The Milk District
This enclave of Orlando stays present by holding on to its past.
Though it’s gone through a good deal of change over the years, the area around Bumby Avenue and Robinson Street east of downtown has retained much of its original character. Here you will find Orlando’s oldest major shopping center, Colonial Plaza, originally built as an indoor mall and now a series of strip centers, and the landmark T.G. Lee Dairy, site of one of the largest milk producers in the state. In recent years, a wave of young entrepreneurs has set up shop in the area, creating a hip, bohemian stomping ground they’ve dubbed the Milk District.
T.G. Lee Dairy
Eighty-five years ago, a barn and grazing area for a few cows were all that occupied land in what was then the outskirts of Orlando. In 1934, Thomas Gilbert Lee (above, left in 1952) turned the land into one of Orlando’s first attractions: a dairy-milking parlor. Crowds gathered to watch the cows getting milked by machines. Today, more than 230,000 gallons of raw milk are processed daily at the plant. 315 N. Bumby Ave., 407-894-4941; tgleedairy.com
An Orlando institution and one of only two of its kind in the United States, Beefy King has been family-run since it opened in 1968. Shannon Woodrow, granddaughter of the original owners, and her husband, James, now run the restaurant. Other than the prices and the faces behind the counter, little has changed here in 43 years, and its juicy roast beef sandwich, Tater Tots and milk shakes are still favorites with customers. 424 N. Bumby Ave., 407-894-2241; beefyking.com
The Plaza Live Theatre
Opened in 1963 as Orlando’s first twin-screen movie venue, The Plaza was nicknamed the “rocking chair theater” because of its unique seating. Its time as a movie house faded as multiplexes moved in, but The Plaza has managed to remain a theater. It’s become an intimate live venue, showcasing concerts and plays. 425 N. Bumby Ave., 407-228-1220; theplazatheatre.com
You’ll notice that nothing ever goes out of style here as you browse the racks at this retro shop that specializes in handmade wearable art, vintage items and recycled goods. Co-owner Falon Quillen sells clothing and accessories, home décor, and gift items such as soy candles and vegan soap. Great deals are easy to find, with many items priced $30 or less. 2424 E. Robinson St., 407-895-6363; etoileboutique.com
Festival Park Community Garden
The urban garden at Festival Park took root last year when Richard Powell (right) got a grant to build it. Thirty participants grow their own food—everything from arugula to zucchini. You can grow vegetables year-round in Florida if you know when and what to plant, says Powell. The group offers on-site gardening classes. Robinson Street at Festival Way; email@example.com
The bowling alley is more than 50 years old, but you wouldn’t know that by the quality of its 32 lanes. They’ve been updated. Other parts of the place are from another time, like the curved sunken bar lined with red swivel chairs. Come down here on a weekday afternoon and you may be surprised to find it packed with bowlers. The $1.60 per game rate is a big draw. 400 N. Primrose Drive, 407-896-1443; coloniallanes.net
The Social Chameleon
A newcomer to this vintage Orlando neighborhood, The Social Chameleon restaurant is a gathering place with a bohemian vibe. Hipsters dine in the charming art-filled restaurant or out back on its patio where there’s a small herb garden. The menu offers organic cuisine served tapas-style and a selection of microbrews and hard cider. There isn’t a sign out front, so look for the turquoise-and yellow-painted storefront. 2406 E. Robinson St., 407-715-2138; thesocialchameleon.com
This neighborhood bar was once a favorite haunt of the Dixie Mafia, a gang that gambled and melted down silver in a secret room in the late 1960s. The cavernous pool hall also has been a stopover for pros such as Jeanette Lee, aka “The Black Widow.” If pool isn’t your game, try your hand at pingpong or air hockey. 2414 E. Robinson St., 407-894-6258; sportstownbilliards.com