Between the theme parks, beaches and shopping malls, there’s no shortage of things to do in Florida. We’re one of the country’s biggest vacation destinations, after all! But sometimes it’s nice to take a step away from all the tourist attractions and enjoy the more local aspects of our state—places such as Winter Park. We know the town for its cute shops, brunch spots and of course their famous farmer’s market, but there are a few hidden gems that you may not know about.
1. Rifle Paper Co. Store
You may recognize this shop’s signature floral prints from Instagram or from their adorable collaboration with Keds, but as Central Florida locals, we are lucky enough to have Rifle Paper Co.’s flagship store right in our backyard! In addition to the gorgeous journals, prints and stationary from their online shop, the Winter Park store carries exclusive designs inspired by the company’s hometown.
In addition to being their only permanent store, the shop doubles as the company’s creative headquarters where you can take a peek at the workspace where all the designs are created. But the best part (from a broke college student’s perspective) is that Rifle holds a sidewalk sale at their store four times a year with up to 70% off the whole shop! Consider this your one stop shop for the most aesthetically pleasing school supplies ever.
2. Fred Rogers Walking Tour
When Fred Rogers graced your TV singing “It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” you probably didn’t realize he was singing about Winter Park! The iconic Fred Rogers graduated from Rollins College in 1951 and after achieving stardom with “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” he never forgot his Central Florida roots.
Throughout Rollins’ campus are several exhibits and memorials for Rogers, including a display of one of his signature sweaters worn on the show and a signed pair of his famous sneakers at the Cornell Fine Arts Museum. At the Olin Library, you can find a collection of his books and letters, and a yearbook from his time in Winter Park.
3. Kraft Azalea Garden
While we all love the theme parks and city sights of Orlando, opportunities to truly get lost in nature can seem few and far between. This hidden gem located near the Winter Park mansions is the perfect spot to get away from the crowds and enjoy the peace and tranquility of towering trees draped with Spanish moss. Pack up your picnic blanket, a good book or even some homework and just sit a while… your nature-craving self will surely thank you.
4. Winter Park Scenic Boat Tour
Although this journey through the lakes and canals of Winter Park is one of the town’s more well-known attractions, it’s still an absolute must-do! For more than 80 years, this pontoon boat tour has showcased the beautiful waterways of Winter Park and shared the town’s long history. As you relax on this hour-long cruise, it feels as though you are traveling back in time as your guide points out the vast mansions along the lakes that were home to celebrities such as Tom Hanks and—of course—Fred Rogers.
At the low cost of $14 (cash or check only), boat tours are available every day and leave every hour from 10 a.m.–4 p.m.
So the next time you find yourself in Winter Park, don’t just stop at the farmer’s market. Take a few hours and get lost in nature, cruise through winding canals or treat yourself to some new notebooks!