located about 20 miles northeast of the theme park area of orlando is the charming town of winter park. park ave. in central winter park is lined with upscale shops, restaurants, bars, and outdoor cafes. winter park has several excellent art museums and is home to the famous winter park sidewalk art festival each march. a fun, safe and interesting place to visit when in the orlando area. see my winter park page and tips for an overview of the this beautiful town.
from downtown orlando take I-4 east to fairbanks ave. take fairbanks ave. east about 2 miles to park ave. most of the attractions of winter park are walking distance of park ave.
This is essentially "Suburbia" with a few surprises. There are many distinct neighborhoods, and a few interesting areas; Downtown Orlando and affluent Winter Park are good places to start and are as centrally located as you can be. Ideally you could spend a few hours here taking a few side trips to other parts of the metro area, it's all worth a look, but bring a gps.
The food is one of the best things about Orlando. Not only are the restaurants plentiful, but cheap and diverse as well. There are a few enclaves in Orlando in which various world cuisines thrive, but in general there is a thorough mixture of food styles, and you can almost guarantee that what you get in the restaurant is what your cooks eat at home at night!
There is a lot of shopping, but mostly chain stores and malls, all of these are pleasant enough, but not really worth a sight seeing trip.
There are a few colleges and a university in Orlando, and these give rise to youthful enclaves in their environs where you might be able to find a coffee shop, and art house, or a poster shop, use your imagination.
the lone cabbage fish camp is located on the st. johns river about half way between orlando and cocoa beach. it is a interesting place to have lunch on the way to the beach. years ago, (my first visit was in 1959), the lone cabbage catered to bass fishermen. now it is a restaurant and bar that caters to locals and tourists. you can book airboat rides at the lone cabbage to see alligators and other florida wildlife. on weekends the lone cabbage is a party spot with live country and western music. a fun and different place to visit when in the orlando area.
directions: go east on highway 50 from downtown orlando. exit on to state road 520 east in the direction of cocoa beach. located just over the st. johns river bridge. from I-95 take state road 520 west toward orlando. go about 5 miles it is on the left just before you cross the st. johns river bridge.
I had no idea what a Hidden Mickey was until Liz. Hidden Mickeys are the shape of Mickeys' head and are used in decoration throughout the parks and hotels. It can be as obvious as Mickeys head on fabric or a topiary shaped like him or hidden in the background of a tapestry or painting. According to Liz there are so many Hidden Mickeys that there is no official count. She pointed out a bunch of them to me as we wandered throughout the Disney properties.
at the intersection of mills ave & colonial drive in downtown orlando is an area of town that is known as "little saigon". this area has numerious vietnamese and chinese restaurants, shops, and grocery stores. an interesting part of town to visit when in downtown orlando.
The Downtown Media Arts Center has one of the best (and cheapest) cups of coffee in town. They also have an adjoining art gallery and frequently show independent movies and have lectures. I very cool place to lounge around. Warning: they have recently changed their hours here, and it can get frustrating trying to figure out exactly when they are open. Try calling first.
UPDATE: sadly, this has closed and reopened as an art studio.
It was a sudden surprise to find this place. It offered a quick little free sample for your pain. I said my knee was acting up on me. The called it APR Florida's Pain Relief lotion. I got a couple bottle to share with my family. They make it right there. It was a very professional product for a swap meet environment. It looked like it belonged in a Doctors office. I said when I retire I'm going to get me a RV and sale this. Look at the Baby Boomer market, they had many excellent natural made products. Now I could enjoy Disney World and shopping.
a nice place to visit when in the orlando area is the small town of clermont and the citrus tower. the citrus tower was built in 1956 on a hill near downtown clermont. up until the late 1980's you could see hundreds of orange groves from the citrus tower. today the view is of housing developments and shopping centers. the citrus tower is an interesting relic to visit to experience central florida's pre-disney past. see my clermont pages for more info.
