342 S. Park Ave., Winter Park
Getting glasses shouldn’t mean getting geeky (unless that’s the look you’re going for); nor should it cost a packet. This “optical boutique” on Park Avenue looks expensive, but don’t pass it by in scrimp-and-save mode; SEE takes the trauma out of wearing an appliance on your face by offering truly cool eyewear (complete: frames and lenses) for less than you’d pay at LensCrafters.
Best addition to a local farmers market
Lake Eola Art Farm at the Lake Eola Farmers Market
Lake Eola Park
Artists and crafters have always tended to pop up here and there as vendors at Orlando’s weekly food-and-flower–centric farmers markets, but art hasn’t had much of a spotlight at any of them. So the CityArts Factory got busy, and now every third Sunday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., dozens of artists converge on the bridge adjacent to the Lake Eola market to sell their works. Which means art is one-fourth as important as food and flowers. Not bad for Orlando.
Best presents for someone else’s kid
Colonial Photo & Hobby
634 N. Mills Ave.
It’s a Saturday afternoon, you’re on your way to a birthday party for your sister’s kid and you need to pick up a gift fast. You could stop at CVS and get some crappy knockoff action figures. Or you could just as easily pop in to Colonial Photo & Hobby, where you could get the kid something nice and dangerous. Like a model car (don’t forget the glue), a Dremel or some X-Acto knives; or maybe a chemistry set or a model rocket with extra engines. Just like that, you’re promoted from “drunk uncle” to “cool uncle.” Just make sure your sister has insurance.
Best place to squander a tax rebate
4092 Eastgate Drive
There’s no arguing against the biggest new player in Orlando’s retail universe: The Swedes showed up and we lost our shit. What is it about the big blue beacon beckoning us toward a flat-pack future that we find so irresistible? The unpretentiously overwhelming aesthetic? The ridiculously reasonable prices? The outrageously ümlauted nomenclature? Whatever it is, we can’t seem to escape without dropping a Benjamin on shelving solutions and smoked salmon. So we’re sending our stimulus check to IKEA HQ in the Netherlands, instead of the Chinese banks from whence it came.
Back to Nature Wildlife Refuge
18515 E. Colonial Drive
Remember those cold nights last winter when just keeping your ass from feeling like an icicle was a chore? Then give big props to the volunteer crew at the Back to Nature Wildlife Refuge who’ve sheltered countless critters from freezing their tails off. Check the wish list online and pack up something useful to donate before you make the trek way out east. Once there, take the tour and revel in the humanity.
Best remedy for a skin emergency
Kiehl’s curbside service
9101 International Drive
Omigod! Your skin looks cadaverous and there’s no way anyone can see you like this. Who you gonna call? Kiehl’s, the wrinkle-busters who’ve been selling top-shelf skin products “since 1851.” Jump in the car, call the store and ask for the cure, then pay by credit card and head for the special drop-off spot in the Pointe Orlando garage, where a Kiehl’s pro hands off the goods, like a one-ounce tube of Brightening Botanical Spot Treatment for $50. Crisis solved.
Thriftko’s 20 percent off Sundays
1442 State Road 436, Casselberry
That nagging conscience won’t bother you when the cash register rings up purchases made on Sundays at Thriftko. That’s when, in addition to the usual reasonable prices for the catchall items in the warehouse – clothing, household supplies, furniture – an extra 20 percent comes off the total. When a brand-new dress costs $2 and you walk away with it for $1.60, it feels pretty damn good.
Best place to buy a Van Halen cocaine mirror
Music for a Song
8200 Vineland Ave.
All record stores were once a bit like this: point-of-purchase merchandising of rock stars on whatever format could hold a sticker of Nikki Sixx. But with record stores going away, this little sorta-musical slice of heaven boasts a museum-like charm. If you can get past the current crop of My Chemical Romances and Daughtrys, you can still find that coveted reflective surface required for your “Panama” party and lock eyes with Eddie Van Halen while you breathe your life away.
Best men’s evening gowns
813 E. Washington St.
Is there a more delightfully entertaining Saturday activity than visiting Regalia, which sells sparkly evening gowns to stubbly beefcake boys with a penchant for extravagant-and-strappy? Not likely. Watching a roomful of excited queens is almost its own sport. They sell pageant gowns for “real girls” too.
Best diet Disney
Downtown Disney Marketplace
1780 Buena Vista Drive, Lake Buena Vista
Is the little bugger climbing the wall? Head to Downtown Disney marketplace to sap your kid’s energy for almost no money, and all you have to do is make sure they don’t steal anything. From the old-timey toy store to the LEGO center, the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique to the mini–train track, they’ll feel like they did Disney when really they just did some elaborate window-shopping. Kids are dumb that way.
Best free service you don’t use
Orange County Public Library’s MAYL program
You go online, select a book, CD or DVD and a few days later it pops up on your doorstep in a padded mailing envelope. Netflix? Better. It’s MAYL. And it’s free, kinda. MAYL – Materials Access from Your Library – is the clunky acronym for the Orange County Library’s home delivery program. It’s been around since 1974 when gas was, like, free. Now that gas is so, like, not free, MAYL is a godsend. They’re your tax dollars, so put ’em to use.
