Orlando's Top Shopping: Mallrats, Market Mavens & Small Shoppers Welcome

Photo courtesy of Orlando Farmer's Market
By A.D. Thompson, Orlando Local Expert

Alright so Orlando IS well known for its outlet shopping – some of the best can be found at Orlando Premium Outlets – Vineland – but did you know the City Beautiful has an extensive number of unique local venues ideal for your retail (and not-so-retail) therapy pursuits? Take East End Market, for example. This indoor venue is a foodie’s fantasy come true, featuring local produce and small local businesses to tempt your palate with everything from house-made kombucha to world-class cheeses. There’s even an on-site beer-and-wine bar (not to mention some of the city's absolute-best ramen!). Come Sunday, Lake Eola erupts in a riot of colorful produce at the Orlando Farmer’s Market. Here you can shop or just come for a brunch of sorts – arepas or street tacos or a burger perhaps, chased with locally brewed beer and live music. Those more interested in a standard experience will find all the mall staples and more at Florida Mall, where the Crayola Experience is a bonus for parents looking for something colorful for the kiddies. For more upscale retail, the Mall at Millenia will fit the bill nicely. Winter Park’s Park Avenue offers up myriad shopping – both brand-name and local – its galleries and bistros are world-class and few districts are as charming, historic and easy on the eyes. You’ll want to make a whole day of it.

10. Orlando Premium Outlets - Vineland Ave.

Doubt the awesome power of the outlet mall, do you? You'd have to hit 30 separate boutiques just to get through the roster of shoe stores at Orlando Premium Outlets' Vineland Ave. location. I hope you had a good breakfast. Indeed power-shoppers, both local and imported, find impressive savings on preferred brands at this, one of two such centers in town. From Burberry to Barney's New York, Coach to Cole Haan, Talbots for the preppies, True Religion for the trendies and Armani for the fashionistas (not to mention more than a hundred other venues), if your plastic doesn't melt, you could easily spend a day – and a reasonable percentage of your kids' college tuition savings – perusing its breezy passageways.

9. The Florida Mall
Photo courtesy of Florida Mall

The Florida Mall is an international, family-friendly shopping destination that welcomes more than 20 million visitors per year. Spanning nearly 1.8 million square feet, shoppers enjoy more than 250 stores and restaurants, including many exclusive to Central Florida, such as a Zara flagship store, American Girl, The Disney Store, and one of only five M&M's World stores worldwide. The Florida Mall also features Dillard's, JCPenney, and Macys, as well as fashion-forward concepts such as Michael Kors, H&M, A/X Armani Exchange and XXI Forever. Those less enthused by shopping but looking for a fun, unique and interactive time with the kids should check out the Crayola Experience and its 25 hands-on attractions.

8. East End Market
Photo courtesy of Altomonte Mall

East End Market made Orlando's already-cool Audubon Park Garden District even cooler back when it opened and has since drawn even more distinct food purveyors into the neighborhood. EEM is the city's only indoor public market. Resident businesses here include La Femme du Fromage (artisan cheeses), Local Roots (locally sourced produce, meats, a craft wine/beer bar), Skyebird Organic juice bar and experimental kitchen, a coffee roaster, bakery and a host of other businesses from home furnishing to homemade sauces make this venue a time-killer and foodie haven in the nicest possible way. Outdoor space for enjoying the market's spoils surrounded by herbs, flowers and an urban garden lend further charm to the space.

7. Ivanhoe Village
Photo courtesy of A.D. Thompson

Craft beer and wine and food and furniture and boutiques and antiques and vintage shops and boutiques and sporting goods and art and music and...and...and.... Ivanhoe Village has been called up-and-coming for more than a few years at this point. It's safe to say that while new businesses continue to open, it has most certainly arrived. With a host of shops, from gourmet bakeries and vintage furniture to original art and used records, this is a neighborhood where one could easily spend an entire day browsing, dining, drinking and even enjoying a bit of al fresco relaxing, whether at one of the area's stellar restaurant or bar patios or beneath the shady oak-studded park beside its eponymous lake.

6. Mall at Millenia
Photo courtesy of Mall at Millenia

The Mall at Millenia really is something else. Glittering, soaring, rife with luxury shopping that boasts the likes of Chanel and Emporio Armani, Tag Heuer and Rolex, Jimmy Choo and Cartier alongside familiar department stores like Macy's and Bloomingdale's and mall staples such as Abercrombie & Fitch, Banana Republic and Ann Taylor, this is where the well-heeled go to spend en masse and the rest of the world goes to splurge ... or just ogle, dream and enjoy a latte from Starbucks. Shopping Centers Today ranked the Mall at Millenia in the top 10 among the world's Top Fifteen most successful shopping centers and it's not hard to see why. With its tony ambiance, tonier brand names and a veritable Milky Way of satellite shopping venues and eateries, it's a favorite of locals and a must-do for the most mall-inclined of visitors.

