Park Avenue Orlando Shopping Guide

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One of my favorite parts of Orlando is the practically year long wonderful weather. As a life-long Floridian I have become sufficiently used to the heat that even the dog-days of summer are perfect to be outside. Florida attraction creators seemed to have realized this; as a result there are a slew of outdoor establishments ready to appeal to my Vitamin D necessity. As much as I love walks appreciating the prickling across my arms from the blazing sun, I enjoy being productive as well. What better way to acquire the best of both worlds than outdoor shopping! Just this weekend I went to Park Avenue in Winter Park and remembered what makes it such a spectacular breezy, summer day destination.

As much as I enjoy the cool industrial smell and feeling of air conditioning sprawling across stores at regular malls, the breath of fresh air as I switch stores in Winter Park can’t be beat. The typical shopping center in Florida, such as Florida Mall, Mall at Millenia, and Fashion Square also has the unattractive tendency of being mirror images of each other. Though they often have some unique shops, Park Avenue has far more per chain store than most other shopping centers.

My personal interest is centered on clothing, unsurprisingly. If you’re looking for recognizable brands look no further than Gap, Talbot’s, Chico’s, and Lucky Brand. Park Avenue also boasts a Lilly Pulitzer, the Florida-style based brand that’s tricky to find elsewhere. If preppy is your look pop into Siegel’s, the perfect location to find an ensemble to match your favorite pair of Sperry’s. If you prefer a little drama in your personal style try Moda, their exceptional staff will help you find an eccentric outfit for your weekend. I absolutely love Violet Clover despite rarely being able to afford their trendy styles which along with Tuni and Charyli are the destinations for trendy pieces sure to make your outfits stripped from the pages of a magazine. They even have The Collection Bridal, ready to dress you in your perfect gown for your wedding. I haven’t been but should the necessity of an ostentatious, expensive white gown find me, I’ll be sure to check it out.

Men’s apparel stores, as usual, are in shorter supply than the over abundance of female retailers. Nonetheless, the Park Avenue Orlando strip has a few standouts that I often recommend to my male friends. My particular favorite is John Craig. Styles with the southern gentleman in mind; their clean cut is sure to make ladies swoon and their staff is knowledgeable, helpful, and honest on what fits. No compliments for your vanity in this place! As Moda is to female clothing, Current is to male. Walk in at the right time and you might forget it’s a store instead of a nightclub. The styles match the environment: dark colors, wild prints, and tight silhouettes are the norm.

Children’s clothes can be found at tugboat & the bird and Max and Marley, both great destinations for sweet, unique kid styles.

Apart from the expanse of delectable eating available on this street there are many options so you can make your meals outstanding. I make a beeline for The Ancient Olive every time I find myself in the area. It’s tricky to find, as it’s not directly on Park Avenue, it’s right next to the Bistro on Park in an in between alley. This place is fantastic. It takes the tasting style of the Wine Room and transforms it into an Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar sampler. The quality is outstanding and the flavors are devastating. One sip and all others are ruined. I particularly love the raspberry balsamic. To complete your meal be sure to head to The Spice and Tea Exchange or my preference, Penzeys Spices. They have free recipe cards that helped me cook one of the tastiest and spiciest curries in my experience.

I have to make a miscellaneous category because there are still plenty of stores I love that need a shout-out. Earth Inspired Living and One Thousand Villages are my go to destinations for interesting gifts during the holidays. Among the jewelry, knick knacks, creams, hats, and kitchen ware between these two stores, I can always find a fun option to wow my friends and family. Restoration Hardware also has interesting small pieces for gifts, and their furniture is fantastic! I don’t own a piece but with the appropriate funds I would happily go purchase one. The Doggie Door is a fun store for pet lovers to find rugs, bowls, and more themes to their animal loving and the attached wine decoration Unleashed is always tempting. Don’t forget to stop by the small Orlando Watch Company for a look at some quirky pieces. If you ever have a question on any wearable timepiece, they can answer it for you.

