Neighborhoods We Love
By Dennis Norcross
In 1913, Tavares and Gulf Railroad built a depot in Winter Garden, which coincided with an economic boom in the central Florida town. Celebrities of the day would take the train to stay at the famous Edgewater Hotel and take advantage of the local recreation, such as bass fishing on the local lakes. Today, the Tavares and Gulf Depot building houses the Central Florida Railroad Museum, a focal point of modern downtown Winter Garden.
A stroll down Plant Street offers the opportunity to listen to live music or browse the many museums, galleries and shops. A multitude of restaurants provide a variety of options for drinking and dining. Whether it’s a meal at Savoree or Alfresco, food and drinks at Moon Cricket Grille or the Garden Market and Crooked Can Brewery, or more relaxed family dining at the Winter Garden Pizza Company, there is something for everyone. Also along Plant Street, the historic Garden Theatre was recently refurbished and is an authentic period piece with Mediterranean style architecture and “Romeo and Juliet” balconies. Today the theater serves as a performing arts center and multi-purpose venue as well as hosting movies.
The West Orange Trail runs through downtown Winter Garden, past the central clock tower and fountain. The twenty-mile trail provides varied scenery and stops for bikers, joggers and walkers alike. All along the trail, stations provide playgrounds, grills, restrooms, bike rentals and equestrian facilities. A future extension of the trail is planned to pass east and connect to Wekiwa Springs State Park.
Every Saturday, downtown Winter Garden hosts the Winter Garden Farmer’s Market, which offers a large selection of local craft vendors as well as locally grown produce and live music. Other special events, including car shows, music and arts festivals, and seasonal activities take place nearly every weekend and provide ever-changing opportunities for entertainment.
Laureate Park, Orlando, FL
By Carl J. Conner, AIA
Though not organic in development, the highly designed neighborhood of Laureate Park is a good balance of personality and community. This innovative community was founded in the pastures on the Southeast side of the Orlando Metropolitan Area near Orlando’s International Airport. Homes and amenities within the neighborhood reflect the influence of the American vernacular infused with a strong usage of color. Walking trails, lakes, parks and landscape intermingle with hospitals, restaurants, office buildings, multi-family, duplex and single family homes and are supported by a program of activates including yoga, jazz, movies and play in Crescent Park. Porches and mews create spaces that encourage social interaction by groups of all ages. Garages have no place in the front of homes and are placed along traditional alleys. Building lots are small and floor plans well thought out.
Visitors to “LP” can enjoy dinner at one of two Tavistock Group owned restaurants. Canvas, located on one of the many lakes in the neighborhood, features outdoor dining and new American cuisine influenced by Florida’s southern and Latin American roots. Chroma, located in the budding Town Center, presents a colorful menu of small plates, craft beer and fine wine designed to inspire connectivity.
“LP” is as much about its people as it is about its structures. The new neighborhood is home to a wide cross section of sociable individuals that appreciate their neighbors and valve new relationships. House crawls, Sunday brunches at the aquatic center, cycling teams, beer making, wine societies and bonsai keeping are just few of the events that bring the residents of the “Nona Hood” together. The neighborhoods success is proof that design matters.
By Kristi Tilton
Known in many corners as “the future of cities,” Lake Nona has become a model for a forward-looking, health and wellness community. Lake Nona’s 17 square miles are rooted in health, wellbeing and performance innovation thanks to a thriving health and life sciences cluster and the growing Sports & Performance District anchored by the United States Tennis Association National Campus and Orlando City Soccer Club’s training facility. But it’s the community’s focus on health and wellbeing, developed with insights from area researchers, global experts and the Lake Nona Institute, that makes Lake Nona a unique atmosphere for individuals and families who seek to live more actively together. Lake Nona’s 44 miles of trails connect neighborhoods, schools and community centers, encouraging residents to bike or walk across our community or participate in the annual RunNona and Ride-4-Ronald charity races. Public health events like Yoga Nona and Tai Chi are further supported by regular community events like family movie nights and the monthly “Live & Local” events, which feature some of Central Florida’s best live music, a great produce market and top food trucks. As culture defines a community, Lake Nona’s burgeoning culinary and public art scene continues to create a diverse, modern environment. Canvas Restaurant & Market, Chroma Modern Bar + Kitchen and Nona Blue are just a few foodie favorites, which grow by the day. Public art installations like the Beacon and Code Wall, as well as Tom Fruin’s famed Glass House put art in the heart of public spaces like the Lake Nona Town Center, which will expand to 4M square feet of retail, office, hotel and entertainment in a walkable, community-centric space. These are just a few of the many reasons that Lake Nona is a nationally awarded, master-planned community that shines for promoting health, wellbeing, performance, innovation and community in everything it does.
