A World of Orchids is located off crowded Highway 192 in the shadow of Disney World. Its location could be considered off the beaten path as the trek down Old Lake Wilson Road takes you a few miles away from the wall-to-wall hotels, restaurants and souvenir shops into a former rural area that is now growing communities of rental condos. Even though the drive is considered a bit out-of-the-way, for years visitors were drawn by its "you've never seen anything like it" reputation. Today, "you shouldn't waste your time" would better describe A World of Orchids.
Years ago, lush landscaping surrounded the oriental-style building and its sign towered proudly above the trees beckoning visitors. Inside, the retail shop was a showcase of orchids, orchid pots, how to books and gardening supplies — everything you would need to grow these lovely flowers. Visitors could even have orchids and supplies shipped to their homes. Behind the shop, and open to the public, was an oasis of beautiful flowers and plants in a working greenhouse that seemed more like a "Garden of Eden," just begging to be explored. Delightful discoveries lay hidden down the meandering paths — bubbling fountains, trickling waterfalls, exotic birds and a Koi pond. Business was good.
What happened? In 2004 Hurricane Charley paid an unwelcome visit to Central Florida. While the storm made landfall on Florida's Gulf Coast near Captiva Island, it continued a north-northeast path of destruction that also devastated central and eastern parts of the Orlando metropolitan area. World of Orchids suffered major damage, losing part of their greenhouse roof; and, since the roof was a special size and design that was several years old and was no longer made, it would require complete roof replacement. Of course, as many Florida residents and businesses alike found, insurance companies were slow to pay, if they paid at all. The owners couldn't afford the repairs, so as the months, then years, dragged on the elements would take their toll on the sensitive plants in the greenhouse and the grounds and business fell into disrepair.
Today A World of Orchids still exists, although not as a thriving attraction. Will it tomorrow or the next day? Who knows? Is it worth the drive and your time? Perhaps. The shop still sells beautiful orchids and supplies and you can still get expert advice on how to grow them. Just don't expect to be wowed.
A World of Orchids is located at 2501 North Old Lake Wilson Road, Kissimmee, FL 34747. Off I-4 take Highway 192 north to Old Lake Wilson Road and travel south. A World of Orchids will be on the left. Call 1-407-396-1887 for more information.