This is just a small sampling of the finds on Park Avenue. The next time the weather inspires you to be outside, make sure to take a walk down this street for a series of interesting boutiques. There are plenty of shops even I have never entered that I am positive are worth your attention. Good luck shopping!

Trader Joes Orlando: Locations and News

Trader Joe's OrlandoTrader Joe’s is an extremely popular chain of specialty grocery stores located in various markets in the United States. Headquartered in Los Angeles, California, the chain has nearly 500 stores across the nation.

Trader Joe’s stores are different from typical grocery stores in that they carry significantly less variety in its inventory. A typical grocery store carries up to 50,000 items while a Trader Joe’s typically has around 4,000. Also, roughly 80% of the products bear the Trader Joe’s brand name. The private label products at Trader Joe’s claim to not have artificial colors, flavors, preservatives, or trans fats.

The chain has a reputation for being environmentally friendly, having a wide selection of organic and healthy foods and a lower price point from stores such as Whole Foods Market.

As the company has grown into new markets, the following of Trader Joes has indeed grown. Many fans swear by the store and seek out a local Trader Joe’s store when visiting other cities.

In Orlando, local residents have been anxiously awaiting the arrival of Trader Joe’s even with a number of locations of Whole Foods and Fresh Market stores.

The presence of Trader Joe’s in the state of Florida has been somewhat limited with stores in Gainesville and Sarasota, but that appears to be slowly changing.

As of August 2013, Orlando residents can be excited to hear that there are two Trader Joes Orlando locations coming.

Trader Joe’s in Dr Phillips

A 12,500 square foot Trader Joe’s store will be built in the Dr. Phillips area at Sand Lake Road and Sandpoint Boulevard. The store is a logical location given the density of high income population and quality restaurants. The location is an anchor tenant of a new retail center adjacent to the Dellagio complex on Sand Lake Rd. The new complex dubbed Parkside at Dr Phillips will be on the other side of Sandpoint Blvd from Dellagio (closer to Apopka Vineland Rd.) The Trader Joe’s in Dr Phillips will be within a mile of a Whole Foods store and just a few miles down Dr Phillips Blvd from a Fresh Market store.

Trader Joe’s in Winter Park

On the other side of town, in Winter Park, Trader Joe’s will open in Lakside at Winter Park near Lake Killarney opposite of Morse Blvd. Like Dr Phillips, Winter Park is a logical location given the high income residents and number of Orlando “foodies”.

We will continue to watch as Trader Joe’s expands their presence in the Central Florida market and update readers as new Trader Joes Orlando locations come online.

To hear about anything new with Trader Joe’s in Orlando before anyone else, sign up to our email list using the form on the top-right portion of this page. Then you’ll get an email straight to your inbox with any new Trader Joe’s Central Florida news.

Fun and unique Orlando bachelor party ideas

Are you planning some festivities to celebrate your buddy’s approaching wedding? No need to book airfare to Las Vegas as we’ve got you covered with some excellent Orlando bachelor party ideas. Sure, there’s always Downtown Orlando, but you’ve been there and done that. For your bud’s bachelor party, it’s time to get a little more creative and do something a little more out of the box and memorable.

Rocco’s Tacos and Corona Cigar

If you’re looking for festive food and drink, fewer places are more fun than Rocco’s Tacos on Sand Lake Rd. This rockin’ joint took the space of the old Samba Room adjacent to the Publix on Sand Lake Rd. If you’re heading here on a weekend night, be sure to put in a reservation (and you’ll likely still wait). This place gets utterly slammed on weekends. It’s an ideal mix of a loud, fun, energetic restaurant environment that serves good, inexpensive food and a plethora of libations. You’ll see groups ordering shots in the middle of dinner, and you’ll notice a handful of couples get up and dance in the middle of the restaurant. Get the guacamole and some drinks, then go light on actual dinner. You’ll be plenty full.

Follow up the dinner action with a low-key wind down in the manliest place in Orlando: Corona Cigar Co. Go inside and light up some stogies. Find some seats on the king chairs around the big screen TV and order some cold beers. Corona doesn’t serve liquor, so your options will be limited to beer and wine.

Be sure to take a taxi home, of course.

