Cre­at­ing Won­drous Sto­ries

2017 Travel Guide to Florida - - TABLE OF CONTENTS - BY KEVIN FRITZ

Cen­tral Florida is a won­der. Its world-class at­trac­tions, ho­tels, restau­rants and year-round warm sun­shine con­tinue to beckon mil­lions of visi­tors. With so much to see and do, this area fas­ci­nates both chil­dren and adults alike. From the ru­ral, Old Florida feel of High­lands County to the Ocala Na­tional For­est and all the magic in be­tween, the Cen­tral Florida re­gion sum­mons your ex­plo­ration.

ARTS AND CUL­TURE

Known as the “Town of Mu­rals,” Lake Placid fea­tures more than 40 col­or­ful mu­rals within its his­toric out­door art gallery. This small, Old Florida town is also known for its Amer­i­can Clown Mu­seum and School. Soak in the cul­ture in nearby Avon Park at the Mu­seum of Florida Art and Cul­ture and the Alan Jay Wild­stein Cen­ter for the Per­form­ing Arts, both on the Avon cam­pus of South Florida State Col­lege.

Stand­ing tall on Iron Moun­tain, Bok Tower in Lake Wales has been a fan fa­vorite since 1929. Its 205-foot neo-Gothic and art deco “singing tower” houses one of the world’s finest car­il­lons, with 60 bells ringing ev­ery half hour. Tour Pinewood Es­tate, a 20-room Mediter­ranean-style home built in the 1930s, nes­tled among a spec­tac­u­lar col­lec­tion of ferns, palms, camel­lias and mag­no­lias. Fol­low the River of Stone—a mo­saic path­way com­posed of more than 100,000 hand­s­e­lected peb­bles—to the 2.7-acre hands-on Chil­dren’s Gar­den, an out­door kitchen and a farm-to-ta­ble edi­ble gar­den.

Who would guess the largest con­cen­tra­tion of Frank Lloyd Wright de­signs in the world is in Lake­land, Florida? The leg­endary ar­chi­tect over­saw and de­signed the con­struc­tion of 12 struc­tures, in­clud­ing his only plan­e­tar­ium, on the cam­pus of Florida South­ern Col­lege.

From Septem­ber through June, the col­lege hosts the Fes­ti­val of Fine Arts, fea­tur­ing a cal­en­dar of mu­si­cal, the­atri­cal and dance per­for­mances as well as art ex­hibits.

The City of Or­lando is now home to the Dr. Phillips Cen­ter for the Per­form­ing Arts host­ing Broad­way shows, con­certs and com­mu­nity events in the heart of down­town.

North of down­town, the Or­lando Mu­seum of Art, the Or­lando Sci­ence Cen­ter, Or­lando Shake­speare Theater, Or­lando Reper­tory Theatre and Men­nello Mu­seum of Amer­i­can Art are all con­ve­niently lo­cated in the same cul­ture com­plex, the 45-acre Loch Haven Park. Nearby, Harry P. Leu Gar­dens and Leu House Mu­seum are part of a 50-acre botan­i­cal park cre­ated as gar­dens in 1936. Stroll path­ways past 50 va­ri­eties of aza­leas, 50 species of bam­boo, 2,000 camel­lia plants and 50 kinds of cit­rus trees. The house, built in 1858, is open for daily tours.

In artsy Win­ter Park, The Charles Hos­mer Morse Mu­seum of Amer­i­can Art is the world show­case for ev­ery­thing Tiffany with the most com­pre­hen­sive col­lec­tion of works by Louis Com­fort Tiffany. For the old­est and most dis­tin­guished col­lec­tions in Florida, the Cor­nell Fine Arts Mu­seum at Rollins Col­lege is a must-see.

A visit to his­toric Win­ter Gar­den is a step back in time. Once the bustling cen­ter of Cen­tral Florida and the largest cit­rus ship­ping point in the world, ar­ti­facts found around Lake Apopka in­di­cate In­di­ans in­hab­ited the land for thou­sands of years, up un­til the col­o­niza­tion of Florida by Span­ish ex­plor­ers. The Gar­den Theatre, built in 1935, was re­stored to its true Mediter­ranean Re­vival style in 2008.

