My favorite historic bed-and-breakfast, the one I return to again and again and the setting for some of my happiest memories, is found in – of all places – the land of Mickey Mouse. Guests at the Courtyard at Lake Lucerne, in downtown Orlando, can choose from four different historic accommodations, including one that’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
On nearly every visit, I stay in a two-room suite in Orlando’s oldest house, the two-story Norment Parry Inn, a restored Victorian structure built in 1883, with six rooms and a porch across the front with a swing and rocking chairs, where you’ll usually find the resident cats.
Two of the upstairs rooms share a balcony just big enough for two chairs that overlooks the lush courtyard in back for which the B&B is named.
On one visit, I happened to be staying in those two rooms with my mother and aunt when a same-sex wedding and reception were celebrated in the courtyard. As we sat in the tiny balcony and watched, the couple recited their vows directly below us and later the newlyweds danced with their guests in the tropical garden setting.
Across the courtyard from the Norment Parry is the antebellum-style I.W. Phillips House, where Lake Lucerne’s guests enjoy an expanded continental breakfast buffet each morning, with one or two prepared hot dishes in addition to toast, bagels, pastries, fruit and cereal. Eat in the dining room or, even better, on the front porch overlooking the courtyard or a table in the garden.
The I.W. Phillips boasts three suites, with French doors that open onto the upstairs wraparound veranda. The honeymoon suite has a whirlpool tub.
Completing the triangle of historic buildings that form the Lake Lucerne’s courtyard is the Wellborn Suites, 15 Art Deco apartments designed mainly for the business traveler. All 15 offer one bedroom, one bath and a living room, and most also include an equipped kitchenette.
Lake Lucerne’s most luxurious – and, naturally, most expensive – rooms can be found in the Dr. Phillips House, a grand Victorian mansion built in 1893. The house, next door to the Wellborn, features fireplaces, sleigh beds, double whirlpool tubs and marble showers. Behind it is a huge courtyard for parties and wedding receptions, with a gazebo that’s the ideal spot for saying “I do.”
Philip Phillips, one of Florida’s most successful early citrus growers, bought the mansion in 1912, but it was built by Col. Peleg Peckham as a wedding present for his daughter.
After the owners of the Courtyard at Lake Lucerne spent months restoring the Dr. Phillips House to its former glory, they were presented with the city of Orlando’s George L. Stuart Jr. Award for historic preservation. The home was added to the National Register in 1979.
No matter which accommodation you choose at Lake Lucerne, you should have a relaxing and enjoyable experience. I always have, and look forward to many return visits.
Once you have found Lake Lucerne, you’ll discover the many pleasures of downtown Orlando, as I did so many years ago – the lovely lakes, fine restaurants, historic homes and vibrant nightlife. You’ll learn that there is much more to Orlando than crowded, noisy theme parks.
(Note: I accepted no money or other compensation in exchange for writing this review, and did not reveal my intentions to the innkeepers.)