Winter Haven

Winter Haven is the second largest city in Polk County, Florida. The city was formerly an agricultural center, but over the past 1-2 decades has transformed into a largely residential and manufacturing city. Winter Haven is home to Legoland and the world-famous "Chain of Lakes". Visitor information can be obtained at the "Polk Outpost 27" (, +1 863 828-7655) on U.S. 27 just south of I-4 if you're coming from Orlando, while the Winter Haven Chamber of Commerce is located at 401 Avenue B NW (, +1 863 293-2138).

Understand

History

The city celebrated its centennial in 2011. Settled in the 1880s, Winter Haven became a transport hub for the citrus industry in the early 20th century. Eastern Polk county has long been among the top citrus-producing regions in the country. Since there are a few dozen lakes in and around the city, the Chain of Lakes project to link many of them by canals was begun in 1915. Most of the current canals were built during the Great Depression by the Civilian Conservation Corps, although the original wood seawalls have rotted and been replaced by metal ones in recent years. In 1936, Cypress Gardens opened as the first commercial theme park in Florida. Cypress Gardens was famed for its water ski shows, Southern atmosphere, and lush gardens traversed by canals. The city was also home to Spring Training baseball, home to the Philadelphia Phillies (1928–1937), Boston Red Sox (1966–1992) and the Cleveland Indians (1993–2008). Cypress Gardens struggled financially and closed in 2003. Several successive owners added roller coasters and a water park, but it closed again in 2009 and was transformed into Legoland Florida, which opened in October 2011. The original botanical gardens (owned/protected by the county) and the water ski show (a pirate-based one) have been incorporated into the new park and Southern bellesmade of Legos, of coursehave kept the memories of the original Cypress Gardens alive. Winter Haven remains a small suburban city, but Legoland, the Chain of Lakes, and the many other nearby attractions make it a nice destination.

Climate

 Climate Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
 
Daily highs (°F) 74 76 80 84 89 92 93 92 90 85 79 74
Nightly lows (°F) 51 52 56 60 66 71 72 73 72 66 59 52
Precipitation (in) 2.4 2.6 3.4 2.2 3.7 6.9 8.1 7.5 6.2 2.6 2.4 2.2

Winter Haven was named for its temperate climate. The climate is much the same as the rest of Central Florida (except coasts). Winters are mild, with highs in the 70s (°F, 21-25°C) and lows in the 50s (°F, 10-15°C). Lows in the 30s (°F, 0-5°C) are common after cold fronts and there are usually a handful of lows below freezing each winter, although that requires clear skies, so it usually warms very rapidly after sunrise (30°F/-1°C at 6AM, 55°F/13°C by noon is typical). Cold fronts occasionally pass by as squall lines, so tornadoes in December or January are not unusual. Snow is rare; the last measurable snowfall was in 1977, although sleet/wintry mix fell in an unusually cold January 2010. Summers are hot and humid, with highs around 95°F (35°C) and lows in the mid-70s (°F, 23-25°C). During the summer, onshore winds from both coasts travel inland, heat up, rise and build into thunderstorms, usually along a rough line. Lying in the center of the state, the line of storms (the "seabreezes") often collide and become severe, with tornadoes (small EF0-1s...not like powerful Plains ones), 50+ mph winds, and hail possible. Strong storms are usually preceded by cooler winds caused by the rain-cooled air (cold air sinks) rapidly flowing away from the storm. The temperature after a strong thunderstorm passes can drop from 95°F to 75°F (35°C to 24°C) and since the storms can be fairly small, you can drive 5 miles and the temperature will drop from 95°F to 75°F (35°C to 24°C).

Get in

By air

Winter Haven Municipal Airport (IATA: GIF) is located on the far northwest corner of town (near Auburndale) and only handles general aviation. Brown's Seaplane Base (FAA LID: F57; , +1 863 956-2243) is a privately operated, public-use airport located on the west side of W.H. Municipal Airport and connected to it by a taxiway. It handles mostly seaplane traffic on Lake Jessie and is primarily a flight instruction school.