For a fun way to en­joy cul­ture, join the pedal-pow­ered party through his­toric San­ford on a 15-pas­sen­ger Limo Cy­cle. Sit a spell in a rocker on the porch over­look­ing beau­ti­ful Lake Dora at The Lake­side Inn in Mount Dora, circa 1883. En­joy the quiet while sip­ping iced tea, just as past visi­tors Thomas Edi­son, Henry Ford and US Pres­i­dents Dwight D. Eisen­hower and Calvin Coolidge have done.

AT­TRAC­TIONS

While Cen­tral Florida is widely known for its big three—Walt Dis­ney World, Uni­ver­sal Stu­dios, which de­buts its 28-acre new water park Vol­cano Bay in 2017, and SeaWorld (see our Theme Parks story in this is­sue)—there are many other at­trac­tions you want to ex­pe­ri­ence on your next visit.

In Lake­land, drop by the 260-acre Sa­fari Wilder­ness Ranch and ex­pe­ri­ence 400 species of African, Asian and Amer­i­can an­i­mals. Nearby, you’ll find the Water Ski Hall of Fame in Polk City.

For an air­boat eco­tour, check out Wild Florida Air­boat & Wildlife Park in Ke­nansville on Cy­press Lake. Get an in-depth look at the ’ga­tors, birds and eagles. Later, Old Town in Kis­sim­mee of­fers rides for the kids, go-karts, a haunted house, themed restau­rants, an ar­cade and shop­ping.

The Show­case of Cit­rus in Cler­mont is a fam­ily-owned road­side cit­rus farm and cat­tle ranch at which fam­i­lies can pick grape­fruits, lemons, tan­ger­ines and or­anges. Don’t for­get the hand­crafted cream­si­cles. At Cler­mont’s Lak­eridge Win­ery & Vine­yards, kids and adults can take turns stomp­ing grapes.

The Cray­ola Ex­pe­ri­ence in Or­lando’s Florida Mall is a fam­ily at­trac­tion of­fer­ing 25 hands-on ex­pe­ri­ences. Or take part in the Grande Lakes Or­lando catch-and-re­lease fish pro­gram and help track data for the Florida Wildlife Com­mis­sion. Or­lando’s In­ter­na­tional Drive is now home to the 25,000-square-foot Sea Life Aquar­ium, Madame Tus­sauds wax mu­seum and the Or­lando Eye, a 400-foot-tall ob­ser­va­tion wheel. At nearby iFly In­door Or­lando, test your brav­ery at this in­door sky­div­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. Don’t tell the kids, but at Won­derWorks In­door Amuse­ment Park on In­ter­na­tional Drive, they can learn while hav­ing fun in this 35,000 square feet of edu­tain­ment. Fun Spot Amer­ica, a fam­i­ly­owned theme park in the area, fea­tures multi-level go-karts, thrill rides, fam­ily rides, and an ar­cade. (There is also a Kis­sim­mee lo­ca­tion.) Just north of down­town Or­lando, the Or­lando Sci­ence Cen­ter of­fers four sto­ries of in­ter­ac­tive, hands-on ex­hibits, an ob­ser­va­tory, a café and the Dr. Phillips CineDome, a 300-seat theater for films and plan­e­tar­ium shows.

Ven­ture over to Black Ham­mock Ad­ven­tures in Oviedo for air­boat rides on Lake Je­sup, home to the largest al­li­ga­tor pop­u­la­tion in Florida, es­ti­mated at 9,000.

The Cen­tral Florida Zoo and Botan­i­cal Gar­dens in San­ford is home to more than 400 an­i­mals and the Barn­yard Bud­dies Chil­dren’s Zoo. Feed the gi­raffes then cool off in the Whar­ton-Smith Trop­i­cal Splash Ground.

Near Ocala, a must visit in this re­gion is the ven­er­a­ble Sil­ver Springs State Park, Florida’s first at­trac­tion, known for its fa­mous glass-bot­tom boats.

BEACHES AND OUT­DOOR GEMS

Whether na­ture-made or ar­ti­fi­cial, the Cen­tral Florida re­gion is home to plenty of op­tions for the fam­ily to cool off or ex­plore.

