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Orlando Travel Guide

Posted in Orlando on April 25th, 2011 by admin – Comments Off

A quiet haven in Downtown Orlando, has an ornate fountain set in the center of a picturesque lake.

The city’s first designated historic district, Downtown Orlando encompasses eight square blocks and more than 80 buildings constructed between 1880 and 1940, which offer visitors a window into the city’s past.

Today, these buildings house offices, restaurants, and trendy galleries and boutiques. The crown jewel of Downtown Orlando, Lake Eola Park, separates the historic downtown district from Thornton Park.

Orlando’s center of new urbanism, with its collection of eclectic shops. The broader downtown area, especially the natural and cultural retreat Loch Haven Park to the north, features several unique and top-quality visual and performing arts centers and museums.

ORLANDO SCIENCE CENTER, 777 E Princeton Street.
Originally called the Central Florida Museum when it was opened in 1960, the museum acquired its current name in 1984. Covering 207,000 square feet (19,200 sq m) of floor space, the present building was opened in February 1997.

The aim of the center is to provide a stimulating environment for experimental science learning, which it achieves by presenting a huge array of exciting, state-of-the-art interactive exhibits, designed to introduce kids of all ages to the wonders of science.

The center’s four floors are divided into ten themed zones dealing with subjects that range from mechanics to math, health and fitness to lasers.

The Body Zone, for instance, allows guests to explore the intimate workings of the human body. Other fascinating attractions include the DinoDigs exhibit with its collection of dinosaur fossils, which is very popular with children, as is the ShowBiz Science exhibit, which reveals some of the effects and tricks used in the movie business.

The gigantic Dr. Phillips CineDome surrounds visitors with amazing images and films on a range of topics such as Egyptian treasures and ocean life; it is also a planetarium.
Open: 9am – 5pm Tuesday – Thursday; 9am – 9pm Friday and Saturday, noon – 5pm Sunday.
Tel: 407 – 514 – 2000.

ORLANDO MUSEUM OF ART, 2416 N Mills Avenue.
One of Southeastern USA’s finest arts museums, the Orlando Museum of Art has a superb permanent collection that includes pre-Columbian artifacts, with figurines from Nazca in Peru; African art; and American paintings of the 19th and 20th-centuries.

These are supplemented by travelling exhibitions from major metropolitan museums, and smaller shows of regional or local significance.

Music, food, and the works of local artists are on offer at a lively get-together on the first Thursday evening of every month.
Open: 10am – 4pm Tuesday – Friday, noon – 4pm Saturday and Sunday.
Closed: public holidays.
Tel: 407 – 896 – 4231.

Spread over 50,000 square feet, the elegant Shakespeare Center features the 350-seat Margeson Theater and the smaller Goldman Theater.

Since February 2002, this state-of-the-art venue has been host to the nationally recognized Orlando-UCF Shakespeare Festival, which has been performing since 1989. It mounts high-quality performances throughout the year – its annual spring festival at Lake Eola Park is very popular.
Tel: 407 – 447 – 1700.

This small, lakeside museum houses an unusual collection of paintings by curio-shop owner and Floridian folk artist.

Earl Cunningham (1893 – 1977). and travelling exhibitions of the works of other folk artists. Quirky sculptures are scattered throughout the grounds.
Open: 10:30am – 4:30pm Tuesday – Saturday, noon – 4:30pm Sunday.
Closed: major holidays.
Tel: 407 – 246 – 4278.

HARRY P. LEU GARDENS, 1920 N Forest Avenue.
The Harry P. Leu Gardens offer 50 acres (20 ha) of serene, beautiful greenery to stroll in. Features such as Florida’s largest rose garden are formal while, elsewhere in the park, there are mature woods of spectacular live oaks, maples, and bald cypresses, festooned with Spanish moss; in winter, seek out the mass of blooming camellias.

Other attractions are herb garden and one filled with plants that attract butterflies. Visitors can also tour the early 20th-century Leu House and its gardens, which local businessman Harry P. Leu donated to the city of Orlando in 1961.
Open: 9am – 5pm daily.
Closed: December 25.
Tel: 407 – 246 – 2620.

IVANHOE ROW, N Orange Avenue.
Stretching from Colonial Drive to Lake Ivanhoe, this row of antiques shops features an interesting mix of the old and the unconventional.

Vintage linens, clothing, jewellery, and various collectibles are on offer here, as is also period furniture ranging from Victorian to Art Deco.

