Hidden Gems of Winter Park

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Hidden Gems of Winter Park

By Kai Rambow

It seems people have heard of Winter Park, but never visited.  One of the oldest communities in Florida, it is today a laid-back place with hidden gems.

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Beyond Tiffany Lamps

 

It almost seems fitting that like Winter Park, people have heard of Tiffany lamps, but never seen them.  Louis Comfort Tiffany was more than just a guy who created lamps.

Tiffany (1848-1933) was an artist and designer best known for his stained glass, however, his artistic endeavors included glass mosaics, blown glass, ceramics, jewelry, enamels and metalwork.

The Morse Museum houses the world’s most comprehensive collection of works by Tiffany.  This is a Goldilocks museum: not too big, not too small, just right.  Even better, this is one of the most beautiful museums I’ve ever visited.

Great thought has been given to how to display the artwork.  This is particularly evident in the rescued and reconstructed chapel interior from the 1893 World Exposition in Chicago.  It is stunning and not to be missed.

 

A Walk on the Cute Side

Walk outside the museum and you are in historic, downtown Winter Park.  Boutique shops, tree lined streets and numerous restaurants with outdoor seating – all bordering the park make for a cute walk.

Pay attention as you walk.  There are several tucked away courtyards, which are fun to explore.  This is also a great place to recharge with a bite to eat.  As one local enthused, “The quality of restaurants has improved tremendously in the last few years.”

 

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A Fun, Relaxing Ride

Nicely powered pontoon boats provide an entirely different view of Winter Park.  The spring-fed lakes are hidden gems here.  Cruising on the water, you’ll easily see why people have spent winters here for well over 100 years.  Some of the homes here are spectacular.

The Scenic Boat Tour company has been taking guests on lake tours since 1938.  It’s easy, inexpensive and enjoyable.  Carefully navigating the narrow canals connecting lakes is fun; being out on the lakes is relaxing.  A guide narrates throughout, so you know where you are and what you’re seeing.

The variety of activities and sights make Winter Park a rewarding trip.  Once you come here, you’ll want to bring family and friends to see the hidden gems of Winter Park.

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Tips for a Great Trip

Suggested Itinerary:  Choose a weekday to avoid weekend crowds. It’s about a two-hour drive.  If you leave around 8:30, you should avoid traffic in Orlando.  Start with a visit to the Morse Museum.  I’ve been a few times now and took 90 minutes to explore each time.  Afterwards stroll downtown Winter Park and have lunch. Then head to the Scenic Boat Tours for a relaxing finish for the day.

Where to Park:  There are a few parking spots at the museum.  If the lot is full, there is a parking garage across the street, as well as plenty of street parking.  Whether you park in the garage or on the street, there is no charge with a three-hour time limit.

There is also plenty of street parking by the boat tours.  Also good for three hours with no charge.

At the Museum:  After you get your tickets, view two short films in the video room.  They’ll give you insight into Tiffany’s life and how a collection of his work ended up here in Florida.

Look twice:  Tiffany created a unique style of stained glass to get the colors and textures he wanted.  As a result, his window creations are stunning.  Look at them from a distance and capture the whole picture.  Then step much closer and notice the variety of textures and colors.

Closed Mondays. Open 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sundays.  Tickets are $5.

On the Boat:  Sunscreen, sunglasses are important.  You might need a windbreaker as well.  Be sure to use the restrooms before boarding as the tour takes an hour.

Tours run once an hour every hour from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.  Recommend you show up 20 minutes before to get your tickets. Tickets are $14 (tax included): cash or check only.

Restaurants: Park Plaza Gardens in located in one of the oldest hotels here.  Tucked away past the reception, it is a lovely quiet setting with good lunch options.  Note: Do not park in the hotel parking lot as it is private and has a $10 charge.

For something a little different, Bosphorus offers Turkish food.  Both are within walking distance of the museum, with Bosphorous being closest and Park Plaza at the end of the park.

The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art

445 N Park Ave

Winter Park, FL  32789

(407) 645-5311

www.morsemuseum.org

Scenic Boat Tour

312 E Morse Blvd

Winter Park, FL  32789

(407) 644-4056

www.scenicboattours.com

Park Plaza Gardens

319 S Park Ave

Winter Park, FL  32789

(407) 645-2475

www.parkplazagardens.com

Bosphorous

108 S Park Ave

Winter Park, FL  32789

(407) 644-8609

www.bosphorousrestaurant.com

 

 

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