Orange County National golf overnight

Looking to integrate some golf action into a bachelor party event? Look no further than Orange County National. Orange County National has multiple golf courses and an onsite lodge. Golf two days in a row and do some eating and drinking at night at the lodge. No driving around town necessary as you’ve got everything you need on property.

As for the golf courses, they are in excellent shape and have enough variety to keep all golfers very interested.

Grande Lakes golf and pool 

If you’re looking for a more upscale overnight location in Orlando, consider the JW Marriott and Ritz-Carlton properties at Grande Lakes. Frankly, the JW Marriott is such a fantastic property, it’s not necessary paying a little more for the adjacent Ritz-Carlton. The pool at the JW Marriott will treat you well. It’s a lush tropical environment, not too crowded, and one that serves plenty of food and drink in the sunshine.

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The Grande Lakes golf course is a high end course. You’ll pay a little extra for it, but it’s a fantastic course.

Looking for something similar, but don’t want to head to Grande Lakes? Consider the Hilton and Waldorf-Astoria (near Disney) which has a very similar setup to Grande Lakes.

Texas De Brazil and Kings Bowl

If you’re looking to eat well and incorporate a fun activity into the bachelor party night, consider a tandem of Brazilian Steakhouse Texas De Brazil and nearby Kings Bowl. Texas De Brazil (or recently added Fogo de Chao) is a Brazilian Steakhouse on International Drive where meat lovers flock to. The variety and volume of meats available to consume will leave you stuffed.

After leaving with a full belly, head over to Kings Bowl (opened in 2013) which is a high-end bowling alley that is half night club, half bowling. If you have a group of 10-15 guests, consider the private room in front of the building which has your own lanes and even an adjacent outdoor bocce court on the patio – very cool. If not, get some lanes in the back room near the pool tables and shuffle board.

Orlando Grand Prix

Golf and bowling too tame for you? Consider getting the competitive juices and adrenaline flowing by heading over to the Orlando Grand Prix near the Florida Mall. This indoor go-kart facility allows extreme speeds on some killer indoor tracks. The facility can even time the racers and allow you to compete against your buddies. Orlando Grand Prix has two tracks and some basic food & beverage options. Plan on heading to dinner somewhere following the grand prix experience.

Want to get even more extreme? Consider heading out to Richard Petty Driving Experience and take a few laps riding shotgun in a real race car or an exotic Lamborghini at speeds topping 125 MPH.

Want to do something competitive and fun, but racing not your style? Check out Whirly Ball and the Whirly Dome on International Drive.

Conclusion

Bachelor parties are meant to bring you and your friends together to celebrate the upcoing wedding of a close friend. Don’t sell yourselves short by limiting your bachelor party event to some downtown Orlando bar or club hopping. Bring together a number of these Orlando bachelor party ideas to put together the ultimate night that you’ll remember for years to come.

Review: The Sleeping Moon Cafe

It seems as if the one spot in Orlando that eludes me is the perfect place to relax. Ironically, we are a city of tourists. Most people come here to relax. But amid the bustle of my family and niece at home and the throngs of children at work every day, it’s tricky to find a spot to just sit quietly and pensively considering an appropriate topic for my next article. In college I would sit in the library or the on campus Starbucks, plug my soul into the wall, and sit facing my screen for hours with no interruptions apart from the occasional text. The luxury is no longer afforded to me, and it’s tricky to muster up the energy to go to a spot that isn’t a walk away when I could just sit at home and attempt to tune out the familial responsibilities.

I was off work yesterday and feeling slightly overwhelmed with the plans that needed to be executed before the weekend was over. I decided to take a break from the day and have a low-key lunch with a friend before starting on the litany of activities facing me. Just writing my to-do list was daunting. Wanting to try something new, I suggested The Sleeping Moon Café. I had never been but it was about 5 minutes from my house and 1 minute from his. The exact amount of ease I was willing to expend for lunch. Upon walking in I was surprised to find a coordinating mish-mosh of chairs, tables, and art decorating the small interior of the location on the corner of Aloma and Semoran.