The Wildlife Gallery sells original paintings and sculptures of animals, while Art’s Premium Cigars offers a range of cigars and smoking paraphernalia. The prices are on the high side, but you might find some unusual treasures here.
Shops open: 10am – 5pm Monday – Saturday.

THORNTON PARK, E of Lake Eola.
Close to the city’s business center, hip and artsy Thornton Park offers a blend of trendy cafes, unique boutiques, stylish eateries such as HUE Restaurant, which serves world-class cuisine, and pretty B&B’s.

Most active after 6pm, it is a popular neighborhood for locals to unwind in after work. One of the area’s most happening hangouts is Dexter’s of Thornton Park, with its chrome vinyl stools, terrazzo floors, contemporary art, and gourmet food.

Other attractions include Urban Think, a bookshop that features author readings, art shows, and a bar, and Marie-France, a chic jewelry boutique.

LAKE EOLA PARK, N Rosalind Avenue and E Washington Street.
Orlando’s most visited park, Lake Eola park is spread over 43 acres (17 ha) and is encircled by a 0.9-mile (1.4 km) pedestrian-only path.

This charming park in the heart of the city offers a lovely view of the downtown skyline. Cruise the lake on two-person swan-shaped paddle boats, or feed the swans, drifting along in the lake’s shallow water.

The park hosts several annual and seasonal events, including the Fourth of July fireworks show and the superb UCF-Shakespeare Festival.

The plays and concerts are performed against the stunning backdrop of the Walt Disney Amphitheater, a band shell with excellent acoustics. The Terrace in the Park restaurant serves fine cuisine, not the usual park fare.
Open: 5am – sunset daily.
Tel: 407 – 658 – 4226.

MAD COW THEATRE, 105 S Magnolia Avenue.
Started in late 1997 as a simple project between a band of actors and some directors in a former blueprint studio in Maitland, this theatrical group has developed a reputation for outstanding productions performed at different settings for several years.

In 2004, it acquired a permanent home in the heart of Downtown Orlando, at a venue that seats an audience of around 160.

The Mad Cow Theatre presents a quality range of classics, musicals, and original works, and produces an annual Orlando Cabaret in July.

Past productions have ranged from Chekhov and T.S Eliot to Neil Simon. The group also offers educational shows and workshops.
Tel: 407 – 297 – 8788.

Housed in the former Orange County Regional History Center sits on nearly 2 acres (0.8 ha) of land in Heritage Square, the old town center.

It has four floors of exhibits and interactive areas for visitors of all ages, offering a glimpse into the history and environment of Central Florida. Everything, from wildlife, and the first Native Americans in the area, to Walt Disney and the space program, is covered here.

Highlights include replicas of a Seminole settlement and an early Florida Pioneer Cracker home. Visitors can also wander though a re-created Timucuan village.

The museum has an interesting exhibition on the training of aviators, from World War II pilots to NASA astronauts. The center also offers several educational programs and organizes get-togethers such as concerts on a regular basis.
Open: 10am – 5pm Monday – Saturday, noon – 5pm Sunday.
Tel: 407 – 836 – 2030.

The Wells’ Built Hotel was constructed in 1912 by Orlando’s first African-American physician, Dr. William Monroe Wells, as a lodging for performers on the Chitlin’ Circuit, a network of locations throughout southern United States where African-Americans stayed and performed music.

Many of the day’s top black entertainers, including Billie Holiday, Ray Charles, Benny Carter, and Duke Ellington, have stayed here at different times. The building was converted into a museum in 1999.

The museum contains artifacts, photographs, and exhibits relating to Orlando’s African-American communities, focusing on locals who were the first African-Americans to attain positions of prominence in their professions and the community. There is a photo display of the Chitlin’ Circuit.
Open: 9am – 5pm Monday – Friday, Saturday 10am – 2pm.
Tel: 407 – 245 – 7535.

SAK COMEDY LAB, 380 W Amelia Street.
One of the best places for live comedy in Orlando, SAK Comedy Lab stages two hilarious shows per night. The later show is slightly racier, but obscene material is strictly avoided, and the high-energy improvisation comedy is a great option for families looking for laughs.

Especially popular are the series shows, such as Duel of Fools. The 215-seats of the theater are wrapped around the stage, giving all members of the audience a good view.

Comedians who have performed here include Wayne Brady – one of the stars on the Whose Line is it Anyway TV show.
Tel: 407 – 648 – 0001.

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