A Day Out in Winter Park

When we were staying at Highlands Reserve recently with our son and his wife, who had come down from North Carolina, he and I had an afternoon skins golf comp at the wonderfully appointed 9 hole Winter Park Golf Course (WP9), and as our son and his wife used to live in Winter Park we all decided to make a days of it. Here’s an idea of what we, and you, can get up to in the city of Winter Park.

Winter Park, Florida, is a hidden gem that offers a delightful day trip experience for those seeking a break from Theme Park fatigue, or just a change from hanging out by the pool. This charming city, nestled just a few miles northeast of downtown Orlando, boasts a great blend of culture, history, and natural beauty that makes it a great place for a day’s outing.

One of its standout features is its picturesque chain of lakes. You can take leisurely boat tours on the pristine waters of Lake Osceola and Lake Virginia, enjoying the tranquil atmosphere and scenic views. The chain of lakes also provides opportunities for picnicking, fishing, and birdwatching, so it an ideal spot for all nature enthusiasts.

For those interested in art and culture Winter Park is home to the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art. This houses the world's largest collection of works by renowned artist Louis Comfort Tiffany. The museum's stunning collection of Tiffany glass, lamps, and jewellery is wonderful to behold, and it also offers a great insight into the fascinations of the Arts and Crafts and Art Nouveau movements.

Park Avenue, the city's main thoroughfare, is another highlight. Lined with charming boutiques, art galleries, and sidewalk cafes, it's a shopping paradise and a hub for dining and people-watching. Strolling down Park Avenue, visitors can soak up the European-inspired ambiance while indulging in boutique shopping and savouring some wonderful cuisine.

Additionally, the Albin Polasek Museum and Sculpture Gardens showcases a diverse collection of sculptures in a beautiful lakeside setting, making it a super serene place for art lovers to enjoy.

Winter Park also boasts Rollins College, a prestigious liberal arts institution, and the stunning campus can be explored at leisure. The campus is home to the Cornell Fine Arts Museum, which features a rich collection of art spanning various periods and cultures.

And of course, there’s the delights of the Winter Park 9 Golf Course. Sitting right in the middle of the city it’s a wonderful golfing experience at 2500 yards from the tips with three par 3’s, four par 4’s, and two par 5’s. Originally built in 1912 it recently went through a major 1.2 million USD renovation project and re-opened to rave reviews in 2016 with The Golf Channel, and Golf Advisor, named it the 5th Best Short Course in the entire country. 

Winter Park, Florida, is a wonderful destination for a day trip. Its scenic lakes, cultural attractions, and charming atmosphere make it a unique and inviting place to explore. Whether you're interested in art, nature, simply relaxing in a beautiful setting, or playing a quick 9 holes, Winter Park has something to offer almost any visitor. 

Ed Skilbeck

10th December 2023

Great Shopping Experiences

Orlando, Florida is known for its theme parks and tourist attractions, but it also offers a variety of unique and exciting shopping experiences. Whether you're looking for high-end designer brands or one-of-a-kind local finds, Orlando has something for everyone. Here are some of the best new shopping experiences in Orlando, FL.

The Mall at Millenia

The Mall at Millenia is one of the newest and most upscale shopping destinations in Orlando. This indoor mall features over 150 stores, including high-end designer brands like Chanel, Gucci, and Louis Vuitton. In addition to luxury fashion, the mall also boasts several high-end home goods stores, like Pottery Barn and Crate & Barrel. With its sleek design and impressive array of stores, The Mall at Millenia is a must-visit for fashion lovers.

East End Market

East End Market is a unique shopping experience that celebrates local artisans and small businesses. This indoor market features over 20 independent vendors selling everything from fresh produce to handmade jewellery. Visitors can browse the stalls, sample local delicacies, and even attend cooking classes and workshops. East End Market is a great place to support small businesses and discover new and unique products.

