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Sebring, Florida

The City on the Circle

By

Downtown Sebring, Florida

Downtown Sebring, Florida

© Dawn Henthorn, licensed to About.com
If the founder of Sebring were alive today, he would immediately recognize the downtown he conceived nearly 100 years ago. The unique circle and spoke plan — the idea that all roads should lead to and from the center of the community — still exists today despite modern highway improvements. While it may be that historical records claim that George Sebring's "circle plan" for his downtown was based on the design of Heliopolis, an Egyptian city, there is no doubt that Sebring is an all-American city... a city that takes us back to a simpler place and time.

Downtown Sebring has been designated a 1920s Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places; and, according to the Sebring Chamber of Commerce, over $16-million dollars has been reinvested in its downtown over the last ten years. The money has obviously been well spent. The downtown has a fresh, almost movie-set look with its center — Circle Park — neatly manicured and the buildings restored to perfection. It's nearly impossible to think about driving through this charming area without stopping to take it all in.

If you do go, don't be put off by the retail growth you will find traveling south along Highway 27. While the shopping mall, restaurants and other businesses service a growing community, they are not much different from what you find today in every town. It's downtown where you'll step back in time to find a eclectic mix of fashionable shops — boutiques, restaurants, antique shops and more. The town's small picture-perfect park at the center of town invites visitors to sit and enjoy a shady respite from shopping. Just a few blocks away is the Amtrak Station where north-south passengers of the Silver Meteor and Silver Star often disembark and stroll into town to shop.

Sebring's Cultural Center is within walking distance of downtown and includes the usual community must-have — the public library. In the complex you will also find the Highlands Museum of the Arts. However, the must-see is next door at the Highlands Little Theater, where great food and year-round performances are combined into a budget-pleasing afternoon or evening of entertainment. On another cultural note, every November, the town circle becomes the site of Sebring's annual art festival — the Highlands Fine Art Festival — which brings hundreds from all over.

Don't be lulled into the sense that Sebring is just a sleepy town with a few unique shops. If you want a roaring getaway, then you've come to the right place. For over a half century, Sebring has been home to America's oldest and most famous road racing tracks — Sebring International Raceway. Every March more than 100,000 converge on the community for the permier event on the American Le Mans Series, the famous Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Endurance Race. Most recently, Sebring has become the winter home of Indy Car Racing, with the most active test facility in North America. What could be better than being on the infield itself? How about staying at the trackside Four Points by Sheraton Chateau Elan Hotel & Spa, adjacent to the famous hairpin turn. Imagine trackside viewing with the finest amenities... now that's a winning retreat!

If the roar of engines isn't your style, there are even more options. How about a weekend of golf? Thirteen may become your new lucky number, because that's how many courses are nearby. At Spring Lake Golf Resort you can stay in a fully-furnished two- or three-bedroom villa with all the comforts of home and most packages include lodging golf and cart. Or, stay at the historic Kenilworth Lodge where they'll put together a golf package for one or more days.

If camping is more your style, you have options there as well. Highlands Hammock State Park offers full-facility camping and plenty of outdoor activities. We like the possibilities of upscale camping at the new adult-only Tanglewood Outback, which offers community-like amenities available whether you stay a day or a year.

On our way out of town, traveling south on Highway 27 toward Lake Placid, we found a new restaurant, a gleaming 50s-style diner. In a atmosphere remininscent of Happy Days, the Sebring Diner serves American cuisine.

It seems that Sebring, the City on the Circle, isn't going around in circles at all. This Highlands County community has done well to preserve its past while embracing its future at full-throttle.

Directions

Sebring is located off of Highway 27 about 85 miles south of Orlando. Just north of Lake Jackson, take Sebring Parkway east to State Road 17 South into downtown Sebring.

Sebring International Speedway is located southeast of town off of Highway 98 on the southern portion of Sebring Airport.

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