If Orlando theme park crowds have got you down, take a short drive to Winter Park. It has loads of charm and plenty to do.
Earlier this month David’s job took him to Florida. I met up with him there after his work was done.
While talking about the trip with friends, so many of them grumbled about the Orlando area with disdain. While it is an area to which tourists flock, that’s also part of what can make it unappealing for some.
Admittedly, there’s no shortage of chain restaurants, mini malls, and shops advertising knock-off Disney memorabilia for under $5. Again and again we passed restaurants and wondered aloud, “Wow, that still exists?”
I guess someone is still going to Ponderosa and Bob Evans. Who knew?
But David and I like Orlando. And not because we need 24 hour access to tchotchkes.
If a person ventures farther than the theme parks, there’s so much more beauty and interest to the area than may initially meet the eye. Add in the warm temperatures and vegan restaurants, and you have a great wintertime destination.
The previous time we were in Orlando, we stayed in Kissimmee. Then we noticed that every day we were driving to downtown Orlando & Winter Park, about 40 minutes away. So this time we divided our stay – half in downtown Orlando and half in Kissimmee (to coincide with our one day at the Magic Kingdom).
Next time we go, we’ll stay downtown 100% of the time. The hotel prices are higher there, but that’s also where we wanted to sightsee and dine 99% of the time.
Things to do in Winter Park
One of the hubs of Winter Park is Park Avenue. It’s a main thoroughfare with shops, restaurants, museums, a commuter train, and park. It’s a fun place to walk around and people watch.
We stopped in The Spice & Tea Exchange to smell the various salts and spices. They have all of them out in large jars and encourage people to sniff before buying.
(Don’t worry. You don’t actually buy the spice from the jars. It’s sold separately in bags.)
I bought some long spoons. David bought new curry powder.
Morse Museum of American Art
We also took in the Morse Museum of American Art, which had been highly recommended. They house the world’s most comprehensive collection of the works of Louis Comfort Tiffany of Tiffany glass fame.
The large pieces of stained glass had light shining through them and were quite beautiful. Seeing the stained glass outside of a religious environment meant that you could really take in the beauty of the pieces themselves without other distractions.
Rifle Paper Company
Also in Winter Park, we visited the flagship location of Rifle Paper Company.
If I had my own store, I’d want it to be a stationery store. I love mail, and crisp paper, cute cards, and envelopes always delight me. It seems that wherever I live, I always have a favorite stationery store.
Rifle Paper Company makes some of my favorite designs. So I was excited to learn that they had a flagship store in that area with their complete collection.
Scenic Boat Tour
A few blocks from Park Avenue is the Scenic Boat Tour, which is an hour-long excursion on 18-person pontoon boats. Located on Lake Osceola, the boats traverse three of the seven area lakes, through manmade canals.
A tour guide describes the local fauna, birds, homes and their famous residents.
While on the trip, we passed the house where Mister Rogers stayed during his time at Rollins College. As an avid fan of his, that was exciting for me. (It was up there with seeing his sweater in Washington, D.C.)
For more to see and do in Winter Park, check out my visit to Ethos Vegan Kitchen.