Explore Your City - College Park
College Park is the neighborhood that I have called home for 6 years now. It is by far the best place I have lived during my adult life in Central Florida, and I say time and time again, as long as I live in Florida, I will be a College Park resident. When you live here, you are in a bubble. A community where everything you need is on the main drag of Edgewater Drive. Groceries, coffee shops, the post office, boutiques, salons, spas, restaurants, parks for the kids, and even a vegan market!
You could easily go all week without any need to venture out of the 32804 zip code, and on cooler fall days, you can walk everywhere or take advantage of the public bike racks that recently were installed.
Even if you aren’t a resident in the area, it’s a great place to visit and explore for a long afternoon. There is quick access right off I-4, although our beloved Ivanhoe exit has cruelly been taken away from us for the interstate expansion. It's also centrally located to other great neighborhoods with a lot to explore.
College Park is my Pawnee, the greatest "city" (yes I know it's a neighborhood) to live in. Here are a few of my favorite spots. If you don't watch Parks and Recreation I apologize in advance for the added fictional color to my guide, but honestly you should be apologizing to yourself for not having watched it yet.
Coffee lovers have the perfect spot to grab a cup of expertly crafted coffee before they start their journey. My favorite right now is their Iced Cordadito. Another bonus are their hand-crafted seasonal syrups. Lavender is one of my favorites along with cherry-habanero. April Ludgate would hang out here and make fun of people and MouseRat would play on open mic nights on the first Monday of every month.
Fun, funky & thrifty all come to mind when I think of Dechoes. Merchandise is hand picked by their buyers that is brought in from local fashionatas. They normally have a great collection of designer items. If you follow them on Instagram you can find out when some sweet items hit the stores. That's how I was able to get my amazing teal Satchel Company bag for a steal. This is definitely a place Tom Haverford would own and Mona Lisa Saperstein would threaten to burn to the ground.
Photo by: Orlando Weekly
If you need some pampering, there is no need to leave the 32804 zip code. The Spa will take good care of you, whether its a massage, facial, nail service or you just want to run in and grab some of their scrubs and butters! The perfect "Treat Yo Self" spot in College Park. Sugar scrub on your face, pleasure in your base....or something like that.
Falafel is the name of the game at Hubbly Bubbly. It's one of my favorite places to get something light for lunch or dinner. The Ron Swanson in you will surely sniff out the cones of meat inside and possibly pass on the tabouli - the food your food eats. I've never had a bad meal here and better yet it's affordable. Online ordering for pick up to take home on their website couldn't be more user-friendly which is another added bonus for those nights you want to be lazy and eat in bed while watching Netflix.
If you aren't a coffee drinker don't fret! A few blocks down from Credo is Infusion Tea which has a plentiful supply of fresh tea waiting to be steeped for you. This is also a great option for a snack or meal for any vegetarians out there. The food is delicious and while you wait you can browse the selection of goods in the Co-Op area.
Photo by: Examiner
This is an adorable ice cream parlor with a vintage feel that will surely satisfy your sweet tooth after any meal. The Nutella ice cream is hands down my favorite. Kids can doodle on the chalkboard walls, and adults can await the sugar high that will follow. Grab a quick photo across the street at one of my favorite Orlando murals on the side of David's World Cycle and watch as ice cream eating patrons watch and judge you as they peer through the windows. Just don't pull a Jerry, and drop your ice cream on the floor.
RusTeak has some really foodie worthy meals on the menu that won't leave you disappointed, so this is a great spot for lunch or dinner. My favorite is their happy hour menu consisting of select $5 appetizers and cocktails (seen below) that will leave your feeling full along with a little few extra bucks in your wallet.
Are you Vegan or perhaps gluten intolerant? You don't have to leave the neighborhood to visit Whole Foods or Fresh Market. The Red Artichoke may be a smaller local shop, but the owner carries quite a range of products for the more healthy conscience buyer. This is no Food N' Stuff. It would definitely be Chris Trager approved, with literally the best gluten free donuts in town.
It's hard to miss this brightly colored building on the Edgewater strip. A lot of people think clothes when they think consignment, but Top Drawer can has plenty to choose from to outfit your entire house. Vintage finds for the home or to wear. Have items to sell? You can do that too, just visit their website for more details. There's a good chance Joan Calamezzo could find some pieces for her opulent bedroom here.
It's repeatedly voted one of the best salons in Orlando, and for good reason. I've been getting my hair done here off and on for years. Need a color or cut? I'd recommend Kristin or Kimmy, but whoever you visit you are in good hands when you need some hair therapy. Some people travel from all over Orlando to get their tresses caressed here. I love that it's a bike ride away. Not that I ride my bike to get my hair done, but it's nice to have the option. Ron Swanson's replacement stylist and Donna's friend Typhoon would definitely work here.
Atomic Junkies is a great place to browse and buy if mid-century modern furnishings are your bag and you want your home to look like Don Draper’s apartment. Even better, as you walk through the store you instantly enter Gallery on the Edge. Here you will find art, gifts, handmade items from local makers like Brightlight Paper, jewelry, and lots of other goodies. Crazy but stylish Craig Middlebrooks would shop here with his debit rewards card.
Every neighborhood needs a greasy spoon diner, a place to eat breakfast for dinner, their own JJ’s Diner if you will. College Park actually has a few of those spots to choose from, but my favorite is Christo’s Café. It’s so well loved that when they closed briefly to renovate, locals who didn’t know why they closed were up in arms, frantically wanting to know what was happening to their beloved diner. Thankfully it wasn't closed due to the likes of a Dennis Feinstein type, but re-opened with a new look so locals to get back to eating all the bacon and eggs their hearts desired.
While I love grabbing a hearty breakfast here, they break my heart by not having waffles on the menu, so I hope in time they will get on that. After all, the most important things in life is your work, friends, and waffles, but not in that order.
Photo by: Orlando Food Scene
There are still quite a few shops and restaurants I didn't even mention, that's how awesome my neighborhood is. Right now multiple new businesses are in the works, like a new 100% local organic cold-pressed juice bar - New Moon, a bakery filled with heavenly croissants, the expansion of Winter Park's Armando's, and Naked Bar Soap Company! So take a cool fall day that will be upon us to and explore College Park and buy local.