Orlando: The City Beautiful

From theme parks to beaches, Tampa Bay has it all. The chic shopping districts and outlet malls will satisfy the shopping enthusiasts, the thriving art scenes will fulfill art lovers, and the hip restaurant scene will electrify the foodies.  With convenient locations to some of the most famous beaches that include Clearwater Beach, Tampa Bay is every travelers dream and a local’s paradise. But for those who want to get out of Tampa for a day or two, one tank trips are just what the doctor ordered.  For the next few weeks we will discuss short trips from Tampa that won’t break the bank.

We can’t talk about a day trip from Tampa without bringing up Orlando, home of Disney World, Universal Studios, and Sea World.  But there is so much more to Orlando than theme parks.  Here you can explore the famous Church Street Station, take a stroll around Lake Eola, or visit the Orlando Science Center and Goff’s Ice Cream.  There are tons and tons of restaurants to enjoy such as Landry’s, Emeril’s Orlando (if you’re feeling fancy), and Metro Diner. Don’t forget to pick up a couple of tickets to see the Orlando Magic.

Here’s a list of things to do in Orlando that won’t break the bank:

THE CORNELL FINE ARTS MUSEUM sits on the campus of Rollins College,and has a wonderful collection that includes the works of Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso and Thomas Moran, among others. Admissions is FREE to students or $5 fee otherwise.

CHARLES HOSMER MORSE MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART: This museum contains one of the world’s most impressive collections of famed artist Louis Comfort Tiffany, plus the artist and designer’s jewelry, pottery, paintings, art glass, leaded-glass lamps and windows. FREE Fridays between 4 pm and 8 pm November through April is a great time to go.

THE ZORA NEALE HURSTON NATIONAL MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS: This museum takes you through history starting with the author’s humble beginnings and displays creative works of other artists of African descent. It’s FREE admission but donations are accepted.

THE GRAND BOHEMIAN GALLERY: The gallery features a variety of art, including jewelry, glass and sculpture. This gallery is a part of the Grand Bohemian Hotel and is a sight to see.

CITYARTS FACTORY: This is an eclectic collection of art galleries in downtown Orlando showcasing local and international artists, plus there is FREE admission Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

THE HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL RESOURCE AND EDUCATION CENTER: This center presents an overview of the history of the Holocaust and serves as a memorial to victims. The center also hosts many educational events, films and commemorative programs.

BLACK HAMMOCK ADVENTURES: They offer offers FREE live alligator and bird exhibits on Lake Jesup, near Orlando. At the Lazy Gator an enjoy FREE, live music on Friday and Saturday nights.

HARRY P. LEU GARDENS offers visitors 50-acre gardens with winding pathways through over 40 different plant collections, including a butterfly garden and Florida’s largest rose garden. There is FREE admission from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the first Monday of every month.

UNIVERSITY OF CENTRAL FLORIDA’S ARBORETUM: This is home to more than 600 plant species on an 80-acre property. Visitors can walk through a self-guided tour to view many native plant species.

KRAFT AZALEA GARDEN: This 5.22-acre public garden is located on the shore of Lake Maitland and is open all year from 8 a.m. until dusk. Kraft Azalea is Winter Park’s (just North of Orlando) secret garden with a unique lakefront.

THE WINTER PARK FARMER’S MARKET: This is held from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Saturday and is one of the most popular sites. Local vendors and farmers sell their homemade and homegrown specialties, including fruits, vegetables, organic produce, and more.

LAKE EOLA PARK: A 43-acre recreational area in the heart of downtown Orlando. Visitors can picnic along the shore, enjoy FREE concerts at the amphitheater or feed the resident swans. The majestic fountain and graceful swan boats make for a neat setting.

FORT CHRISTMAS HISTORICAL PARK: This is a little slice of old Florida. Visit the fort, the historical homes on site and the gift shop, as it’s the fort from the Second Seminole Indian War and includes historical structures and pioneer demonstrations.

MALL OF MILLENIA: This is a large mall that features designer shops. To buy something won’t be FREE, but you can window shop from famous designers and the mall in and of itself is a grand sight to see. This could be a good stop if the weather’s not great

STROLL ON THE STREETS OF CELEBRATION: The community, conceived by Disney, is a blend of historic-themed architecture and modern technology. They offer many events, dining and shopping opportunities.

LEGO IMAGINATION CENTER at downtown Disney Marketplace is 4,400-square feet of fun from dinosaurs made of LEGO bricks to a play play area for kids to explore. The building area at LEGO and the Disney Downtown area has no fee.

DISNEY’S FORT WILDERNESS: Camp out and roast marshmallows with Disney characters Chip n’ Dale for FREE. The evening sing-a-long around the campfire includes a viewing of a Disney movie for the kids too.

DISNEY’S BOARDWALK: Features free, live street entertainment in the evenings, including comedians, jazz ensembles and fire shows.

MAGIC KINGDOM FIREWORKS: Even if you’re not in the park, the Magic Kingdom fireworks can be seen from other areas. You can take the FREE tram to the Transportation and Ticket Center for the best up-close views of the fireworks.

WEKIWA SPRINGS STATE PARK: The park offers a variety of outdoor activities and a natural history museum. Admission is FREE in September if you bring a book, library card or library book.

THE WINTER PARK HISTORICAL MUSEUM: Houses a photo timeline of the history of Winter Park and features changing themed exhibits. This area is just North of Orlando.

KISSIMMEE OLD TOWN has free entertainment after 7:30 p.m. every night.

CHILDREN’S LIBRARY:  The Children’s Library offers a variety of events,  including special readings, arts and crafts, family movie nights and more.