One of the joys about working, living and playing in Central Florida is the variety of things to do. Of course, the area is best known for it’s amazing world class theme parks but there’s far more to the Orlando area than most visitors see. We have some fabulous museums, art galleries, shopping malls, restaurants, sporting events as well as many other activities and attractions.
The area really does have an abundance of things to do and some times it’s just nice to slow down and simply relax at one of the areas many park areas…. and I don’t mean theme parks! In the heart of Orlando is one of my favorite parks – Lake Eola Park. Naturally, Lake Eola is the main feature of the park but as you wander around the lake you’ll come across many interesting features that make the stroll very enjoyable.
The park is surrounded by four streets: East Robinson Street (State Road 526), Rosalind Avenue (SR 527), East Central Boulevard, and North Eola Drive. Located on the west side of the park is the Walt Disney Amphitheater (pictured above), which hosts many community events and various performances year round. Over on the east side of the park is a Chinese pagoda (pictured below), a Confederate State of America monument and a nice sized playground.
One thing that most visitors and residents don’t know is that the lake is actually a sinkhole! The sinkhole is approximately 80 feet deep and is located 100 feet east of the fountain. The fountain is the centerpiece and it changes color at night like a light show. The lake measures 4,493 feet in circumference and 23 acres large while a 0.85-mile multi-use sidewalk surrounds the water and makes for a pleasant walk.
The history of the park is also interesting and it was way back in 1883 that wealthy Orlando resident Jacob Summerlin, owner of the Summerlin Hotel, the first City Council president, and financial lender for the construction of Orlando’s courthouse in the 1870s, donated a large tract of land in order for a fine park to be established in Orlando.
Summerlin came to a city council meeting and offered the land around the lake on the condition that was beautified and turned into a park. He also required that the city plant trees and put a “driveway” around the lake to ensure that the city followed through the stipulations of the donation, Summerlin put “reverter” clauses in the contract to allow his heirs to reclaim the property if the city failed in its obligations. Today, the park is still maintained to his orders of it being kept beautiful.
In 1888, the park was informally established using the first parcel of land; it was the first of many that were donated to the City of Orlando by several families but it was Summerlin’s sons who named it Lake Eola, after a lady they both knew. The area was officially declared as a park in 1892 and since then it has been home to a zoo, a horse race track, tennis courts, a pier with a dance area, and the broadcast site of a local radio station.
In 1912 the first fountain was installed at a cost of $10,000 and then a replacement, originally dubbed the “Centennial Fountain,” was installed in 1957 at a cost of $350,000. The actual name of the fountain is the “Linton E. Allen Memorial Fountain” and the iconic water feature has now become the unofficial symbol of Orlando.
In 1993, Lake Eola Park was expanded with the closure of Washington Street, which ran between Lee’s Lakeside restaurant and the park. The expansion saw that the restaurant and Post Parkside Apartments were now located in the park and it was at this time that the International Food Court was created.
In late August 2009, lightning struck the fountain, rendering it inoperable and due to the fact the city had a $1,000,000 insurance policy with a $500,000 deductible, the fate of the fountain was unknown because of the budget crisis going on at the time. Thankfully the city did agree to repair the fountain and they also agreed to replace its cracked plastic skin as well as install a state-of-the-art system of lights and water jets at a cost of $2.3 million. The fountain was rededicated and it resumed operation on July 4, 2011 much to the delight of residents and visitors to the area.
The park is really a fun place to go. Not only is it free but it has several cafe’s and restaurants and it really does have something of the feel of being in a European city such is the pace of life as you sit around, drink coffee and people watch. Lake Eola is approximately 30 minutes drive from Florida Leisure’s vacation homes and you can couple this with a trip to one of the area’s malls or other attractions to make for a really different and wonderful day out. There’s more to Orlando than roller coasters, rides and theme parks… why not get out and explore?
As always, the Florida Leisure concierge is more than happy to help you plan your alternative day out. Have fun!
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