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There’s so much to do for any mood all around Central Florida, but Orlando is of course the epicenter of arts and entertainment in the region. After all, it’s the number 1 tourist destination in the country, attracting more than 60 million visitors annually. And while the world-famous theme parks and resorts have a lot to do with that, there are also some fantastic cultural institutions in the city.
Many of them happen to be clustered in one location: Loch Haven Park. This cultural hub is set on 45 beautiful acres of park land, nestled between three lakes (Lake Estelle to the north, Lake Rowena to the east, and Lake Formosa to the south). One of Central Florida’s oldest and biggest live oak trees is in the park, too; it’s known as “The Mayor,” and it’s about 350 years old.
Loch Haven Park is adjacent to Orlando’s Ivanhoe Village Main Street area, a well-known antiquing destination. It’s also just north of the Mills50 District, where you’ll find the city’s Vietnamese enclave featuring dozens of authentic East Asian restaurants, supermarkets, shops, and more. But the park itself offers plenty to do.
Here’s a quick look at Loch Haven Park’s museums and theaters:
The Orlando Museum of Art has celebrated permanent collections dedicated to American art, African art, art of the ancient Americas, contemporary art, and contemporary graphics. In addition, it hosts rotating temporary exhibits that change approximately monthly. All sorts of events go on throughout the year at the museum as well.
With collections from numerous periods and styles of American art, this museum is the former private home of Howard Phillips, son of local philanthropist Dr. P. Phillips—a man whose name is familiar to anyone who’s been in the area even a little while. There’s also an outdoor sculpture garden, temporary exhibits, and special events, including the fun Indie Folkfest in Februaries.
This is a nationally and internationally renowned venue, offering the highest caliber theatre around. While they produce plenty of Shakespeare plays, there’s a lot of other material staged in the few theaters, too. Drama, comedy, musicals… there’s great variety here and exceptionally talented actors, directors, set and costume designers, and other artists to deliver it.
For something a little different, check out this two-story brick building that was once Orlando Fire Station Number 3, which dates back to 1926. There’s all sorts of firefighting equipment and vehicles dating as far back as the early 1900s, a memorial to fallen firefighters, historic photographs, and more. It’s free admission, but the museum’s only open Fridays, Saturdays, and by appointment.
If the grandkids are in town, this is a fun, educational place to take them. It’s packed with interactive exhibits dedicated to many fields of science and technology, and it’s engaging for children of all ages—and adults! There are live gators, dinosaur digs, engineering challenges, the chance to be a meteorologist on TV, kinetics experiments, a hands-on exploration of citrus harvesting, and lots more.
The Rep, as it’s known to locals, is Florida’s only full-time professional theater for young audiences. It’s another good idea for your to-do list when the grandchildren are visiting. Highly dedicated local talent puts on plays and musicals that never fail to delight the little ones. It’s guaranteed to be a simultaneously entertaining and enriching experience for kids.
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