The nearest major airport is Orlando International Airport, which is approximately 45 minutes away. Orlando has hundreds of daily domestic and international flights. Tampa International Airport is further away (about 1 hour 15 minutes), but has a simple layout and is a very convenient airport to get in/out of quickly.

By train

Winter Haven is a stop along the daily Amtrak Silver Star and Silver Meteor routes. If you plan to arrive by train, you should have friends/family at the station to pick you up or have the phone number for a taxi to call when you arrive. The station (code: WTH) is a poorly-maintained covered platform with a small office and is in a fairly unpleasant area beside a warehouse. Fortunately the trains arrive during the middle of the day, but it's not a very great place to wait for hours. It is located at 1800 7th Street SW. Office phone is +1 863 683-6368.

An alternative may be to use the Lakeland station, about 20 mi to the west.

By car

Winter Haven is easily accessible from U.S. 27, U.S. 92, & U.S. 17.

From Orlando: Take Interstate 4 west to U.S. 27. Take U.S. 27 south for 20 miles and turn right onto State Road 540 (Cypress Gardens Blvd). From U.S. 27, it is roughly 5 miles to Cypress Gardens, and 8 miles to the center of Winter Haven.

From Tampa: Take Interstate 4 east to the Polk Parkway (Toll State Road 570). Exit onto State Road 540 (Winter Lake Rd) and follow the exit straight through the traffic light. After about 10 miles, make a left onto U.S. 17. It is about 3-4 mi from here to the center of Winter Haven. The toll for cars on the Polk Parkway between I-4 and S.R. 540 is $2 cash or $1.50 with a SunPass transponder.

Get around

Most of Winter Haven proper uses a grid system consisting of lettered "avenues" running north-south & numbered streets running east-west. The center of this system is the intersection of Central Avenue and 1st Street on the east side of the small downtown area. With respect to this intersection, the city's streets are named Northeast ("NE"), Northwest ("NW"), Southeast ("SE"), & Southwest ("SW"). The direction is very important for addresses! There can be 4 different locations with the address "100 Ave. A". With higher numbered streets/addresses, the distance between these locations can be several miles. The system is simple, but can be very confusing.

By bus

Winter Haven is served by two bus services. Winter Haven Area Transit (WHAT) has many routes throughout the town. Citrus connection, serves Lakeland and several intercity routes between major towns in Polk County. Routes and information about both can be found at: . All routes radiate from the downtown bus terminal. Adult fare is $1.50/ride with no free transfers. A day pass for adults costs $3 and is good for 24 hours. Discounts are available for students & seniors.

By car

As with most suburban towns in the U.S., the car is by far the easiest way to get around the city. Be careful of the city's grid system (see above).

Rental cars are available from:

By taxi

See

Legoland Florida entrance.

Do

Events

For more information and a complete list of public events, see the city's website or call +1 863 291-5656.

Brick-or-Treat A Legoland Halloween celebration held every Saturday & Sunday in October. A "kid-friendly" alternative to Halloween events like Hall-o-scream & Halloween Horror Nights held at the big theme parks in Orlando/Tampa.

Buy

There are no large shopping malls in Winter Haven. The nearest indoor shopping mall is Eagle Ridge Mall in Lake Wales, off U.S. 27 2 mi south of Cypress Gardens Blvd.

The largest shopping center in town is Winter Haven Citi Centre between U.S. 17 (3rd St. SW) and 1st Street S and Avenues G & K SW. It features Belk & Macy's for clothing, Lowe's (home improvement), Staples (electronics & office supplies), Carraba's (Italian restaurant), Longhorn (steakhouse), Crispers (salads & sandwiches), Pier 1 Imports (house accessories & gifts), and a dozen or so small stores.