For water en­thu­si­asts, High­lands County is home to 95 crys­tal-clear lakes. In Polk County, the Allen David Brous­sard Cat­fish Creek Pre­serve State Park cov­ers more than 8,000 acres of scrub, sandhill and flat­woods land.

Like fish­ing? In Osce­ola County, Lake To­hopekaliga, known as Lake Toho, cov­ers 19,000 acres, spans 42 miles in di­am­e­ter, and is a hot­bed for bass.

Take the fam­ily wa­ter­ski­ing, wake­board­ing, wakeskat­ing, wakesurf­ing and knee­board­ing at the Or­lando Water­sports Com­plex. A short drive west, Lake Louisa in Cler­mont is the largest in a chain of 13 lakes and des­ig­nated an Out­stand­ing Florida Water Way. Grab a pole or ca­noe and rel­ish in the beauty of Lake County.

Ex­cel­lent out­door ac­tiv­i­ties await north of Or­lando, in­clud­ing Lake Apopka Loop Trail, of­fer­ing 15 miles of fam­ily bik­ing where the odds of see­ing a ’gator are fan­tas­tic. Want to tube down a crys­tal-clear river fed by nat­u­ral springs? Lo­cated in Apopka, lo­cal fa­vorite Rock Springs Run at Kelly Park of­fers swim­ming, hik­ing trails, pic­nick­ing and con­ces­sions.

Visit Blue Spring State Park home to hun­dreds of man­a­tees, where the clear 73 F water tem­per­a­ture wel­comes swim­mers, snorkel­ers and scuba divers. Pic­nic on the beach or stay the night at the camp­ground. In the Ocala Na­tional For­est, the south­ern­most for­est in the United States, dozens of camp­grounds and 600 lakes await.

EN­TER­TAIN­MENT

Florida is anal­o­gous to en­ter­tain­ment, whether that’s in the form of sports, gam­bling or an en­er­getic nightlife.

For an ad­ven­ture the fam­ily will never for­get, point your wagon to­ward West­gate River Ranch Re­sort & Rodeo in Lake Wales. This authen­tic Florida cow­boy-themed prop­erty hosts a cham­pi­onship rodeo with trick rid­ing, bull rid­ing, calf rop­ing and bar­rel racing ev­ery Satur­day night.

Golf fans flock to Bay Hill Club & Lodge in March to see their fa­vorite duf­fers at the Arnold Palmer In­vi­ta­tional. The month be­gins and ends with Ma­jor League Base­ball’s spring train­ing, a sta­ple in Cen­tral Florida for more than a cen­tury. Lo­cally, cheer on the Detroit Tigers (Lake­land) and At­lanta Braves (Lake Buena Vista).

A hap­pen­ing scene can al­ways be found at both Dis­ney Springs and Uni­ver­sal Ci­tyWalk, the lat­ter of which will keep you jump­ing be­tween Jimmy Buf­fett’s Mar­gar­i­taville and the Hard Rock Café. Dis­ney Springs is home to the House of Blues and Planet Hol­ly­wood.

On In­ter­na­tional Drive, try ICEBAR Or­lando, the largest of its kind in the world. En­joy a frosty beer or cock­tail in a 22 F chill while sit­ting on ice blocks, then thaw out in the FIRE Lounge. Down the street, Kings Bowl Or­lando boasts a chef-cre­ated menu and an in­no­va­tive list of cock­tails. The Outta Con­trol Magic Comedy Din­ner Show at Won­derWorks presents comedy with your sup­per, while the Trea­sure Tav­ern Din­ner Theatre fea­tures a cabaret din­ner show suit­able for adults only.

Or­lando’s Camp­ing World Sta­dium plays host to three year-end foot­ball bowl games: the Cure Bowl, the Rus­sell Ath­letic Bowl and the Cit­rus Bowl. In Jan­uary 2017, the sta­dium, for­merly known as the Cit­rus Bowl, will host the Na­tional Foot­ball League’s Pro Bowl.

If you pre­fer soc­cer to Amer­i­can foot­ball, the Or­lando City Soc­cer Club plays in the Ma­jor League Soc­cer (MLS) or­ga­ni­za­tion from March through Oc­to­ber. Or­lando is also home to the Or­lando Magic of the Na­tional Bas­ket­ball As­so­ci­a­tion.