Dr. Phillips / Windermere
By Eric Kleinsteuber, AIA
Nestled in Southwest Orange County are the neighborhoods of Dr. Phillips and Windermere. Often referred to generally as the Dr. Phillips area, Windermere is actually a town charted in 1925, while Dr. Phillips is an unofficial village neighborhood of roughly 10,000 people. Windermere, like much of Central Florida, is centered around its lakes. The Butler Chain, world famous for Bass Fishing and championship skiing, lies within the town limits. While the shores are mostly surrounded by seven and eight-figure homes, there are still a few public boat ramps available, with rentals and tours around for those who search. The Dr. Phillips neighborhood gets its name from Dr. Phillip Phillips, the citrus magnate.
Dr. Phillips owned over 5000 acres, most of which were sold off in the 1950’s to other citrus growers. As the citrus industry left Orlando, and more of us moved in, most of the groves were removed and homes were built. While most of Dr. Phillips proper is made of mostly 80’s and 90’s walled neighborhoods, the individual communities have come into their own. Now mature landscaping, lake front property lined with historic cypress trees, and what are now more unique architectural moments, versus some newer builder run developments, have created walkable spaces that are specifically not urban. Here kids still play on the street, and you’ll find those that enjoy the cul-de-sac basketball hoop and family pool.
Both neighborhoods are bordered on their eastern edge by Universal Resort, Sea World and International Drive, including the Convention Center. This shouldn’t detract anyone from the neighborhoods themselves. The residential areas receive little to any impact from tourists; meanwhile, the location provides excellent and varied dining options for the residents. On the southern edge along the shores of Sand Lake is “Restaurant Row”. Citing restaurants primarily from major brands, including more upscale versions like Seasons 52, Roys, Ruth’s Chris, and Moon Fish, the area is often busy and a great place to people watch. Local and national celebrities and athletes frequent the area and often use the lakefront helipad to grab dinner, cigars and drinks. National brands and famous chefs often launch new concepts here, like Seasons 52 and Emerils Tchoup Chop, or even a McDonalds with servers. An affluent and captivated permanent audience, as well as more visitors than anywhere on Earth, give these establishments a cornucopia of backgrounds for testing new ideas. Local fares like Yellow Dog Eats café, nestled in the backend of Windermere, and Amura Sushi along the row are always worth a visit.
By Floyd W. McCollum, Jr., AIA, CNU
It doesn't seem possible, but it's been over 20 years since the first residents moved into the Traditional American Town of Celebration. Home to approximately 10,000 residents, this second-generation New Urban Town was designed as a typical pre-WWII neighborhood--before the advent of suburban sprawl. As such, you will find it pedestrian and bicycle-friendly and focused on 'community'. The approximately 10,000-acre tract (of which roughly half is protected wetlands feeding the headwaters of the Everglades) was developed by The Walt Disney Company, utilizing the master plan created by Robert A.M. Stern and Jaquelin Robertson.
The Community Patterns and Housing Patterns are based upon the Celebration Pattern Book created by Ray Gindroz and UDA Architects. As you stroll along the tree-lined streets, you will see a mix of housing types--from apartments to large single family residences--designed according to the regional vernacular styles of Classical, Victorian, Colonial Revival, Coastal, Mediterranean, French, and Craftsman.
Throughout the Town Center (and within a mile walk), you will witness an incredible group of buildings designed by some of the most influential architects in recent history: Michael Graves, Graham Gund, Philip Johnson, Charles Moore and Partner Arthur Anderssen, Cesar Pelli, William Rawn, Jaquelin Robertson, Aldo Rossi and Partner Morris Adjmi, Robert A.M. Stern, and Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown.
Many of these buildings are open to the public (be sure to stop by SunTrust and check out the Venturi Scott-Brown interior columns, and the Rotunda in Graves' Post Office:)
After spending some time walking or bicycling around the town and its 20+ miles of dedicated trails, be sure to browse the shops and have a drink overlooking Town Center's Lake Rianhard. You are sure to see why ULI awarded Celebration "New Community of the Year" in 2001.
