Shop Local: 8 Places to Shop for Holiday Gifts in Central Florida

 Well, readers, it’s official: the holiday season is here. My fall seasonal décor has been stowed away in exchange for reindeer, mini-trees, and an electronic menorah. My next few weekends are packed with Christmas parties and Secret Santa exchanges. And in just a few hours, I’ll pop a few latkes on the stove in celebration of the first night of Hanukkah.

As someone who celebrates both Hanukkah and Christmas, I usually have my hands full when it comes to holiday shopping. Luckily, there are a lot of great places right here in Central Florida where you can pick up unique gifts while supporting local businesses. Check out a few of my suggested shops and markets, and please share yours in the comments below. (For additional guidance on gift giving, check out a couple of my previous guides here and here.)

Shop Local: 8 Places to Shop for Holiday Gifts in Central Florida

1. Magpies Modern General Store (Sanford, FL)
Located on 1st Street in Historic Downtown Sanford, Magpies Modern General Store is the perfect place to begin your holiday shopping. From artisan soaps to housewares and more, Magpies is filled with fun stocking stuffers that are often locally sourced and eclectic. I love to pick up birthday presents here as well!

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2. AntiquiTEAs (Winter Garden, FL)
If you’re a tea lover like me, you’ll fall in love with AntiquiTEAs, a loose tea shop in Winter Garden’s Plant Street Market. As I mentioned in last year’s holiday post, the watermelon oolong is a flavor not to be missed. The shop also hosts private tea parties for special occasions (including my 27th birthday party!), working with other Plant Street Market vendors to create the perfect celebration.

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Shop Local: 8 Places to Shop for Holiday Gifts in Central Florida

3. Rifle Paper Co. (Winter Park, FL)
Rifle Paper Co. is known for its fun and vibrant prints, from stationery to tea towels to home décor. This Winter Park shop is located not far from Park Avenue, and hosts seasonal sidewalk sales that will be sure to draw you in. For the ladies in your life, consider purchasing a Jardin de Paris candle — the scent is absolutely dreamy. It will be hard to walk in and not buy a little something for yourself as well!

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4. Light Up UCF Holiday Market (Orlando, FL)
On December 8 and December 21, Light Up UCF will host its Holiday Market Under the Stars, sponsored by CFE Federal Credit Union. Local vendors will set up, farmers market style, outside the holiday-themed event at the CFE Arena at UCF. It will be the perfect opportunity to shop for locally-crafted gifts, while enjoying ice skating, a Ferris wheel, carriage rides, and more.

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Shop Local: 8 Places to Shop for Holiday Gifts in Central Florida

5. Wondermade (Sanford, FL)
Handcrafted marshmallows? Yes, please! Sanford’s Wondermade is home to a variety of marshmallow flavors, s’mores, and other themed gifts. In addition to purchasing a box, why not schedule a marshmallow-making class for you and your gift recipient? If you live in Central Florida, these classes are an awesome way to spend a Friday night or Saturday afternoon!

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6. Porch Therapy (Orlando, FL)
When shopping for the plant lover in your life, be sure to check out Porch Therapy at the East End Market in Orlando. The shop offers a multitude of plant varieties, but my favorites by far are their succulents. Be sure to check them out, then grab a smoothie at the neighboring Skyebird Juice Bar.

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Shop Local: 8 Places to Shop for Holiday Gifts in Central Florida

7. Orchid Rain (DeLand, FL)
My family and I stumbled upon this little shop in Downtown DeLand on my birthday this year, and were immediately drawn in. With a Volkswagen beetle right in the front of the store, Orchid Rain has a fun retro feel. From jewelry and sunglasses to furniture and housewares, this store is the perfect place to shop for your creative friends. My favorite find? The pocket-sized Buddhas, each representing a different intention (mine is “happiness”). Afterward, take a walk down Woodland Boulevard for some antique-shopping and a bite to eat.

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8. Antidote Apothecary & Spa (Sanford, FL)
When in doubt, give the gift of a pampering session! Antidote Apothecary & Spa in Downtown Sanford offers holistic, cruelty-free spa services that your friends and family will love. Check out my recap on their salt therapy appointments here, or consider one of their massages, facials, energy work, or other services.

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Where are you shopping locally for holiday gifts this year? Sound off in the comments!

Art Comes Alive: 5 Unique Ways to Celebrate Art in Central Florida

Those of you who follow my Instagram or have been reading my blog for a while know that I’ve always been passionate about the arts. While I never studied art formally in school (aside from an art history class or two), I’ve always loved diving into the mind of the artist and exploring new styles and perspectives.

When we imagine great artwork and museums, we often think of places like New York, Paris, and Florence — all of which have a rich history in the world of art. However, we often forget about some of the treasures right here in our own backyard! Orlando may not immediately jump to mind when we think about art, but the city and its surrounding neighborhoods have their own hidden gems worth exploring. From Mayan Revival architecture to the chapel built for the 1893 World’s Fair, Central Florida is home to a variety of art experiences that everyone should experience.

