Drawing attention to local businesses and smaller attractions remains one of my main goals for this blog. So far, I’ve succeeded in my quest to get to know Florida better, but I’ve excluded one important local area from the mix: mine.
In opening myself up to the local possibilities here in Davenport, I’ve discovered some of my favorite activities, restaurants, and businesses. This small city may not be the epicenter for all things hip and cutting edge, but we are growing–rapidly.
Enjoy this guide to my neighborhood including: enjoyable activities, local eats and some other area favorites.
Things to Do (Local and Nearby)
Sunrise Hot Air Balloon Rides
Davenport is home to one of the coolest things you can do in Central Florida: hot air balloon rides. Bob of Bob’s Balloons is a local legend in my eyes; he can be spotted up in the air by morning and supporting local restaurants by night. He’s an all around good guy and runs a super professional business.
Expect around 3 hours for your balloon ride experience which includes setup, flight time, and landing. Spending a morning watching the sun come up over Central Florida is an experience that just can’t be beat. You will not regret doing this, I promise!
The City of Davenport
Despite living in the area for 4 years, I’d actually never been to the real city. I didn’t quite know what to expect, but was pleasantly surprised to find a tiny but growing city with several historical buildings, scenic parks, budding businesses, and a tight knit community. I do use the term city lightly, because Davenport is tiny and walkable from one end to the other.
I teamed up with a close friend, Denise, who also happens to be a code enforcer for the area to take a tour. We started at the city hall building which has been standing since 1927 and once functioned as city hall, a jail, and the fire station all in one. The area is also full of unique homes, several other historic buildings, and small walkable parks. It’s exciting to see this little corner growing!
Bok Tower Gardens – Lake Wales
This is a favorite spot to visit when friends and family are in town, and something I recommend to locals and tourists alike. The gardens are large – 250 acres – with the gorgeous singing tower as a pretty backdrop.
Although it’s a bit of a drive (45 minutes) from Davenport to Lake Wales, it’s worth it for a half day spent wandering the quiet paths, listening to the carillon bells which can be heard all throughout the park, and enjoying the scenery. This is such a beautiful place in Central Florida, but it easily gets lost in the noise of large theme parks.
Lake Louisa State Park
I owe the discovery of this park to my mom (thanks Mom!). Lake Louisa has since turned into my go-to spot for a day in nature. Located on Highway 27 near Clermont, Lake Louisa is a scenic park filled with pine trees, lakes, hiking trails, equestrian trails, cabins, and other camping options. There’s also a small beach area with tables – great for a picnic or a day spent lounging by the water with a good book.
Other local attractions include Legoland, Cinepolis (words cannot express how excited I was when we finally got a movie theatre – AND it has a bar inside!) and hang gliding.
Where to Eat: Local Favorites
Ovation Bistro and Bar
This is my local hangout of choice; great for date night, girls night, and everything else. Ovation is a somewhat newer addition to our area, but they’re already growing and are consistently changing things up to improve. The menu is American fare with a specialty in BBQ (they smoke all of their own meats in house).
My favorite item on the menu is hands down the Bravo Tacos (are you surprised?) with pork and yummy cucumber salsa. BBQ meats can be found in a variety of dishes including tacos, flatbread, sandwiches, potato skins, loaded nachos and more. I may or may not have tried all of those aforementioned options already. (And this is why I workout.) If you visit soon, give the Cucumber Mint Lemonade cocktail a try–holy yum.
Ovation is Veteran owned and it’s not uncommon to see the owner, Joel, visiting every single table to chat with guests. It all adds to that welcoming neighborhood vibe which can be a little hard to find in this area. If I had to choose just one restaurant nearby to recommend, it’s this one.
The Fish and Chip Shop
Another discovery I owe to my mom (should I start paying her?) who noticed the sign while we were driving around Champions Gate. The space was once Paris Express-my favorite place to get breakfast-so they had big shoes to fill. They do NOT disappoint!
Traditional options like haddock (my fav) and cod are available along with fresh chips and mushy peas. I also never pass up a side of potato salad. John is a big fan of the handmade pies, which are also delicious. The space is small but inviting, and I always enjoy watching the video playing on a loop on their TV of scenes around England and beyond.
Sh-Booms Ice Cream & Sweets
Sh-Booms is an adorable 50s/60s music themed ice cream shop complete with a variety of flavors, diner-style digs, a jukebox, and vintage music decor featuring Elvis, The Beatles, and more. It’s also just a few doors down from Ovation if you’re looking for dessert after your meal.
This ice cream shop definitely gets bonus points for atmosphere – it’s easy to feel like you’ve fallen back in time as soon as you walk in the door. If you want good homemade ice cream, this is your jam. If you prefer soft serve, check out Twistee Treat nearby, which is another favorite of mine.
A Davenport guide is not complete without mentioning Mannino’s Pizza. You know when you just really want some greasy, delicious, farthest thing from healthy NY style pizza? (Every Friday night for me.) Mannino’s is my number one answer to satisfying that craving.
It’s a local favorite and a best bet next time you’re craving pizza. Also, you can fully expect this to be dinner at least one night if you’re visiting me. Other options for pies include Mia Pizza (thin crust) and Dulcetto (yummy, but sometimes their service can be slow).
Opening Soon: Corner Cafe
I mentioned the city of Davenport is pretty tiny, but every city needs a few local restaurants right? The Corner Cafe is a much anticipated restaurant opening soon right in the heart of downtown. The owners Gwen and Robert have completely renovated the inside space for a feel that’s vintage and homey with old signs and Coca Cola memorabilia. They’ll be offering breakfast and lunch (I was eyeing up the pulled pork sandwich) and I can’t wait to get back here once they’re open.
Other Local Favorites
Beyond Fitnezz Zumba Studio
If you like P90x or shaking it to latin tunes, go here! I’ve always had a hard time getting into the gym/feeling intimidated by other people working out who probably don’t spend their afternoons eating tacos like me. But this is an amazing, welcoming, and positive place to get your sweat on.
Locals and visiting tourists alike are welcome to drop in at anytime for morning and evening zumba classes ($5 – check Facebook for weekly schedules or email Ligia, the owner, for info), P90X bootcamp sessions with Jaime ($10, Monday through Wednesday at 7pm), or yoga (Monday, Wednesday 7:30pm $5). Come join me for bootcamp and yoga!
Cenoté Day Spa
I’ve been going to Katelyn’s spa ever since discovering it a few years ago and can’t recommend it enough. Located in the Bahama Bay Resort, Cenoté is a full service spa that’s local approved. I’ve been for massages, facials, manicures, and pedicures and highly recommend it if you’re looking for a personalized spa experience.
Still convinced Davenport is a forgetful stop somewhere between Orlando and Tampa? Me either. 🙂