Orlando Vineland Premium Outlets

If you're looking for great deals on designer brands, Orlando Vineland Premium Outlets is the place to go. This outdoor outlet mall features over 160 stores, including top names like Coach, Michael Kors, and Nike. With discounts of up to 65% off, visitors can score major deals on high-end fashion and accessories. The mall also offers a variety of dining options and a children's playground, making it a great destination for families.

The Grove at Wesley Chapel

Located just north of Tampa, The Grove at Wesley Chapel is a new outdoor shopping centre that offers a unique blend of retail and entertainment. The center features a variety of stores, including national chains like Bed Bath & Beyond and Ulta Beauty, as well as locally owned boutiques. In addition to shopping, visitors can enjoy a movie at the state-of-the-art cinema or grab a bite to eat at one of the many restaurants.

The Florida Mall

The Florida Mall is one of the largest shopping destinations in Orlando, featuring over 250 stores and restaurants. This indoor mall has something for everyone, with a mix of high-end designer brands like Apple and Tiffany & Co., as well as more affordable options like Forever 21 and H&M. The mall also features a variety of dining options, a children's play area, and an impressive collection of art and sculptures.

Winter Park Farmer's Market

The Winter Park Farmer's Market is a popular destination for locals and tourists alike. This weekly market features over 70 vendors selling fresh produce, artisanal foods, and handmade crafts. Visitors can browse the stalls, sample local honey and baked goods, and even enjoy live music and entertainment. The market is held every Saturday from 7am-1pm, rain or shine.

The Promenade at Sunset Walk

The Promenade at Sunset Walk is a new outdoor shopping and entertainment complex located in the heart of Kissimmee. The centre features a variety of stores, including national chains like Skechers and Charming Charlie, as well as locally owned boutiques. In addition to shopping, visitors can enjoy a variety of dining options, a movie theatre, and a live entertainment venue.

The Outlets at Lake Buena Vista

The Outlets at Lake Buena Vista is an outdoor shopping center located just minutes from Walt Disney World. This mall features over 50 stores, including top brands like Levi's and Tommy Hilfiger. With discounts of up to 70% off, visitors can score great deals on clothing, accessories, and more.

Disney Springs

Formerly known as Downtown Disney, Disney Springs is a popular shopping and entertainment complex located in the Walt Disney World Resort. The complex offers an eclectic mix of shopping, dining, and entertainment options, including over 100 retailers, such as Coach, Anthropologie, and Kate Spade. Disney Springs also features several restaurants and bars, ranging from casual to fine dining, and a range of entertainment options, including live music and a movie theatre.

Icon Park

Icon Park is a popular entertainment complex located on International Drive, offering a range of attractions, including the Orlando Eye observation wheel, Madame Tussauds wax museum, and SEA LIFE Orlando Aquarium. In addition to its entertainment offerings, Icon Park also features a range of shopping options, including over 40 retailers, such as Flip Flop Shops, Orlando Harley Davidson, and Sugarboo & Co. Icon Park also offers a variety of dining options, from quick bites to sit-down restaurants.

The Grove at Isleworth

The Grove at Isleworth is a new luxury shopping destination located in the affluent suburb of Windermere, offering a range of high-end retailers, such as Chanel, Gucci, and Versace. The outdoor mall features stunning architecture and beautifully landscaped gardens, creating a sophisticated and elegant atmosphere. The Grove at Isleworth also offers several dining options, ranging from casual to fine dining.

Secret Outdoor Escapes in Orlando

Orlando, Florida, is known for its many theme parks, shopping centres, and entertainment venues. But for those who are seeking a more secluded and peaceful experience, there are also plenty of outdoor escapes to explore. From serene nature trails to hidden gardens, here are some of these secret outdoor escapes in Orlando, Florida.

First on the list is the Tibet-Butler Nature Preserve. Located in the southwest region of Orlando, this nature reserve boasts a 440-acre wetland habitat that is home to a variety of wildlife, including otters, bobcats, and bald eagles. The preserve has several hiking trails that are suitable for all levels of hikers, from beginners to experts. Visitors can take a leisurely stroll along the boardwalk trail, which winds through a cypress swamp, or challenge themselves on the longer trails that lead to scenic overlooks.

