From camping and bowfishing to the best Domincan breakfast and cutest, historic destinations like Twin movie theatre and Sip n' Donuts -- the city of Saint Cloud is the good time you weren't expecting to have.

My parents moved to a little town called Saint Cloud in Central Florida about 35 minutes outside of Orlando where Disney World, Sea World and Universal’s Islands of Adventure are.

I was in high school when they made the move so I had no interest in making new friends or exploring the city. I spent my weekdays in school, weeknights at theatre rehearsals and weekends inside of the house or at work, which, lucky me, was in Orlando -- because St. Cloud? No, thank you.

It wasn’t until I went away for college and came back to visit for weekends that I gave the middle-of-nowhere, old-fashioned town a chance. It’s not as dull or as boring as I might have thought. Although it very well could have been for you if you didn’t have us, a team of travelers who curate the best Florida day trips for you, in the most random places. *cough cough*

So what unknown gems can be found in the small town of Saint Cloud, Fla., and what does a daytripper do there? More importantly, what does he or she eat?

First things first. Beach.

No need to wear the sexiest swimsuit or fancy resort wear to St. Cloud’s shores of Lake Tohopekaliga, or Lake Toho for short. This sand is perfect for a baseball cap. It’s also perfect for grilling, playing volleyball or even getting a workout in. Fishing is allowed off the pier, too, if that's your thing.

Eat more hole foods.

On a drive from the beach to your next spot, you’ll notice donut signs -- like so many donut signs that you’ll suddenly start craving warm baked dough, gooey chocolate frosting and light, sweet custard filling. Indulge! But skip the chains. There are too many Uncle Joey and Aunt Katey homebred shops servin’ up fried sweetness to settle for a chain you can easily get back home. Sip n’ Dip donuts, for example.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by @kaysizzle_ onJun 14, 2019 at 11:41am PDT

You’ll feel guilty for even looking in the window, but do. And then go in. And then order a handmade, twisted glaze donut and a fresh coffee. It’s a classic combo and you’ll leave oh-so satisfied. Ever tried a fruity pebbles covered donut? Me either, but they’re super cool to take photos of. Sip n’ Dip is the donut date worth the drive. Promise.

The kids love this and your date might, too.

Please, please do not leave the city without hitting the historic, 102-year-old “Twin” movie theater in the downtown area. Where else are you going to watch a movie for under ten bucks? It’s a small theater, but that’s what’s great about it.

There are only a couple of movies playing at a time so see if there’s a showing you like. Who knows? You might catch an action movie from 2001 or something new in theaters worldwide -- like Toy Story 4. You never really know, but who cares!? You’re not going so you can join a Twitter hashtag after. You’re going because small-town theater vibes are a perfect thing to do while on vacation. Plus, about those prices… you can expect to pay between $4 and $9 for a single ticket.

I’ve taken my younger siblings here from time to time, and it makes me so happy that they don’t care about whether the theater has leather seats, a fancy menu or double-digit movie options. They just love to go to the movies, and I don’t mind paying for them at Twin. It’s the kind of place you go to to leave 2019 in the present.

This is the meal that will hold you until dinner.


The Hispanic and Latin population in St. Cloud has doubled since 2000, and that’s great news for us travelers. It means the city is starting to have a variety of food options from Peruvian cuisine to Dominican fare. Produce stores like Thrifty have started popping up, too. It’s a local market and grocery that doubles as a restaurant. So pick up a hot breakfast or lunch to go. For breakfast, I recommend the mangu.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Stevie Cee (@stevieceedj) onJan 27, 2019 at 12:49pm PST

Mangu is a well-known Dominican dish complete with mashed green plantains, eggs, salami and fried white cheese. Fried white cheese? Yes, literally cheese for frying. Is it even real cheese? Where does it come from? I’ll get back to you with those answers. Just know this kind of fried cheese isn't found in just any supermarket. Only in the bodegas.

Although I come from a Puerto Rican family, mangu was and will always be a classic, go-to morning delight. I guess you can say it’s a Latin thing.

As a kid, I can remember being scared to eat mangu because of the way it looked. I had not yet developed my appreciation for colorful foods or recognized how often I was eating cultural foods that were actually delicious. So there I was, turning down my mother’s offer to take a bit of her mangu complete with pink onions (most restaurants will serve it this way), and I said “Ew! No thank you!” She didn’t bother to try to convince me; she just continued eating her meal in a very “Oh well, that means more for me” kind of way. That’s how I should have known it was good. But I learned, and so will you.

More sweets anyone? Or maybe it’s just too hot.

If you have a sweet tooth, which you do because just the thought of donuts made you happy, you’ll have to have a popsicle at Abbaletas. They’re always delicious and refreshing, plus the owners, a Christian couple who met in college, are extremely friendly. They’ve always got young people on their team who make you feel right at home. For example, go with children and an employee will ask if they saw the latest animated movie out or if they’re in the mood for Mango or Guava today. And the Abbaletas squad is also ready for the mess those kiddos will make after their popsicle toppings drop all over the place. Oh, and the toppings get really messy but don’t worry about kiddos dripping all over the place.

.embed-container { position: relative; padding-bottom: 56.25%; height: 0; overflow: hidden; max-width: 100%; } .embed-container iframe, .embed-container object, .embed-container embed { position: absolute; top: 0; left: 0; width: 100%; height: 100%; }

Everyone’s very guilty pleasure.

As if you didn’t already know this, St. Cloud’s no Philadelphia. But, you won’t be able to tell by the cheesesteak at Philly Steaks and Subs. They are so good. Don’t believe me? I’ve been a vegetarian for nearly five years and even I consider going back for a hot one. It’s funny, my friends feel so guilty when they leave this place. However, they keep going back. If you go, don’t forget to bring cash. This mom-and-pop-style eatery only accepts Washington, Lincoln, Hamilton and Jackson.

Alas, dinner.

For locals to drive 20 to 30 minutes from St. Cloud to Orlando for dinner, shopping and an evening stroll at Universal CityWalk is nothing except normal. My first car was the only one that could carry all of my friends to CityWalk to hang and share appetizers for dinner. The spot to dine is CityWalk’s replica of Bob Marley’s home in Kingston, Jamaica. Expect delicious and classic Jamaican foods like jerk wings, beef patties and yucca fries. But also look forward to memorabilia, tons of art and on some nights, live reggae music.

Don’t end the day without a bit of good ol’ tourism

Go ziplining, horseback riding, trail buggying over and through the city’s nature conservancy. Set aside four or five hours for a bowfishing adventure. You’ll be led by Glenn, a bass fisherman, and his crew who love, and I mean love, bowfishing.    If this is a day trip for you and the kids, don’t skip out on a very cute corn maze in the city. It’s easy enough that they won’t freak out or get too lost. For the campers, you’ll want to lean on Forever Florida to hook you up. There, you’ll camp like a cowboy and rough it. It’s perfect.


For more Florida trips and adventures, sign up for the free weekly newsletter, Day Trippin’.