If you're hoping to take a break from the long lines and crowds, take a detour to Winter Park, an urban oasis. Known for its cobble stone paved streets and renowned people watching, this peaceful slice of the city offers an escape from the hustle and bustle of the theme parks.
One of the first stops in the area is to Park Avenue. Home to independent boutiques as well as larger chain stores, this quiet street is reminiscent of a quaint shopping district in Europe. While there is no shortage of interesting shops, one of the most popular is The Spice & Tea Exchange of Winter Park. This award-winning store offers hundreds of spices, teas, sugars and salts from around the world all in an inviting and cozy atmosphere. Indulge your senses and taste buds with loose leaf teas in exotic flavors like Blood Orange and Pear Caramel, or try their Coconut or Lemon sugar. If you're looking for the perfect Florida souvenir, try a bottle of their famous "Florida Sunshine" spice blend- a zesty mix of sea salt, citrus, pepper and ginger.
Another store to pay a visit to is The Ancient Olive, a locally owned boutique specializing in extra virgin olive oils. With over 55 different extra virgin olive oils and balsamic vinegars, as well as quality kitchen accessories, there is something for everyone. Stock up on other culinary treats like fresh jams, chutneys, handmade pasta and of course, olives. The shop also offers a tasting bar so visitors can sample their impressive collection of oils and vinegars, all led by a knowledgeable and helpful staff, passionate about all things olive!
Winter Park is also becoming a foodie's paradise with dozens of new and exciting restaurants popping up. Take your taste buds on an exciting adventure with Bosphorus Turkish Cuisine, serving the best in authentic Mediterranean and Middle Eastern delicacies. Try their delicious and freshly baked Lavas bread to start your meal, or try a bit of everything with a mixed platter, all paired beautifully with Turkish Wine.
Bosphorus also offers group packages, for large to small parties that include everything from their delicious appetizers to mouthwatering desserts.
From the exotic to the eclectic, Scratch Tapas in Winter Park is making a name for itself in the growing Tapas scene with their huge drink menu and unique small plate meals. Try their lavender-cured Magret duck or popular "scratch fries" served with a garlic-saffron aioli, all washed down with any of their many pale ales or wines. This intimate space can be taken over by a large group and is a great place for after meeting drinks or grabbing a quick bite.
Winter Park also serves as a cultural hub to the city of Orlando with the world renowned Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art. This museum, which showcases American paintings, pottery and other artwork from the late 19th and early 20th century, also offers tours for groups. While the museum often has rotating exhibits, the highlight of any visit is the strikingly beautiful chapel designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany (1848-1933). Originally designed for the 1893 World's Colombian Exposition in Chicago, this intricately designed structure is just one in their extensive collection of Tiffany Glass art work, the largest in the world.
Groups seeking a beautiful space for their next meeting should check out Mead Botanical Garden. This tranquil stretch of land offers many different options for every size group- all with the natural beauty of Florida as its backdrop. Choose from picnic pavilions, to indoor facilities, guests will enjoy touring the grounds and experiencing the splendor of Florida's wetlands. Tours are also available for groups that want to explore the extensive flora and fauna that call Central Florida home. Those wanting to get their hands dirty can also lend a green-thumb to the community garden.
As soon as you walk across the cobble stone paved streets and marvel at the meticulously groomed gardens, you will feel as if you've left Florida or even the United States. With everything from great restaurants to world-class shopping, Winter Park is truly a gem and a great place to visit for your next meeting.