Exploring Florida's neighborhoods didn't used to be so easy. Ponce de Leon had to deal with hungry alligators and dense swamps, but these days? The best way to take in the town is Orlando's frequent assortment of pub crawls and wine walks, where you can augment the local flavor with a little libation. Leave the machete at home and try blazing these trails.
Orlando Pub Crawl
Perhaps you've seen them weaving through downtown Orlando during the weekend and wondered if Halloween came early this year: A gaggle of smiling revelers dressed up in Hawaiian shirts, pirate garb or retro '80s gear, staggering down Orange Avenue.
More than likely, these were the latest victims of the Orlando Pub Crawl, a (loosely) organized party that takes over a string of downtown bars roughly every month, with a different theme to dress up for each time.
"It's a fun and unique way to enjoy downtown Orlando," says Cameron Parker, 38, who co-founded Orlando Pub Crawl in 2006. "We try to bring something different every time. Each event is different because there's always different numbers of people or different types of people that join us on the event."
For each crawl, participants pay their admission and receive a lanyard that gets them drink specials and free cover at each of that night's venues, which typically include nightspots such as Wall Street Plaza, Ember or Big Belly's. The promise of one free drink at each spot — during a limited window of time — keeps the party moving along.
"The best description of it is 'organized chaos'," says Parker.
The next themed crawl on the schedule is the "Ultimate Bachelor/ette Party Pub Crawl" starting at 8 p.m. Aug. 17. (Think matching tiaras or shirts; any reference to "The Hangover.") Register before Wednesday, Aug. 7 for $10 admission, or $15 at the door. For details, head to orlandopubcrawl.com.
Thornton 2nd Thursday Wine & Art Walk
For a more genteel stroll, visit the Thornton Park district just east of downtown Orlando for its monthly event. If anything, the format is even looser here: Participants can pick up a glass for a $10 donation, then get it filled any time from 6:30-9:30 p.m. at participating venues including Dexter's restaurant and the Falcon Bar & Gallery (along with Maxine's on Shine, just a short drive east on Shine Avenue).
Encouragement to move on down the road is provided by the glasses themselves, which tend to be a bit small. But Thornton Park makes up for it in variety, with venues offering cider, sangria and beer in addition to wine selections. You also can pick up some light appetizers at select spots such as Tijuana Flats.
It's all great promotion for the businesses, certainly, but artists get their due as well. Local craft artisans and painters such as Parker Sketch set up on the sidewalks during the walk to vend their wares.
The next Thornton 2nd Thursday is slated for Aug. 8. Get maps of the venues and details at thorntonparkdistrict.com.
Baldwin Park Sip
Tucked away on New Broad Street, the downtown area of the Baldwin Park district has more to offer than a great view of Lake Susannah. The best way to take it in this month? The Baldwin Park Sip, a charity wine crawl. Participants can enjoy 2-to-3-ounce pours of wine or liquor at participating restaurants and businesses, including Chi Pan Asian, Jack's Steakhouse and Caddyshanks (one of the better sports bars in town).
Best of all, the event benefits the Lone Sailor Navy Memorial, a monument that honors those who served years ago at the old Naval Training Center where Baldwin Park now stands.
The Baldwin Park Sip is set for 6-9 p.m. Aug. 14, and tickets are $20 advance or $25 at the door. For details check out the-sip.org.
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