While not a shopping center, there are many small shops along Central Avenue in Downtown. A free parking garage is located on Ave A NW between 2nd & 3rd Streets NW. It was completed in 2012 with a picturesque facade designed to blend in with the surroundings.

A large outdoor shopping center is currently under construction around the intersection of U.S. 17 and Cypress Gardens Blvd., called The Landings. As of Feb 2013, the only completed structures are the Chik-fil-a, Paneras, & Starbucks restaurants along Cypress Gardens Blvd. In a couple years, however, it will contain a large movie theater and dozens of retail shops.

Antiques

As with the rest of Florida, there are no shortage of antique shops and Winter Haven will not disappoint.

Books

Fresh produce

The weekly Farmer's Market is held every Thursday 8AM-3PM at the Trailhead Park (611 3rd Street NW). All varieties of fruits and vegetables, especially ones in season.

Gifts

Eat

This page uses the following price ranges for a typical meal for one, including soft drink:
Budget < $ 8
Mid-range $ 9-15
Splurge $ 16+

Budget

Mid-range

Splurge

Sleep

In-town

Southeast/Legoland area

The Best Western is the closest hotel to Legoland and the only one within reasonable walking distance. Lake Roy Inn & Economy Suites are located a couple miles down Cypress Gardens Blvd. and a continuous sidewalk runs along the road, making these possible walking-distance choices. All hotels in this area are near bus stops along the route servicing Legoland.

Campgrounds & RV parks

Connect

Free public internet access is available at the Winter Haven Library:

There are two USPS post offices in town and one in the community of Eagle Lake:

Cope

Hospitals

Urgent care clinics

A visit to the emergency room is usually very expensive and, despite the title, often entails a long wait to be seen (unless you're having a heart attack, stroke, or similarly grave issue). Urgent care clinics are often the same insurance deductible as a regular doctor visit and offer services for urgent, but not life-threatening, issuessuch as pain, broken bones, infectionswhen you are unable to see your primary care physician.

Emergency pet care

Go next

Historic Lake Wales is just 15 miles away (about 10 from Legoland). Florida's Natural juice company has a "Grove House" across from their plant on U.S. 27 with information about the citrus industry and free samples. Spook Hill is an optical illusion where you appear to roll uphill relative to the surrounding terrain, although its actually a slight downhill slope. Both make for fun, quick stops before or after a day spent at Legoland, while Bok Tower Gardens atop the highest point on the Florida Peninsula is a great half-day destination (especially for a picnic). For the adventurous, the city is the Skydiving Capital of Florida and east of town lies Lake Kissimmee where you can take a scenic airboat tours without driving south to the Everglades.

Lakeland is 30-45 minutes east (and along the route from Tampa) and boasts 12 Frank Lloyd Wright designed buildings which you can tour on the campus of Florida Southern College. Also in Lakeland are the Florida Air Museum and the 1920s-era Polk Theater renovated to its original vaudeville/movie theater glory.

Elsewhere in the county are the Fantasy of Flight museum, the Water Ski Hall of Fame, and the 29mi. Van Fleet State Trail for biking or walking off I-4 in Polk City. From Winter Haven, take U.S. 17 to Lake Alfred and take C.R. 557/557A to Polk City.

Most visitors are likely spending a part of their trip in Orlando, which is 45 min to 1.5 hours away depending on where in the city you're heading to. Kissimmee and Disney World are just 30 minutes away! En route, you can stop by Davidson of Dundee and Webb's Candy Factory, both along U.S. 27, to watch citrus candies, chocolates, goat milk fudge, and other sweets being made and purchase some for the road or to take home.

Routes through Winter Haven

Orlando Kissimmee  N  S  Sebring Miami
Tampa Lakeland  N  S  Sebring Miami
Orlando Lake Alfred  N  S  Bartow Punta Gorda
Lakeland Jct W E  W  E  Ends at N S
END  W  E  Dundee END
END Auburndale  W  E  Haines City END


This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Wednesday, March 23, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.