A mix of soft music you swear you’ve heard before serenaded us as we walked up to the counter featuring a Hello Kitty water cooler. The chalkboard menu behind the cash register itemized a number of appetizers (more like side items), salads, and sandwiches to appeal to a variety of palates. My companion ordered a BBQ chicken sandwich and I, feeling adventurous, went with their New Zealand Turkey which included a kiwi chutney spread I had to try. I paired it with the tea of the day and my friend purchased a latte. All together we spent $24—a little more than Chipotle, my go-to weekday meal. We took the time as we waited for our food to take a closer look at our surroundings.

My favorite aspect of the interior was a large, branch filled tree in the middle of the small café with hanging foliage. The tables, chairs, and two small couches are all arranged around a stage stocked with musical instruments and microphones against a wall spotted with varying art pieces incorporating a moon theme. I chatted with the staff and asked what sort of entertainment could be expected on which nights. They informed me that the first and third Wednesday of every night hosted an Open Mic Poetry night, a weekly Tuesday general Open Mike, and a Saturday Stand Up Showcase. They mentioned a variety of other events they are often hosting, including an occasional guided art class for beginners and varying music events. Apart from being an eatery, The Sleeping Moon Café is a veritable art gallery. Local artists showcase their work and should you be interested in any of the pieces you can just ask for it and pay there.

Our sandwiches were brought out and they were positively delectable. My tea was sweetened, a decision I normally like to make myself, and my friend’s latte was as tasty as lattes usually are to those that enjoy them. What should have been a quick lunch escalated into a long-winded discussion about the café, the art of conversation, and the curiously addictive nature of television. The Sleeping Moon Café lends itself to meet the individual needs of those who enter. With plugs along the wall and complimentary Wi-Fi, the interior volume on a regular afternoon is perfect for sitting and studying without the line out the door of Starbucks, but the light chatter of the staff behind the register and coffee machine allows for a soft conversation without that awful feeling that you’re disturbing someone.

I was thrilled with The Sleeping Moon Café and instantly decided it will be my Sunday morning destination as I write out articles, plan my weekly schedule, and in general engage in all the other activities I normally crave solitude for such as passing that impossible level in Candy Crush. Or, should I want to impress a friend with my knowledge of off the beaten path haunts, I would be proud to bring them here. I highly recommend this small, unassuming corner café for whatever your needs, and will soon check out their special event nights but I do not expect them to disappoint.

Review of Relax Grill at Lake Eola

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Summer heat, though a relief from the frigid climate of winter, can often leave one feeling lethargic and unwilling to do anything other then languidly entomb oneself in a chair under a fan. Yet it appears that despite the pull to AC and reruns of The Walking Dead, Orlando dwellers continue to seek the outdoors and the company of others. It’s tricky to find the best locations to engage in social interaction, but this past week I found a solid option.

One of my new coworkers is moving to Hawaii. She’s a wanderer and her time in Orlando is up. Though we will certainly miss her, we are ecstatic over her success and thrilled at the opportunity to go out and celebrate with drinks. She decided to have us all commune at Relax Grill on Lake Eola. I had seen it in passing on my occasional walks around the lake but had never bothered to take a closer look. We went on Wednesday, her last day, to bid her adieu.

Relax Grill is located on the edge of Lake Eola right in the middle of Downtown Orlando. It’s an open air bar with a large seating area filled with outdoor furniture. Foliage surrounds the main area, and the vibe is generally tropical, though not outwardly. Over the summer they are having Relax Summer with a variety of daily specials. All day everyday you can purchase $3 Smirnoffs and Margaritas (that’s where I indulged), $5 pitchers and appetizers until 6, $10 wine bottles, and there are a variety of weekly specials. Thursdays are $5 burger nights and $10 for all you can drink from 6-8, and Friday is all you can drink for $10 from 6-8. We were all crossing our fingers for rain and even moved to spots under cover since we all definitely felt drops. Shots are $2 off in the case of rain.

