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Orlando City Guide

Orlando Arts & Culture

Orlando is so well known for its over-the-top theme parks that its rich artistic and cultural heritage is often overlooked. However, Greater Orlando boasts some world famous museums and art galleries. In fact, the Morse Museum of American Art has the largest collection of works by American artist Louis Comfort Tiffany.

Orlando has its own opera and ballet companies, and local theaters regularly host visiting companies. Orlando-based University of Central Florida stages the Shakespeare Festival every year and now has a permanent theater downtown.

The nearby city of Winter Park hosts two major outdoor festivals every year, including the three-day annual Sidewalk Art Festival in March with more than 1,400 artists showcasing their work, and the Autumn Art Festival in October, featuring artwork, entertainment, and events for the entire family.

View the largest collection of works by Louis Comfort Tiffany at Orlando's Morse Museum of American Art.
©2006 Orlando CVB
View the largest collection
of works by Louis Comfort Tiffany
at Orlando's Morse
Museum of American Art.

Insider's Guide: The Best of Arts & Culture in Orlando

The city of Winter Park (just north of Orlando off of Interstate 436) and downtown Orlando's Lock Haven Park (900 E Princeton St) are the area's two major cultural centers. Winter Park has the Rollins College's Cornell Fine Art Museum (1000 Holt Ave), with impressive collections of American and European Art, and the Morse Museum of American Art (445 N Park Ave), which in addition to its Tiffany collection has an outstanding collection of American arts and crafts. Winter Park's Rollins College Knowles Memorial Chapel (1000 Holt Ave) is home of the annual Bach Festival, which attracts both musicians and visitors from around the world.

Loch Haven Park houses the Mennello Museum of American Folk Art (900 E Princeton St), famous for its permanent collection of paintings by Earl Cunningham, and the Orlando Museum of Art (2416 N Mill Ave), which features many famous 19th- and 20th-century American artists. This museum has permanent and touring exhibits under three main collections -- American Art, African Art, and Art of the Ancient Americas.

The American Art Collection features American artists from the 18th century to the present, but the Ancient American Art collection is more fascinating with ceramic, jade, stone, cloth, gold, and silver artifacts from more than 30 different groups, including the cultures of the Anasazi, Aztec, Zapotec, Inca, Monche, and Nazca.

The Orlando Science Center (777 E Princeton St), is a fun hands-on learning center geared primarily toward children. The 207,000-square-foot facility shows how science can be experienced up close and personal through exhibits. You'll also find a large domed theater featuring 3-D films and planetarium shows.

The Maitland Art Center (231 W Packwood Ave, Maitland) near Lake Sybelia is a great place to view some of the area's best artwork and a bronze bust of the center's founder, artist Jules Andre Smith. The building's unique architecture, carved by Smith, is considered art itself with its Mayan and Aztec designs and gardens and courtyards. Admission is free, but donations are welcomed.

The Orlando City Hall Mayor's Gallery (400 S Orange Ave) features local artists' creations with an accent on folk art. Special exhibits are displayed, too, and rotate every three months.

Leu Botanical Gardens (1920 N Forest Ave), established by industrialist Harry P. Leu more than 100 years ago, is also worth a visit both for the plants and the sculptures that are to be found throughout the gardens. Most of the sculptures have a gardening theme such as "Man and Wheelbarrow."

There are miles of paved walks through the different gardens, which include the largest Camellia collection in America outside California, and the largest formal rose garden in Florida. The house is now a museum and has been meticulously restored to the period when Harry Leu lived there. It's a wonderful display of turn-of-the-20th-century Florida living. Conducted tours are available.

Orlando's skyline has changed dramatically in recent years. Find out about the city's architecture and landmarks on the next page.