By Katherine B Conner AIA, NCARB, LEED AP
College Park is Orlando’s offbeat neighborhood where all things retro and quirky reside. Start the day at Downtown Credo near the corner of Edgewater Drive and Princeton. A nonprofit donations-only coffee shop, Credo has comfy seating, loads of character, and most importantly, great coffee. Chat up the locals before heading out to solidify the day’s destinations. Once caffeinated, pick up your reserved bike from the Juice Bike Share at Publix and spend the day exploring the local shops and restaurants along Edgewater Drive. Second stop? Breakfast.
American-style diners are what College Park does best! Just around the corner from Credo is the College Park Café. A local favorite, it’s the type of place that hasn’t changed décor since the 1980s but no one seems to mind. If the weather’s great, you can sit outside at Christo’s Café or marvel at the collection of vintage salt and pepper shakers on display at Shaker’s American Café. All three restaurants capture the essence of this sweet Orlando neighborhood.
Beyond breakfast, there’s something for everyone along ‘The Drive’! Treasure hunters will love rummaging through vintage fashion at Dechoes Resale and Top Drawer Consignments or perusing local art at Gallery on the Edge. Creatives will enjoy taking a cooking class at Truffles & Trifles or jewelry making at the Bead Bar. For those with a nostalgic sweet tooth, Sweet 32804 is likened to an old-fashioned candy shop and The Soda Fountain is a throwback ice cream parlor that shares space with a gourmet hot dog and tater tots stand, The Doghouse. (I recommend the Urban Tots, loaded with parmesan, garlic aioli and herbs!)
For game days, choose Ollie’s Public House. Homemade pickles, live music and lots of big screens make this the local weekend hangout. Golf enthusiasts can book a tee-time at the historic Dubsdread Golf Course, originally designed in 1924. End your golf outing onsite at the Tap Room for a seriously good burger and beer. Other great cocktail and dinner options include chef owned and operated, K Restaurant or Outpost Neighborhood Kitchen.
Mills 50 “The Intersection of Creativity + Culture
By Rebecca Talbert, AIA
The Mills50 District is an eclectic and culturally diverse urban neighborhood just North of Downtown Orlando. It takes its name from the intersection of Mills Ave (17-92) and State Road 50 (Colonial Dr.), two old Florida highways dating back to the earliest building boom in Central Florida. Many of the original historic storefront retail buildings remain today and have been given new life filled with hip restaurants, Asian markets, independent businesses, and studios for spiritual and creative endeavors.
There are many reasons to visit Mills50, but my favorite reason is the food. Whatever you are craving – from Asian, Mexican, vegan, to BBQ, Mills50 is the place to go to find the best of Orlando. You can start your visit with brunch at the Strand, indulging in creamy ricotta pancakes made with local ingredients. In the mood for something lighter? Grab a Cuban coffee at Black Bean Deli to get you going. After exploring the unique businesses and many murals and art projects along Mills Ave, you will be ready for lunch. Grab a slice at Anthony’s Pizzeria, tacos at Black Rooster Taqueria or Tako Cheena, or feast on seafood at King Cajun Crawfish. Next, make your way to Quantum Leap for a tasting and tour of the warehouse turned winery in the heart of Orlando. Looking for a true neighborhood bar – head over the Wally’s. This colorful watering hole has been here since 1954.
Be sure to check out the latest showing at Snap! Gallery in the recently renovated historic Cameo Theater before heading to dinner at Anh Hong Restaurant or Little Saigon.
There is so much to see (and eat) in Mills50 it’s a must visit during any trip to Orlando. Visit www.mills50.org to learn more about this unique Orlando neighborhood at “the intersection of Creativity + Culture”.
By Dan Kirby, FAIA, AICP
Only a short walk from Lake Eola’s Eastern Shore is the neighborhood created in the 1920’s and whose 1990’s revitalization made Downtown Orlando cool again. The Thornton Park District (TPD) offers authentic urban living in a traditional neighborhood package. Nearby Lake Eola offers a daily light show at the Centennial Fountain, the region’s best Sunday Farmer’s Market, and festivals nearly every weekend. Among the neighborhoods can’t miss events are TPD’s Third Thursday Wine Walks, Taste of Thornton Park, Halloween, New Year’s Eve, and Shampooch Dog Wash.