The name is certainly an accurate moniker. Service was very casual, it wasn’t actually an issue as it normally is for me. I went to sit and chat with friends for a few hours, not to be hounded for my order or for another round of drinks. We stumbled on to a trivia night, which apparently occurs every Wednesday night. 5 of us stuck around finding the questions not only doable but downright fun. We started off in third place and after 4 rounds ended in 5th. It was a blast.

The scenery is certainly lovely. Our dinner show consisted of silly swan antics, counting how many laps we saw runners do, and as the light dimmed the fountain in the lake was lit up with a variety of colors. I had never been late enough to notice. This was actually my first outing with the coworkers in my new job and I was admittedly apprehensive about spending even more hours with them after an 8 hour day. I was unprepared for the realization that a few pitchers of Bud Light and some tangy margaritas are the ideal table setting to bond over something other than our jobs.

Relax Grill ended up being a fun spot to go for after work drinks, and the unexpected trivia gave us all a chance to test our brains merit. If you’re near the city and looking for a place to, well, relax, this might be your place!

Visit RelaxGrill.com for menus and more information about Relax Grill

Photo Credit: RelaxGrill.com

Volunteering in Orlando: New Hope for Kids

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Occasionally I find myself seeking some consistency to my free time. Deciding what restaurant, event, or shopping center to try out can often be exhausting and results in me sitting at home in my pajamas munching on Ruffles and writing articles on upcoming events instead of recently tried eateries. Despite this, I still seek activity from my afternoons. One of the easiest ways I have combated my lack of planning with my desperation to engage with the community is volunteering. Orlando, along with its world class cuisine and destination shopping, is also home to many fantastic non-profits that always need help. This is the first of a series of articles showcasing some of the most interesting volunteer locations in Central Florida.

Most volunteering involves helping the community in one way or another. One of my favorite spots that I have now been involved with for a year is New Hope for Kids, a non profit situated in Maitland dedicated to helping out children who have suffered great loss. Either as a result of a death close to them or serious illness, New Hope has a variety of ways to help. Since 1996, New Hope has been actively trying to improve the lives of children and families through healing groups and activities. Their funding is primarily through donations by individuals, corporations, with no government help. This is actually the first way to help, as a dollar to them can mean the difference between having the right paint colors for a child to express themselves or not.

I am involved with The Center for Grieving Children which helps children and families work through and cope with the despair resulting from the death of a loved one. The concept involves weekday groups in the afternoon after school, where children come and chat about their emotions. While the children are in their groups, parents are in their own session all together with a mental health counselor. It all takes place in a small house located on the intersection of Maitland Avenue and Maitland Boulevard. Entering the house is like entering a storybook heaven for children. Everything is in soft, bright colors but altogether the environment feels subdued and comforting. There are a series of rooms where the kids can spend their afternoon painting, crafting, playing games such as foosball, or even hitting a punching bag. Group sessions involve a few minutes of reflection and then an hour of uninterrupted play with the intention of allowing kids to be kids and have fun without the weight of the memories home and their regular environment can bring. Volunteer Grief Facilitators oversee the groups (that’s what I do!) and help the children work through ways to cope with grief through reflective conversation. In my year there I have seen many children walk in burdened by pain learn to work through it in their own manner and go back to their carefree, but perhaps more pensive, attitudes toward life. Should you be interested in volunteering all you need is a two day weekend training and a bi-weekly yearlong commitment. One of my favorite aspects of New Hope is that sessions are every other week, so I only need to be there every other Thursday afternoon. It is a completely manageable time span in comparison to more hefty volunteer locations elsewhere.

New Hope also has a Wish Program that grants wishes for children with chronic, life threatening disorders. The hardships resulting from chronic illness extend past the mental strain to often monetary and even time constraints. New Hope tries to help families provide children with the ability to engage in an activity they might not have been able to do otherwise.

The facility is in need of all sorts of volunteers so be sure to check out their website for any information on how to help. One of the ways that New Hope raises money is through fundraisers such as casino nights, auctions, and their yearly Art on the Vine wine and food tasting event. They have a monthly “Get Acquainted Lunch” in which you can reserve a spot to chat with some of the staff and learn more details on what they do.

