Relaxing in Orlando Without the Mouse Ears

It’s tough being fa-la,la in Orlando during Christmas. White Christmas  amounts to heading to the beaches to do snow angels in white sand. But the rest of the year, when winter months bury the rest of the country, it’s good to be in Mickey land, especially if you steer clear of traffic and tourons.

There are places to visit that give the anti-tourist or crowd-weary a chill factor.  Not that I’m not grateful to visitors who buy out I-drive and theme parks with their t-shirt and flamingo magnet money. They keep our area thriving.  So thank you.  And, by the way, aren’t we all tourists?

But north of Disney, Sea World, Epcot, MGM, and the land of over-priced hotels, are places to relax and soak in sun during the “winter” months. Park Ave in Winter Park (don’t be put off by the high rent name, it’s accessible to those of us who don’t drive Jags), has a free park, free parking, benches to plop, some reasonable eats, and plenty of windows to press your nose against in envy.

A few merchants on “the avenue” may wipe your lowly nose print off their golden storefront window, but mostly the place is friendly, very pretty and easy to stroll — with or without kids.  Dogs are more than allowed. Posh pooches and mutts can walk in the shops like they own the place.

Winter Park’s Saturday’s Farmer’s Market is free, colorful and smells good near the kettle corn.  When your head spins from theme park lines (oh and it will, it will), your screaming kids, and laser light shows, here’s an escape for a few hours.

Winter Park is a step away from the involuntary tourist movement into a slower pace — yours. No tram, no magical moment, no back lot tour or Small World.  It’s still fantasy-esque; most people don’t live the Park Ave life.  But you have a small park to sit in with real squirrels who don’t dress up in costumes or charge twenty bucks for their picture to be taken.

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