Tree-lined sidewalks and brick-paved streets, local eateries and shops, housing stock that includes charming 1920’s and 30’s homes, post-war bungalows and a hip vibe. Thornton Park is all the things you didn’t know Orlando had to offer but that is so essential to the understanding of our love for this City. The culinary delights here are served with a side of art, they include: a romantic happy hour at Shari Sushi Lounge, the best croissants this side of Paris at Benjamin’s, Asian-fusion treats at Baoery, mouthwatering burgers at Graffiti Junktion, or the ever-popular brunch at Dexter’s. Want a beverage? Head to the Falcon for a brew or to the very old-school and fun Burton’s where they’ve been serving frosty mugs since the 1920’s.
Served by the Grapefruit Line on the free Lymmo downtown circulator or use the parking garage at Thornton Park Central (enter from Eola Drive or Washington Street.)
Start your first visit at the corner of Central Blvd and Summerlin Ave. then head east to the corner of Summerlin and Washington. Walk two blocks up Washington or if want a longer visit, grab Orlando’s “Juice” Bike Share. Head east on Washington past the Thornton Park Fountain and keep heading east to explore the WPA-era Dickson-Azalea Park and the surrounding historic homes.
Audubon Park Garden District
By Rebecca Talbert, AIA
Nestled in a neighborhood of mid-century ranch houses just north of downtown you’ll find Audubon Park. This small local business district is the hub for Orlando’s growing good food movement and one of the first EcoDistricts in the city. With organic community gardens, Fleet Farms’ urban farmlettes, and award-winning farm to table restaurants, the APGD has been nationally recognized as an exemplary sustainable community. Honored with the 2016 Great American Main Street Award, Audubon Park also hosts some of Orlando’s most original events including street parties, costume balls, book readings, and foodie events. Any visit to the neighborhood should start at Harry P. Leu Gardens, a 50-acre botanical oasis where you can learn about native plants and turn of the century living in Central Florida. Next, walk along Corrine Drive where you’ll find plenty of options for lunch. Choices range from Asian cuisine at Sushi Lola’s to classic diner food at Junior’s. You’ll find many organic and vegan selections at East End Market along with local specialty food and drink vendors. To satisfy your sweet tooth, pick up a coffee at Lineage then visit P is for Pie or Blue Bird Bakery while you shop at the unique boutiques lining the drive. If you have more time, rent a Juicebike from the bike share stop at East End and take a ride through Blue Jacket Park to Lake Baldwin. This former Navy base is now home to Baldwin Park, a luxury new urbanist community on the eastern border of the neighborhood. Finish your visit with a stop at Redlight Redlight Beer Parlour, and maybe catch an in-store performance by a touring band at Park Ave CDS. You’ll find the many great restaurants, shops, and special events are sure to keep you coming back to Audubon Park.
By Ronok D. Nichols, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP
If you adore Aspen, CO and Carmel, CA then you’ll love the City of Winter Park, Florida. These cities share the similarities of the small town feel in a trendy, future forward and culturally rich setting. Winter Park was the first of Florida’s planned communities dating back to the 1880’s. Planning an excursion to this city ten minutes to the North of Orlando can be achieved as a planned day trip or can easily stretch into multiple days. Getting there by SunRail commuter system and staying at the Alfond Inn are a relaxing start to your mini-vacation. Both are centralized and are easily accessible by foot to everything recommended here. The commuter rail stops in the park fronting the luxury shopping and eating district, Park Avenue. Here culinary delights from top chefs and Zagat rated restaurants abound. The street is animated with people shopping at their favorite boutiques and dining outside under umbrellas while they decide on their next stop. While on Park Avenue, don’t miss a trip to the Morse Museum of American Art to view the world’s largest collection of Louis Comfort Tiffany’s glass artisanship. Across the street is Casa Feliz, a restored Spanish farmhouse designed by James Gamble Rogers, II. After a tour, stop for lunch at Prato, Luma on Park, Hamilton’s Kitchen or one of the other culinary delights along the cobblestone street. Only a couple of blocks away is Winter Park’s Scenic Boat Tour of the chain of lakes. From the pontoon boat enjoy Florida’s pristine blue waters while observing wildlife, exquisite estates, Rollins College, and the childhood home of Mr. Rogers (yes, the lead actor from the real life Mr. Rogers Neighborhood). After the boat tour, stroll through the neighborhood to the Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens. From there, cross the street to Rollins College campus. Ranked #1 in the nation for its beauty, Rollins College’s Spanish Mediterranean architecture is set in harmony with the landscape on the shores of Lake Virginia.