When talking about the benefits of visiting Altamonte Springs, the best place to start is location, location, location. This lovely city of 44,000 residents is situated in the southwest corner of Orlando North, Seminole County, near the Orange County line. It’s 10 miles due north of downtown Orlando and less than 20 miles from the famous theme parks.
Best of all, Altamonte Springs is close to the many outdoor adventures Orlando North is known for. It’s just seven miles to the gorgeous, spring-fed Wekiva River and nearby wilderness areas.
If you want to spend an afternoon in Historic Downtown Sanford, it’s a leisurely 25-minute drive. And if you care to make a day trip to the beach, the Atlantic Ocean’s only about an hour away.
PLENTY TO DO
Clearly, Altamonte Springs is perfectly located — but that doesn’t mean you’ll want to leave! You’ll find lots of fun within the city. Instead of a historic downtown as its focal point, Altamonte Springs has a modern uptown featuring an array of hotels, diverse dining options, entertainment, and shopping — including the large indoor Altamonte Mall.
Within Uptown Altamonte is Cranes Roost Park, the city’s crown jewel, which showcases a mile of continuous walkways, including two pedestrian bridges that cross 37-acre Cranes Roost Lake. The park, which draws a million visitors annually, is the local hub for events, like the annual Red, Hot & Boom on Independence Day. Of course, the event schedule has been widely curtailed as a result of health concerns. The Eddie Rose Amphitheater, with stadium-style seating, boasts a unique floating stage. The European-style plaza has a 62-foot tower and choreographed fountain show. Uptown Altamonte is a place where visitors can while away the hours, whether enjoying a meal, perusing the merchandise at an upscale store, or casually strolling the park grounds.
THE GREAT OUTDOORS, TOO
Ironically, while there are no actual springs in Altamonte Springs, there are a bevy of scenic natural lakes. For outdoor fun, try 135-acre Lake Orienta, where you can swim, fish and enjoy water sports. Its adjoining park has a boat ramp and a picnic area. Or there’s Lake Lotus, a natural oasis amid suburban hustle and bustle. The lake is part of a 150-acre nature preserve composed of woods and wetlands and includes a 1.7-mile trail system with boardwalks and footpaths.
Hikers and cyclists will be pleased to know that the peaceful Seminole-Wekiva Trail, which runs along the former line of the Orange Belt Railway, courses through the entirety of Altamonte Springs.
FROM LONE TRAIN STATION TO SUBURBAN CENTER TO BUSTLING SMALL CITY
Altamonte Springs is celebrating its Centennial this year, but the city’s origins go back about another half-century — as a stop called Snowville Station on a New York-to-Tampa railway. Dr. Washington Kilmer of Cincinnati settled in the area around 1870 and named it after his childhood home of Altamont, N.Y.
In 1882, a group of Boston investors, planning to establish a winter resort for northerners, built the plush Altamonte Hotel, the area’s first crown jewel. They renamed the town, Altamonte Springs. Resort guests, after disembarking at the rail station, took a horse-drawn streetcar to the hotel’s porch. The horsecar remained a town fixture for 40 years.
On Nov. 11, 1920, residents voted (reportedly 38 to 7) in favor of incorporating the town of Altamonte Springs. Over the decades, the ‘burg established itself as a core bedroom community for Orlando. The Altamonte Hotel burned to the ground in 1953, further entrenching Altamonte Springs as a part of Florida’s growing suburbia. It was a fine place to live but lacked a town center to give it an identity.
Cranes Roost seemed an unlikely choice. The lowest-lying part of the city, it flooded frequently from the 1950s into the ‘80s. During dry spells, it turned into a bog where locals found it convenient to dump the trash. With the opening of the Altamonte Mall in the mid-‘70s, development in the area began. City officials envisioned Cranes Roost as the city’s “downtown,” and put an ambitious plan in place, which required an engineering marvel that began with an elaborate drainage system. The construction transformed the former trashy bog into the city’s highly regarded reclaimed water project. In the 2000s, the Uptown Altamonte complex was built — and the city had its center.
Altamonte Springs is a city known for innovation. Over the decades, it has launched and participated in a number of programs targeted at improving the S.T.E.M. workforce, alternative water supply, commercial development, environmental sustainability and tech breakthroughs. Altamonte Springs is a founding member of City Possible, a global program with 16 member cities that have developed a new model of public-private partnerships. The initiative’s aim is to have “cities, businesses, academics and communities work together to make cities more inclusive and sustainable.”
In keeping with its prime location, Altamonte Springs is simple to get to. Interstate 4, which connects Florida’s east and west coasts, runs directly through town, making it convenient for motorists.
Orlando International Airport is less than 20 miles south, while the smaller but still busy Sanford Orlando International Airport is just 13 miles to the north.
What was once Snowville Station is now the site of the Altamonte Springs Station on Florida’s Sunrail commuter train route. To try something novel, consider riding Sunrail to other Orlando North communities. There are stops in Longwood, Lake Mary, and Sanford. The trains are modern — Sunrail debuted in 2014 — departure times are plentiful, and the trip is short. But the experience and views are truly unique.
Altamonte Springs is the ideal headquarters from which to experience all of Orlando North and the rest of Central Florida, as well as enjoying the bounty of pleasures you’ll find within city limits.
Want to know more about Altamonte Springs? Listen to our podcast with City Manager Frank Martz here:
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