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"Hello From Orlando - Part 5: The Winter Park Scenic Boat Tour"

The Winter Park Scenic Boat Tour, founded in 1938 and located just 15 minutes north of downtown Orlando, is one of these lovely side trips that combine beautiful scenery, a bit of local history, some close-up exposure to local wildlife and vegetation with a relaxing outing in a slow-moving 18-passenger pontoon boat, all complete with expert (and sometimes humorous) narration provided by the boat's captain.

The tour takes you through 3 lakes: Lake Osceola, Lage Virginia and...

Orlando, Florida, Florida travel, Orlando travel, Kissimmee,

The Winter Park Scenic Boat Tour, founded in 1938 and located just 15 minutes north of downtown Orlando, is one of these lovely side trips that combine beautiful scenery, a bit of local history, some close-up exposure to local wildlife and vegetation with a relaxing outing in a slow-moving 18-passenger pontoon boat, all complete with expert (and sometimes humorous) narration provided by the boat's captain.

The tour takes you through 3 lakes: Lake Osceola, Lage Virginia and Lake Maitland. On this gorgeous day, with brilliantly blue skies, the boat whisked us past hundreds of beautiful water-front estates, many of which were originally built in the 1920s and originally sold for $20,000, while fetching between $500,000 and several million in today's booming Central Florida real estate market. Even boathouses are worth between $30,000 and $40,000.

In Lake Virginia we came up close to the grounds of Rollins College, one of the top rated private liberal arts colleges in the South Eastern United States, founded in 1885 by New England Congregationalists. Rollins College is the oldest recognized college in the state of Florida with a small student body of 1,700 students, housed on a beautiful 70 acre Mediterraean Revival Campus. Our expert captain / tour guide mentioned that tuition at the college is $38,000 and the ratio of students to professors is 12:1.

Condos are located right next to the college, selling today for between $450,000 to $1 million. As we approached the narrow Venetian Canal that would take us from Lake Virginia to Lake Maitland, our captain made us aware of all the interesting vegetation growing alongside the canal: Egyptian papyrus, Spanish moss (an airplant and not a parasite), the Princess flower, colourful bougainvilleas and resurrection fern. We saw a variety of birds, including an Osprey eagle, a snake bird, a great blue heron and a white egret, which used to be the good luck bird of the Seminole Indians.

On Lake Maitland we learned that there was an alligator cave from which 150 alligators were removed into the Florida Everglades to prevent a rather dangerous collision between local wildlife and civilization.

Along the Venetian Canal we also saw variegated ginger and banana trees, as we slowly passed under the arched Palmer Avenue Bridge. Philodendrons, palmgrass, bamboo, a plant called firespikes and an interesting arrangement of "air potatoes", round tubers hanging down from a tree branch, adorned our journey through the canal.

At 450 acres and 30 feet deep, Lake Maitland is the largest of the 3 lakes covered by the boat tour. A dam controls the water level and interestingly, the lakes all drain northwards into the St. John's River which flows into the Atlantic near Jacksonville. The Kraft Azalea Gardens, located on Lake Maitland on Alabama Drive off Palmer Avenue, feature thousands of azaleas, tropical shrubs and trees. Azaleas are in full bloom January through March.

Our expert captain also pointed out various mansions that have been used as backdrops in various movies and commercials. Lake Maitland also features several small islands with rather naked looking trees that house colonies of cormorants, fishing birds that consume up to a pound of fish a day.

We slowly made our way back from Lake Maitland to Lake Osceola where our relaxing and scenic boat tour came to an end. On this gorgeous day it was a fabulous outing that provided an appropriate historical context for a further exploration of the beautiful city of Winter Park.

The Scenic Boat Tour, a Winter Park institution for almost 70 years now, is located at the end of Morse Avenue on the shores of Lake Osceola. It is a very affordable outing at $8 for adults and $4 for children (children under 2 ride free). Boat tours run every day from 10 am to 4 pm (except Christmas). For further information contact the Winter Park Scenic Boat Tour.

For the entire article including photos please visit
http://www.travelandtransitions.com/stories_photos/orlando_winter_park_boat_tour.htm

 

Hello From Orlando: A Walk Through Winter Park - A Hint Of New England In Florida

Just a few minutes north of downtown Orlando awaits Winter Park, a charming picturesque suburb steeped in history. After my excursion on the Scenic Boat Tour, my local expert Wanda Salerno took me on a little walk through town past beautiful historic neighbourhoods.

