Explore the Morse Museum: A Winter Park Gem

Tucked away in the charming city of Winter Park, Florida, just a few miles from our historic Thurston House bed and breakfast, the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art is a hidden gem that beckons art enthusiasts, history buffs, and curious minds alike. This remarkable museum is renowned for its extensive collection of American decorative and fine arts, particularly its unparalleled holdings of works by renowned artist and designer Louis Comfort Tiffany. Let’s uncover the Morse Museum’s offerings, its rich history, and exciting events to look forward to during the 2023 holiday season.

Louis Comfort Tiffany Collection

The Morse Museum boasts a diverse and awe-inspiring array of American artistry spanning several centuries. Its centerpiece is the world’s most comprehensive collection of works by Louis Comfort Tiffany (1848-1933), the celebrated artist known for his exquisite stained glass creations. Visitors are transported into a world of shimmering beauty as they explore Tiffany’s intricate glass lamps, windows, jewelry, and other decorative arts. The Morse Museum also houses an exquisite chapel interior designed by Tiffany for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, known as the “Tiffany Chapel,” which is a breathtaking sight to behold.

Architectural objects and art from his Long Island country estate, Laurelton Hall, are also on display.In addition to Tiffany’s creations, the museum features a wide range of American art, including pottery, paintings, and decorative objects from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The collection includes pieces by prominent artists and designers such as John La Farge, Alice Gouvy, and Augustus Saint-Gaudens.

A Glimpse into the Morse Museum’s History

The Morse Museum has a history as rich and captivating as the art it houses. It was founded in 1942 by Jeannette Genius McKean, who named the museum after her grandfather, Winter Park philanthropist Charles Hosmer Morse. Together, she and her husband, Hugh McKean, who directed the Museum for many years, dedicated their lives to preserving Tiffany’s legacy and promoting American art. The McKeans built the collection over half a century, and today, their vision has resulted in a museum that stands as a testament to their passion and commitment.

Originally housed on the campus of Rollins College, it opened on North Park Avenue in 1995, today occupying over 42,000 square feet of gallery space. The Morse is owned and operated privately by foundation and receives no public funds.

Christmas Holidays at the Morse Museum 2023

One of the most exciting events to look forward to during the holiday season in Central Florida is “Christmas in the Park” in Winter Park. Each year, the Morse Museum helps launch this festive season when they light up Tiffany windows in Central Park and present the Bach Festival Choir and Brass Ensemble in concert. This year, the 45th annual celebration of Christmas in the Park, will take place on Thursday, Nov. 30 starting at 6:15pm. The Museum’s website tells the touching history of the event and the significance or the windows.

Another beloved holiday tradition at the Morse Museum is the “Friday Nights at the Morse” series, offering visitors a unique opportunity to experience the museum after hours in a special and engaging way. Each Friday night during the series, the museum comes alive with a variety of activities, including live music, art demonstrations, and special tours. It’s the perfect way to immerse yourself in the world of American art while enjoying a vibrant and social atmosphere.

The 2023-2024 season series coincides with the holiday festivities in Winter Park and kicks off the Friday after Thanksgiving, November 24, 2023, with a lively jazz quartet.  Holiday Friday Nights will continue every Friday night through the end of 2023. Whether you’re a seasoned art enthusiast or just looking for a fun and cultural night out, “Friday Nights at the Morse” is an event not to be missed.

Visiting the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art

The Museum is located at 445 N Park Avenue in Winter Park, Florida. Free parking is available behind the Museum and on several levels of the Park Place garage across from the Museum. The Museum and Museum Shop are open every day except on Mondays, and visitors can make appointments on the Museum’s website: https://morsemuseum.org/plan-your-visit/. Several  orientation videos are offered online as well, and the Museum provides complimentary audio tours of the galleries via cell phone.

The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art in Winter Park, Florida, is a cultural treasure that invites visitors to explore the beauty and history of American art. It’s remarkable collection of Louis Comfort Tiffany’s works and its dedication to preserving American artistry make it a must-visit destination.

Plan a weekend getaway to Winter Park during this Christmas season and include “Friday Nights at the Morse” in your plan. The Museum, and Central Park are just a quick ten minutes from our historic bed and breakfast, Thurston House. Who knows, but very likely the Morses and the Thurstons attended the same social events while wintering in Central Florida in the late 1800s. And surely, both families offered comfortable and gracious accommodations to their friends and family visiting during the holidays.

Certainly today, the Morse Museum promises an enchanting and immersive experience that will leave you with a deeper appreciation for the museum’s offerings. Mark your calendars, book your stay at Thurston House, and prepare to be captivated by the area’s artistry and history this Christmas season!

North Orlando After Holiday Relaxing

Okay, you made it through most of the December holiday times and you really need to relax and restore your spirit. What better way then to spend a day at beautiful Leu Gardens in North Orlando?!  Explore an amazing 50-acre botanical oasis minutes from downtown Orlando. Visit the many varied garden areas, each designed specifically to inspire visitors to appreciate and understand plants. The Leu House Museum located in the heart of the gardens reveals turn-of-the century living for the families who once called this home. The gardens and historical home were donated to the City of Orlando in 1961 by Mr. Harry P. Leu and his wife, Mary Jane.

