I recently spent a really lovely afternoon in Winter Park, Florida. January, 70 degrees. How I do love winter in Florida. I far prefer hanging out in Winter Park on a mild January Sunday afternoon to jostling crowds in the Magic Kingdom. How I do really not like Disney World. Did you know you can hop the Amtrack in Jacksonville and two and half hours and $23 later you can get off here? You’ll debark into Central Park, a beautiful city park, spacious, with trees, a sidewalk that runs the perimeter, some sculptures, and a fountain. People step out , alone, or with friends or family, and what a fabulous space they have, to enjoy Winter Park life. Even if you’re not going round the shops or dining in one of their restaurants or cafes, this town is pretty much another epitome of local, and it’s no wonder I’m drawn to it. The fabricated happiness of Disney versus a slow wander in a place like Winter Park? Do you really have to ask? I know that Disney has its charms and is pretty much amazing and delights millions of people. I’m just not drawn to it. And the planned community, adjacent to Disney…known, at least in its earlier years as Disney’s town, called Celebration? Pardon me if you live there or have loved ones who do. But I could personally never buy a home in planned development that named itself Celebration, which was a co-branding move on the part of the developers. It’s a planned urban development with a manufactured town at its center. It’s certainly not the first planned development with town, but because it was at least initially marketed as Disney’s town, it particularly grates on me. It’s the opposite of a place like Winter Park, and so many of the neighborhoods of Jacksonville; places that have their own, distinctive flair. A vibe that doesn’t ride the coattails of Mickey. It’s just that I’d rather spend my time in places that are authentic, rather than standing in line to go on rides and spend money on their brand of this and that. Yes, I’ve been there. Taken the kids there a couple of times. And truthfully, they’d have rather been screaming on a Disney ride than being dragged along while I rhapsodize about the charm of this central Florida town, and taking photos of train tracks and sculptures and park benches and street signs and people walking. Yeah, I get it: boring. But if you fancy yourself a documentarist, it’s kind of a fun way to pass the time. Particularly when it’s January, and 70 degrees, and a lazy Sunday, with no responsibilities but to return to my luxury hotel to watch the Golden Globes on the flat screen from a big bed with clean, white sheets. So, nice.
Below is a fountain, obviously; in the center was a sculpture of a woman playing the harp.
Oh dear. Have I become my mother? An afternoon like this would have been unbearable as a kid. My own would have found the entire afternoon as excruciating as I find standing in line at Disney. Fortunately for us both, they weren’t along for my ride, on this day.
With only iPhone to record the day, I happily wandered the park, and watched Winter Park do Sunday afternoon. Some shopped and dined. Others spent some leisurely time in the park; alone, reading on the grass; or with the family, little kids skating or waddling about the grass (not complaining! still too young to think that train tracks and a fountain’s spray are not thrilling), lured by the spray of the water fountain. The sculpture, a small trailer, constructed of a transparent mesh wire, featured a compact domestic interior. It’s a curious thing for first-timers to see; a trailer? In the park? So you walk over and peer inside and see this charming rendition of a vacation trailer one would pull on the back of a car, except it’s not really meant for use – it’s art. I loved it. I was enchanted. Here are some pictures:
I know you can see how much I loved this park, this town.