With is origins as a citrus growing region, Winter Park became a major destination for wealthy northerners during the early 1900s, who came into town by train to reach their elegant winter retreats, seeking she...

hello from, travel, orlando, florida, winter park

Just a few minutes north of downtown Orlando awaits Winter Park, a charming picturesque suburb steeped in history. After my excursion on the Scenic Boat Tour, my local expert Wanda Salerno took me on a little walk through town past beautiful historic neighbourhoods.

With is origins as a citrus growing region, Winter Park became a major destination for wealthy northerners during the early 1900s, who came into town by train to reach their elegant winter retreats, seeking shelter from the cold winters of the north. Elegant mansions and and stately old oak trees draped with Spanish moss bear witness to this historic era.

Wanda then took me through some of Winter Park's hidden courtyards, which are
filled with specialty retail stores and galleries. Winter Park features a large variety of galleries and I had a chance to sample three of them, all of which carried vastly different artwork:

- Scott Laurent Collections
- Native Visions Gallery
- Timothy's

Our walk took us out on to Winter Park's main street, Park Avenue, which houses 10 blocks of specialty retailers, galleries and ecclectic restaurants. Park Avenue is flanked on its west side by Central Park which offers a welcome sanctuary of relaxation with its graceful fountain, walking paths and shaded benches.

We then went on to explore Casa Feliz ("Happy House" in Spanish), the signature residential work of renowned architect James Gamble Rogers II.

In 1932 Robert Bruce Barbour, a chemical engineer from Massachusetts, commissioned Rogers to design a home on Lake Osceola, which turned out to be the Andalusian-style masonry farmhouse that we see today. This home was not only cherished by Barbour, but by the community as well. Throughout its history, it has hosted garden club tours, symphony orchestra concerts, poetry social meetings and a dinner for author Sinclair Lewis.

In 2001, in order to prevent the house from demolition, Casa Feliz was moved across Interlachen Avenue to its present location on Park Avenue. This move was one of the most dramatic events in Winter Park's history. Casa Feliz was transported on 20 pneumatically levelled dollies, and an elaborate pulley system moved the house about 75 feet per hour. After the house was in position at its new location, skilled craftsmen worked on restoring it to its original 1933 condition. A special landscape design was commissioned to reflect the style of the era.

Today, Casa Feliz is available to rent for weddings, parties, business meetings and events. Its unique features provide the perfect backdrop for a truly memorable event.

As a centre of local culture, Winter Park also features three well-known museums:

- the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American art, which holds the world's most comprehensive collection of works by Louis Comfort Tiffany, including Tiffany’s 1893 Chapel. The museum also features paintings, furniture and other works primarily from the late 19th and 20th centuries.

- the Albin Polasek Museum and Sculpture Garden: 3 acres of gardens, featuring sculptures and painters by Albin Polasek. The museum is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

- the Cornell Fine Arts Museum, which focuses on western world art of the 20th century and includes paintings, drawings, sculptures and other art from America and Europe. This museum is located at Rollins College, one of the top rated liberal arts colleges in the country.

The Winter Park Historical Museum examines various historic time periods, interchanging exhibits and rotating displays highlight some of the changes that have occurred in central Florida.

While I explored the town my husband actually played a round of golf at the 9-hole Winter Park Country Club, which is nestled beautifully inside Winter Park's historic neighbourhood. The WPCC is the second oldest golf club in the Central Florida area and makes its way through the downtown Winter Park area and provides a challenge to even the most experienced golfer. He enjoyed his outing, and a cost of $12, it was an extremely affordable outing on a well-maintained golf course.

We capped off our excursion with an enjoyable dinner at a restaurant called 310 Park Avenue, right on Winter Park's main strip. While a good portion of the Orlando area is very new, Winter Park is a welcome oasis of history and ambience that is perfect for a day of exploring.

For more information on Winter Park contact the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce, www.winterpark.org.

This entire article including photos is located at http://www.travelandtransitions.com/stories_photos/orlando_winter_park.htm

 

Hello From Orlando- Part 3: An Evening Walk Around Lake Eola

Monday, November 28, 2005

Exploring Downtown Orlando - A Beautiful Walk Around Lake Eola

After our interesting visits to the Orange County Regional History Center and the Well's Built Museum of African-American Culture and History, we decided to continue our explorations of downtown Orlando and its surrounding historic neighbourhoods. After driving through beautiful residential areas, framed by majestic oak trees adorned by Spanish Moss, we decided to take a stroll arou...

