Updated August 28, 2020
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. It's also a great place to live.
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.
The city has many historic buildings and prides itself on preserving most of them in liveable condition or as community gathering places.
An example of this is Casa Feliz, located adjacent to the Winter Park Country Club and Golf Course. The house was originally known as the Robert Bruce Barbour House and was designed by noted architect James Gamble Rogers II.
The house was slated for destruction in 2000, but the community rallied to save it and raised $1.2 million. It was moved it to its current location and restored by highly skilled craftsmen to its original design.
It is on the American Institute of Architects Florida Chapter list of Florida Architecture: 100 Years, 100 Places. It is also on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.
Today Casa Feliz serves the community as a museum and a venue for weddings, business events,and private parties.
The Winter Park Country Club and Golf Course is also on the U.S. National of Historic Places.
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.
Park Avenue is host to several art and craft shows, auto shows, and other events during the year.
Even the Amtrak station is conveniently located downtown across from Central 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, including:
David Mizell 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. Another famous graduate is Fred Rogers of Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood.
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.
Read more about the Winter Park Scenic Boat Tour.
WINTER PARK FLORIDA MOTELS
WINTER PARK, FLORIDA ATTRACTIONS
Bosphorous Restaurant is in the heart of the Park Avenue shopping and dining district. It serves a variety of Turkish food.
The interior decor is muted and relaxing with walls painted a warm gold and plenty of archways and art objects to give it a Mediterranean feeling.
Turkish food shares many of the features of other Mediterranean cuisines including Greek and Lebanese, but with its own distinctive style and flavor. For example, I had dinner here the other night and my entree was chicken sis kabob.
It was marinated grilled chicken served on jasmine rice and a medley of pickled vegetables including red cabbage and onions. It was delicious and the portion was very large.
Bosphorous has excellent bread, including lavas, that can be ordered with hummus and baba ghanoush. The bread comes to the table very warm and puffed up full of air and smells and tastes excellent. In addition to chicken dishes, they also have lamb entrees and stuffed grape leaves for appetizers. Other appetizers include the Shepherd's salad.
Desserts include kunefe, which is a baked pastry with sweet cheese inside.
Prices are fairly high in this restaurant, but not exhorbitant, especially by Park Avenue standards. My chicken sis kabob entree with no salad, appetizer or dessert came to $34 including tip.
I had no alcohol, but only a bottle of San Pelligrino sparkling water. Mixed drinks and single glasses of wine run about $10. I look forward to visiting Bosphorous again to try some other entrees and maybe even have a drink.
In addition to the beautiful inside dining room, Bosphorous also has a few tables outside on the sidewalk for diners who love to watch people walking by on stylish Park Avenue.
Bosphorous also has a restaurant of the same name in the Dr. Phillips area of Orlando.