Down­town Or­lando of­fers a slew of clubs and bars where live mu­sic can be heard al­most ev­ery night. Rock out at Back­booth, dis­cover the blues at Tan­queray’s or skip the light fan­tas­tic at In­de­pen­dent Bar.

For a unique evening of din­ner, drinks and danc­ing, board the River­ship Ro­mance in San­ford, an authen­tic stern­wheeler pad­dle­wheel ship, for a three-hour tour along Lake Mon­roe and the St. Johns River.

And while there is lit­tle casino ac­tion in Cen­tral Florida, Ocala Poker and Jai Alai in Red­dick hosts poker tour­na­ments and live games, as well as simul­cast wa­ger­ing.

LGBT SCENE

The Sun­shine State is home to many year­round events and LGBT Pride cel­e­bra­tions— and Or­lando is no ex­cep­tion. In fact, nowhere in the United States is the LGBT com­mu­nity stronger and more en­er­getic than in Or­lando. Even the mouse em­braces the LGBT com­mu­nity. Gay Days, May 31– June 4, 2017, at­tracts more than 150,000 folks—fam­i­lies, cou­ples and sin­gles of all gen­ders and ages—to take part in events held at area clubs and theme parks, in­clud­ing Gay Day in the Magic King­dom on the first Satur­day of June.

Or­lando is home to a num­ber of LGBT clubs and bars. Savoy in the an­tique dis­trict caters to the gay crowd, while South­ern Nights, lo­cated on the out­skirts of town, wel­comes the en­tire LGBT com­mu­nity, as does the Stonewall in down­town Or­lando. It is named af­ter the fa­mous Stonewall in New York City, the bar rec­og­nized as launch­ing the gay rights move­ment in 1969.

The grand­daddy of them all is the Par­lia­ment House on Or­ange Blos­som Trail, billed as Or­lando’s pre­miere gay travel and en­ter­tain­ment des­ti­na­tion. A re­sort of sorts, you’ll find mul­ti­ple bars, an out­door stage, a swim­ming pool and the Rain­bow Café. You can even stay the night. The club, known for its lively fe­male im­per­son­ator shows, opened in 1975.

Need a break from the bar scene? Try Ham­burger Mary’s on Church Street in down­town Or­lando, known for its ex­cel­lent burgers and out­landish Satur­day night bur­lesque shows. East of down­town, Pom Pom’s Tea­house and Sand­wicheria is a cozy, artsy eatery serv­ing up wine along with its name­sakes.

White Wolf Cafe & Bar, lo­cated down the street from Savoy on Or­ange Av­enue, is an Or­lando sta­ple with fan­tas­tic sand­wiches and Sun­day brunch fea­tur­ing the tasti­est cin­na­mon rolls in town.

ROAD TRIPS

Take a break from the park­ing lots and em­bark on a scenic drive to ex­pe­ri­ence some of Old Florida at its finest.

The Ridge Scenic High­way in Polk County trav­els more than 38 miles along the Lake Wales Ridge, through the his­toric com­mu­ni­ties of Frost­proof, Lake Wales, Dundee and Haines City. While in Lake Wales, be sure to visit Spook Hill, a nat­u­ral phenomenon that gives the il­lu­sion that cars are coast­ing up­hill.

A drive west of Or­lando to Cler­mont brings you to the Florida Cit­rus Tower built in 1956 on one of the high­est hills in Florida’s ridge sec­tion. An el­e­va­tor ride to the top gives way to panoramic views of Cen­tral Florida.

Far­ther west and a bit north, ex­plore the 80-acre Dade Bat­tle­field State Park, where on De­cem­ber 28, 1835, an In­dian am­bush started the Sec­ond Semi­nole War. There’s a pic­nic area, play­ground and vis­i­tor’s cen­ter.

Look for the Green Moun­tain Scenic By­way near Lake Apopka that shows off the re­gion’s lit­tle-known rolling hills. Among the ru­ral towns and vil­lages, you’ll pass by the his­toric moss-cov­ered Sadler Oaks in the com­mu­nity of Tildenville.

