Orlando, the county seat and principal city of Orange County in Central Florida, is a part Orlando-Kissimmee MSA, the third-largest metropolitan area in Florida. Orlando features a number of tourist attractions and is also home to the second-largest university in Florida, the University of Central Florida. The most-frequented place of tourist interest near the city is the Walt Disney World Resort, situated in Lake Buena Vista, nearly 20 miles (32 km) south of the city limits of Orlando. Vietnamese quarter, situated in the Colonial Town district of the city and popularly known as the “Little Saigon”, is home to a thriving Vietnamese community. The “Vi-Mi” District, featuring shops, groceries, and elegant restaurants, is one of the major landmarks in the city.
Other major attractions in the city include the Universal Orlando Resort, Lake Eola, and the Sea-World. Orlando is best known for its arts, culture, and performing arts. The Culture Coast of Orlando features a number of beaches, such as the Daytona Beach, Ormond Beach, and New Smyrna Beach; cultural attractions, including the Ormond Beach Art museum, Southeast Museum of Photography, Museum of Arts and Sciences, and the Atlantic Center for the Arts; as well as numerous shops and art galleries. Owing to a number of cinematic enterprises in the area, Orlando is often referred to as the Hollywood East. The major festivals hosted by the City include the Orlando International Fringe Theater Festival and the Festival of New Plays, hosted by the Orlando-UCF Shakespeare Festival.
Orlando is also a shopping paradise. The major shopping malls in the city include:
- Florida Mall
- Mall at Millennia
- Orlando Fashion Square Mall
- Festival Bay Mall
- Waterford Lakes Town Center
The city is home to a number of museums, including:
- Orlando Museum of Art at the Loch Haven Park
- Orlando Science Center
- Morse Museum of American Art in Winter Park
- Orange County Regional History Center
- Henry P. Leu Gardens
- Cornell Fine Arts Museum
- Arboretum of the University of Central Florida
- Mennello Museum of American Art
Bok Tower, Central Florida Zoological Park, Cypress Gardens Adventure Park, Hard Rock Café, the Holy Land Experience, Gatorland, Kennedy Space Center, Ripley’s Believe It or Not, Wonder Works, Wekiwa Springs State Park, World of Orchids, Wet ‘n Wild, Orlando Welcome Center, and the International Trolley and Train Museum are among the other tourist attractions in and around Orlando. The major tourist recreational activities in the city include canoeing, swimming, and fishing at the Blue Spring State Park. Orlando is one of the major tourist destinations in Florida, attracting over 52 million tourists a year. It has a lot to offer to people of all ages and abilities and is a place truly worth a visit.
- Website: www.cityoforlando.net
Lake Eola, situated in the Summerlin Park, is a small, spectacular lake near Downtown Orlando, Florida. The Park and pond were established in 1882 but the site was officially designated a park by Jacob Summerlin in 1892. The lake is in point of fact a sinkhole and is best known for its fountain. This spectacular fountain gives the impression of a UFO landed in the pond in the daytime, and changes colors at night, offering a dazzling light show. The fountain was first installed in the year 1912 and was replaced by the “Millennium Fountain” in 1957.
The beautiful Lake Eola encompasses an area of 23 acres (9 hectares) and measures 4529 feet (1381 m) in diameter. It is bordered by four streets- East Central Boulevard, East Robinson Street (State Road 526), Rosalind Avenue (SR 527), and the North Eola Drive. It also features a 0.85 mile (1.3 km) long multi-use sidewalk that circles the water of the Lake. Over the years, the park has also served as a zoo, a tennis court, a horse race track, and a pier with an elegant dance area.
The major events hosted by Lake Eola include the Spin City Classic, Fiesta in the Park, and Fire Works over the Fountain. The Spin City Classic, held every year in March, features professional and amateur bicycle racing on the various streets bordering the Lake. Fiesta in the Park, on the other hand, is held on the first weekend in November and April, every year. This event features the popular Booth Arts/Crafts Show, food, and entertainment. FireWorks over the Fountain primarily features the July 4th celebrations.
Lake Eola has become a major tourist destination in Orlando. It is a focal point for the inhabitants as well as tourists alike. The main recreational activities at the site include bathing, picnicking, fishing, and swimming. Lake Eola and the surrounding park offer a serene retreat from the hubbub of city life and are truly worthwhile.
Loch Haven Park
Loch Haven Park, situated on Princeton Street in Orlando, Central Florida, is a significant cultural haven amid the overpowering pleasure of the theme parks of Orlando. This 45 acres (0.18 sq-km) cultural oasis is bounded by three spectacular lakes and is home to some of the most excellent facilities for arts, sciences, and humanities. It also offers visitors a number of plays, art exhibits, lectures, and tours of the science exhibits.
