Winters in Central Florida

By Ann Schmidt / Photography By Ann Schmidt | January 01, 2015
0 Shares
Share to printerest Share to fb Share to twitter Share to mail Share to print
Winter Park, Winter Garden and Winter Haven, Florida

IN CENTRAL FLORIDA, THREE CITIES - WINTER PARK, WINTER GARDEN AND WINTER HAVEN – SHARE “WINTER” IN THEIR NAMES, NO DOUBT TO ENTICE NORTHERN TOURISTS.

All three cities have train stations, lakes and a historic downtown, but each has a unique personality. This trip is great for a three-day weekend that includes a Monday so you can take in the flea market in Webster.

Orlando's Cask & Larder
Antiques shop

WINTER PARK 


Of the three, this city is the poshest, home to Rollins College, The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art and its world-class Tiffany collection, and Central Park.

An excellent example of urban development, Park Avenue is lined with shops, galleries and restaurants surrounding a park with a commuter train running through the middle. I stayed at the charming 1922 Park Plaza (parkplazahotel.com), where rooms feature beautiful wood floors, balconies overlooking the avenue and park and vintage tile bathrooms. Nearby, the Scenic River Boat Cruises (scenicboattours.com), in business since 1938, offers one-hour tours. Lush gardens, stately mansions and manmade jungle-like canals connecting the lakes beat any theme park creation. Back on Park Avenue, I stopped in Penzeys Spices and window-shopped before ordering some Nashville Hot Chicken and local brew at Cask and Larder (caskandlarder.com), a brewery and Southern restaurant from James and Julie Petrakis, owners of The Ravenous Pig and James Beard Foundation semi-finalists in 2014.

Winter Park is becoming a serious foodie town, home to Luma on Park, Scratch, Winter Park Fish Co. and Ethos Vegan Kitchen, to name a few. But what hit the spot for breakfast was the Saturday morning farmers market in the old train depot, just off the railroad tracks and Central Park, where you can also pick up local honey and citrus. Head west a block or so and you are in Hannibal Square, Winter Park’s chic healthy living district, with spas, fitness studios, home design stores and Extract, an outdoor juice and tapas bar.

WINTER GARDEN 


Winter Garden is northwest of Orlando, on the shores of Lake Apopka, infamous for being one of the most polluted lakes in Florida. Years of restoration are slowly bringing back its status as an excellent bass fishing lake, and the bird and alligator watching are excellent.

A few blocks from the lake, the downtown area’s brick main street includes the free Winter Garden Heritage Museum (wghf.org/localhistory), shops, restaurants and bike shops. You can rent a bike for a couple of hours from Winter Garden Wheel Works (wgwheelworks.com) and hit the West Orange Trail, 22 miles of oak-lined paths. Back in Winter Garden, check out the cool lobby and elevator at the 1927 Edgewater Hotel (historicedgewater.com).

Among restaurants worth a visit are Harry & Larry’s BBQ (harryandlarrys.com), run by two sisters and named after their grandfathers.

Winter Park’s renovated theater sadly houses a Pottery Barn, but Winter Garden’s vintage theater, the Garden Theater (gardentheatre.org) hosts plays and musicals, live performances and the Starlite Film Festival (starlitefilmfest.com), Feb. 26-Mar. 1, showcasing the best micro-budget films.

WINTER HAVEN 


Southwest of Orlando, Winter Haven was the home of the first Publix grocery store and Cypress Gardens, once the premier tourist destination in Central Florida, known for its lush gardens and water ski shows.

Today, it’s Legoland, but the gardens and historic collection of camellias and azaleas are still there, amid an assortment of theme park rides. Drive though the Interlaken Historic District, where most of the homes are on the National Register of Historic Places. Downtown Winter Haven has the requisite antique stores, gift shops and galleries.

Grab tasty island fare at The Seasoned Stone, just north of the main downtown area.


{ Farmers Markets }


Every Monday from 7am-3pm, the Sumter County Farmers Market in Webster sells fresh produce, plants, gator heads, straw hats and everything else you can think of, set under huge oak trees.

Winter Garden
Gator

Semi-permanent stalls stock all sorts of china, cookware and other fun vintage kitchen items. The drive on country roads is a wonderful Central Florida experience. In town on a Tuesday? There's a cattle market, sumtercountyfarmersmarket.com

WINTER HAVEN CITY MARKET
Joyce B. Davis Park, Thursdays 8am-3pm

WINTER PARK FARMERS MARKET
Held at old train depot, Saturdays 7am-1pm

Article from Edible South Florida at http://ediblesouthflorida.ediblecommunities.com/things-do/road-trip-winters-central-florida
Subscribe
Build your own subscription bundle.
Pick 3 regions for $60