Forget “Orlando North.” Seminole County officials adopted the term to attract tourists, but Sanford is lovely all on its own. This historic city has a charm that doesn’t wear off as time goes by and we’re grateful for it. Around the downtown area, find historic architecture, galleries, eclectic businesses and a long riverwalk. Greater Sanford is a nature lover’s dream; the city is bordered by lakes, the St. Johns River and wildlife preserves. You can take the afternoon SunRail to get to Sanford, but be warned: That might not give you enough time to explore all the gems here.
The Tennessee Truffle
125 W. First St., Sanford, 407-942-3977, facebook.com/thetennesseetruffle
This breakfast-and-lunch restaurant gives Southern staples a new twist and introduces Sanford to the delicious secrets of pickled ramps.
The Smiling Bison
107 S. Magnolia Ave., Sanford, 407-915-6086, smilingbison.com/sanford
Chef Josh Oakley's gastropub gets raves for good reason, with beer-friendly but upscale dishes like the duck-lover's pizza and the shaved-beef sandwich on a smoked salt-caraway roll. Ask for mushroom ketchup on your fries.
2545 S. French Ave., Sanford, 407-952-3329, jimotti.com
This self-described Japanese-style tapas restaurant run by a former Morimoto Asia head sushi chef is a culinary adventure, located in an unlikely neighborhood. Brave it.
120 S. Park Ave., Sanford, 407-328-4848, fuelbbq.com
Served straight up on a metal tray, this restaurant's food is a no-frills barbecue get-down right next door to the Alley, a live blues venue owned by the same folks.
Hollerbach's Willow Tree Café
205 E. First St., Sanford, 407-321-2204, willowtreecafe.com
Come for the German food and beer, stay for the gemütlichkeit atmosphere, complete with oompah music.
214 E. First St., Sanford, 407-205-9569, wondermade.com
Marshmallow lovers, meet your match. This unique café puts the dessert on a stick, in a s'more or in a cup of hot Lineage coffee.
Sanford Brewing Company
400 S. Sanford Ave., Sanford, 407-732-6419, sanfordbrewing.com
This combination gastropub/brewery/taproom is part of Sanford's burgeoning craft beer scene. They brew several beers in-house, including the Weekender, a malted white ale with fresh lemon juice.
105 W. Second St., Sanford, 321-363-0661, sanfordcoffee.com
Espresso drinks, frappes and cold-brew served in a chic setting that will make you want to linger.
The Imperial at Washburn Imports
116 E. First St., Sanford, 407-732-6956, facebook.com/theimperialsanford
Where else can you fill up on wines, craft beers and cocktails while perusing exotic imported furniture? Except for the Imperial in Orlando, of course.
Jeanine Taylor Folk Art
211 E. First St., Sanford, 407-323-2774, jtfolkart.com
This gallery celebrates and brings to light the work of Florida folk artists and other artists from the South, including Ruby C. Williams, Alyne Harris and Mary Proctor.
Maya Books and Music
201 E. First St., Sanford, 407-321-6504
One of the last independent book stores around, this place is any reader's dream nook. Make some time to dig into all the riches collected here.
Rabbitfoot Record Store Café
307 E. Second St., Sanford, 321-926-3154, rabbitfoot.rocks
A combination of good coffee, live music and plenty of vinyl make this Sanford spot a place you just can't miss.
1211 Historical Goldsboro Blvd., Sanford, 407-585-0692, goldsboromuseum.com
Born out of the struggle after Sanford forcibly incorporated the all-black town of Goldsboro into its borders, this museum highlights the singular history of the lost town and celebrates its heritage.
St. Johns Rivership Co.
433 N. Palmetto Ave., Sanford, 321-441-3030, stjohnsrivershipco.com
There are a lot of ways to observe the beauty of the winding St. Johns River, but not a lot of people can say they traveled the river on an authentic sternwheeler named Barbara-Lee.