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Unexpected Orlando

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In a region where theme parks define the vacation experience, visitors can also find an "Unexpected Orlando" abounding with surprisingly diverse cultural and natural attractions. Unique and enriching experiences include the arts, history, heritage, parks, zoos, gardens and outdoor recreation - making Orlando a well-rounded vacation experience unlike any other.


Note to Guides: Spend a day in scenic Winter Park, a historic lakeside community just a few miles north of downtown Orlando. Founded as a resort destination by wealthy New England Industrialists in the late 1800s, Winter Park is now home to some of Central Florida's most treasured cultural gems.

Winter Park is also home to numerous festivals, including the Bach Festival in February, the Winter Park Sidewalk Art Festival in March, the Florida Film Festival in March/April and the Winter Park Concours d'Elegance car show in November.


The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art 
Start your day surrounded by the inspirational beauty of the world's most comprehensive collection of works by Louis Comfort Tiffany. Pieces on permanent display include Tiffany's ornate chapel interior for the 1893 Chicago World's Fair, stained glass panels, windows and lamps, as well as late- 19th and early 20th century American art pottery, paintings and decorative art. The large gift shop offers tasteful souvenirs and gifts for children and adults.

Winter Park Scenic Boat Tour 
Take a relaxing, one-hour, narrated boat cruise through Winter Park's beautiful lakes and canals, where you'll enjoy unspoiled views of the historic Rollins College, Kraft Azalea Gardens, and the Albin Polasek Museum and Sculpture Gardens, as well as sprawling lakeside mansions. Be on the lookout for tropical birds, plants and flowers pointed out by your experienced guide.


Park Avenue and the Cornell Fine Arts Museum 
Take a leisurely stroll down brick-paved Park Avenue, exploring boutiques and shops. Enjoy lunch in one of the many restaurants offering outdoor seating, or enjoy your meal on a bench surrounding the rose garden at Central Park. At the south end of Park Ave. you'll find historic Rollins College, Florida's oldest private college and the Cornell Fine Arts Museum, which boasts an impressive collection of works from antiquity through the 21st century.

Albin Polasek Museum and Sculpture Gardens 
You received a sneak peak of his grand sculptures from the Scenic Boat Tour, but now you'll have a chance to explore the entire collection of internationally acclaimed sculptor Albin Polasek on the beautiful grounds of his estate. Linger in the lush gardens on the tranquil shores of Lake Osceola, then tour Polasek's home and art gallery, which is listed on National Register of Historic Places, to learn how he lived and worked.

Evening options:

The Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra
Orlando's only resident professional symphonic organization entertains year-round with several concert series, including family-friendly presentations. Programming ranges from traditional to contemporary, from local to international. See the website for the concert schedule.

Orlando Ballet 
Central Florida's premier professional dance organization, the Orlando Ballet consistently presents the region's highest quality dance productions December through May. See the website for show dates.


Note to Guides: Get to know the authentic Florida that existed long before the theme parks by spending the day outdoors at some of the area's natural attractions. Central Florida's sub-tropical climate, with an average daily temperature of a comfortable 72.4 F, creates an ideal environment for a myriad of native plant and animal species, including the infamous Florida alligator.


Central Florida Zoo and Botanical Gardens 
The lush, tropical setting of the Central Florida Zoo provides a relaxing and educational experience for all ages. Stroll along winding boardwalks and paths to discover native Florida animals as well as hundreds of species from around the world, including exotic birds, towering Asian elephants, sleek cheetahs and leopards, playful spider monkeys, some of the world's most venomous reptiles, and much more.


Harry P. Leu Gardens 
Pack a picnic lunch to enjoy at this 50-acre botanical garden, which features three miles of paved trails, a stunning formal rose garden, butterfly and herb gardens and one of the largest camellia collections in North America. Don't miss the Leu House Museum, situated in the midst of the gardens. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the house provides a glimpse of the Florida lifestyle of the 1880s.

Orange County Regional History Center
Take a respite from the sun in the air-conditioned comfort of the History Center, where you'll travel 12,000 years into Central Florida history through a series of interactive exhibits. See Florida's colorful past unfold through the eyes of Native Americans, Spanish Explorers, cattle drivers and "Tin Can Tourists," then chart the development of Florida's first theme parks and the space race. A former jail and courthouse where serial killer Ted Bundy stood trial, the History Center is even rumored to be haunted.


Boggy Creek Airboat Rides 
Adventure seekers will love the opportunity to skim across the swamp in total darkness on a jet-engine powered airboat. Moonlight and the captain's miner's hat provide all the illumination you'll need to spot ferocious alligators gliding across the water in search of prey. The one-hour evening tour is seasonal and may not be offered in colder months. Daytime tours and catering for groups are also available. Reservations are required for groups and evening rides.


Note to Guides: In addition to arts, culture and history, luxury activities like spas, golf and world-class shopping enhance the Unexpected Orlando vacation experience. With 176 golf courses within an hour's drive of Orlando, nearly 20 destination spas, and high-end shopping at malls and upscale outlet centers, there's no better place than Orlando to pamper and play.

Morning options:

Rosen Shingle Creek Golf Course 
Named one of Orlando's best new courses by Golfweek magazine, the David Harman-designed, 18-hole, par 72 (7,228 yards) championship Shingle Creek golf course features undulating fairways and interconnecting waterways bordered by the natural backdrop of dense oaks and pines along historic Shingle Creek. The onsite Brad Brewer Golf Academy offers individual and group lessons as well as team building exercises.

Spa at Rosen Shingle Creek 
Relax and rejuvenate in style at The Spa at the luxurious AAA Four-Diamond Rosen Shingle Creek Hotel. One of the only Central Florida spas to offer barefoot Ashiatsu massage, The Spa also offers a variety of signature massages, body treatments, facials and salon services infused with the soothing properties of cedar and citrus.
After a morning of golf or spa appointments, enjoy lunch at A Land Remembered, a classic steakhouse overlooking the golf course.


Mall at Millenia
Featuring 120 stores, the upscale Mall at Millenia offers the ultimate day of shopping. Here, you'll find luxury shops such as Salvatore Ferragamo, Jimmy Choo and Juicy Couture, department stores Bloomingdale's, Macy's and Neiman Marcus, as well as popular retailers like Abercrombie & Fitch and Pottery Barn. A food court and five full-service restaurants - Brio Tuscan Grill, P.F. Chang's China Bistro, The Cheesecake Factory, Capital Grille and California Pizza Kitchen - cater to every taste.

Evening options:

Mad Cow Theatre 
This intimate two-theatre complex has a new home in downtown Orlando. The award-winning theater company presents contemporary and classic plays and musicals year-round.

Cirque Du Soleil, La Nouba 
La Nouba, meaning to party or "live it up" contrasts the worlds of colorful circus people and monochromatic urbanites in an imaginative display of acrobatics and stunts. With a permanent home at Downtown Disney, this incredible production is offered twice daily Tuesdays through Saturdays most days of the year.

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