Lonely Planet Writer

76-Second Travel Show: 'The real Orlando'

Orlando's not the #1 destination in the USA for the city itself, which was an orange grove haven long before Mick Mouse showed up. But on a recent visit, to attend the opening to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, I stayed in town and spent time talking with locals about the 'other Orlando.' And I liked it.

It's a place, I learned, where Jack Kerouac became a beat legend (his mom's old home is at 1418 Clouser Ave, just off Shady Lane, in the pretty College Park neighborhood - summed up in Bob Kealing's book Kerouac in Florida), and home to some of the best, most authentic Vietnamese food in the country ('Little Saigon,' or 'ViMi,' is around the intersection of Colonial and Mills streets, just northeast of downtown), and near to an tiny, emerging eating/drinking area dubbed the 'Milk District' (at Robinson and Bumby).

North of the center, Loch Haven Park is a lake-filled area with a complex of museums, including the fun Mennello Museum of American Art, with the 'naive art' of Earl Cunningham whose paintings followed a scale based on his interest (people: small, birds: very very big).

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Did it all add up to a 'real Orlando'? I'm not sure. But the city itself is well worth a day.