North of Downtown Orlando, you’ll find the city of Winter Park. Once a winter resort for wealthy northern business magnates, today it is home to more than 28,000 residents, yet somehow manages to retain the feel of an upscale old Florida village.
When the first of the European settlers, David Mizell Jr., bought an 8-acre homestead between lakes Virginia, Mizell and Berry in 1858, what was to become Winter Park was born. Originally named Lakeview by the inhabitants that settled around Mizell’s plot and renamed Osceola in 1870, growing slowly for the next ten years until a South Florida Railroad track connecting Orlando to Sanford was laid a few miles to the west. It wasn’t until 1881 when business partners Loring Chase of Chicago and Oliver E. Chapman of New England, envisioning a winter escape for wealthy northerners, assembled and planned 600 acres of the park-like land, birthing Winter Park. Plotted over the next four years, opening streets, building a town hall and a store, Winter Park was ripe for acquisition. In 1885, Chase and Chapman sold the town to the newly incorporated Winter Park Company, chartered in 1887 and incorporated as the City of Winter Park in 1925.
Considered a nature lover’s destination, Winter Park’s most prominent feature is its vibrant chain of lakes. The Winter Park Chain of Lakes consists of a series of six spring-fed lakes interconnected by navigable canals popular for boating, water sports, fishing, swimming and prime real estate. However, Winter Park is also well-loved for its stately Old Florida tree canopy and brick-lined streets, open spaces and parks (more than 70 within its nine square miles), spectacular homes and estates and street-side shopping and dining on its main street, Park Avenue.
Situated at the far end of Park Avenue is the 65-acre, lakeside campus of Florida’s first four-year college, Rollins College. Founded in 1885, this premier liberal arts college praised by Time magazine, is consistently listed by U.S. News & World Report as one of “America’s Best Colleges.” Over the last century plus, Rollins has produced Rhodes, Fulbright, Goldwater and Truman Scholars, and even a Nobel Laureate. Winter Park is also home to Full Sail University, a private accelerated University and training ground for creative careers in the entertainment and media industry. Also located in Winter Park is one of Valencia College’s five campus locations, offering access to numerous programs and Associate-level degrees.
Arts-and-culture rich, Winter Park contains numerous art galleries, museums, theaters and festivals. Favorites include the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of Natural Art, the Winter Park Historic Museum and the renowned Winter Park Sidewalk Art Festival in Central Park. At Rollins College, you will find the Cornell Fine Arts Museum and the Annie Russell Theatre, along with the yearly Bach Festival of classical music. In February each year at Rollins, is Winter with the Writers, a Festival of the Literary Arts.
The last century has turned Chase and Chapman’s dream into a vibrant and beautiful reality, and Winter Park into a gorgeously appointed city, rich in both educational and cultural amenities and one of Central Florida’s finest places to live.
Orlando International Airport: 14 miles
Universal Studios, Florida: 16 miles
Walt Disney World Resort: 22 miles
Downtown Orlando: 7 miles