In the midst of all the malls and theme parks, there are pockets of serene places for rest and relaxation and this is one of them!
"The mission of Harry P. Leu Gardens is to inspire people to appreciate and understand plants, the environment of Central Florida and the Gardens' historic significance."
Hours of operation:
Gardens 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily except closed on Dec. 25
Leu House Museum Tours
10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. daily except closed whole month of July
We have some State Parks nearby Orlando that feature natural warm springs. The water stays 72 degrees year round. The closest spring to the Theme Parks area is Wekiva Springs off of highway 436 near Altamonte Springs and Apopka. There are also the Blue Springs, which is a popular place for manatees to visit, and the Deleon Springs. All of these State parks have websites with the Florida State Parks. Rangers are at all of the parks to answer questions and ensure safety.
Wekiva has excellent swimming and hiking trails.
Blue Springs has swimming in blue clear water, canoe rentals, and a wildlife trail.
Deleon Springs is unique in that it features an old mill on the property. Inside is a restaurant where you can make your own pancakes on grills built-in to the table.
I, too, am disgruntled that a travel website that supposedly looks for authenticity would lump about 1 million residents in with a theme park. (gets down off soapbox) When in Orlando, you should travel downtown to see a great collection of residential architecture from 1890s to 1930s. Old? Not compared to the NE but take in the imagery of great live oak canopied brick streets the way we survived before the advent of A/C. There are several historic districts downtown and the city has a great website for taking walking tours of such.
I'm new to this website so I'll post images later.
The city of Clermont, about a 1/2 hour to hour drive west of Orlando, has a few interesting things to offer, including the Citrus Tower (tribute to Florida's citrus industry), the Presidents Hall of Fame, and Lakeridge Winery & Vineyards, as well as Crooked River Preserve and Lake Louisa State Park nature areas in close proximity. Visit my Clermont pages for more details.
I decided to go to these gardens on a whim - I mistakenly thought this was the the same person who did the work on oranges and citrus that we had seen in DeLand. Also the other place I thought we might go opened later in the day. So we went on to the DeLand garden. We found when we got there that the gardens were free that day because it was the Camellia Society meeting - they were judging in the morning. Normal admission is $5.00 for adults
The gardens include:
* America's largest Camellia collection outside California and the largest formal rose garden in Florida. (Rose garden photo 4)
* A house museum dating from the 1880's.
* Two acre Tropical Stream Garden
* Vegetable and Herb Garden (photo 3)
* Butterfly Garden
* Palm, bamboo and cycad gardens
* Floral clock (photo 5)
There also was a new Home Demonstration Garden with ten residentially-scaled "idea gardens" including a fragrance garden, enabling garden (for those guests with limited mobility- photo 2) wildflower garden, courtyard garden, evening garden and a shade garden.
The gardens were so wonderful that when we went later to Bellingrath Gardens, I was quite disappointed.
Gardens open 9am - 5 pm everyday except Christmas Day
Leu House Museum open 10:00 am - 4:00 pm with tours every thirty minutes on the hour and half hour.
The last tour at 3:30 pm
The Leu House Museum is closed in July.
Exit Interstate 4 at Exit 85 (old #43) Princeton St. and follow the signs.
college park is a nice old residental area just north of downtown orlando. college park gets it's name after it's streets named after colleges and universities. edgewater drive runs through college park and is lined with restaurants, bars, antique and clothing stores. not as upscale as park ave. in winter park, but worth visiting when in the orlando area. about 2 miles north of downtown orlando. take orange ave. north, then west on princeton street to edgewater drive. pictured is K wine bar on edgewater drive.
the lake ivanhoe antique district is an interesting area just north of downtown orlando. the antique area is a three block section of orange ave. near the intersection of princeton street. on this section of orange ave. are numerious antique stores, restaurants and other types of retail establishments. an interesting section of town to check out when in downtown orlando. on orange ave. about one mile north of downtown near lake ivanhoe. pictured is the white wolf cafe in the antique district.
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