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The Orange County Regional History Center allows visitors to explore 12,000 years worth of Central Florida history. The detailed exhibits go as far back as the Seminole Wars, and cover everything from natural disasters to the arraignment of Ted Bundy. You can even find out what Orlando was like before the establishment of Walt Disney World. Be sure to explore the gift shop for some excellent souvenirs.
Orlando Science Center is a glistening structure that looks like the product of a meeting between Greco-Roman architects and Star Trek engineers. The analogy applies to the inside activities as well. The museum strives to teach kids (and adults) about classical science using modern, hands-on, sometimes high-tech activities. The museum houses themed exhibit halls where patrons can explore the human body, modern technology, the solar system and other topics. The exhibits often change, so you can always learn something new. Its eight-story CineDome is billed as the world's largest movie theater. It shows large-format nature/technology films.
Cornell Fine Arts Museum, located north of Orlando in the friendly town of Winter Park on the grounds of Rollins College, ranks as one of the country's best college art museums. The American Association of Museums has accredited the museum, and the museum includes more than 6000 artifacts and works of art ranging from Antiquity up to the 21st Century. Cornell Fine Arts Museum features permanent collections as well as various temporary traveling exhibitions that rotate throughout the year. Other features of the museum include workshops, films, lectures and interpretive sessions.
This sculpture collection is housed in a Mediterranean-style building that served as home to the renowned Czechoslovakian sculptor from 1949 until his death in 1961. Prior to his Florida retirement, Polasek had served more than 35 years as chair of the Chicago Art Institute's sculpture department. Visitors can stroll through three galleries and a three-acre sculpture garden, gazing on the master's paintings and his classical sculptures. The latter are heroic in style, chiseled with an attention to muscle and sinew reminiscent of Michelangelo's works.
With Spaceship Earth as its icon, Epcot has been a Walt Disney World favorite since the Epcot Center opened in 1982. Epcot celebrates technology and the future with two featured sections: Future World and World Showcase. Future World explores technology while World Showcase has pavilions representing eleven countries from around the world. Epcot has rides but more prominently features shows and tours ranging from Honey I Shrunk the Audience to the environmentally-conscious The Circle of Life. Nearby, the America Gardens outdoor arena hosts live performances.
One of the world's premier amusement parks, the Universal Studios Florida was opened to great fanfare in 1990, and since then has become the 16th most visited theme park in the world, with an estimated turnout 7 million guests per year. The park is split up into several different sections that resemble locations from some of the studio's most popular ventures, which include the like of the Islands of Adventure and Universal CityWalk. The park's famous Jaws ride is one of the park's oldest and most popular attractions to date.
Ripley's operates 35 oddity museums worldwide, and the experience of visiting one is a bit like devouring a pint of ice cream; you know it's not really good for you, but boy is it fun! The Orlando collection is housed in a Bavarian-style building, deliberately dis-proportioned to look like part of it has disappeared into one of Florida's infamous sinkholes. Inside, you'll find such oddities as a statue of a 1,069-pound man, torture devices from the Spanish Inquisition and a replica of a 1907 Rolls Royce built from more than a million matchsticks. Check website for further details.
Aquatica is a whimsical, one-of-a-kind waterpark that’s only in Orlando and could only come from SeaWorld. There is one river where you float through an undersea world of colorful fish and another races you into rolling rapids. There are also slides that spin and soak you, and their incredible signature ride – two awesome, enclosed tube slides that send you speeding through a lively lagoon filled with playful, black and white Commerson’s dolphins. Delight in the serene-to-extreme waters in the gigantic double wave pools and soak in the sun (or the cooling shade) on the white sand beach. Aquatica is where the fun is as endless as the sea itself.
One of the first theme parks to open in Orlando, SeaWorld has been operating here for more than 30 years. The 200 acres of attractions and animal shows make this a perennial favorite with Florida visitors. Many new attractions and rides have been added to the original fun including a laser-fireworks-water extravaganza and high-tech thrill rides. The park also hosts a number of family-friendly events, including February's Bud & BBQ Fest. See website for latest info.
A place where the fantasy world of Walt Disney is brought to life, this mammoth resort is a myriad magical adventures waiting to happen. From the futuristic globe of the Spaceship Earth and the thrilling rides of Disney's Hollywood Studios, to the France, Japan, Germany, Morocco and Italy Pavilions, Walt Disney World encompasses the farthest reaches of the earth and the fanciful stretch of a boundless imagination. After the incredible success of Disneyland in Southern California in the 1950s, Walt Disney decided to expand his empire with the purchase of 27,443 acres (11,106 hectares) of land near Orlando, Florida in 1965. Although Walt Disney himself died in 1966, his vision was realized when Walt Disney World opened to global anticipation and unparalleled excitement in 1972. Since opening, the park has expanded to include four separate theme parks—the original Magic Kingdom with its iconic fairytale castle, alongside Epcot, Disney's Hollywood Studios and Disney's Animal Kingdom. There are also several water parks, themed hotels, campgrounds, restaurants, fireworks shows and endless opportunities for fun!
Calling all Hollywood buffs—immerse yourself into movie lore and experience first-hand the magic of the silver screen. Disney's Hollywood Studios, formerly known as Disney-MGM Studios is a paradise for kids and adults alike. Surrounded by cherished Disney characters, one can enjoy events like the Disney Toy Story-inspired competition or a live performance of the hugely popular High School Musical 2. Added attractions include the variety of restaurants and eateries. Imaginatively designed, the Studios are a delight for tourists from all over.
More than a zoo, Disney's Animal Kingdom has rides, shows, and safaris to allow visitors to feel like they have truly spent the day among wild animals. See roaming wild animals on Kilimanjaro Safari or pet goats, llamas, and pigs at the Affection Section. Or take a rest and catch one of Animal Kingdom's many shows, from the 3-D 'It's Tough to be a Bug'—where you can experience life from a bug's point of view, to the live action, 'Pocahontas and her Forest Friends'. With rides like the roller coaster Expedition Everest and the TriceraTop Spin, all members of the family are sure to have a full day of fun.