Although the entire state can lay claim to being a “snowbird” refuge, four Sunshine State cities have the "naming rights" to declare that they are the cold weather sanctuary of Florida: Winter Garden, Winter Haven, Winter Park and Winter Springs. All are a slice of warm-weather paradise and attract their fair share of migratory northerners, but each area offers a charm and appeal distinctly its own. Read on to learn more about these Central Florida-area winter wonderlands:

  • Winter Garden (Orange County): Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Winter Garden is located on Lake Apopka, about 15 miles west of Orlando. The Orange Belt Railway came through in 1886, and when farmers built a train depot in 1893, they named the stop Winter Garden because of the area’s year-round growing season. Even today, Winter Garden hosts a weekly Farmers Market in the downtown district that offers a large selection of locally grown fruits and vegetables.
  • Winter Garden has a stop on the West Orange Trail system, built on the old rail bed, that offers biking, walking, hiking, and equestrian trails. The city also has two museums: the Heritage Museum, which houses citrus industry memorabilia, and the Central Florida Railroad Museum, which boasts a collection of oil-burning hand lanterns, signs, badges, caps, ticket booths, tools, telegraph equipment, and china and silver from the Canadian Pacific and Union Pacific railroads.
  • Winter Haven (Polk County): Home of the world’s largest Legoland theme park, 45 fresh-water lakes touch or are located within the city of Winter Haven. Twenty-four of the lakes are connected by a system of navigable canals known as “the Chain of Lakes.” Nature lovers can take a sunset cruise through the southern chain of lakes, where you can spot a variety of birds as well as alligators. In addition to being the home of the first Publix Supermarket, Winter Haven is located just minutes away from the Historic Bok Sanctuary (Bok Tower Gardens) and Fantasy of Flight Air Museum. The town’s name was derived from the area’s pleasant climate.
  • Winter Park (Orange County): A suburb of Orlando, Winter Park was chartered in 1887 as a winter resort for wealthy northerners. Its founders wanted the city’s name to be about a park in winter, thus its moniker. Its main thoroughfare, Park Avenue, is referred to as “Little Europe” and is home to a host of charming and quaint boutiques, stores, cafes and restaurants. Parades and street festivals are a common occurrence in this city, including the third-oldest continuously operating Bach Festival in the United States.

    You can enjoy a 12-mile cruise through the Winter Park chain of lakes that features awe-inspiring views of opulent private homes and exquisite estates sprawling along the shores. Gardens and museums abound; among them include the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art, Albin Polasek Museum and Sculpture Gardens, Cornell Fine Arts Museum at Rollins College, Mead Botanical Garden, Kraft Azalea Garden and Casa Feliz Historic Home Museum. The Hannibal Square Heritage Center celebrates the city’s African-American community, including a permanent exhibit comprised of a wonderful collection of photographs and oral histories of residents that brings the area’s history to life.
  • Winter Springs (Seminole County):   This area’s history has been recorded since the 1800s, when Moses Levy, a wealthy New York merchant, secured the land through a grant from the Spanish government before the U.S. acquired Florida in 1821. The city wasn’t officially incorporated until 1959, when it was known as North Orlando and had fewer than 600 residents. In 1962, 3,400 acres belonging to the Winter Springs Development Company were annexed and the village was re-chartered as the City of Winter Springs. In 1972, the city was incorporated as Winter Springs.

    Fueled by the explosive growth of the University of Central Florida, the nation’s second largest university, and Central Florida's aerospace and defense industries, Winter Springs now boasts more than 34,000 residents. The city was ranked in the August 2007 issue of Money Magazine as the 31st best place to live in the United States and the 2nd best place to live in the state of Florida. Located within close proximity of Orlando’s theme parks, Kennedy Space Center and the world famous Cocoa Beach, Winter Springs has carefully cultivated its reputation as one of Florida’s most livable “small towns.”

Whether you’re a snowbird or a year-round resident, tell us about your favorite way to winter in Florida. And don’t forget to join our community by subscribing to our blog today!

Related post:  The Truth About Winter in Florida

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