Another hidden gem is the Leu Gardens. This botanical garden is tucked away in a residential area near downtown Orlando and features 50 acres of beautifully manicured gardens, including a rose garden, a butterfly garden, and a tropical stream garden. Visitors can take a self-guided tour or join a guided tour led by a knowledgeable docent. There are also several events held throughout the year, such as plant sales, concerts, and outdoor movie nights.

For those who love to paddle, the Econlockhatchee River is a great place to explore. This river flows through central Florida and is home to a variety of wildlife, including alligators, turtles, and ospreys. There are several canoe and kayak rental companies in the area, or visitors can bring their own equipment. The river offers a tranquil setting for a day of paddling, with plenty of opportunities to stop and take in the scenery.

For a more unique outdoor experience, head to the Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens. This museum is dedicated to the works of Albin Polasek, a Czech-born sculptor who spent the latter part of his life in Winter Park, Florida. In addition to the indoor museum, there are also several outdoor gardens that feature Polasek's sculptures, as well as other artists' works. The gardens are open to the public and are a peaceful oasis in the heart of Winter Park.

Another hidden gem is the Wekiwa Springs State Park. This state park is located in Apopka, Florida, just a short drive from Orlando. The park boasts over 7,000 acres of pristine wilderness, including crystal clear springs, hiking trails, and campsites. Visitors can swim, snorkel, or canoe in the springs, or take a hike through the wilderness on one of the park's many trails. There are also several picnic areas and pavilions available for rent.

For a peaceful retreat, head to the Mead Botanical Garden. This garden is located in Winter Park and features 47 acres of beautiful gardens, including a butterfly garden, a vegetable garden, and a wildflower garden. Visitors can take a leisurely stroll through the gardens or participate in one of the many events held throughout the year, such as yoga in the gardens or outdoor concerts.

Finally, for a truly unique outdoor experience, head to the Orlando Wetlands Park. This park is located in Christmas, Florida, just a short drive from Orlando, and is a true hidden gem. The park features over 1,600 acres of restored wetlands that are home to a variety of birds, alligators, and other wildlife. There are several hiking trails and observation decks throughout the park, as well as a nature center that offers educational programs and guided tours.

May Skilbeck

July 28th 2023

Why visit Orlando? 

Orlando and Central Florida is one of the most visited vacation destinations in the United States if not the World, and there are plenty of reasons why. Here are some of the reasons this is the case, and why this region an excellent choice for a villa vacation with your family, with friends, or as a group of golfers.

Theme Parks

Orlando is famously home to some of the world's most popular theme parks, including Walt Disney World Resort, Universal Orlando Resort, and SeaWorld Orlando. These parks provide entertainment for the whole family, from thrilling rides to spectacular shows. For a full rundown of these go to the 'Theme Parks' section on our Orlando Guide page  

Golf

Central Florida is a haven for golfers and has a fantastic variety of courses to suit all abilities and budgets. The climate is perfect for golf during the winter and early spring, but all year round, whether you want to play an occasional 18 holes, or play every day, there’s something that will suit your requirements. We specialise in Villas at resort built around golf courses, so watch play from your pool deck, or playing the course yourself is possible. To view all the courses we can pre-book tee times for you and friends so your tee times are locked in well before you travel go to our Golf Vacations page and click 'View all courses'.

Natural Beauty

Florida has an abundance of natural beauty and the numerous national parks, springs, and wildlife reserves in and around Orlando should not be overlooked during a stay in the Orlando area. You can hike, bike, and observe wildlife at some amazing open spaces. Also, if fancy visiting South Florida for a day trip during you holiday the Everglades is must-see. Check-out the 'Outdoor Escapes' section on our Orlando Guide page  

Shopping and Dining

Orlando and the surrounding region offer fantastic shopping and dining options. From high-end luxury goods at the many shopping malls, to discounted merchandise at Orlando's numerous outlet malls, so there's something for every type of shopper. Equally the restaurant and dining scene is extremely diverse, with a mix of family-friendly restaurants catering to every palette, many fine dining options, and lots of local food trucks. Check-out the Eating Out & Shopping sections on our Orlando Guide page.