New Hope for Kids is a wonderful non profit operating right out of Central Florida. Volunteers do so for many reasons, for experience on applications, to help out the community, or for the reason why I do. I simply enjoy working with kids and having a way to occupy my afternoons. Every Thursday I head out of my office lethargically after a long day working, upon my drive home after New Hope I always feel rejuvenated replaying the fun I had with the kids. Should you find yourself looking for a different manner to spend your time, consider contacting New Hope for Kids and signing up for their periodic training. If you stay involved, I guarantee you will not regret it.

Orlando City Soccer Club offers great sporting experience for locals

soccerThe worldwide soccer (should I say football?) season is quickly approaching. 4 years ago I watched the USA vanquish the unbeatable Spain in the semi-final match of the Confederations Cup. I was instantly invested and shed many tears as I watched them lose the next match to Brazil earning them a second place finish. The next year was spent feverishly reading every tidbit on the US national team, and all of a sudden, I realized I was into a sport for the first time in my entire life. Suddenly my head was filled with team formations, player names and stats, and new meaning to the term offside. I was hooked.

The time has once again come to qualify for the World Cup, and once again, I have soccer on the brain. Having never seen a soccer game in person, I was wracking my brain for an appropriate budget that would allow me to fly to Brazil and garner entrance into a match while still allowing me to eat and have shelter until then. My brother-in-law made a better suggestion, attend an Orlando City Soccer Game and watch the action while supporting the city I love so much.

Regular season tickets cost anywhere from $15 to $30, which I found to be an extremely reasonable price. Nonetheless, I scoured the Internet for coupons and was able to find a GroupOn for four midfield tickets at $49. Perfect! I tossed together a few friends and we all mentally prepared for a 7:30 pm game against the Charleston Battery. A few carefully worded searches informed me that the team’s colors were purple and red. I donned a bright red long-sleeved top with some shorts for the athletic look I so often see game attendees sporting and drove over to the Citrus Bowl for an evening of cheering on my hometown team.

The game was a blast. Our midfield seats afforded us a fantastic view of the parley between the opposing teams. Mind you, I have been watching national teams for the last 4 years, which includes the best players from each country with the best coaches and unparalleled organization. I enjoyed the match as it allowed me to view the simpler field dynamics. I could see the defensive and midfield line forming and the calculated move of the strikers as they tried to make their advance to victory. Both teams had definite flaws, possession was often foolishly relinquished and I wasn’t always quite sure to whom players were attempting to pass the ball to. Despite this, our team managed a lovely goal in the first half only to lose our lead to Charleston after one of those aforementioned sudden hang-ups. A timely foul in the penalty box allowed us a free shot that we took the utmost advantage of and we were back in the lead 2-1. The game was certainly thrilling and I was often on my feet shouting at the ref and casually disregarding our side’s occasional sneaky moves. I left satisfied and excited to attend another match given the chance. So the pros and the cons:

Pros: The fans. Over near the goal was a small, but obviously steadily attending group of fans with an organized cheering system that was quite the site to behold.  The two 45 minute halves provided no rest from their relentless singing and cheering. Not a section for children as there was plenty of cursing and rude signals no one needs to imitate. But they were a blast and lent a feverish excitement to the whole game. Our fantastic seats were also a definite pro as I was able to easily keep track of the ball without ever having to ask the fellows on each side what was happening.

Cons: The Citrus Bowl. It’s old. It’s way too big for the fan base. It’s really old. The bathrooms have a yellow tinge to the water that I would prefer not to dwell on and seats are uncomfortable and claustrophobic. Also, the food vendors left much to be desired. There was beer for the adults, lots of fried food, and an unnecessarily expensive glass of sour water parading as an Arnold Palmer.

Some halftime browsing of the program immediately addressed my biggest issue; the venue ill suited for a soccer match. Apparently, Orlando is vying to have the Orlando City Soccer club team upgraded to MLS status, which is essentially the NBA or NFL of soccer. The biggest setback is a lack of a proper field and location for their games. They have an online petition going at the site orlandobelievesinmls.com to allocate city funds toward working on making it happen! I signed it as soon as I made it home.

