Handcrafted works of art – whether for decorating, drinking or otherwise – are made that much more special when you can see them made before your eyes. In fact, there are more than a few such places in Orlando. And the wares will both delight and perhaps even surprise you.
These delicate glass ornaments are crafted on-site to the delight of Disney fans — Photo courtesy of Disney
At Walt Disney World, Epcot's magnificent Holidays Around the World event (This year from Friday, Nov. 28, to Tuesday, Dec. 30.) draws a multitude of visitors who come for the music, entertainment, food and the fabulous finds for their shopping lists.
Among the most captivating and memorable: the blown-glass ornaments created on site by artist Reinhard Herzog. Available in the Germany Pavilion in Epcot's World Showcase, each brings with it a beautiful memory to recall every season as it claims a branch on the tree.
At the Marketplace Co-Op in Downtown Disney, Cherry Tree Lane not only showcases a wealth of beautiful Disney Parks patterns by Vera Bradley, but the unique navy blue Cherry Tree Lane logo product – which features a charming array of horses, umbrellas and penguins as nod to Mary Poppins – is found exclusively at this shop. Nowhere else.
This Mary Poppins-inspired pattern is a Downtown Disney exclusive — Photo courtesy of Disney
"Our Walt Disney World guests love discovering these exclusive gift items to take home for the holidays!" says Steven A. Miller, Disney's merchandise communications manager. "And if they're staying in one of our resorts, they can have those gifts delivered directly to their hotel rooms from our parks and other store locations."
Well outside the theme-park realm, way up in the cattle country of Umatilla, fans of artisan spirits will delight in a visit to Palm Ridge Reserve, where Dick and Marti Waters create Florida whiskey and rye in microbatches distilled in their very own barn.
Palm Ridge Reserve's new rye is spicy, with an extra-long finish — Photo courtesy of Palm Ridge Reserve
It's available around town at Total Wine, Publix and other venues (and a very few outside of Florida), but nothing beats a good origin story.
"It's great to give as a gift," says Marti. "And in addition to being able to get a signed bottle when you visit, you'll have the experience of seeing the truly handmade nature of our whiskey."
You can shop local all afternoon in a number of the Orlando area's quaint, local neighborhoods. Many people have heard of Winter Park's tony Park Avenue, with its ritzy shops, atmospheric restaurants and bars and beautiful cobbled streets.
Other areas – College Park, Ivanhoe Village, Mills 50 and Audubon Park – are lesser known but growing consistently.
Hit up East End Market in the latter for a meal and a spree. This gourmands' mecca features incredible foods, fresh and packaged, and a wealth of other items from housewares to personal care to home decor, all of it locally sourced and unique.
A buy-local holiday spree not only serves your holiday shopping needs, but the community, too. And it's a whole new way for park aficionados to see our fair city.
East End Market has become a haven for foodies since it opened — Photo courtesy of A.D. Thompson