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Orlando: What if You Don’t Like Amusement Parks?

For those in your group who don’t especially enjoy roller coasters, Orlando also offers galleries, museums, and libraries.

By Juan Abelardo Carles R. 

Photos: Javier Pinzón 

The conundrum seems a bit of a paradox. Orlando is the world capital of theme parks! People come here to experience the adrenaline rush of facing down the void on rides that compete to be as breakneck as possible. 
I‘m sure many of you can identify with the predicament faced by yours truly. Perhaps, like me, you find yourself in Orlando, world capital of theme parks, sharing your family’s happiness and their enthusiasm for the world of fantasy and living the adventures of their favorite movie characters. The rest of your party rush aboard the most vertiginous roller coaster for that fabulous adrenaline rush, but you stay behind because even a merry-go-round makes you feel ill. No need to despair. You won’t be relegated to sitting by and watching your friends scream for joy as they whip up and down the coasters because Orlando offers much more than theme parks. Panorama de las Américas is happy to introduce you to its other attractions. 

Orlando is Steeped in History


That’s what Orlando natives say when a visitor suggests that there was nothing here before the orange groves were planted and Walt Disney brought his first park to the area in 1971. This response is well-founded as can be seen at the Orange County Regional History Center, located in the former Courthouse. The museum documents early inhabitants of the area, including the first indigenous communities, the Spanish presence, and the settlements of free Afro-descendants. It also chronicles the conflicts between these groups and the then-fledgling United States. The area was, in fact, the scene of several significant events in the battle for Black American civil rights, a struggle that is also addressed in the collection. Exhibits include information on events that changed the culture and economy of the region, such as the introduction of cattle, citrus cultivation, aviation and aeronautics, and of course, the tourist industry.

An Afternoon of Art


One of the pleasant consequences of Orlando’s varied history is the bounty of artistic expression that enlivens the city. It’s worth spending at least an afternoon getting to know the arts district. The City Arts Gallery is among the most popular venues, since it consists of several exhibition halls where visitors can appreciate different types of visual arts in one place. Our visit fortuitously coincided with a splendid group show by Hispanic artists who presented their personal visions of the Day of the Dead, thus updating this age-old cultural legacy. Another interesting space is Snap!, where you will always find thought-provoking concepts developed by both established and emerging artists. One example is “City Unseen,” a collection of pieces visible via augmented reality on mobile devices. The wealth of art in these two spaces gave us an afternoon of solace and peace. We can look to many more galleries for more afternoons of art.

Fiery Sunsets at Lake Eola

Another of the area’s beautiful lakes is Eola, set amidst sculptures, paths, and the Disney amphitheatre, which boasts one of the world’s most perfect acoustic shells, adding to the recreational options for Orlando residents. Tourists can enjoy many outdoor activities, including concerts and theater, although they can also simply picnic on the grass. The lake is a remnant of the great swamps that previously covered much of the area and traces of ancient local flora are still visible on parts of the shoreline. One of the best activities at Eola is renting a swan pedal boat and tooling around the lake. If you’re lucky and time it just right, you might find yourself in the middle of the lake when the sun sets in a fiery blaze of rays, as if protesting the end of its ephemeral daily reign. 

End on a High Note



A visit to the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts might be another amazing way to round out a non-conventional day in Orlando. If there is any place that affirms the city’s commitment to culture, it is this complex of multi-purpose auditoriums of different sizes that took nearly 20 years to build. Today it is one of the best such centers in the world. The always exciting artistic menu is varied, running the gamut from opera and the latest musicals to up-and-coming standup comedy stars. In fact, this center’s commanding circle of influence extends to surrounding areas, and it often backs shows in Seneff Arts Plaza. 

Epilogue to an Unconventional Day in Orlando

And there you have it: you’re welcome in Orlando even if you’re afraid of the rides, since the city offers endless entertainment possibilities for the entire family. Even so, something is gnawing at me: Am I really going to come to this city and not try the spectacular theme parks that have made it a world-famous draw for adrenaline junkies? It seems I am, because there are very low-key theme park attractions (no one is looking) and the shops and restaurants are likewise themed, so you don’t need to brave a roller coaster to feel like you’re part of the action. One way or another, you’ll fall for the magic of Orlando.

An Enormous Outdoor Museum

Orlando is famous for its notable collection of outdoor sculptures that can be enjoyed simply by strolling the streets and plazas, an aesthetic experience in itself. Among the most famous pieces are those that beautify the Lake Nona garden (near Lake Nona Town Center and the Orlando Museum of Art), as well as the ones that appear on the grounds of the Mennello Museum of American Art. Every year in late January the Orange County Arts & Cultural Affairs Office sets up a selection of sculptures on The Lawn in front of the County Administration Center featuring top-quality pieces by national and international sculptors.
Mennello Museum of American Art 

Orange County Administration Center

201 S Rosalind Avenue 

City Arts 

39 S Magnolia Avenue 


420 East Church Street 

More information on the art scene

in downtown Orlando:

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