Been there, done that. But not that, that, or that.

You might have noticed I love Orlando.  I shout it from the rooftops!  I make blog posts.  I have the shirts.  But I have a dirty little secret…I’ve never had some truly iconic Orlando experiences.

  1. I’ve never eaten at the Beefy King.  
  2. I’ve never been to Gatorland.
  3. I never went to fight night or made out with a member of *N’SYNC in the VIP of Roxy Night Club (much to my chagrin).
  4. I’ve never had a drink at Will’s Pub or Wally’s Liquor.
  5. I’ve never done a swan boat ride in Lake Eola (have drunkenly sat in them though.  Does that count?)
  6. I’ve never gotten my car towed downtown.
  7. I’ve never been to the Florida Citrus Parade.
  8. I might be the only person who has never been to an Orlando City Soccer Club game.
  9. I haven’t done several classic Winter Park traditions like ice skating, dinner on the avenue, or Howl-o-ween.
  10. I’ve never made pancakes at the Old Spanish Sugar Mill in Deleon Springs.  

Woah.  Feels good to get that off my chest.  Your turn, what’s on your list that you’ve never quite gotten to in the City Beautiful?




The four step journey to being #OrlandoAF


Whatever brought you to Orlando you’re 100% questioning the decision.  It’s hot as hell, the traffic is insane, and there are chain restaurants everywhere.  The people are kind of cool though.

It’s alright, for now.

You can get where you need to go without getting lost on the toll roads.  You know what time you really need to leave to get somewhere on time. You found a favorite pizza place.  You love the food trucks, the nightlife, and the pub crawls.  You still think you’ll need to move in a few years to advance in your career, go to grad school, or find your soulmate.  But you’re pretty sure that #orlandodoesntsuck.

Oh this place is my jam I’m here to stay.

You know the difference between Thornton Park, Audubon Park, and College Park.  You know the Milk District from Mills50.  You know which Farmer’s Market you like best and when to go.  You know it’s worth it to make the drive to Winter Garden every once in a while and check things out.  You’ve been to a UCF Football tailgate and even gone inside the stadium to watch a game once or twice.  You can’t be friends with people who aren’t sure they want to stay here for the long haul because you’re tired of making friends who move away.


You love Orlando and find pride in everything we do.  You have an Orlando City Soccer magnet on your car even though you don’t even like sports.  You tell people how many years you’ve been here.  Especially if it has been more than 10 years.  You cheer on every new trend that comes to town.  Poke bowls?  You love it.  Cookie dough cafe?  You’re there. You share it on Facebook.  Let your big city friends know Orlando’s right there with them (albeit six months to two years behind.) You share every ‘Best of’ list you see that highlights Orlando.  When you meet someone who just moved to Orlando you start rattling off everywhere they should eat, shop, and visit.  You get annoyed when you hear someone say there’s nothing in Orlando but theme parks and chain restaurants.  You start a blog just so you can talk about everything you love in the City Beautiful.  You’re #OrlandoAF

Orlando is everyone’s favorite punchline. And I love it.

I think I’ve mentioned that I love Orlando?  And even though there’s a zillion cool reasons to love this town we’re always sort of a joke in the cultural zeitgeist.  And I don’t mean just because we’re in Florida.  I started noticing how often we’re the punchline in my favorite shows and movies.  I could be offended but really I love a good ol’ shoutout to my city.  So here are my top favorite pop culture Orlando references. 

Pretty Woman  

I watch Pretty Woman every time I see it on TV.  Every. Single. Time.  But as with most movies I catch on on cable, I never actually watch it start to finish.  A couple years back I met up with a few girlfriends at the Enzian for their Cult Classics night when they were playing Pretty Woman.  And would you believe that right in the intro there’s an Orlando shout out?  As the movie opens cops are on scene at the homicide of a dead hooker.  Two tacky tourists look on to take pictures.  Can you guess where they’re from?  Orlando!  (You’ll hear it at 5:50 in) The audience roared with laughter and applause. 