The Magic aren’t always around and if you aren’t particularly interested in some of the city’s football games consider trying out the original foot sport, soccer, and head on over to one of the matches before the season ends in August.

Photo Credit: orlandocitysoccer.com

Red Chair Affair at Bob Carr on August 24

bcarrA recent study speculated that individuals who spend on cultural and food pursuits as opposed to material items are generally happier. I don’t discriminate, but with that thought in mind it would be a proper move to mention some fun art and cultural events occurring in the coming months.

One such even is the 9th Annual Red Chair Affair occurring August 24th at the Bob Carr Performing Arts Center. If you have ever attended a food and wine event sampling local restaurants, this is essentially the same concept but with the arts. The event is hosted by the Red Chair Project, a fantastic website dedicated to growing the art and cultural community in the greater Orlando area.

The even will begin on Saturday the 24th at 7 pm with a pre-show lobby. There will be exhibits showcasing some of Orlando’s most interesting cultural haunts including that Art and History Museums in Maitland, the Orlando Science Center, and SAK Comedy Club. The actual show begins at 8 pm and will feature short performances sampling the new seasons of some of Orlando’s most impressive stages. The Enzian Theatre, the Garden Theatre, Orlando Aerial Arts, Orlando Ballet, Orlando Repertory Theatre, Orlando Shakespeare Theatre, Orlando Philharmonic, and Orlando Gay Chorus are just some of the included locations that are represented.

General Admission is $22.00 per person and you can buy your tickets online. Senior and students are $15.00. There is also a VIP ticket option that costs individually $225 or a 10 ticket package which is $2500. The Red Carpet VIP experience includes the opportunity to mingle with the artists and performers, complimentary food and beverage before and after the performance, complementary beer and wine, complimentary valet parking (very complimentary this red chair bunch!), special reserves seating, and the VIP package of 10 tickets includes a ¼ page ad in the Red Chair Affair Program.

Not being particularly very or important, I’ll wipe of my ID and join the spectacle at the student or general rate. Despite not having all those fun additions this show should still prove to be an experience not to be missed. It will be the perfect opportunity to view what the 2013-2014 arts season has in store for Orlando, and a better way to judge what full performances to spend your funds on making you considerably happier than if you purchase those Cole Haan shoes. Except the Cole Haan shoes would look fantastic as I sit in a fancy performance of the Orlando Philharmonic so I will probably just invest in those as well. I’ll see you there!

Off The Beaten Path in Orlando: A Comic Shop & The Geek Easy

The Great Gatsby, the recently released film based on the novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald has reignited the excitement of the prohibition era in my heart. Considering the increase in 20s themes parties, flapper costume sales, and alcohol consumption (does that ever decrease?) I’d say I’m not alone in finding the era’s appeal. I particularly enjoy the concept of the Speakeasy. A hidden bar in the back of unassuming stores has just enough rebellion and romance to inspire my unruly side. There are a few places in Orlando that have similar concept bars in their locations, but it’s rare and mostly unheard of. I also love comic books. That may seem like a non sequitur, but in fact, it is not!

A Comic Shop Orlando

Enter A Comic Shop in Winter Park. The established “it” location for all things cartoon strip in Orlando; find University Blvd and drive all the way down away from UCF until it converts into a neighborhood and Scarlett Road. Take a left and there, at the intersection of University and Semoran in a slightly run down shopping plaza you will find A Comic Shop. It is quite regular as far as these stores go. It extends far back and its walls carry a litany of graphic novels and comics depicting all sorts of superheroes, zombies, fairy tales, and more. As you marvel at the sheer assortment of story possibilities available you may note an unobtrusive door on the left wall. Should you step through you will find yourself in The Geek Easy.

The Geek Easy is the perfect haunt to pursue the cultural interests normally relegated to the nerdy of our community. A “safe place” not unlike the Speakeasy’s of days gone by but trade out the illegal alcohol for the less socially accepted geeky curiosities of the community. As you enter, the first view is of the bar. The walls have a variety of themes, one depicts a generic cityscape with skyscrapers and the silhouettes of heroes viewing the chaos below and another has decals recreating the classic Mario adventure. This place is set up to be a geek Mecca. The big screens littering the walls a la sports bar play episodes of Doctor Who as you sip on one of the interesting, reasonably priced beers they provide.

