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  • Tara Crutchfield

Amada Anderson

History and haunts are at the center of Winter Haven Food Tours’ newest tour option, Winter Haven Beer, Spirits, and Ghosts Walking Tour. We spoke with Auburndale resident and owner/ guide of Winter Haven Food Tours, Amada Anderson, about food, phantoms, and what led her to start her Downtown tour company.

Anderson is a licensed and certified Tour Guide and Tour Director with a bachelor’s degree in Music and Theatre from the University of Miami. She worked for a decade in New York as a tour guide, first with a ghost tour company before starting her own New York Broadway Tours a year later. Anderson has worked on Broadway for Disney as a guide inside the New Amsterdam Theatre and ran a non-profit called Thrill The World NYC for seven years, teaching Michael Jackson’s Thriller dance for world records and charity.

She currently volunteers as the secretary to the National Federation of Tourist Guides Association. In addition to Winter Haven Food Tours, she and her husband operate a dog walking company called Story Tails Dog Walking. According to Anderson’s ‘About Me’ section on the Winter Haven Food Tours website, “The running joke is he walks dogs, and I walk people.”

The Andersons moved from New York to the Sunshine State in April of 2019. The couple wanted to take care of Amada’s mother and start a family. As the owner of her own New Yorkbased tour business, she was traveling a lot already. She figured she could move here and still travel as needed. “With that idea and the fact that my husband would not have to shovel snow in January around his birthday every year – we moved.”


Anderson took a position as an executive assistant for the City of Winter Haven and grew to appreciate the area through her work, especially during lunchtime. “Winter Haven is so cool,” she said. “Winter Haven is so entrepreneurial and community-oriented.”

The former New York tour guide thought Winter Haven needed a downtown tour of its own. The idea nagged at Anderson. “I started looking around, and I was like, wait a minute, there’s a Thai spot, there’s sushi, there’s a Mexican spot, there’s an Italian spot, there’s coffee,” she said. “I’ve given a couple of food tours in Little Italy in New York, but when I saw that we had on-route an olive oil store, it all clicked, and I said, ‘I will do a food tour!’”

Anderson and her husband welcomed their baby in June of 2020. In December, she put her idea into motion, joined the Greater Winter Haven Chamber of Commerce in January, and opened Winter Haven Food Tours for business on March 1, 2021.

The Winter Haven walking tour company offers everything from brunch tours to sweet tooth and happy hour tours. Anderson says many of her clientele are tourists from Orlando looking for things to do in the area around Legoland. After taking a tour and learning more about the city, visitors will often stay to eat, drink, and shop at local establishments.

“I’ve been very thankful that everyone has been so supportive,” Anderson said of the community support she’s received for her tour company.


With Spooky Season upon us and having given ghost tours in the Big Apple, Anderson wanted to offer something similar here. “I’ve always been pretty sensitive to energies,” she said.

As we sat outside discussing her spectral experiences, a lamp flickered on and off. Spirit or electrical short? You be the judge. Anderson told of a scare she had in America’s oldest and purportedly most haunted city, St. Augustine. On a trip to the Old City, she visited America’s Oldest Wooden Schoolhouse. While filming the popular tourist spot, she felt a child run up and hug her. “You know how little kids run up and give you a hug, and they’re so short that you can feel them grab at you? It was so real. I walked in, some little kid came running up and gave me a hug on my thigh.” She remembers saying, ‘No, I’m sorry, kid. I’m not your mom.’ “I looked down – nothing there.”

Anderson shared this and more tales on the Winter Haven Beer, Spirits, and Ghost Walking Tour. This two-and-a-half-hour guided walking tour of Downtown Winter Haven includes visits to historical sites, stories about familiar Winter Haven figures, including Gram Parsons, Gene Leedy, and George Jenkins, along with stops to sample food and drink at several Downtown dining destinations.

This particular tour is 21+ as the focus was on spirits in more than one sense of the word. (Anderson does offer a tour for little ones with a Halloween twist called Trick or Treat and Tasting Sweets Ghost Walking Tour.) Our first haunting jaunt for bites and booooooze was at Tempo 1930. While there, we cheers’ed Maple Walnut Old Fashioneds and swapped ghost stories over loaded truffle fries and beef and short rib meatballs. Sprinkled throughout our evening walk were spooky stories, videos, and not-so-scary pro tips like where to get the best fried green tomatoes in town.

If you plan to take a Winter Haven Food Tour, be sure to wear comfortable shoes, stay hydrated, and let your tour guide know of any food allergies or restrictions. Visit the Winter Haven Food Tours website below for dates and details on more tasty tours.

(863) 288-0038

FB @winterhavenfoodtours

IG @winterhavenfoodtours

Photograph by Amy Sexson


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