The Book of Mormon

I really hadn’t researched much into The Book of Mormon before we went to Bob Carr to see it.  It was one of those shows I thought we had to go see because there was so much hype.  Also I have very fond memories of watching Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s Baseketball when I was a kid (South Park too lest I be outcasted!)

In The Book of Mormon, LDS missionaries prepare to be sent on their missions across the globe.  I am so glad I had no idea what was coming because the full effect of the punchline for Elder Price revealing he hopes he’s placed in Orlando with an epic Orlando banner unfurling on stage was everything.  I couldn’t find video of it, but here’s the song!

The Minions Movie

This is a mommy blog after all so I had to include my favorite yellow blobs, the minions.  I didn’t get their appeal before I saw this movie but after close to one hundred viewings, I’m sold.  In The Minions Movie, Bob, Stewart, and Kevin in search of a supervillian leader head to Villiancon, the largest gathering of criminals anywhere.  And where else would it be but Orlando?  It’s set before Disney so they arrive to a one-road swamp town.  And don’t worry they do find a supervillain to follow, Scarlett Overkill (Sandra Bullock).  The lady-power supervillian with a sidekick husband (John Hamm, yes please!) really set my love into overdrive.

Hotwives of Orlando

A general rule my friends know when conversing with me is that 9 out of 10 times I will relate everything back to the Real Housewives.  Imagine my delight when a parody premiered called The Hotwives of Orlando!  The show happens to hit on every amazing Housewives cliche and reminds you that telling people to ‘calm down’ can lead to a full-scale catfight that lasts a whole season.

Fresh off the Boat

Based off Eddie Huang’s memoir, Fresh off the Boat is a family comedy on ABC that documents his Taiwanese family’s move from Chinatown in D.C. to Orlando.  It’s set in the mid-90’s and such a great show about family and culture-clash.  As I went down the Wikipedia rabbit-hole reading up on Huang for this blog post I became obsessed.  I’m now sure I need to read his books, follow him on twitter, and set up a google alert with his name so I can keep tabs on his many controversies.

Orange is the New Black

I fully jumped on the OITNB bandwagon the second it premiered.  My book club read the novel.  And back in the pre-kiddo days I’m sure we even binge watched the season in a day.  On the show the guards often play just as integral parts of the stories as the inmates.  One guard, CO Bennett gets very involved with an inmate and we learn that he has a fake leg.  Flashbacks show us that CO Bennett is an army vet, so it’s easy to connect the dots that he lost his leg in Afghanistan in combat.  Not so, good friends.  It’s later revealed that he lost it because of an infection that he got in a hot tub.  In Orlando.

Identity Thief

Melissa McCarthy steals Jason Bateman’s identity and he goes to find her and get it back.  The movie turns into a road trip buddy comedy after he finds her, in Winter Park.   It’s painfully obvious the movie wasn’t filmed in Winter Park.  But did they even google it?  There’s a scene with a salon that is borderline offensive because the Florida cliche tacky salon is incredibly anti-Winter Park.  #howdareyou


I thought Amy Poehler and Tina Fey’s Sisters movie was adorable and funny.  The two polar opposite sisters head back to Orlando to help sell their family home.  They decide to have one epic party before it sells. Just like every other Orlando moment on this list, I do not think one second of this was filmed in Central Florida.  They do hit up a Big Lots at one point and that made it easy to pretend they were here.  Once again, my research for this list led me fully down an internet rabbit hole.  This movie is based on real Orlandoan sisters Paula Pell and Patty DeLaCruz.  Pell is a writer for SNL and wrote the screenplay.  So cool right?  

I know there are so many more Orlando moments in pop culture that I’m missing.  What should I add to the next round-up for this list?  


My Orlando Love Story

This June marks fifteen years for me in Central Florida. My favorite memories through the years are wrapped up in good food, great friends, and lots of love.  I’ve grown so much and right by my side this city has too. 

It’s 2002 and I’m visiting for freshman orientation at UCF. We have dinner at Bubbalou’s Bodacious BBQ before dad drops me off at the dorm to spend the night. I discover new friends and the freedom of being on my own.  And I discover Tijuana Flats.  Life is never the same.

