In a sea of suburban sameness in Orlando, Sanford’s historic downtown – brick-lined streets, beautiful architecture – is the picture of small-town Florida on the shores of Lake Monroe. Steady gentrification has done nothing to alter its easygoing vibe. At its outset a haven for antique and thrift stores, Sanford has since attracted a diverse array of bistros, galleries and shops, and cultivated a marvelous monthly menu of cultural events.
Furnished enlightenment: Washburn Imports — Photo courtesy of A.D. Thompson
Who needs big-box retailers with their even lighting and immaculate shelves when there’s so much undeniable magic in the dusty warmth of a bookstore that feels like your eccentric aunt’s living room–right down to the worn couches and friendly cat? Maya Books & Music is a bibliophile’s paradise with artful, hand-inked signs denoting genres tacked into the shelves. Bargains – classics to cookbooks, metaphysics to mysteries – abound. The back room houses crates of LPs, CDs and even cassettes. Cinematic treasures (How about Reservoir Dogs: 15th Anniversary 2-Disc Edition for $3.75?) await, as well. Take your time. Get lost in the stacks.
Get lost in the stacks at Maya Books & Music — Photo courtesy of A.D. Thompson
Far East Comes West
You won’t find anything for $3.75 at Washburn Imports, but its stock - handcrafted home furnishings imported from Bali, India, China, Thailand, Indonesia and the like - may hold the showpiece you’ve been searching for. Hand-carved benches, bed frames and bookcases beckon, peaceful Buddhas smile benevolently from rich, dark panels, all in the warm glow of Moroccan henna lamps; every piece is a treasure.
Gallery on First is part gallery, part work space — Photo courtesy of A.D. Thompson
Gallery on First
There are several art galleries here; this one doubles as a working space, hosting shows, events, classes and workshops in a rustic circa-1882 building. Patrons may peruse an eclectic mix of works and, as there are eight active studios on the GOF premises, are welcome to watch the artists at work, ask questions and make their visit a more immersive and engaging experience.