Winter Park, Florida is an upscale town of about 30,000 people in
the heart of Orlando's urban area.
It's sometimes hard to believe such a quiet place exists so near to the bustle of Walt Disney World and Universal Studios.
The town is often overlooked as a central Florida tourism attraction, but is definitely worth a visit or an extended stay.
It's Park Avenue shopping district is a wonderful place to spend a day or a week.
I lived in Winter Park on two separate occasions. It is a relaxing place to live. If you live close to downtown, everything you need is within walking distance.
Shops and restaurants line the brick paved Park Avenue. As the name implies, there is a large grassy tree shaded park along the west side of the avenue.
Flowers and ferns are cultivated and hanging from balconies all along the avenue. Many of the restaurants have sidewalk dining, and the whole Park Avenue stretch is a people watcher's paradise.
Even the Amtrak station is right downtown across the park on Park Avenue. My son used to take the train down from Georgia and walk to my house to visit me.
Several museums are within walking distance of Park Avenue.
David Mizelle bought 8 acres of land in 1858 between the present Lakes Mizelle, Berry and Virginia. He founded the little town of Lake View on his land. In 1879 the name was changed to Osceola.
In 1881 Loring A. Chase of Chicago visited the place, loved the area and bought 600 acres along Lake Maitland and Lake Osceola. He and a partner, O.E. Chapman, platted the town and named it Winter Park.
Winter Park began to develop in the 1880s as a citrus-growing center. It became a wintering retreat for wealthy Northerners, including Colonel Franklin Fairbanks and his partner, Charles Hosmer Morse.
They visited the area on one of their Florida vacations and fell in love with the place.
They were partners in various business including what is now the Fairbanks Morse Company, manufacturers of engines and pumps.
Fairbanks Avenue and Morse Boulevard in Winter Park are named for these gentlemen who contributed much to the development of Winter Park in the early days.
In 1885, the Congregational Church established Florida’s first institute of higher learning, Rollins College. The college's campus sits on the shore of Lake Virginia.
Rollins is considered by most folks to be one of the best Florida colleges.
Anthony Perkins was a student at Rollins before hitting it big as Norman Bates in Hitchcock's 1960 classic, "Psycho". Another Rollins graduate, Donald Cram, won a 1987 Nobel Prize for chemistry. Author Rex Beach, who wrote "The Spoilers" and other classics, went to Rollins and his grave is on campus.
The architecture of Rollins College inspires visions of Florida's Spanish heritage. The campus is a pleasant place to take a walk.
The scenic boat tour at the eastern end of Morse Boulevard takes passengers on tours through the narrow canals between Lakes Virginia and Osceola. They have been at this location since 1938.
The tour highlights nature and local birds, but another outstanding feature of the tours are the opulent mansions, old and new, that line the lakes.
WINTER PARK FLORIDA MOTELS
WINTER PARK FLORIDA RESTAURANTS
Winter Park has so many good places to eat it is tough to decide where to start. When I lived there in a condo two blocks from Park Avenue, there were 17 good restaurants within a short walk.
The restaurant mix changes with the years. Here are a couple of the good ones I know something about that are worth visiting.
WINTER PARK, FLORIDA ATTRACTIONS