Fear no retribution if you’re not a geek. Unlike the aforementioned Speakeasy’s, there is no secret phrase or tricky question on the secret identity of an obscure hero needed to enter. Everyone is welcome to enjoy their free wifi, PS3 and Xbox 360 game consoles, arcade games, and board games available.

I went last Tuesday night and the one previous to that. A few friends invited me to join their team for the weekly trivia night that the Geek Easy hosts. The grand prize was a $50 bar tab. I walked in late, as did my entire team, having been under the impression the competition started at 8 in the evening as opposed to 7. Just for your information, the Tuesday night Trivia night at the Geek Easy in A Comic Shop begins at 7:00 pm, not 8:00 pm. In any case, in the typical laid back attitude of the bar we were happily accepted and allowed to join in.

My friends were munching on hot dogs and fries attempting to answer the half time question. I sauntered up to the bar and ordered a ordered a beer described as a two hearted ale. The second night, Sam Adams beers were buy 2 for $5.

Their food consists of options easily cooked in either a microwave or a plug-in stove top. For the sake of creating a true experience, I purchased a Philly Grilled Cheese. To be perfectly honest, it was delicious and was a lovely pairing with my Sam Adams. The whole environment reminds me of my nerdy friends college dorms, down to our main weeknight meal. The dim lighting and whispered conversations among the teams as they attempted to answer questions created the perfect laid back environment to chat about the day’s activities and our ideal superpower furthering the dorm room feel.

Thanks to the mix of science, gaming, and geeky questions, our team did not end up in last despite having entered late. Although to be perfectly honest, the trivia was not the reason I enjoyed my time there. Before leaving after our 8th place loss I browsed the impressive collection in the shop and chatted with some of the staff. Everyone was friendly and encouraged us to come back.

The Geek Easy is a great low-key bar to hang out with like minded peers, sipping on drinks, and playing some board games. If you are ever feeling particularly sneaky and in need of some nerdy chat consider heading over to this bar within a store. Add a few 20s costumes and it’s like you have stepped back in time!

Top Orlando Restaurant Bars

prato

Looking for a great place to have drinks then have dinner? Several Orlando venues were named to the Top 100 Restaurant bars done by Open Table. They performed these rankings based on restaurant reviews on the Open Table system.

The three Orlando restaurants that made the list were Prato (Winter Park), Rocco’s Tacos (Sand Lake Rd.) and Vines Grille and Wine Bar (Sand Lake Rd.).

None of the three are surprising choices. Prato has had immense success in its few years of being open on Park Avenue. Their bar is a focal point of the venue and they do some excellent drinks. Their beer selection features a number of local brews. You can read more about Prato here.

Rocco’s Tacos and Vines Wine Bar are both located on Sand Lake Road – Orlando’s Restaurant Row. Vines is a local joint that moved into bigger space after a previous restaurant closed. They developed a small, but strong following of regulars and parlayed that into a larger presence.

Rocco’s Tacos is the new hot spot on Sand Lake Rd. Taking the place of the old Samba Room, they re-did the interior layout to feature a massive bar in the back – combined with opening up the space to have more of a lake front view, it’s a vast improvement on Samba Room. The food is reasonable, and the place has a very festive atmosphere. On weekend’s, the wait can be a couple hours for a table. Interestingly, the other Rocco’s Tacos locations made the Open Table top 100 list as well, so 4 of the top 100 are all Rocco’s Tacos locations. Not bad!

What did Open Table miss? Some other great drinking spots in Winter Park include Ravenous Pig and Cask & Larder (same owners). On International Drive, Cuba Libre is a great spot for having drinks. On Sand Lake Rd, also consider Ocean Prime and Seasons 52.

You really can’t miss with any of these top Orlando restaurant bars, and now you have some hard data from Open Table to back it up! Enjoy!