It’s 2003 and I have found my footing and great friends.  The Student Union smells like Subway sandwich bread.  We eat sweet chicken teriyaki subs on the deck quickly before the squirrels attack.  We spend birthdays at the Olive Garden and Kobe Steakhouse.

It’s 2004 and I’m a server at Pebbles Winter Park.  I toss nutty cheesy salads tableside to the well to dos of Orlando who serve as the board of directors for the nonprofits I’ll work for later.  On Sundays I work doubles and when there’s a lull we sneak over to Aloma Bowl and bowl a few frames.

It’s 2005 and I meet friends for dinner at Dexter’s and Chili’s.  I graduate from UCF and celebrate with friends and family at P.F. Changs.

It’s 2006 and I work at Second Harvest Food Bank by day and as a waitress at Don Pepe’s Habana Grill in Altamonte at night. I want to eat Cuban food every meal for the rest of my life.  

It’s 2007 and I spend my nights at Crummer Business School at Rollins College. I pick up quick dinners at Tropical Smoothie and the Rollins cafeteria.  

It’s 2008 and I’m working at Kids House in Sanford.  I spend lunch breaks at Yabi Sushi and That Deli!  On Halloween, after a failed attempt to go downtown, my BFF and I find Bobby G’s a dive bar in Altamonte. We spend many Friday nights there over the next few years.  Years later someone points out to me that it’s a Steelers bar.  I don’t do sports so I never noticed.

It’s 2009 and I start dating a very cute MBA classmate.  We spend a beach day in Cocoa and chow down at Slow and Low BBQ. We do dinner before a movie at Café Murano in Altamonte.  We spend an hour chatting in line outside Boston’s Fish House.  

It’s 2010 and time for graduation.  I celebrate with family at Hot Olives and then we meet up with friends at Stardust Lounge for dancing and lots of drinks.  We take day trips to the West Coast to eat at the Old Salty Dog  and the Dali Museum.

It’s 2011 and together with my cute boyfriend we start the short-lived food blog, Danie & Reidy Bon Appetity.  We cover Hawkers, Winter Park Fish Co., Hamburger Mary’s, and Junior Colombian Burger before we quit (food blogging, not eating – of course).  

It’s 2012 and we visit the Maitland Farmer’s Market on Sunday mornings for crepes before we spend a leisurely afternoon at the Mall at Millenia or take in a movie.  We meet friends for dinner at Prato and the Pharmacy.  Life is effortless and the city is ours to explore.  

It’s 2013 and we run away to Key Largo and elope.  We celebrate the next night at home with our best friends at Luma on Park Avenue.

It’s 2014 and our daughter is born.  We stop at Donuts To Go on the way home for a treat.  We celebrate Violet later in the year with family and friends at Hamilton’s Kitchen and photos on the lawn of the Alfond Inn.

It’s 2015 and I’m offered a job at Orlando Shakes.  Proximity to Pig Floyd’s makes it a no brainer.  The sweetness turns one and we celebrate with a party at home catered by Tijuana Flats.

It’s 2016 and we’ve traded brunches for breakfasts.  We spend afternoons at the park and then go to Kelly’s Homemade Ice Cream for a treat.  We have dinner at Zona Fresca where they don’t side eye us for the mountain of rice our two year old gets on the floor.

It’s 2017 and I’m nine months pregnant in January.  A week before our little boy arrives, friends come over to celebrate my birthday and we binge on Banana Dream cake from TooJay’s Deli, assorted goodies from Buttermilk Bakery, and the best cookies of all time from Gideon’s Bakehouse.  Simon arrives and our world is turned upside down in the best chaos.  We pick up Foxtail Coffee before taking our toddler to Disney.  We have quick lunch dates at Hunger Street Tacos.  On Sunday mornings we still go to the Farmer’s Market but spend most of the time pushing Violet on the swings.  We take a break to eat popsicles and walk around the lake.  We are flourishing.  Orlando is flourishing.  We’re just starting to scratch the surface.  

Note:  Any restaurants without links are no longer open (Sad).