Orlando, Florida, Florida travel, Orlando travel, Kissimmee, Lake Eola.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Exploring Downtown Orlando - A Beautiful Walk Around Lake Eola

After our interesting visits to the Orange County Regional History Center and the Well's Built Museum of African-American Culture and History, we decided to continue our explorations of downtown Orlando and its surrounding historic neighbourhoods. After driving through beautiful residential areas, framed by majestic oak trees adorned by Spanish Moss, we decided to take a stroll around beautiful Lake Eola, which is just minutes from downtown's Heritage Square, home of the Orange County Regional History Center, and every second, third and fourth Saturday of the month is also home to a lively farmer's market. By this time, the sun was starting to set and Lake Eola and the surrounding highrises were bathed in the golden hues of sunset.

Lake Eola is one of Orlando's more than 300 lakes and is surrounded by established residential areas and highrises ringing the downtown core. The park extends over 43 acres (17.2 hectares) and provides generous sidewalks around the lake on a 0.9 mile (1.4 km) loop around the water, which is enthusiastically used by walkers and joggers. The lake itself can be explored on paddle boats, and other facilities include a playground, a small outdoor cafe, gondola rides, and the Walt Disney Amphiteatre for special events.

Lake Eola is intricately connected with Orlando's history. Even the origin of the name Orlando may be connected to Lake Eola: the first European settlements in the Orlando area grew around an old army post: Fort Gatlin. According to one story, a U.S. soldier by the name of Orlando Reeves, was killed by an American Indian's arrow while on sentinel duty in what is today Lake Eola Park and may have given name to this town. Originally, Orlando had been called Jernigan after a Georgia settler, Aaron Jernigan, who settled in the area in 1843. The origin of the town's name Orlando is not certain, however: another popular story claims that a certain Judge Speer named the settlement after the Shakespeare Character "Orlando" in the play "As you Like it."

Be that as it may, the town was named "Orlando" in 1857 and was centered around the cotton and cattle industry. Demand for beef was fuelled by Cuba while cotton plantations thrived until the Civil War, which stole away the area's workforce, compounded by a devastating hurricane in 1873. "Orange fever" hit Central Florida in the 1870s, aided by the completion of the South Florida Railroad in 1880.

The Great Freeze of 1894 to 1895 destroyed Florida's citrus industry and it took 15 years to recover. Florida's citrus industry peaked in the 1950s with more then 80,000 acres (32,000 hectares) of plantations.

Orlando's first airport opened in 1922. Orlando also plays a significant role in the defense and aerospace industry: during World War II bomber pilots were trained here. A missile factory was built by in 1956 by a forerunner of the Lockheed Martin company, which still serves as the backbone of the area's technology industry today.

Tourism became Central Florida's main draw. From an early entertainment park in 1895, to the creation of the Cypress Gardens Adventure Park in 1936, the opening of Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom in 1971 really laid the foundations to Central Florida's tourism boom. Other Disney attractions followed, including Walt Disney World Resort, Epcot, Disney-MGM Studies, and Animal Kingdom. Universal Studios Florida opened in 1990, followed by Islands of Adventure in 1999 and Universal City Walk, an entertainment complex.

Indeed tourism is Central Florida's main industry today, with more than 50 million visitors annually and yearly revenues of $28 bllion. Tourism combined with high-tech and the citrus industry are the three dominating economic sectors in Central Florida.

After our walk around historic Lake Eola we strolled back into downtown and grabbed a table on the street patio of "Tijuana Flats", a Mexican restaurant located right on Heritage Square, and just one of many diverse kinds of eating establishments in the downtown core.

While savouring some tasty and very filling Mexican food, we watched the early evening street life in Orlando's downtown. We reflected on how different the downtown area is in comparison to the newer and very spread out tourist-oriented hotel and resort areas, which often seem rather devoid of character. Here in the downtown area you really get a feel for the history and the community that started developing in the first half of the 19th century. The downtown and Lake Eola areas, all of which are on an easily walkable scale, have a much more authentic ambience to them which we thoroughly enjoyed.

For more information about Orlando contact the Orlando Convention and Visitor Bureau. The Orlando Regional History Center can be found at http://www.thehistorycenter.org.

For the entire article including photos please visit
http://www.travelandtransitions.com/stories_photos/orlando_lake_eola.htm




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