12 Cultural Getaway Trips in Florida
Updated: Jan 6
Looking for cultural getaway trips in Florida (from Orlando,) that will make you feel anywhere but here? While international travel has been more limited since the Covid-19 pandemic, you can explore these destinations in the meantime to satisfy your wanderlust. Here I have made a list of 12 different "countries" that you can visit for a taste of foreign cuisine, or a full blown cultural experience.
1. Little Vietnam
Location: Mills 50/ East Colonial Drive Time: 7 minutes from Downtown Orlando
If there was a designated Vietnamese Town anywhere, East Colonial Drive/ Mills 50 would be THE mecca. Don't let the lack of oblivious oriental clichés fool you, there are countless Vietnamese restaurants, groceries, or Vietnamese-owned businesses on and around East Colonial Drive/ Mills 50. On your visit, enjoy delicious Pho or Bahn Mi or any authentic Vietnamese dish of your choice (our choice is Vietnam Cuisine, which was recommended by our Vietnamese hairdresser.) Finish off your meal with boba milk tea, there are over 30 boba milk tea shops in and around the area! Have a happy ending on your tour of "Little Vietnam" by shopping around for Asian groceries to enjoy more of South East Asian experience at home.
2. Little Europe
Location: Park Avenue, Winter Park Time: 12 minutes from Downtown Orlando
Visit Park Avenue in Winter Park and be transported to a small quaint European town. You can't quite pick out what European town this is reminding you of, but it won't feel at all like your typical small American town. The food scene here is impeccable and the walk around Park Avenue is an appetizing treat in itself. Enjoy a brunch date at the extremely popular Briarpatch or a romantic dinner at any restaurant (try Prato, it's on my list of Best Affordable Restaurants in Orlando ($-$$.)) chances are you won't be disappointed. If you love drooling over beautiful homes and architecture (like me,) plan some extra time to walk around the blocks and see what dream homes are made of.
Location: Tortilleria El Progreso, Azalea Park Time: 15 minutes from Downtown Orlando
Step into this restaurant/ grocery and be transported to all things Mexicana. It's one of our favorite no-frill restaurants. When you have kids you trade trendy for tu casa - mi casa atmosphere, you're not there to impress anybody but your taste buds anyway. Besides the delicioso Authentic Mexican food (so authentic you only hear Spanish spoken there,) Tortilleria EL Progreso is also a grocery store that sells bakery goods, Tortillas, ice cream, and fresh produce. If you haven't been to Mexico, you're gonna step out of the store thinking like you may just have.
P.S. We just paid a visit after getting our vaccines and the homey feel is sadly gone after a major store expansion. However, the food is still delicious and the foreign vibes are still there!
Location: Shiraz Market, Longwood Time: 25 minutes from Downtown Orlando
Shiraz Market is another restaurant/ grocery that feels like the moment you walk in, your senses are transported to a mom-and-pop store in Persia (now modern Iran.) Take one whiff and you can smell the rich fragrance of exotic herbs and spices, you don't quite know what it is - but you know it's going to taste amazing. Shiraz Market was recommended to us by my husband's food critic friend, who supposedly referred "the best Persian food in town" to Andrew Zimmern. The best-selling item is the kebab platter, but the hidden gem is the Lamb Dizi; a traditional Iranian Lamb and Chickpea Soup. Since everything is made fresh, while waiting to taste the best of Persian cuisine, you can browse around the store for all the Middle Eastern goodies.
Location: Wat Florida Dhammaram, Kissimmee Time: 35 minutes from Downtown Orlando
Normally Thai temples abroad looks nothing like the temples you will see in Thailand. Lucky for Floridians and the Sunshine State visitors, the Thai Temple in Kissimmee actually resembles a Buddhist temple in Thailand, albeit much less extravagant. For foreigners it will be a cultural exposure and quite a unique sight to see. For us Thais (I am originally from Thailand) is to feel a little closer to our home and traditions. Wat Florida Dhammaram holds a Sunday market on national and religious holidays throughout the year. Have a taste of authentic Thai food, buy South East Asian herbs, and make food offering to the monks. Wat Florida Dhammaram also hosts a popular annual Taste of Thai Food Festival in October (check their Calendar of Events.)
6. United Kingdom
Location: Mount Dora Time: 40 min from Downtown Orlando
This small town Northwest of Orlando is known for antique shopping, particularly Renningers Mount Dora Flea Market and Antique Center, amongst many other local Antique stores, and several authentic British establishments like Magical Meat Boutique British Pub, The Frog and Monkey, and The Windsor Rose Tea Room and Restaurant. Besides its British flairs, Mount Dora is also known as the "Festival City" with a year-round schedule of festivals and events. For example, the Arts Festival, the Bicycle Festival, and the Mount Dora Scottish Highland Games/Festival. Don't miss the newly established Mount Dora Marketplace featuring dozens of diverse local vendors and products.
