I have lived in Orlando, Florida for about nine years and because I have an overwhelming number of family members who live either in South America or overseas I often get asked after the theme parks, what is the Best Place to go shopping? Immediately, many would say Go to the Prime Outlets! But I completely disagree.
My favorite place to shop is Park Avenue in Winter Park. Ok, so it is not necessarily in Orlando but it is just a 15 minute jump away from all the chaos of the theme parks. I love it because whether you are visiting the theme parks or family, Park Avenue is the perfect respite from the mayhem of International Drive and the park crowds.It has gorgeous trees that are all well established and have gorgeous Spanish moss hanging from the each limb. The plethora of stores all in alignment offer one the opportunity to support the local community and purchase goods that are truly unique!
In my estimation the 140 different boutique shops offer the perfect variety of options for every taste. The array of restaurants one can choose from are from a great burger joint to the perfect outdoor/indoor lunch date that is complete with vegan and gluten free delights. Moreover, Park Avenue in Winter Park is better than an outlet or a mall because its huge wide open park space across the main avenue of stores is every child’s joy to run wild, do somersaults, or simply lie in the plush grass. Park Avenue makes shopping as a parent effortless, because the open field space along with enticing eateries such as Peterbrooke Chocolatier or Kilwins Chocolate & Ice Cream can soothe the nerves of any child and also the parent! It becomes a win -win situation for both Parent and Child.
Throughout the year, every weekend there are different musicians often playing for everyone’s enjoyment, and during the Fall season, well Park Avenue becomes Magical! Suddenly there are gorgeous decorations, a make shift ice rink, and festivities for all religions and holidays. See it is not just a place to shop, but a destination that can easily become an all day fun-for-all experience!
So, what are my favorite suggested stores to visit? The first is tucked away in little garden of its own and it is called the Ancient Olive. It has the best olive oils and truffle oils that I have ever tried. Now, I don’t want to seem snooty, nonetheless, I have actually been to Sorrento, Italy in one of the finest olive garden farms and fortunate enough to have seen and tasted the delicate craft of homemade olive oil. I have also tasted some of the finest olive oils from Spain and France and been blessed to to try some of the most exotic truffle oils in London. Therefore, I feel my opinion on this store merits a visit. Ancient Olive has some of the nicest people ever working there, each willing to have you try all their delicacies before purchasing. They make an honest effort to learn about your food personality to ensure the correct purchase is made for you! It is not just the inventory they carry, but the attention to detail and service, something that has become a lost commodity as we carry on into a tech controlled shopping experience.
My second favorite store is not really a store in as much as it is an oasis of adult pleasure – get your mind out of the gutter, not that type of pleasure. It is the Wine Room. I have taken so many friends from out of town to this little hole in the street, and they have come back to Orlando craving to go back again. The enormity of selections of wine on electronic tap and ability to purchase by bottle or glass is perfectly suited for anyone’s palette. Truly, you could walk into there and not know a single thing about wine and the owner or one of the servers will take their time to find you the best selection for you and your food accompaniment (if you purchased one). I love the polished casual look of this place, better yet no one really enters there seeking to flash the latest trends. Instead, each individual is there to wind down with some wine. Personally, I go across to Peterbrooke Chocolatier and grab my favorite chocolate covered popcorn and nuts and pair it with my wine selection. If you do go, try to go on a Sunday afternoon, I can guarantee you that your visit will start your week off relaxed and content.
My third favorite store is Claret Cosmetics. This store has some of the best selections of hard to find cosmetics like really good French ones that normally one has to purchase only online. I also love the selection of the Japanese Shiseido products they have available, and unlike department stores or specialty stores like Ulta or Sephora, there is Not a swarm of people looking for one person to assist. Most importantly to me, is the attention given to each guest who enters; the service is deemed genuine and not as though a sale is required for service.
Truly there are a vast selection of stores for one to walk aimlessly or with purpose, it is your choice whether to purchase things like books, antiques, specialty olive oils, or just a great ice cream cone, but the awesome experience you will encounter will be just as valuable as your support of a small business. Please don’t misinterpret me, I appreciate the huge conglomerates and their strides to imprint in our world of merchandising, but at times it is nice to visit the small – unique – attention to detail stores too! On your next visit to Orlando or if you reside here already, make Park Avenue in Winter Park a part of your day.