Winter Park delights with its old world charm
Described by some as a small New England village with a European flavor, quaint shops and exquisite restaurants, Winter Park is as beautiful as it is unique. Located just three miles north of Orlando in Orange County, the city of Winter Park is nine-square miles with more than 28,000 residents. It is known for its Old World charm, elegant homes, quaint bricked streets, extensive tree canopy, first-class shopping and dining experiences, world-class museums, and highly-rated schools.
With its rich heritage, strong sense of community, vast parks system, diverse economic base, and beautiful chain of lakes, the city provides a high quality of life to both its residents and visitors alike.
Originally developed as a winter resort for wealthy Northerners seeking refuge from the harsh winters, Winter Park was named by its founders, Loring Chase and Oliver Chapman in 1881. In 1887 the town’s 613 permanent residents voted to incorporate.
It is not only known for its abundance of upscale shopping and unique restaurants, but also its historic Hannibal Square district, Winter Park Village and nationally-ranked schools which include Winter Park High School, Rollins College and Valencia College. With five museums including AlbinPolasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens, The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art, Cornell Fine Arts Museum at Rollins College, Hannibal Square Heritage Center, and Winter Park Historical Museum, the city is a Mecca for those interested in world-class art and rich, cultural experiences.
The Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens is dedicated to preserving the works of Czech sculptor Albin Polasek, celebrating representational art and exhibiting both regional and international artists. It hosts events such as the Winter Park Paint Out in addition to being available for wedding and meeting rentals.
The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art, on North Park Avenue, houses the world’s largest collection of stained glass created by Louis Comfort Tiffany from 1893 to 1933.
Cornell Fine Arts Museum is on the beautiful Rollins College campus overlooking pristine Lake Virginia. The museum houses one of the oldest and most distinguished collections in Florida, with more than 5,000 objects from antiquity to the contemporary. Exhibitions are mixed in with the permanent collection on a rotating basis.
The Hannibal Square Heritage Center was established in 2007 by Crealdé School of Art, in partnership with residents from the Hannibal Square community and the City of Winter Park. It is a tribute to the past, present, and future contributions of Winter Park’s historic African-American community.
The mission of the Winter Park Historical Association is to collect, preserve, promote and research the history of Winter Park and its surrounding area, and share that history with the public through educational programs and the operation of a museum. The Historical Museum hosts various exhibits and events throughout the year. Walking tours of the city are available as well as a one-hour, open-air boat ride on the Winter Park Scenic Boat Tour, located at the east end of Morse Boulevard.
The City of Winter Park partners with Full Sail University’s SPARK program to create webisodes which give online viewers an inside look at many of the city’s amenities. To see the webisodes follow this link (cityofwinterpark.org/Pages/Media/Videos/Webisodes.aspx) to the city’s official website. More than 30 years ago, Full Sail University provided a place where people could take their passion for entertainment and turn it into a career they loved.
The Downtown Winter Park Historic District is listed on the “National Register of Historic Places,” the official list of the nation’s most historic areas worthy of preservation. The district, which runs along Park Avenue, was deemed significant in the areas of early settlement, architecture, community planning, commerce and transportation. Eight buildings in Winter Park are also listed on the registry, including the Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens, All Saints Episcopal Church, Annie Russell Theatre, Comstock-Harris House, Edward Hill Brewer House – ‘The Palms,’ Knowles Memorial Chapel at Rollins College, Winter Park Country Club Clubhouse and Woman’s Club of Winter Park.
Among the city’s 75 beautiful large and small parks, the main parks include Central Park, Mead Botanical Garden, Kraft Azalea Garden, Ward Memorial Park, Fleet Peeples Park, Shady Park, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Park. Be sure to make plans to attend the nationally-recognized Winter Park Sidewalk Art Festival during the third weekend in March, the Winter Park Autumn Art Festival during the second weekend in October, the Olde Fashioned 4th of July Celebration, and many other community and city-sponsored events that are held throughout the year.
Park Avenue, the city’s main boulevard of distinctive boutiques, restaurants and shops, serves as a refreshing respite from mall or chain store shopping. Window boxes filled with vibrant reds, yellows and greens overlook Park Avenue accentuating its quaintness. Besides picturesque shops, patrons can dine at one of many four-star restaurants serving French, English, Italian, Mexican, Thai, Vietnamese and American cuisine.
The most well-known park in the city is Central Park – a six-acre village green located in the downtown area bordered to the east by Park Avenue. Central Park, which hosts many of the city’s annual events, features two significant fountains (Emily and Veteran’s Memorial), winding walkways, a beautiful rose garden, colorful hanging baskets, and flower beds. On the west side of Central Park is the new Winter Park Train Station serving both Amtrak® and SunRail® passengers.
Visitors to Winter Park will find a wonderful selection of hotel accommodations within walking distance of the downtown corridor including the new Alfond Inn, and the elegant Park Plaza Hotel (built in 1922).The Alfond Inn is Winter Park’s newest hotel. Guests will enjoy the boutique atmosphere with amenities to rival even the most luxurious hotels. With on-location dining, The Alfond Inn is an inviting space where new relationships can be forged and friendships can be maintained over food and drink. With a lush courtyard, elevated pool and fitness center, the award-winning Alfond Inn is poised to satisfy the casual traveler seeking quiet relaxation, and business clientele alike.
Situated on Lake Virginia, Rollins College was built in 1885 and is the oldest private college in Florida. Started with a generous gift by Chicago businessman Alonzo Rollins, who gave the largest single donation of $50,000, the liberal arts school was founded by the First Congregational Church of Winter Park. The primary founders of the college were Frederick Lyman, Dr. Edward Hooker, Frances B. Knowles and William O’Neal.
Today, the college is known for its academic excellence, Mediterranean architecture and commitment to cultural pursuits. It has been praised by Time Magazine and listed consistently as one of “America’s Best Colleges” by U.S. News and World Report. Each year the college sponsors a Spring Arts Festival, the Bach Festival Society of Winter Park and student-produced plays at the Annie Russell Theater which is named after an American actress who made her home in Winter Park.
We are sure you will agree that after visiting our parks, shops, restaurants, museums, historic sites and other points of interest throughout the city such as the award-winning Farmer’s Market or enjoy you stay at the award-winning Alfond Inn, you’ll find the City of Winter Park is truly a unique community with an international appeal.