Best place to pick your own fruit
Showcase of Citrus
5010 U.S. Highway 27, Clermont
As an old-timey Florida roadside attraction, Showcase of Citrus is worlds away from Disney, just 10 minutes down the road. Scamper up a tree and pick any of the 50 varieties of fruit grown there – all of it claimed to be pesticide-free – ride in a swamp buggy, taste free samples or browse through the store/fruit stand. Best of all, just look around you at all the open, rolling hills. That’s what Florida used to look like, son.
Best way to staff your social-networking startup
Florida Creatives, BarCamp Orlando
Orlando has been cultivating its reputation as a technology center, and there’s evidence that it’s working. There’s a growing community of people who straddle the line between artist and techie, and you can find a good number of them hanging out with the Florida Creatives group. They host a happy hour once a month for socializing and schmoozing, and they’ve hosted two “un-conference” BarCamp events, where anyone can give a presentation about something that they find interesting. It’s a somewhat nerdy crew, but there’s no better place in town to meet that user-interface expert or the Drupal developer that you’ve been dreaming of.
GOODS & SERVICES READERS' POLL
Best Liquor Store1st: Total Wine & More, 2712 E. Colonial Drive; 407-894-6553; (www.totalwine.com)
Best Wine Shop1st: Total Wine & More, 2712 E. Colonial Drive; 407-894-6553; (www.totalwine.com)
Best Adult Entertainment Store1st: Fairvilla Mega Store, 1740 N. Orange Blossom Trail; 407-425-6005; (www.fairvilla.com)
Best Tattoo/Piercing Parlor1st: Ascension Custom Dermagraphics, 2510 N. Orange Ave.; 407-898-2013; (www.ascensiontattoo.com)
Best Bookstore1st: Barnes & Noble, multiple locations; (www.barnesandnoble.com)
Best Comic Book Store1st: A Comic Shop, 114 S. Semoran Blvd., Winter Park; 407-332-9636; (www.acomicshop.com)
Best Vinyl Record Store1st: Park Ave CDs, 2916 Corrine Drive, 407-447-7275; also UCF Student Union, 407-282-1616; (www.parkavecds.com)
Best CD Store1st: Park Ave CDs, 2916 Corrine Drive, 407-447-7275; also UCF Student Union, 407-282-1616; (www.parkavecds.com)
Best Antique Shop1st: Déjà Vu Vintage Clothing, 1825 N. Orange Ave.; 407-898-3609
Best Farmers Market1st: Winter Park Farmers Market, Saturdays at 200 W. New England Ave., Winter Park; 407-599-3358; (www.ci.winter-park.fl.us)
Best Health Food Store1st: Whole Foods Market, 1989 Aloma Ave., Winter Park, 407-673-8788; also 8003 Turkey Lake Road,407-355-7100; (www.wholefoodsmarket.com)
Best Vintage Clothing Store1st: Dechoes, multiple locations; (www.dechoes.shoprw.com)
Best Thrift Store1st: Goodwill, multiple locations; (www.goodwillcfl.org)
Best Hair Salon1st: Alchemy Hair Salon, 2812 Edgewater Drive; 407-650-8022; (www.alchemyorlando.com)
Best Nail Salon1st: Magic Nails & Spa, multiple locations; (www.mgnflorida.com)
Best Women’s Fashion1st: Etoile Boutique, 2436 E. Robinson St.; 407-895-6363; (www.etoileboutique.com)
Best Men’s Fashion1st: Merrigan’s Boutique, 4832 New Broad St.; 407-898-6864; (www.shopmerrigans.com)
Best Skate Shop1st: Covert Skate Shop, 2428 E. Robinson St.; 407-228-0804; (www.covertskate.com)
Best Bicycle Shop1st: Orange Cycle, 2204 Edgewater Drive; 407-422-5552; (www.orangecycleorlando.com)
Best Car Customizer1st: Eye Candy, 3145 N. John Young Parkway; 407-290-0777; (www.eyecandyautos.com)
Best Smoke Shop1st: Kathmandu Inc., 23 S. Court Ave., 407-316-0026; also 352 N. Park Ave., Winter Park, 407-647-7071; (www.tribalasia.com)
Best DVD/Video Store1st: Stardust Video & Coffee, 1842 E. Winter Park Road; 407-623-3393
Best Video Game Store1st: Gamestop, multiple locations; (www.gamestop.com)
Best Musical Instruments Store1st: Sam Ash Music, 912 Lee Road, 407-599-1222; also 4644 E. Colonial Drive, 407-896-5508; (www.samash.com)
Best Furniture Store1st: IKEA, 4092 Eastgate Drive; 407-355-3155; (www.ikea.com)
Best Sunglasses Store1st: Sunglass Hut, multiple locations; (www.sunglasshut.com)
Best Spa1st: Ritz Carlton, 4012 Central Florida Parkway; 407-393-4200; (www.ritzcarlton.com)
Best Tanning Salon1st: South Beach Tanning Company, multiple locations; (www.southbeachtanningcompany.com)
Best Shoe Store1st: BETA Shoe Boutique and Art Gallery, 2432 E. Robinson St.; 407-228-1995
Best Surf Shop1st: Ron Jon Surf Shop, 5160 International Drive; 407-481-2555; (www.ronjons.com)