Take a ride to Ocala, the cen­ter of the thor­ough­bred horse in­dus­try in Florida and spot the beau­ti­ful rolling horse farms. Hop on the Florida Black Bear Scenic By­way, which trav­els through the heart of Cen­tral Florida to the Ocala Na­tional For­est. Look for springs, kayak­ing and fish­ing spots— you might even see the elu­sive Florida black bear.

SHOP­PING

If you are look­ing for a taste of Florida, the Bar­tow Farm­ers’ Mar­ket sells fresh pro­duce, pre­serves, pick­les and more. Or try the Lake­land Down­town Farm­ers’ Curb Mar­ket for some cit­rus from Scotty’s Pro­duce. For mall shop­ping in the area, hit the nearly 100 stores at the Lake­land Square Mall.

The Loop in Kis­sim­mee is a pop­u­lar out­door mall, split into Loop East and Loop West, of­fer­ing 30 re­tail out­lets in­clud­ing PacSun and Old Navy. Stop for a cone at Ben & Jerry’s or grab a bite in one of a dozen eater­ies.

The new Dis­ney Springs, for­merly Down­town Dis­ney, is now home to more than 100 shops, rang­ing from An­thro­polo­gie and Lucky Brand to the LEGO Store and the Art of Dis­ney.

Pointe Or­lando, the lush land­scaped, fresh-air des­ti­na­tion near the Or­ange County Con­ven­tion Cen­ter, is known for more up­scale and spe­cialty shops, such as Ar­mani Ex­change and Ru­mor Bou­tique.

Want big? Florida Mall in Or­lando of­fers 1.9 mil­lion square feet of space and more than 250 stores to shop ’til you drop.

The Mall at Mil­lenia in Or­lando has be­come a fa­vorite of lo­cals and visi­tors. This shop­ping mecca fea­tures some of the most stylish shops in all of Cen­tral Florida: Tiffany & Co., Gucci and Louis Vuit­ton, to name a few. The Or­lando Pre­mium Out­lets In­ter­na­tional Drive and Or­lando Pre­mium Out­lets Vineland Av­enue of­fer dis­counts in hun­dreds of brand-name stores.

Park Av­enue in Win­ter Park is the quin­tes­sen­tial place to shop in Cen­tral Florida. Wan­der in and out of shops, such as Tuni, Siegel’s Win­ter Park, Ten Thou­sand Vil­lages and Charyli as you walk the brick-lined street. Nearby Win­ter Park Vil­lage fea­tures Pier One Im­ports, Owen Allen and Ulta.

North of Or­lando, Ren­ninger’s An­tique Cen­ter & Farm­ers’ & Flea Mar­ket in Mount Dora is worth the trip. The fam­ily-owned busi­ness, sit­u­ated on 117 acres in the rolling hills of Lake County, fea­tures hun­dreds of ven­dors, as well as vin­tage car and gar­den shows.

Nearby, Lake Square Mall in Lees­burg fea­tures 59 stores, while Pad­dock Mall in Ocala has 90 stores, an­chored by Macy’s, Sears, Belk and JC Pen­ney.

Ex­plore the shops and bou­tiques on First Street in his­toric San­ford, once a ma­jor Cen­tral Florida hub. The town is also home to Semi­nole Town Square with seven an­chor stores in­clud­ing Burling­ton Coat Fac­tory.

SPAS

The Spa at Ham­mock Falls in Se­bring in­vites you to re­lax in its full-ser­vice spa, fea­tur­ing four massage ther­a­pists, a skin-care spe­cial­ist and a nail tech. In­dulge in the Vichy show­ers or treat your body to a Sea Salt Glow treat­ment, which soft­ens your skin and leaves you glow­ing.

Melt away at DayDreams Day Spa & Bath Shop in Lake­land. De-stress in a Body Wrap with Body Pol­ish as part of a five-hour Day of In­dul­gence, or sim­ply stop in for a ma­ni­pedi. Choose from the Classic, the Luxury or Sig­na­ture. The spa also of­fers the Check Me Out Teen Man­i­cure and Pedi­cure Combo for a mother-daugh­ter day out.