For those Central Floridians looking to experience art right in your own backyard, check out some of my top local picks!

5 Ways to Experience Art in Central Florida

1. Maitland Art Center
Tucked away on Packwood Avenue, just off the main road, the Maitland Art Center‘s campus once served as a colony for visiting artists to practice their craft. The museum itself features eclectic collections, but to me, the grounds are the main attraction not to be missed. Listed as a National Historic Landmark, the Maitland Art Center is an example of Mayan Revival architecture, featuring a beautiful chapel with both Mayan and Judeo-Christian imagery. The museum has multiple buildings and campuses, so after your tour of the grounds, be sure to check out the Telephone Museum.

5 Places to Experience Art in Central Florida

2. Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens
What do Winter Park and the Czech Republic have in common? Albin Polasek, the Czech sculptor! The Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens in Winter Park feature hundreds of Albin’s sculptures, paintings, and other works. In his seventies, Albin suffered a major stroke and became paralyzed on one side, but still continued to sculpt some of his most well-known pieces in that time. From Man Carving His Own Destiny to Mother Crying Over The World, the artist’s works reflect his own life as well as the current events of that time. His representation of Radegast, a Moravian god from his village, even became the mascot for a Czech brewery and beer. The museum features docent-led tours that will give you more insight on Albin’s life and the impact of his works on the world.

5 Unique Ways to Celebrate Art in Central Florida

3. Bronze Kingdom
Located in the Orlando Fashion Square Mall, Bronze Kingdom features more than 2,000 African art pieces from Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon, and other parts of the continent. From bronze to beaded works, the gallery spans 16,000 square feet and also includes pieces from local artists. An added bonus? You can even sit on a real throne! Bronze Kingdom provides tours for visitors and hosts events regularly.

5 Unique Ways to Celebrate Art in Central Florida

4. Morse Museum
The Morse Museum is ideally situated on Park Avenue in Winter Park, and home to the world’s largest collection of Tiffany glass. Louis Comfort Tiffany (whose father founded Tiffany & Co) is well known for his stained glass works, but also designed the 1893 World’s Fair Tiffany Chapel. The Chapel has been restored and is now on display at the Morse Museum. The museum also features other American sculptures and paintings, and visitors can learn about the history of art in Winter Park and Tiffany’s restoration efforts in the introductory video when they first arrive.

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5. Casa Feliz Historic Home & Venue
Designed by architect James Gamble Rogers II, Casa Feliz (Happy House) is a historic home with Spanish influence that is now open to the public. The house was nearly torn down in 2000, but was ultimately saved and moved across the street to its new home on Park Avenue in Winter Park. On Sundays, they host Music at the Casa, featuring live performances with free admission. You can tour the home and learn about its history, as well as the efforts taken to save it. Check out Casa Feliz after grabbing brunch on Park Avenue!

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What are your favorite ways to experience art in Central Florida? Share yours in the comments section below!

Things I’m Loving Lately: Healthy Restaurants in Central Florida

Happy 3rd of July! I’m excited to celebrate tomorrow in the best way I know how: poolside with a burger. 🙂 How are you guys celebrating your 4th?

Now that I’m done with grad school, I’ve been working hard to get my health back on track, and I’m proud to say that I’ve made some great strides. From hitting the gym to eating cleaner (less inflammatory) foods, I feel stronger and healthier than I have in a long time. I completed a round of Whole30 shortly after graduation, and am now working toward a higher goal of balance and eating intuitively. Knowing what works well for me (protein, veggies) versus what doesn’t (gluten, sweeteners, legumes) has changed the way I fill my plate or look at a menu, and I’m excited to continue down this path.

Of course, in keeping up with the theme of balance, I have been especially excited to discover healthier restaurants in the Orlando area that cater to different dietary needs and restrictions. In today’s post, I’ll share some of my favorite finds for all of you local foodies (and visitors, too!). 🙂

Things I'm Loving Lately: Healthy Restaurants in Central Florida
Fresh Kitchen
I discovered Fresh Kitchen in Waterford Lakes after a UCF event last year, and was so impressed with their bowls that I kept coming back for more! Fresh Kitchen’s concept is similar to that of Chipotle: You walk up to the counter, choose your bases, pick your vegetables and proteins, and add sauces as needed. The difference? Their entire menu is gluten free, most of their food is free from dairy and processed sugars, and their meats are antibiotic free. (They also sell paleo cookies and zucchini brownies if you’re looking to splurge!) My favorite menu items are the coconut rice, the pesto chicken, and the broccoli, but they have fresh seasonal veggies and other proteins worth a taste as well. They recently opened a location in Downtown Orlando, and are also located in South Florida and in the Tampa/St. Pete area.

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BOCA
Located on Park Avenue across from the Morse Museum (check out my recap here), BOCA is a farm-to-table restaurant that sources its food locally and offers seasonal menus. I loved their Smoked Cachaca Chicken, but they offer a variety of market specials, including many menu items that are gluten-free or vegetarian. I’m excited to go back for brunch!