The main museums and theaters in the Park include the Orlando Museum of Art, Orlando Repertory Theater, the Mennello Museum of American Art, the Orlando Science Center, the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Orlando-UCF Shakespeare Festival. Situated just 10 minutes north of Downtown Orlando, the Loch Haven Park also plays host to the annual Orlando International Fringe Festival of theatrical performances. This internationally acclaimed, ten-day festival attracts over 300 performers from around the globe every year. It features first-class improvisational comedy, drama, musicals, original works, and excellent performances, mime, and dance in more than 500 shows.
Besides, Loch Haven Park is also a favorite with nature lovers. It is home to one of the largest oak trees of Central Florida, named as “The Mayor”, and is a fabulous place to enjoy and appreciate the beauty of the three spectacular lakes on the property. In addition, there are a number of elegant restaurants near the Park. Loch Haven Park offers a serene, cultural retreat and is truly worth a visit.
- Address: 1001 E Princeton Street, Orlando, FL 32803
- Telephone: (407) 896-7365
Maitland Art Center
The Maitland Art Center, situated on the West Packwood Avenue in Maitland, Florida, was established in 1937 by the renowned artist and architect Jules Andre Smith. Formerly named as the Research Studio, this historic site was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on November 17, 1982. At present, this art center features some of the area’s most excellent works of art. It showcases a number of permanent collections as well as impressive traveling art collections all year-round. The visitors are also given a unique opportunity to observe the resident ‘Artists-in-Action’ craft their works in on-site studios.
The Maitland Art Center also plays host to a number of art classes for adults and children of all ages and abilities; the Children’s Art Festival; summer camps; and community programs. The art classes for kids and teens features everything ranging from drawing and cartooning to pottery and clay sculpture. Jewelry making is also included a special feature in some classes. Summer art classes for kids, on the other hand, feature mixed media, painting, drawing and cartooning, clay sculpture, pottery, reverse painting on glass, and mosaic art.
The Maitland Art Center is also well known for its architecture. The site has beautiful lush gardens and magnificent courtyards, featuring the Mayan and Aztec designs. Owing to the ornamentation of the center building and its natural setting, the Maitland Art Center is a preferred venue for outdoor weddings. The site features three main areas for weddings-the Chapel, the Main Garden, and the Mayan Courtyard. This art center offers a great experience and is a “must-see” for all the art aficionados.
- Address: 231 West Packwood Avenue, Maitland, FL 32751
- Telephone: (407) 539-2181
- Hours: Mon – Fri, 9 AM – 4:30 PM; Sat-Sun, 12 – 4:30 PM; closed major holidays
- Website: http://www.maitlandartcenter.org
Orlando Museum of Art (OMA)
The Orlando Museum of Art (OMA), situated on the North Mills Avenue in Orlando, Florida, is best known for its regional, local, national, as well as international works of art. It is a private, non-profit institution and one of the prime attractions in the Loch Haven Park. Established in 1924, this art museum primarily aims at enriching Florida’s cultural life by offering quality and excellence in visual arts. The Orlando Museum of Art started as a small arts center and eventually grew into a nationally accredited museum, which is known all over the world for its permanent and traveling exhibits of the highest artistic merit.
The Orlando Museum of Art maintains nearly 12 in-house exhibits and as many as 13 off-site exhibitions. The three major permanent collections at the museum comprise of impressive works of American art, the art of the ancient Americas, and African art. The Art of the Ancient Americas Collection comprises of a number of items from more than 30 distinct cultural groups of North, Central, and South America. These articles belong to the period from 2000 B.C. and A.D. 1521. The American Art Collection, on the other hand, showcases a wide array of prints, drawings, sculptures, and paintings, ranging from the 1700s to the present. The most impressive works in this collection are those by renowned artists, such as Georgia O’Keeffe and Ansel Adams. The African Art Collection features a number of ceremonial and practical artifacts from many different regions of Africa.
OMA also offers people a number of award-winning tours, teacher in-service training programs, lectures, and other educational programs. The museum is dedicated to educations the residents as well as the national and foreign visitors through its various outreach programs. On the first Thursday of every month, a different theme is presented at the museum by the local artists, through their artworks. On this day, admission to the museum is offered for free from 6 pm to 9 pm. The Museum also offers live music, café offerings from nearby restaurants, and cash bars. It presents a golden opportunity to interact with fellow art appreciators and is a “must-see” for all the art aficionados who visit Orlando.
- Address: 2416 N Mills Avenue, Orlando, FL 32803
- Telephone: (407) 206-0971
- Hours: Tues – Fri, 10 AM – 4 PM; Sat-Sun, 12 – 4 PM; closed Mondays
- Website: www.omart.org