If you love fine art and staying in a beautiful hotel, The Alfond Inn in Winter Park, Florida should be high on your travel destination list.
This three-year-old hotel has art in its DNA.
The hotel is owned by Rollins College, a private school located adjacent to the Inn. The operating profits from The Alfond Inn endow the Alfond Scholars program at Rollins, providing scholarships for deserving students.
The art lining the inn’s interior walls, gardens, lobby and common areas belongs to the collection of Theodore and Barbara Alfond, collectors of contemporary art and the hotel’s benefactors.
It was the Alfonds’ proposal to provide a grant of $12 and half million dollars from the Harold Alfond Foundation to build the inn and then permit its profits to fund the scholarships.
In fact, 80 percent of the college’s students are on scholarship.
The results of this unique plan are multi-fold. Besides the scholarships, art is integrated into the guest experience. It is everywhere in many forms. Besides paintings hanging on the walls, there are pieces fashioned from lighted illuminated coils, which proclaim sayings, such as “Everything for Love,’ a blue neon by Tracey Emin.
There are metal sculptures in the garden, such as the one by Jaume Plensa. There are video presentations by William Kentridge, wall hangings, art books and table-top art in the library of the hotel. There is a visual syllabus, two volumes of Art for Rollins, for the college’s paintings, photographs, sculptures and mixed media works by both established and emerging artists.
“The art museum concept is very popular with the hotel guests,’’ pointed out Amy Galpin, curator of the Cornell Museum, as we toured the collection. “The Alfonds travel and collect internationally with refined and very educated eyes,’’ said Ms. Galpin, explaining the very diverse pieces from a triangle mirrored glass piece to a bench. “There is also an annual rotation of art on display within the inn.”
As you walk to your guest room there are glass enclosures displaying contemporary art collectibles, such as guest bags given out by now defunct airline Pan Am.
“The entire interior and its layout were definitely a “Work of Heart” from the Alfonds,” said Debbie Potter, of the hotel staff. This art collection needed high-tech lighting, humidity controls and of course, high ceilings and great open spaces.
The art collection on view at the hotel is the Alfond Contemporary Art, and it is part of the permanent collection of the Cornell Fine Arts Museum at Rollins College.
Because of its unusual décor and features, the Inn lends itself to weddings, social events and a multitude of business conferences and meetings. There are only 112 rooms, but 10,000 feet of meeting space and 10,000 feet of outdoor space.
It is also a classroom for Rollins students, who come to both view the revolving art installations and attend classes at the Inn. It is an ultimate town/gown experience.
Art is interrogated into the inn’s magnificent roof-top pool and its award-winning restaurant, Hamilton’s Kitchen.
“Art is just Inn” this hotel, it is an extension of a fine arts museum.
And while it is unique in its operation, the inn does not stint on any guest services or attributes.
According to Conde Nast Traveler’s Reader’s Choice Awards, the Inn ranked Number 1 in Florida and Number 7 in the United States in 2015 by its readers. When the boutique Inn’s restaurant, Hamilton’s Kitchen was invited to the James Beard House in New York City for its debut, the event sold out.
The restaurant’s Floridian-inspired cuisine reflects the Mediterranean-style atmosphere of the Inn.
Staying at the Alfond Inn is not the only way art is integrated into the guest experience in Winter Park.
You can’t escape the artistic nature of this charming city, less than 30 minutes from downtown Orlando and Disney World.
The quaint downtown streets are lined with designer shops, restaurants and cafes as well as other art galleries.
On the not-to-be missed list are the Cornell Fine Arts Museum, the Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens and the Museum of American Art.
For me, and thousands of others, the museum gem is the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art with its most extensive collection of Tiffany Art Glass and everything Tiffany!!
I had too short an amount of time in this wonderful place. Tiffany Studios was and is considered the most accomplished maker of art glass in the world in its day and one of the best ever.
The Tiffany Garden Room, along with other recreated rooms displaying Louis Comfort Tiffany’s work is really special and to view them alone is worth a visit. It has the largest collection of Tiffany art anywhere.
On my visit to Winter Park, a city of beauty I didn’t have to enter a museum to see beautiful art. Winter Park is a great walking town. It is a safe and easy walk to view the beautiful rose garden in the Central Park of the town and watch the trains come and go at the station next to it. Amtrak and Sun Rail (stop here) at an attractive depot.
Ongoing during my visit was Winter Park’s Paint Out, a premier Plein Air Festival.
Throughout the city’s enticing gardens were acclaimed artists painting in “plain” air. This annual event in Central Florida benefits the Polasek Museum and features a great garden party (www.winterparkpaintout.org)
The Florida Film Festival (this year’s 25th) was held just before I arrived. It is always an international affair. It draws more than 150 independent feature films, documentaries, shorts and animated movies from both the U.S. and other countries during a 10-day event. It is held mostly on the grounds of Enzian in Maitland, but some of the films are shown at Regal Cinema in Winter Park.
I spent less than 24 hours in Winter Park, but enjoyed every minute of it in this stylish, enticing enclave with great culture, food and wonderful browsing opportunities.
For Your Information:
The Alfond Inn, 300 East New England Avenue, Winter Park, Fl 32789. www.alfondinn.com. (407) 998-8090
Tours are given every Sunday at 1 p.m. and every first Wednesday of the month at 5:30 p.m.
Restaurants within walking distance of the inn:
Blu on the Avenue, 326 S. Park Avenue. (407) 960-3778. The best lobster salad, called the signature lobster Cobb salad. Dine alfresco, or the at the bar. I took the salad to go.
Orchid Thai Cuisine, 305 N. Park Avenue. (407) 331-1400. Not only is the food wonderful, the orchids are gorgeous and abundant. They even grace the sidewalk tables. Open seven days a week for lunch and dinner, gluten-free and vegan options. Perfect!