Right now the gardens are alive with hundreds of camellia blooms, many gorgeous roses, fantastic fruits & vegetables, and all sorts of other plants. The pathways all around and through the gardens offer peaceful places to sit, relax and reflect.

So, book a room at Thurston House bed & breakfast, only a short drive away from the gardens, and start taking care of YOU!

Plan ahead for Central Florida Fall Jazz!

One of our favorite things to do is to attend a Leu Garden’s Jazz Stroll. These wonderful night time events take place from 6-10pm. We never miss the Spring & Autumn strolls. Guests have already contacted me about when the next one will be as they want to fly down here from PA just so they can stay here at our North Orlando B&B again, and also attend this October event. They were here at Thurston House during the Spring event but were obligated to attend a wedding.

Path through Leu Garden’s Sculpture Garden

Our North Orlando lodging is the perfect place to stay when visiting Leu Gardens as we are only a short drive away. Get creative and pack a scrumptous picnic dinner to bring. Be sure to include your favorite beverages!  Throw in a couple of chairs or even a blanket and you’ll be all ready to set up near one of the three jazz bands. Get yourselves settled, grab a glass and fill er up, then stroll the many lighted paths that meander through this gorgeous 50 acre botanical garden. This year the Fall Stroll is October 15th. Tickets go on sale a couple weeks in advance and they do usually sell out!

Leu Gardens Publishes New Book!

Leu Gardens Publishes New Book!

To celebrate 50 years of community education and inspired gardening, the Gardens’ Board of Trustees has released Florida Oasis: A Photographic Tour of Harry P. Leu Gardens (Cool Springs Press, November, 2010).

The title is a fully illustrated tour through the history and botanical collections of the Harry P. Leu Gardens, beginning with a rich account of the private gardens of Harry P. Leu and ultimately its transition into a public place of year-round beauty and education.

Those who cherish the shade of the grand old live oaks, the exotic tropicals that pop and amaze and the mature natives of Central Florida, will treasure the behind-the-scenes history and surprises found in Florida Oasis.  

Florida Oasis is now available in the Gardens’ Gift Shop! Leu Gardens is located just 15 minutes from Thurston House, our Central Florida bed & breakfast.

Mead Garden & The Great Duck Derby!

The Great Duck Derby – Feb 19

Sat, Feb 19th at 10:00 am

“The Great Duck Derby” features a series of rubber duck races and a full day of FREE family activities on Saturday, February 19, 2011.

Anyone can participate in the race by buying a rubber duck for $5 either the day of the event or at the Farmer’s Market on Saturday, February 12. The Peabody Ducks begin the festivities with a march to the Amphitheater at 10:30 am.

The yellow rubber ducks will race in the Garden’s waterway. Proceeds benefit the Mead Botanical Garden Nature Program.

This is a great opportunity for attendees to discover or rediscover Winter Park’s hidden treasure, and to see the exciting plans for the Garden’s revitalization, Nature Center and programs.

Family and Friends Events

A day of free family activities will take place… something for everyone. To name a few: Mr. Richard and his band — the Peabody Ducks — “Duck-o-ration” (duck paintint) for the children — Hayrides — Face painters — Animal Encounters — Walkabouts — Bounce House — Plant sale — Central Florida Zoo.
Food and drinks can be bought in the garden as well.

Race Day Schedule

10:30 AM   – The Peabody Ducks march at the Amphitheater

11:30 AM – Big Sponsor Duck Race at the Pond

12:30 PM – Baby Duck Race #1

1:15 PM – Baby Duck Race #2

Support the event by entering the Big Duck Race

There are two levels of SPONSORSHIP: the $500 “Golden Egg” sponsor and the $200 “Animal Quackers.” Both levels receive a very large, bright yellow, rubber duck to decorate with their corporate logo, or individuals may theme-decorate their duck. Both levels will receive pre-publicity exposure and a Membership in Friends of Mead Botanical Garden, the organization revitalizing the Garden.

WHAT FUN!!!! Minutes from Thurston House, a Maitland Winter Park accommodation.

Leu Gardens in Orlando

Leu House

Their mission statement says it all – The mission of Harry P. Leu Gardens is to inspire people to appreciate and understand plants, the enviornment of Central Florida, and the gardens’ historic significance.

This botanical garden is just a short 15 minute drive from Thurston House in Maitland. Their over 50 acres are filled with a varitey of gardens, from tropical to sculpture to roses to fruit…there is lots to see. A historic house tour awaits you too…Leu House. Almost every day someone gets married in the gardens. There are a lot of little quiet areas with benches and gazebos, as well as a boardwalk and covered benches overlooking Lake Rowena. The garden house has special event facilites, a research library and a wonderful gift shop.


Monthly events may include Date Night, Story Time, Orchid Auction, Central Florida Folk Concerts, Orchid Society meetings, Tarflower Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society meetings and our personal favorite – Jazz Stroll. A variety of classes and workshops are offered year round too!   

Check their website for a list of ongoing events, or check with the Thurston House innkeeper for up to date information on all that this wonderful place offers!