Located in the southeast corner of the greater Orlando metro area, Lake Nona is a planned “smart” community far enough away from the city core to elicit groans from your downtown-dwelling friends. But that’s all changing now that the community’s entertainment options and other amenities have tipped the scales from “a couple of great restaurants” to “a lot of stuff worth the drive.” Canvas and Chroma still serve fine meals, and public art installations the Beacon, Code Wall and Glass House still please the eye, but this year sees the addition of even more fun with new murals at the Pixon, a water park, a micro-restaurant park and coming soon: driverless shuttles. Truly, Lake Nona is a few minutes farther into the future than any other Orlando neighborhood.
6877 Tavistock Lakes Blvd., boxiparklakenona.com
Picture a food truck park, but instead of food trucks, giant metal cans. Well, sort of. Trendily housed in repurposed shipping containers, Boxi Park is 30,000 family-friendly square feet of counter-service restaurants and bars, volleyball courts, a fenced-in dog park and a performance stage. In addition to all the ice cream, lobster rolls and margaritas you can handle, enjoy DJs, live bands and sand volleyball matches. Just don't forget your card (or phone); Boxi Park is strictly cashless.
Nona Adventure Park
14086 Centerline Drive, 407-313-2907, nonaadventurepark.com
This water-based sporting center is so technologically advanced it's almost scary, but put aside your fear and dive in. There's a 60-foot-high climbing tower, a cable-rigged wakeboarding system, and an inflatable obstacle course. (But hey, four-eyes: Only "sports glasses" are allowed here. This is Lake Nona! Get the Lasik already!)
Park Pizza & Brewing Co.
6941 Lake Nona Blvd., 407-955-4472, parkpizzalakenona.com
A brand-new, not-too-fancy pizza joint – with walls, in case you don't want to sit outside at Boxi Park. Woodfire-blistered Neapolitan pies (try the Bleu Bird) and house-brewed beers settle just right in a home-away-from-home atmosphere.
Pixon murals by Ledania
7004 Tavistock Lakes Blvd., 321-319-8755, lakenonapixon.com
The Pixon Apartments are one of the newer "neighborhoods" of Lake Nona, an 11-story tower with all mod cons like a car share program with Tesla Model 3s, an in-house virtual gaming room and "the Orlando market's first micro-apartment units." Just one catch: They aren't open yet. But in March of this year, Colombian neomuralist Ledania won a contest to create the Pixon's public art, and if you look hard (hint: Ledania's Instagram feed), you'll see the colorful South American-inspired work she's creating on site.