Location: Yalaha Time: 40 min from Downtown Orlando
This popular German bakery is so quaint and picturesque you will definitely be looking around and doing a double take to see if you're still in Florida. Yalaha Bakery is known for its bread, pastries , pies, pretzels and, of course, beer garden. Go here for German style brunch like Wienerschnitzel or Bauernwurst, and enjoy refreshing German beer outdoor at the bakery's relaxing outdoor patio. The baked goods alone are honestly not worth the drive, however the
ambience and the country landscapes will be an idyllic escape from the city.
Location: St. Augustine Time: 1 hr 40 min from Downtown Orlando
St. Augustine is known to be the oldest city in the United States. The city is packed with beautiful Spanish colonial architecture and historic must-see attractions. The Flagler College campus alone is worth a visit, with the impressive Spanish Renaissance Architecture, it is no wonder that the city's highlight is placed as a National Historic Landmark. The location of St. Augustine is also ideally located on the beautiful Matanzas Bay, where Castillo de San Marcos National Monument, the oldest stone fortress, is situated. Ponce de Leon's "Fountain of Youth" is another famous point of interest in this historic Spanish settlement.
Location: Tarpon Springs Time: 2 hrs from Downtown Orlando
This quaint coastal city is one of my personal favorites in Florida. Greek immigrants settled here during the early 1900s and the town has been known for its prominent Greek heritage; whether it be the finest Greek restaurants (Dimitri's on the Water was beautiful,) markets, and bakeries. Besides the Greek cuisine, the sponge diving exhibitions tour is highly recommended for a family-fun activity. Another kid-friendly attraction is the Tarpon Springs Aquarium and Animal Sanctuary, where you can hold, pet, and feed the animals. Shop for sponges to take home and don't forget to pay a visit to the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral.
Location: Morikami Museum & Japanese Garden Time: 2 hrs 45 min from Downtown Orlando
The name of my blog Land of the Raising Sons is a representation for my love for Japan a.k.a. Land of the Rising Sun. So of course, Japan has to be on this list of "international" getaway. Besides the Orlando Japan Festival that takes place yearly in Kissimmee, the Morikami Museum and Japanese Garden is THE place to go if you have an interest in Japan. Morikami will certainly immerse you in all Japan's unique traditions and graceful culture. In addition to the beautiful Japanese Garden, and exhibitions, Morikami also offers other cultural demonstrations like Tea Ceremony, Koto Traditional Instrument Demonstration, Sumi-e Japanese ink painting, Shibori Indigo Workshop, and Ikebana Flower Arrangement class. Unlike the raving reviews, the onsite restaurant at the time of our visit was rather underwhelming.
Location: University of Tampa, Tampa Time: 1 hr 30 min from Downtown Orlando
Ok, so this attraction is not exactly Istanbul but it might as well be. The building, that was formerly the Tampa Bay Hotel, features prominent architectural characteristics that were definitely inspired by the Byzantine architecture, building style of Constantinople. The building is now home to The University of Tampa where the south wing of the first floor was turned into the Henry B. Plant Museum. I highly recommend the museum, the collection of hotel furnishings and art objects there are spectacular and worth every penny. I would say it's one of the most lavish and exhaustive display of window-through-the-past that I have ever seen. The decors were collected by Mr. and Mrs. Plant from Europe and the Orient, a great representation of Istanbul as a major city that connects Europe and Asia.
Location: Little Havana, Miami Time: 3 hrs 30 min from Downtown Orlando
This is probably one of the better known spots on this list. Little Havana in Miami is rich in history and culture of Cuba. The food, the art, the music, the vibrancy, you can't deny the Cubano authenticity. Visit Versailles, a Cuban culinary landmark - not for just Miami but the state of Florida, and La Esquina de la Fame for a photo op and their famous mojitos. We opted for Old's Havana Cuban Bar & Cocina and recommend it for the food and ambience. Enjoy plenty of cigar and rum experience in Calle Ocho, and check out the Walk of Fame that honors famous Cubans.
I have personally been to all of these places, so feel free to comment down below if you have any questions. Another noteworthy destination for cultural exposure in Florida is one of the Disney's parks EPCOT. EPCOT features 11 pavilions representing countries from around the world, including Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Morocco, Japan, the United States, Italy, Germany, China, Norway and Mexico. If you know of any other cultural-enriching or "international" destinations to visit in Florida, please let me know!
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Hi, I'm Ketsiree Tury. Let's Connect!
Foodie | Blogger | Content Strategist
I blog about affordable family-fun, food & travel around the Sunshine State 🌅 & Beyond ☕🥐🌸🍵
Bangkok bred. Orlando based. The original blogger of Direct Bus from Bangkok to Siem Reap: Step-by-Step Journey.
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