Massage Envy in Win­ter Gar­den of­fers cus­tom­ized mas­sages and Mu­rad Healthy Skin fa­cials to help re­lieve stress, de­crease anx­i­ety, in­crease en­ergy and im­prove your skin tex­ture, tone and ap­pear­ance. Trust the pro­fes­sional massage ther­a­pists to help you choose the treat­ment that’s best for you. Try the Sig­na­ture Ser­vice, Hot Stone Envy, which pro­motes cir­cu­la­tion with light to medium pres­sure.

In Or­lando’s trendy Dr. Phillips com­mu­nity, The Wood­house Day Spa caters to men and women. Re­lax with a fa­cial, massage or body treat­ment in a Vichy shower. In­dulge in the Wood­house Es­cape, a full-body rit­ual that be­gins with a bam­boo body scrub fol­lowed by a sooth­ing vol­canic stone massage. There are 6,000 square feet of Vic­to­rian dé­cor adorn­ing 16 pri­vate guest treat­ment rooms.

The Euro Day Spa & Salon in Or­lando in­vites you to be spoiled with the Spa du Jour, a lux­u­ri­ous massage, fa­cial, man­i­cure and pedi­cure. As long as you’re get­ting pam­pered, have your hair cut by a tal­ented stylist, or add some color!

The Spa in Or­lando’s Col­lege Park of­fers an es­cape from your daily grind stress. Try the Enzy­matic Sea Mud Treat­ment to detox­ify, ex­fo­li­ate and nour­ish your body. Smooth and sup­ple skin will be the re­sult of the warm in­fused wrap.

Euro­pean ar­chi­tec­ture and a quiet wa­ter­fall wel­come you at Blush Day Spa in Al­ta­monte Springs. Try the Spa Sam­pler, com­pris­ing a 30minute back, neck and shoul­der massage and a 30-minute cus­tom­ized fa­cial, classic man­i­cure and pedi­cure. For the ul­ti­mate in luxury, lie on a bed of roses for a one-hour tea rose massage for two, then re­lax with a sooth­ing rose­wa­ter pedi­cure and hy­drat­ing rose foot mask.

Mount Dora’s state-of-the-art chic Syn­ergy SalonSpa spe­cial­izes in fa­cials, chem­i­cal peels and mas­sages. Get a hair­cut, a man­i­cure or en­joy a deep-tis­sue massage. There are also ser­vices for men, so bring the hubby along.

TOP LEFT: The Daf­fodil Ter­race at the Charles Hos­mer Morse Mu­seum of Amer­i­can Art, Win­ter Park. TOP RIGHT: Harry P. Leu Gar­dens and Leu House Mu­seum, Or­lando. OP­PO­SITE TOP: Per­for­mance at the Florida South­ern Col­lege Fes­ti­val of Fine Arts, Lake­land. OP­PO­SITE BOT­TOM: Palm-lined walk­way in San­ford.

OP­PO­SITE BOT­TOM: Scenic Rock Springs Run near Or­lando. OP­PO­SITE TOP: Ski­ing at Revo­lu­tion, The Off-Road Ex­pe­ri­ence. OP­PO­SITE CEN­TER LEFT: One of Greater Or­lando’s more than 2,000 named lakes, rivers and springs. OP­PO­SITE CEN­TER RIGHT: Aquat­ica in Or­lando. TOP: A vin­tage Am­phicar tour in Dis­ney Springs. ABOVE: The Vel­vet Bar at the Hard Rock Ho­tel in Or­lando.

TOP: The most col­or­ful pa­rade in Or­lando.

CEN­TER LEFT: Florida Mu­sic Fes­ti­val in down­town Or­lando.

CEN­TER RIGHT: Down­town Or­lando sky­line from Eola Park.

BOT­TOM: The Or­lando Eye on In­ter­na­tional Drive.

OP­PO­SITE: Board­walk in Blue Spring State Park.

TOP: The Mall at Mil­lenia in Or­lando. LEFT: Tasty treats from Kil­wins in down­town Win­ter Park.

CEN­TER: Re­lax­ing pool­side at the Re­union Re­sort near Or­lando. ABOVE TOP: A swim­ming pool at a spa re­sort in Or­lando. ABOVE BOT­TOM: Massage oil and lava rocks in the spa.

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