Sports and Entertainment

Aside from golf, the region offers a wide variety of other sports and entertainment options. Orlando is home to a host of professional sports teams like the NBA's Orlando Magic, MLS's Orlando City SC, and a little further afield the MLB's Tampa Bay Rays. With this much diversity no matter what time of year that you visit there's something for die hard sports fans to experience. There are also a variety of theatres, music venues, and nightlife options throughout the Orlando area and in the city itself. Check-out the ‘Watch Live Sports’ & ‘Going out for the Evening’ sections on our Orlando Guide page.

Other Florida Attractions

Orlando's central location makes it an excellent base for exploring other areas of Florida if you feel you'd like to have a short road trip. The Kennedy Space Center & Cape Canaveral, less than an hour west, is a must for anyone remotely interested in the history of space exploration. Just over an hour north is Daytona Beach with its iconic white sand beaches and boardwalk. Tampa Bay and the beautiful Gulf coast are about 90 minutes west. This offers an abundance of beaches, fishing, and water sports opportunities as well as the cities of Tampa, St Petersburg, and Clearwater. Honeymoon Island State Park is a particular favourite of mine with sandy beaches and an abundance of wildlife including eagles, osprey, and great horned owls, while ground animals include gopher tortoises, raccoons and armadillos. You may also get lucky and see a pod of dolphins just off the beach. From here you can also access the wonderful Caladesi Island State Park by ferry. 

Ease of Access

Orlando International Airport services many and frequent domestic and international flights from a multitude of airlines which makes central Florida easy to reach, and to get home to, almost anywhere in the world. Also, the United States Highway System offers those that want to drive south form northern states or Canada many options, and lots of interesting cities and locations to stop and spend a night if you want to break your journey down in to manageable daily distances. 

The Weather

Central Florida has a warm and humid climate with abundant sunshine throughout the year. It's a subtropical climate which is characterised by hot wet summers, and mild, dry winters, and can be broadly divided into the four seasons. 

Spring in Orlando is marked by steadily increasing temperatures and humidity levels. Average daytime temperatures range from the mid-70s to mid-80s°F (24-29°C), while night time temperatures dip to the mid-50s to mid-60s°F (13-18°C). Rainfall gradually increases throughout the season, but overall, spring is relatively dry compared to the summer months. 

Summers in Orlando are hot, humid, and wet. Daytime temperatures frequently reach the low 90s°F (32-34°C), with humidity levels often above 90%. Combined, these factors can result in a sweltering heat that may feel oppressive. Afternoon thunderstorms are a common occurrence and these do providing temporary relief from the heat. Rainfall peaks in June and July, with August being somewhat drier. 

Fall in Orlando brings a gradual decline in temperatures and humidity levels, making it an increasingly comfortable time to visit. Daytime temperatures typically range from the mid-80s to mid-70s°F (29-24°C), while nighttime temperatures fall to the low 60s to low 70s°F (16-22°C). In early fall heavy rainfall is still frequency but thunderstorms are less likely. By November it gets considerably drier, with more comfortable weather conditions. 

Winters in Orlando are generally mild and dry, with daytime temperatures averaging in the upper 60s to low 70s°F (20-22°C) and nighttime temperatures dipping into the upper 40s to mid-50s°F (9-12°C). While frosts and freezes are rare, they can occasionally occur. 

Summary

Some people have said to me Central Florida, and the Orlando area is just Theme Parks and Walt Disney, and for some visitors that's what they go for. But that's not all it's about as there's such a wide variety of different things to do and enjoy there's something for everyone, and everybody who enjoys travel should make sure they visit at least once in their life. 

Ed Skilbeck

July 31st 2023