Tucked away in the north-east corner of Orlando lies the fashionable, little community of Winter Park, Florida. Only minutes from the attractions, Winter Park is a haven for those seeking to escape the roar of the crowds and savor a bit old-Florida charm and culture.
Begin your day on the corner of Park and Lyman Avenues in downtown Winter Park by finding Palmano’s Espresso Bar. Hidden away in a little alcove, Palmano’s is a family run operation featuring the finest fresh-ground coffee and baked goods. For breakfast, Palmano’s offers a wide selection of muffins, scones and pastry. Take advantage of the outdoor seating, relax beneath the shade of the awning, and take pleasure in the sounds of the fountain as you enjoy your breakfast.
Next, walk to Park Avenue and make a right turn. Continue walking past the shops, and cross over Fairbanks Avenue. Here is the entrance to one of Central Florida’s oldest universities: Rollins College. Enter the campus and make a left at Holt Avenue, the main thoroughfare through the campus. Meander along the tree-lined walkways and enjoy the beauty of the Mediterranean architecture found in the majority of the Rollins buildings. At the end of Holt Avenue on the shore of Lake Virginia is the Cornell Fine Arts Museum, one of America’s best college museums.
The museum houses over 6,000 works of art dating from the Italian Renaissance to present day. Spend some time exploring the galleries and appreciating the diversity of the works found here. When you’ve taken the museum in, begin the walk back up Holt Avenue, stopping at the Knowles Memorial Chapel. Built in 1932 the chapel has recently been added to the National Register of Historic Places. Spend a few moments in quiet solitude admiring the spectacular stained glass windows and the magnificent pipe organ. Once you exit the chapel head back onto Park Avenue.
Considered the Rodeo Drive of Central Florida, downtown Park Avenue features some of the best shopping in Orlando. Meander down its brick-paved streets in search of that special something. Naturally the big name merchants can be found here: Gap, Lucky Brand, Anne Taylor; but the true fortune of winter Park shopping lies in its one-of-a-kind shops. Island Collection features unusual furniture and decorative items with a tropical theme, perfect for Florida living. Once two separate stores, Bullfish is a whimsical shopping adventure that is sure to surprise dog lovers and wine aficionados alike. Bebe’s of Winter Park offers an unbelievable selection of finer baby clothes and children’s wear. Toward the northern end of the block be sure to visits 10,000 Villages for unique crafts created by artisans around the world.
By now you should begin to smell the kitchens of Winter Park restaurants gearing up for lunch. The choices are many and varied: Italian, French, continental. But for a real treat, try something different. Bosphorous Restaurant serves authentic Turkish cuisine in an elegantly appointed yet casual atmosphere. One of my favorites is the Karisik Meze, and assortment of cold salads and spreads that pair perfectly with their homemade lavas, a big puffy flatbread. For good, simple fare try a lamb or chicken kabob; or for something unusual and delicious try the etli lahana dolmasi (cabbage leaves stuffed with lamb, rice and herbs in a red sauce).
Walk off lunch by heading east down Morse Boulevard. At the end you’ll find Lake Osceola and the landing for Winter Park’s Scenic Boat Tour. Since 1938 the Scenic Boat Tour has been delighting sightseers with two-hour tours of Lake Osceola and adjoining Lake Virginia. Expert guides will entertain as they point out native flora and fauna, as well as famous and historical homes that surround the lakes.
Once back on land, make your way back to Park Avenue and discover the beauty of the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art. Inside you’ll discover the largest collection of Tiffany art ever assembled. Lamps, jewelry, and the actual interior of the chapel created by Louis Comfort Tiffany for the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago will amaze even the most casual museum patron. Guided tours are available, and there is a continually running documentary detailing the rescue and salvage of the Tiffany art from the fire that ravaged its factory. There are nineteen galleries in all, and each is more amazing than the last.
For dinner head west down New England Avenue to Hot Olives. This eclectic, little bistro features everything from fresh salads and sandwiches to expertly prepared fresh seafood. The seating options are as varied as the menu; on warm evenings request a garden or patio table for exceptional al fresco dining. Their signature appetizer is hot olives, stuffed green olives lightly fried and served in a martini glass. The seared tuna is always a treat, whether on a salad or as an entrée. The wine list is diverse and sufficient for even the fussiest connoisseur.
It’s amazing that such a quaint little town can be found only minutes from the hustle and bustle of the tourist district. Winter Park is a taste of old Florida that many never knew existed. Embrace the opportunity to leave your car behind and spend a day on foot exploring Winter Park, Florida.
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What & Where:
Palmano’s Espresso Bar (331 Park Ave; 407-647-7520)
Cornell Fine Arts Museum: (rollins.edu/cfam)
Knowles Memorial Chapel (1000 Holt Ave; 407-646-2115)
Bosphorous (108 Park Ave; 407-644-8609)
Bebe’s of Winter Park (311 Park Ave; 407-628-1680)
10,000 Villages (346 Park Ave; 407-644-8464)
Bullfish (102 Park Ave; 407-644-2969)
Scenic Boat Tour (312 Morse Blvd; 407-644-4056)
The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum (445 Park Ave; 407-645-5311)
Hot Olives (463 W. New England Ave; 407-629-1030)