Winter Park is often described as Orlando‘s answer to the Hamptons on Long Island. There are large houses, upscale shops, wine bars and experiences that you generally wouldn’t associate with Orlando. Only about 15 minutes from downtown Orlando, it’s a great day trip for families that are worn out by the breakneck pace of the theme parks.
The main attraction is Park Avenue, the heart of the local action. Sip a cabernet at any of the many wine bars or restaurants that stretch onto the sidewalk, soak in the unhurried activity around you and feel the anxiety of waiting in Disney World lines melt away. Stop by the farmer’s market for locally grown produce, tasty soups and samples of culinary craftsmanship. I’d probably make this the last stop before leaving Winter Park, that way you won’t have to worry about leaving what you purchase in the car for a few hours.
While you’re in Winter Park, get out on the water. The Scenic Boat Tour will carry you through several, where you can ogle the homes of the wealthy. Don’t ask who lives there now: your guide believes in discretion, and you’ll be met only with a silent smile. The crisp breeze counteracts the hot Florida sun, and the leisurely pace sits in stark contrast to the normal Orlando excursion. Along with the stunning homes, you’ll be treated to Florida Cyprus trees growing in the lakes themselves. One even has a remnant of Christmas past, a small ornament that continues to adorn it.
When you return to land, head back to Park Avenue for the museums. The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art is a must (especially if you’re staying at one of Orlando’s art-themed hotels). And, the sculpture gardens at the Albin Polasek Museum are a sight to behold.
It’ll be hard to peel the kids away from the theme parks, but if you find yourself in Orlando for a convention this year, add a day to your trip and visit Winter Park. Unwind after several days of sales meetings and business dinners before you go home. Your perception of Orlando will never be the same.