101 Things to Love about Central Florida

It's the time of year where we say thanks for what we have. And this year, readers submitted nearly 1,000 suggestions for this year's list of "101 Things to Love About Central Florida."

That suggests there's a lot to like about this place we call home.


Obviously we couldn't fit them all in. So what follows is just a sampling of the places, traditions, people and experiences. Some you may love. Others you might need to look up. All make metro Orlando a unique place to live.

Great white egrets and great blue herons.


One OrlandoFund, two pro soccer teams and Friends Talking Faith with The Three Wise Guys.

Kayaking the Dora canal, cycling the West Orange Trail, paddle boarding the Winter Park chain of lakes … and being able to do it all in December.

The fact that we can have a Veterans Day parade and gay Pride parade on the same day in downtown Orlando — and have great turnout for both.

The three-hour happy hour every day at The Guesthouse on Mills.

Yalaha Bakery. Long & Scott Farms. East End Market.

Lucky's Lake Swim. Lee & Rick's Oyster Bar. The Maitland Symphony Orchestra.

River otters and Spanish moss.

The fact that you can see 10 different kinds of architecture on a cul de sac with only nine houses.


The way this community responded to the Pulse tragedy.

A welcoming atmosphere for newcomers.

A proliferation of little free lending libraries and craft beer bars.

Fancy meat houses like Christner's and Charley's.

Less fancy meat houses like Hot Dog Heaven and Johnny's Filling Station.

Total non-meat houses like Ethos and Market on South.


Shepherds Hope. The Boys and Girls Clubs. And Keep Orlando Beautiful.

The fact that the big theme parks — Universal Orlando, Walt Disney World and SeaWorld — lend major support to the three charities above … and many others.

That we have so many theme parks.

That we have places you can go to escape the theme parks … like Canaveral National Seashore, Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park and the rolling hills of Clermont.

Terry DeCarlo. The Apopka nuns. Voice of the Magic, Scott Anez.

Artist-painted utility boxes and dumpsters.


The Audubon Center for Birds of Prey.

The Orlando Shakespeare Theater and Enzian Theater. The Orlando Fringe festival and the Bach festival.

A world-class airport. Nearby cruise ports. And a whole bevy of Staycation options if you want to skip all the ports and simply relax in your own backyard.

The Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive and Linda's La Catina.

The Casselberry Art House and the Timucua White House.

Gatorland, The Orlando Philharmonic and UCF's increasingly impressive medical school.


A diverse community and diverse collection of faith denominations to serve it.

Daily City food truck bazaars. PechaKucha. The annual Volusia County Farm Tour.

Charlie's Bakery.

Philanthropists like Harriett Lake, Bruce Holmes, Don and Cindy Diebel and John and Rita Lowndes.

Donut King and Beefy King.

That the Sentinel remains a bastion of varying views.


That we're going to complete the Dr. Philips arts center.

That you can sometimes watch rocket launches from your back yard.

Boggy Creek airboat rides. Orlando Speaks. Front-door delivery of Orange County library books.

An abundance of cultural festivals: Serbian, Scottish, Chinese, Moroccan, German, Greek and more.

Beaches in both directions. And Lakes in every direction.

The League of Women Voters. Gatorland. And the Russell Home for Atypical Children.


The Orange County Sheriff's teen academy program and the city of Orlando's pottery studio.

The Morse Museum. The Holocaust Memorial center. The Polasek museum.

Nonprofits that keep on growing and serving, including New Hope for Kids, the Ronald McDonald House and UCP of Central Florida.

Small-town downtowns.

The Annie Russell, Wayne Densch and Ice House theaters.

Jazz strolls at Leu Gardens. The Orlando Shuffle club. And the Orlando Psycho City Derby Girls.