­tory Cup; Cen­tral Florida’s own “Shark Tank” for lo­cal non­prof­its.

The view from the top of the Or­ange County court­house.

Dis­ney’s An­i­mal King­dom Lodge. SeaWorld’s Kraken. And the queue for the Simp­sons Ride at Uni­ver­sal (one of the few wait­ing ar­eas in all of theme parks that’s ac­tu­ally en­ter­tain­ing). Ga­tor­land.

The Di­verse Word po­etry and spo­ken word gath­er­ing at Dan­de­lion Café.

The Old Span­ish Sugar Mill’s grid­dle-your-own pan­cakes at De Leon Springs State Park.

Blue­grass fes­ti­vals, in­clud­ing the ones at Fort Christ­mas in east Or­ange and Mag­no­lia Park in Apopka.

The Run­ning of the Chi­huahuas in Win­ter Park.

The Osce­ola County His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety and the En­ter­prise Preser­va­tion So­ci­ety.

Writer’s Block Book­store. The Wine and Art Walk in Thorn­ton Park and Sip & Stroll in Audubon Park. (It’s ap­par­ently dif­fi­cult to walk any­where in these neigh­bor­hoods with­out pinot noir.)

WMFE and WPRK. Mead Botan­i­cal Gar­dens and The Univer­sity of Florida’s Ex­plo­ration Gar­dens near the air­port.

Shep­herd’s Hope, the Dream­plex in Cler­mont and the Ca­ma­raderie Foun­da­tion.

Pig Floyd’s. The Or­ange County Re­gional His­tory Cen­ter.

And the spec­tac­u­larly unique abil­ity to watch rocket launches from your own back­yard.


Jim Ro­mano and his labradoo­dle, Brook­lyn, en­joy an af­ter­noon stroll on the San­ford River­walk Trail, one of Cen­tral Florida’s fa­vorite out­door spots.


The annual Run­ning of the Chi­huahuas in Win­ter Park is a beloved event that ranks among the top 101 things that make this area spe­cial.


Cen­tral Florid­i­ans de­light in hav­ing the unique op­por­tu­nity to watch Space Coast rocket launches from their own back­yards.

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