Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Kraft Azalea Park

This week's travel post begins a series of my recent vacation to the beautiful state of Florida.  I just returned home after a two week visit to Winter Park, Florida to see my kids.  We did something almost everyday, whether big or small.  I'm actually quite shocked at how much we found to do in the area that didn't really require a lot of money.  The only really expensive outing we had was one day at Island of Adventure, and the rest was relatively inexpensive, yet still a lot of fun.

My plane landed on a Monday afternoon, so we didn't do anything that day but socialize.  I was absolutely exhausted as I had to get up at 3:30 a.m. that morning to catch my flight.  What a shocker it was to board a plane in bitter cold temperatures and snow, and exit a few hours later to tropical temperatures.  As my daughter was driving me to her house, I couldn't help to exclaim over and over again about how beautiful everything was.  It was so thrilling to see the gorgeous palm trees, flowers, and grass after leaving the dead of winter in Minneapolis.

When we got to Ashley's home, I just got reacquainted with my other two kiddos:  Jason my son-in-law and my own son Jordan.  I was starving since I had nothing to eat since 4:30 a.m. so Ashley made me lunch before she and Jordan had to leave for a teach music lessons.  I then all of a sudden felt exhaustion hit me like a truck and said to Jason, "I think I need to lay down for awhile" and fell fast asleep.  Next thing I knew it was supper time and we finished the evening watching the very first Harry Potter movie.  We planned ahead of time to watch one Harry Potter movie a night so that we will have seen all eight movies before our trip to Island of Adventure!  More on that amazing experience in a later travel post.

So with day one being over with, when the sun rose on day two, I was ready to begin my vacation!

Ashley and Jason had celebrated Valentine's Day in Kraft Azalea Park and thought it was such a beautiful place that she wanted to take me there.  She also wanted to use me and my expensive DSLR to take photos of her for her musical career.  Of course I obliged, as long as she returned the favor and took fashion photos of me for my blog (JK.  I love to photograph my beautiful daughter!).  I've already shown some of these photos taken of me in this park HERE, but there are more to come.

Kraft Azalea Park is an 11 acre lakefront public park bordered by Lake Maitland.  It is shaded by enormous cypress trees dripping with Spanish moss.

Because the park borders a large lake it is home to hundreds of these large white birds.  (Sorry, I don't know the name of them, but would love it if one of my Florida readers could identify them for me!)  The birds constantly fly in the air and gracefully swoop down to the ground.  You also see many of them walking around like this one in search of food or nesting material.

They seem to be very friendly birds and you can get very close to them to take pictures before they fly away.

Eventually I noticed that wherever we walked in the park a bird seemed to follow.  And then, I looked up.  I couldn't believe my eyes.  There were large bird nests everywhere!  The birds weren't following us, but protecting their nests!  I had no idea such large birds could nest in trees.  It was so magical watching them fly and land in the trees....I felt I was in a Dr. Seuss storybook!

Below is a picture of a bird in his nest.  It is camouflaged very well, but if you follow the tree trunk up it is on the first branch on the left.  Can you see the bird and his nest?

Here is a bird just sitting in a tree watching me!

The birds flew with such grace;  they were so lovely to look at.  I felt I was in a dream watching beautiful white beings float in the air.

I'm always enamored with how large things grow in Florida in comparison to Wisconsin.  Take this philodendron growing up this large cypress tree for example.  In Wisconsin, we grow these as houseplants.  Yes, they are vigorous houseplants, but the leaves are only about an eighth of this size.  Look at the stem and leaves of this plant!  And how fascinating, that it is growing right up this tree.  It appears to be somewhat rooted in the ground, so I'm not sure if it's a parasitic plant or not.  But I would love to know if any reader out there knows if it is harming the tree.

In addition to the large white birds, we saw lots of other waterfowl as well, like this beautiful black and white bird.

Now there is a reason this park is called Kraft Azalea Park:  because it is planted with thousands of Azalea bushes! Although I saw lots of Azalea bushes in bloom during my two week stay in Florida, I didn't see many in bloom at this park when I was there.  It appeared as if the bushes were cut down, as if they had already bloomed and I missed the show!  I did capture this beauty for you though!

The park was named after a businessman George Kraft who retired to Winter Park in 1927.  Kraft, along with  a landscape gardener, began transplanting Azaleas from the Kraft home.

In addition to all the beautiful Azalea bushes stands this impressive Greek monument.  It is called The Exedra, and resembles a portion of an ancient Greek temple.  Many wedding ceremonies and photographs are taken in this romantic, glorious spot.

Of course, it was also the perfect spot to take a picture of my beautiful daughter Ashley wearing her amazing gold ball gown.

Surrounding the park is the affluent neighborhood of Winter Park.  This area is filled with the most beautiful homes and mansions I have ever seen in my life.

In the picture below, notice first the white bird about to take flight, then notice the lovely neighborhood beyond the park.  You can drive through this neighborhood to drool too!  It is not a gated community.

I think I ooh'd and ahh'd over every single house in this neighborhood, but here are a couple of my favorites:

There is a lovely scenic path throughout the park that runs along the lake shore.  There is also a picturesque dock overlooking the lake, and more gorgeous homes across the shore.  Ashley had brought several sets of clothes to take pictures in, so by now she changed out of her ball gown into this pretty lace dress.

I caught this winged creature in the perfect spot for a photograph.  I loved seeing the monument and lake through the tall Cypress trees in the background.

As if a monument and lake shore weren't enough, they also added this man made pond and fountain.  By now, Ashley changed into her third outfit of the day.  Isn't her gold midi skirt just gorgeous?

 Right above this pond, is a sweet bridge.  The lighting and scenery made for more amazing photographs.

The light in Kraft Azalea is so magical:  in fact, the entire park reminded me of a fairy land.  I kept expecting little gnomes and fairies to come out of hiding to greet me.

Kraft Azalea Park does not have pavilions, restrooms, grills, or playgrounds.  What it does have is natural beauty and pure magic.  It was a wonderful way to spend my first day in Florida.  All the lifeless, cold of winter was left behind and was filled with warmth, plants, flowers, and gorgeous, beautiful birds.  I couldn't have been happier to spend an afternoon in this tranquil place.

Have a great day!  Amy

Linking Up with these Fabulous Blogs HERE and Travel Tuesday!

If you'd like to learn more about Ashley's music visit her YouTube Channel HERE, her Facebook page HERE, or follow her on Instagram HERE.


  1. You are such an avid traveler! So glad that Florida had some good weather for your trip. The white bird I believe is a white heron. They frequent waterways. Looks like you had an amazing time! Your daughter is lovely.

    Thanks for sharing your outdoor post on this week's Maple Hill Hop!

  2. This place does look magical! Love those trees and gorgeous birds everywhere! What a beautiful place for a photo shoot.

  3. Wonderful shots as always, Amy! I would love to visit that park, maybe one day...
    Thank you for taking part in the Travel Tuesday, I look forward to your contribution this week.

  4. PS: Are you aware of the Floral Friday Fotos meme?

  5. Lovely :-)
    Many thanks for joining Floral Friday Fotos, your contributions are always appreciated.


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