Things I'm Loving Lately: Healthy Restaurants in Central Florida

Olea Mediterranean Grill
I’m a big fan of Greek food, so I was especially excited when Olea Mediterranean Grill opened up in Sanford. Much like Fresh Kitchen, Olea offers a variety of options — customers can go up to the counter and choose a pita, lettuce, or grains, and add in their favorite spreads, toppings, and proteins. I’ve had to cut back from hummus, but their lemon herb tahini and their tzatziki are absolutely addictive. Each food item is labeled for those who have food restrictions, and if you’re gluten-free or vegan, there are tons of delicious options for you. Olea has locations in Sanford, Maitland, and Orlando.

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Farm & Haus
In the back corner of the East End Market in Orlando is Farm & Haus, which doubles as a café and meal delivery service. Farm & Haus has a menu that changes regularly, but offers healthy meals created from scratch. Farm & Haus delivers meals near its Audubon Park location in the East End Market, so when I took classes downtown, I often ordered dinner from there! Their café, which serves breakfast and lunch, is also home to Orlando’s best avocado toast (I swear–you can Google it).

Things I'm Loving Lately: Healthy Restaurants in Central Florida

Infusion Tea
Although not exclusively vegetarian, Infusion Tea offers some amazing meatless options, and is known as Orlando’s “organic tea café.” I am absolutely in love with their roasted pear salad, and the space is also great for parties and events. The restaurant also has its own Arts Co-Op inside, where you can pick up some fun gifts, and when you visit on a Saturday, you can also enjoy the College Park Farmers Market outside. If you love tea, try the pineapple bliss tea — I promise you will not be sorry!

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Orlando foodies, what are your favorite healthy options in the area? Sound off in the comments below!

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Central Florida on a Dime: 5 Adventures Under $20

As I mentioned last week, juggling grad school with a full-time job means that vacation days are often limited. Because of that, I love to take advantage of my weekends by playing tourist in my own backyard! Central Florida is well-known for its tourist activities — and I’m definitely a fan of the theme parks! — but there are so many other awesome ways to explore the area without standing in long lines or breaking the bank.

This weekend, I’m sharing five of my favorite (non Disney-themed) activities in Orlando and some of the surrounding cities, all of which you can enjoy for under $20. Check them out and share your own favorites in the comments!

Central Florida on a Dime | 5 Adventures Under $201. Take a marshmallow-making workshop at Wondermade.
Yes, you read that correctly! Wondermade is a locally-owned café that sells handcrafted marshmallows in a variety of flavors, along with hot chocolate, coffee, ice cream, and more. Any time I bring a friend to Downtown Sanford for the first time, we always have to stop at Wondermade. Throughout the year, they host Friday night workshops, where attendees can enjoy hot drinks and treats, learn about the marshmallow-making process, and make their own. The workshops are just $15 per person and perfect for a date night or a night out with friends.

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2. Gaze at the stars at Buehler Planetarium.
Also in the “Orlando North” region, Buehler Planetarium is located on the Sanford/Lake Mary Campus of Seminole State College, and hosts shows every weekend. I first visited the planetarium in December 2015 for the Star of Bethlehem show, and had such a great time that I returned for the Winter Sky Festival a few weeks later! The planetarium hosts interactive shows and presentations relating the night sky to mythology, upcoming holidays, scientific phenomena, and more. Admission is $6 for adults (only $4 for poor grad students like me!). You can access their calendar of events here.

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Central Florida On A Dime: 5 Adventures Under $203. Stroll through Leu Gardens.
Not far from Downtown Orlando, Leu Gardens is home to about 50 acres of beautiful plant life. Entry is only $10, unless you visit on a free “First Monday”. Leu Gardens also hosts classes and community events throughout the year.

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4. Visit the Morse Museum.
One of my favorite museums in Central Florida is the Morse Museum, which is home to the world’s largest collection of Louis Comfort Tiffany’s works. I’ve always been a fan of Tiffany glass, so my favorite area of the museum is the Chapel, which was constructed for the 1893 World’s Fair. Located on Park Avenue in Winter Park, the Morse Museum is ideally located for a day of good food and shopping, but is also a perfect destination on its own. Admission ranges from $1 to $6, but is occasionally free.

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Central Florida on a Dime | 5 Adventures Under $205. Pick berries at a U-Pick farm.
I don’t know about you, but I absolutely love visiting local farms and picking my own fruit! This activity is entirely dependent on the time of year, but it’s fun to come home with your own hand-selected produce. My favorite farm in the area is Tom West Blueberry Farm in Ocoee (check out last year’s recap here!). Admission is free — all you pay for are the berries you pick! During blueberry season, they have other free activities taking place on the farm as well. I’ve gone out to Tom West for the past two seasons and will be returning next year for some delicious Emeralds! A few other local U-Pick farms to consider include Pappy’s Patch in Oviedo and Sledd’s in Mims for strawberries.

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What are your favorite inexpensive activities in Central Florida? Share your suggestions in the comments section below!

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