5. Renninger's Twin Markets
Photo courtesy of Renningers Twin Markets

Literally thousands of lost treasures await discover at Renninger's, where every weekend in Mount Dora is a "one-man's trash"-themed amalgam of flea-, farmer's- and antiques market. From classic DVDs to old license plates, antique fine China to shrubbery for your garden, it's a "picker's" delight of bric-a-brac, furniture, folk art and more. Set on 117 acres of rolling Lake County acreage, two large buildings and a wealth of outdoor shopping areas await, hosting vintage fairs and other events while showcasing the wares of hundreds of vendors. A visit to Renninger's could easily serve as an all-day affair. One at which it's doubtful you'll escape empty-handed. .

4. Orlando Farmer's Market
Photo courtesy of Orlando Farmer's Market

Orlando residents have been delighting in this weekly Lake Eola event since 1987 and it just keeps growing. This expansive and colorful market features more than 50 vendors all year 'round, creating a veritable cornucopia of Florida fruits and vegetables. Also on tap: plants, jewelry, paintings, clothing, locally made specialty food items and more. The market is dog- and family-friendly; many residents bring the whole gang to shop, grab a late breakfast or lunch and even enjoy beer and wine (courtesy of Orlando Brewing) in its oak-shaded "beer garten" where venerable local singer/guitar-slingers entertain the crowd every Sunday.

3. Downtown Sanford
Photo courtesy of Wondermade

This beautiful, historic Main Street-style downtown has a bevy of buildings that have been on the National Historic Register since the 1970s – and more than a few are home to some wonderful shops, galleries, restaurants and more. From gorgeous gift shops like Magpie's Modern General Store to artisan food purveyors like Wondermade (where the marshmallows are heavenly as gift boxes, but you can eat one on the spot via hand-fired s'more along with their homemade ice cream) to longtime resident art hubs like the Jeanine Taylor Folk Art Gallery to exotic home decor by way of Washburn Imports – which, by the way, has a full liquor craft cocktail bar inside, Sanford is full of incredible surprises that hide in plain sight! Festivals and street parties abound, as well, like the monthly Alive After 5 celebration, making it even better to plan a shopping visit strategically to take advantage.

2. Winter Park's Park Avenue
Photo courtesy of Park Avenue, Winter Park

Winter Park's famed Park Avenue and its surrounds have been delighting shoppers for ages with quaint, cobbled, oak-shaded lanes and top-of-the-line boutiques. Here you'll find names you recognize (Restoration Hardware, Ann Taylor, Williams-Sonoma, Pottery Barn, etc.) along with scads of locally owned boutiques and galleries for your fashion, home furnishing and even pantry-related needs. Check out Kathmandu, Peterbrooke Chocolatier, The Grove, Downeast, Through The Looking Glass and more! In between the great excuses to spend, the cooling fountains and relaxing benches of Central Park beckon, as do the dozens of restaurants, bars and bistros, many outfitted with al fresco seating, for true, tony, small-town immersion during your stay. Whether its spent window shopping or a credit card-igniting spend-a-thon is up to you.

1. Disney Springs
Photo courtesy of Visit Orlando

Disney Springs is the umbrella name for this walkable, lakeside strand of shopping, dining and entertainment within the Walt Disney World complex. And its ongoing expansion (it's truly massive) has brought with it a host of new venues well suited to part you from your cash. Hats and Havianas sandals, an ever-expanding list of Disney merch from clothing to home furnishings. Not to mention the double-tap of dream stores for both the Marvel and Star Wars. The kids will have a ball in the LEGO Store, where elaborate brick-works are on display and plenty of hands-on bins let kids hone their engineering skills. Those who haven't been here in awhile will be happy that the cavernous World of Disney remains intact, while additional boutiques – like Mickey's Pantry, which features food, spirits and housewares – add new, exciting Disney buys to your list of options. Couples whose shopping desires are conflicted can divide and conquer, with one perhaps hitting the Art of Shaving for a full-on afternoon of male pampering while the other racks up really cool and surprisingly reasonable clothing at Uniqulo. Additional ample shopping (newer additions include Anthropologie, Alex & Ani, Coach, Lilly Pulitzer and more!) seems to stretch on forever!