2019 Great Places in Florida People's Choice Winner: Downtown Winter Haven

great places in florida 2019 winner downtown winter haven

Spanning more than five blocks in all directions, downtown Winter Haven has experienced a renaissance reestablishing itself as a unique and distinctive destination with a significant spirit of community. Nestled among 50 lakes in the center of Polk County between Tampa and Orlando, Winter Haven serves more than 45,000 residents, and an undefined number of visitors. Inspiring public enhancements, vibrant private investments and innovatively repurposed restorations blend together creating a cool-vibe community culture respectful of the small town feel of yester-year.


Remaining true to its roots, downtown serves as a gathering space built on commerce, southern hospitality and community activity. Private and public investments complement one another to create community gathering and business collaboration spaces.

Downtown Winter Haven plays host to multiple award-winning facilities. What was once the railroad is now a series of redeveloped parks, including the renovated South Central Park, which was recognized and awarded by professional recreation, planning, and engineering organizations. It has a “place-to-be” ambiance with unique amenities that create a feeling of authentic Winter Haven. The park corridor is the preferred gathering space for community activities hosting more than 175 events annually.

Once a 1960s teen music club, the refurbished Derry Down honors its founder and original musician, Gram Parsons, as a venue attracting artists and listeners from all over the country. It was recognized with the Secretary of State Award by the State of Florida.

The high-tech public library serves as a popular destination offering media, technology and engagement resources.

The award-winning Parking Garage is functional and aesthetically pleasing with a façade reminiscent of Winter Haven’s historic structures.

downtown winter have central park - great places in florida

The historic Ritz Theatre partners with the multi-award-winning Theatre Winter Haven to offer an eclectic entertainment menu regularly attracting people from all over the region.

The Lodge offers community-centric workspace for entrepreneurial collaboration in a refurbished arcade building

Quaint shops, delicious restaurants, unique sipping establishments, professional offices and affordable living spaces occupy restored buildings that mingle with a myriad of award-wining enhancements.

Combined, these diverse and localized award-winning amenities create an overall community “backyard” destination. Downtown Winter Haven is “Authenticity Re-imagined” as quality development enhances the character and history of downtown, while accelerating economic vitality and growth. With lively charm, respect for the past, and a partnered visionary focus, downtown Winter Haven has limitless possibilities. People who visit downtown call it a great place; those who truly know Winter Haven call it home.