Most visitors to Orlando, Florida, come to experience its world-famous theme parks and tourist hot spots, many of which are actually located outside the city limits. For those adventurous souls who want to see a different side of “The City Beautiful,” there are several low-key attractions that can be found within the city and off the beaten “tourist” path.
From a boat ride on a beautiful chain of lakes to lush tropical gardens to museums brimming with art and history, check out these local favorites:
Baldwin Park, Orlando’s newest community, offers visitors a wide-open park with a large Roman fountain, a walking trail, bridge and picnic areas, plus shopping and dining at the quaint Village Center and a bike/walking trail around Lake Baldwin. The community is also host to yearly events, such as the vintage car show, pet fair and seasonal activities.
4882 New Broad Street, Baldwin Park. 407.894.5950
Central Florida Zoo Park & Botanical Gardens
Located in the North Orlando suburb of Sanford, this zoological park features exotic animals, native species, educational demonstrations, and weekend animal feeding. The Herpetarium houses some of the world’s most venomous reptiles, as well as harmless snakes, lizards and frogs. Animal exhibits include the Puerto Rican Coqui, endangered Amur leopards, and playful spider monkeys.
3755 US Highway 17-92, Sanford. 407.323.4450
Harry P. Leu Gardens
This unspoiled land, smack in the middle of Orlando, features three miles of paved scenic walkways that take visitors through 50 acres of southern-styled gardens. The area boasts the largest formal rose garden in the state, a house museum dating back to the 1880s, palm, bamboo and cycad gardens, and a vegetable and herb garden. A butterfly garden contains more than 100 different plants and attracts butterflies 12 months a year.
1920 N. Forest Ave. Orlando. 407.246.2620
Lake Eola Park
Established in 1888, the park surrounds a picturesque manmade lake in the heart of downtown Orlando that is home to pigeons, squirrels, ducks, swans, and other friendly wildlife. The park offers swan-shaped paddle boats, outdoor dining, and plenty of open areas in which to relax or picnic while taking in the lush flowers, historic trees and spectacular view of Orlando’s skyline.
195 N Rosalind Ave, Orlando. 407.246.2827
Orange County Regional History Center
Located in downtown Orlando in the restored 1927 Orange County Courthouse, this historic five-story masterpiece museum offers exhibits, events and creative educational programs dedicated to showcasing the history of Central Florida. Learn how Orlando has transitioned from a small town of citrus groves and cattle ranches to today’s thriving urban community.
65 East Central Blvd., Orlando
Phone: 407.836.8500 or 800.965.2030
Orlando Science Center
Science is everyone’s favorite subject at the Orlando Science Center. The center offers exhibits, such as NatureWorks, DinoDigs, and KidsTown, an interactive world dedicated to smaller explorers. The CineDome features educational, informative and exciting films on an eight-story screen. The Crosby Observatory is the largest publicly accessible refractor telescope in the state of Florida.
777 East Princeton Street, Orlando.
407.514.2000 Toll Free: 888.OSC.4FUN
Park Avenue Historical Shopping District
Founded in 1887 in the ritzy Orlando suburb of Winter Park, this quaint shopping and dining area is lined with sidewalk cafes and unique shops that border a shady park. The area is popular for its art festivals, free concerts, movies, and other cultural events throughout the year. The Saturday morning farmer’s market in the old train station offers food, plants, crafts and more.
151 W. Lyman Avenue, Winter Park. 407.644.8281
The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art
This museum, located on Park Avenue in Winter Park, is home to the world’s most comprehensive collection of the works of famed artist and designer Louis Comfort Tiffany (1848-1933). Tiffany fans can view his jewelry, pottery, paintings, art glass, leaded-glass windows, lamps, and the chapel interior he designed for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago.
445 North Park Avenue, Winter Park. 407-645-5311.
Mennelo Museum of American Art
This museum, located in Orlando’s Loch Haven Park, maintains a permanent collection of paintings by Earl Cunningham (1893-1977), one of the premier folk artists of the 20th century. The Museum also sponsors special exhibitions, publications, and programs that highlight outstanding traditional and contemporary American artists.
900 East Princeton Street, Orlando. 407.246.4278
Wekiwa Springs State Park
Just a short drive from Orlando in the suburb of Apopka, FL, this unspoiled state park comprises about 700 acres of native Florida wilderness. The natural springs pump out 42 million gallons of crystal clear water every day. Enjoy canoeing, swimming, picnicking, wildlife watching and fishing.
1800 Wekiwa Circle, Apopka. 407.880.2144.
Winter Park Scenic Boat Tour
This pontoon boat ride on Lake Osceola offers one-hour guided tours through three tranquil lakes and two narrow manmade canals. Cruise by historic Winter Park’s Rollins College, Kraft Azalea Gardens, Isle of Sicily, magnificent mansions, historic and usual trees, tropical birds and flowers and, if you are lucky, you may just see a gator or two.
312 East Morse Blvd., Winter Park. 407.644.4056