What to see in Orlando besides the theme parks: visit its innovative and interesting Downtown through an unusual trail among art and exhibitions, local realities, theaters, culture, history and social interactions.
Orlando is for dreamers!
Spearhead of one among the largest theme parks facilities in the States, Orlando it is not – as it could seem at first sight – only this. I mean a city constantly growing with a cohesive local community, well determined making its own Downtown an artistic and cultural center of considerable importance.
The Orange County Regional History Center with its alternative trail dedicated to the history of the whole area, from the Civil War to the Civil Rights, from the Native local cultures to NASA. In addition, the interactive path telling the birth and the evolution of all the magic and deeds of the Disney theme parks. And even the numerous artistic installations and the Open Spaces where to admire the best of the local contemporary art, the stores, and the small retail gastronomic realities. Without missing the so-called “centerpiece”, Dr. Phillips Center for Performing Arts with the amazing Walt Disney Theater.
Then there are the theme parks, of course, but this is another story!
The most part of the domestic and international travelers visits Orlando mainly for its variegated tourist offer suitable for families, thanks to the several attractions of the theme parks present in the area, from Disney to NASA.
However, not many people know that actually Orlando is able to give multiple cultural, artistic, historic and social experiences with an incredible variety of museums, open spaces, lively local realities and theaters, with an entertainment ranging from music to dance, art, movies and really much else.
During IPW 2022, the most important American trade fair related to tourism toward the USA, that this year took place right in Orlando, Florida – find here a detailed report about it – I had the chance to attend a press tour in collaboration with Visit Orlando, completely dedicated to the visit of its really interesting Downtown.
A definitely unique way to discover the city in an unusual and original way, following passions and social interactions of a local community strongly determined in telling Orlando not only as “the city of fun”, but also as a growing cultural center, starting right from its intense history and its traditions, that are ignored by many.
You can find here affordable travel options to reach Orlando.
The itinerary discovering Downtown Orlando develops along a very nice 2.5km walk.
Starting from the Heritage Square Park, an idyllic green area in the heart of Orlando, dedicated to the cultural roots of the Afro-Americans of Florida and the memory of the violence suffered in the darkest times of the racial persecution.
Little far, there is the Orange County Regional History Center, an incredible museum exhibition cared in detail developing on 5 grounds, that goes over the entire history of Orlando and the Central Florida beginning from the local Natives – the Seminole – settled in this area permanently already 12.000 years ago.
From the arrival of Spanish conquistadores to the Civil War, the first pioneers, the plantations, and the tragic deeds of the Afro American slaves, as far as the dramatic years of the Civil Rights. Then two entire areas dedicated to the development of the spaceflight project and the NASA – don’t forget the Kennedy Space Center of Cape Canaveral is little far from Orlando – and the history of Walt Disney and his special bound with this city.
“Here in Florida, we have something special we never enjoyed in Disneyland…the blessing of size.
There’s enough land here to hold all the ideas and plans we can possibly imagine.”
The path goes along Magnolia Ave, going from the reading rooms of the Orlando Public Library to the artistic installations of City Arts, a no profit organization born in Orlando promoting local art and the places related to it. A series of programs, shows and theme events included.
Next stop Lake Eola Park, one of the most suggestive and representatives of the Orlando Lakes. It is an oasis of peace and relax in the heart of the city where walking, doing sports, looking around the Farmers Markets stands, relaxing tasting an ice cream by the near The Greenery Creamery – the first artisanal creamery in Orlando (you must try the goat ice cream, with goat milk!) – sailing or simply enjoying one of the shows at the Walt Disney Amphitheater, an outdoor theater spectacularly lied on the west bank of the lake.
Little far there’s the Snap! Orlando, an interesting contemporary art gallery – Be Creative. Contemporary. Spontaneous – exhibiting wonderful photographic works, among them the touching series of “I want to be in the light” and original multimedia works (try to imagine a paint coming to life thanks to a multimedia app). In addition, it offers also conferences, theme events and workshops.
A glimpse in the video down here.
Walking discovering Downtown Orlando, you can see the sculptures of the 7th Annual Sculpture on the Lawn Unveiled to Public, an outdoor exposition of works by selected artists from all over the world. Its mission is to include the public art in the Orange County for the benefit of its citizens, improving in the meantime the visual environment through a variety of styles and content.
Final stage, Dr Phillips Center for the Performing Arts.
A modern and innovative center for performing arts strongly wanted by the local community as a place of aggregation, interaction and spreading of the culture in every form, always and however accessible to everyone.
“We believe a performing arts center should be more than a beautifully designed building. We believe in creating experiences that educate as much as entertain. And we believe in inspiring creativity with programming our entire community can enjoy. We believe in making the arts accessible to people from all walks of life all over the world. And we invite you to join us on this journey.”
(Dr. Phillips Center for Performing Arts – Katherine Ramsberger, President & CEO)
The facility covering two entire blocks includes also even three theaters – really many international famous artists, musicians, singers, and dancers have performed here – among them the Walt Disney Theater, where I had the chance to attend a special performance in full Broadway style during the IPW 2022. Then, an art school and several locations for events and shows.
A real labor of love – and a stunning investment – for a city that has really much to show and tell about itself, besides the theme parks!