By Janet K. Keeler
Florida may have some of the nation’s best beaches, but the state’s interior still attracts its share of attention. And by interior, we mean land-locked Orlando, which logged 113-million tourists in 2016.
The biggest attractors by far are Disney World, Universal Orlando (Harry Potter!) and SeaWorld Orlando. Disney World’s four theme parks, two water parks and shopping and entertainment complex plus network of hotels brings visitors from around the world. Universal also has a selection parks, hotels and dining that promise more fantasy fun.
The theme parks do a fine job of making rides and other activities accessible to disabled travelers. Guest services at each park can provide information and assistance, including wheelchairs, Braille guides, sign-language interpreters and listening devices. Many of the rides are accessible to people in wheelchairs.
Sometimes, though, an Orlando adventurer is theme-parked-out. Sure there is shopping, and plenty of dining options in “The City Beautiful,” but a day spent looking at beautiful – or at least mind-expanding – things might just be the respite a ride-weary tourist needs. And if it’s air-conditioned, so much the better.
The Orlando Museum of Art is just such the place, thanks to its 80,000-square-foot facility dedicated to showcasing local, regional, national and international work. The museum is fully accessible with wheelchairs available for loan, and assisted listening devices too. Accessible bathrooms are in the main lobby.
The museum is located in Loch Haven Park in northern Orlando just off Interstate 4 (exit at Princeton Street). The park is bound by three lakes (there are more than 100 in the city) – Estelle, Rowena and Formosa. The museum is not the only place to visit in Loch Haven, also home to the Orlando Shakespeare Theater, Orlando Fire Museum, Orlando Science Center and Orlando Repertory Theatre. The “Rep” specializes in programming for children and families. Large-scale sculpture gardens on the grounds plus a network of paved walkways make the 45-acre park an intriguing attraction on its own.
The theme here is arts and science.
Now, back to a visit to the Orlando Museum of Art.
Summer is an interesting time to visit the museum, and not because the ice-cold air bringing serious relief. The annual Florida Prize in Contemporary Art show recognizes 10 Florida artists in a summer exhibition, with one winning the Florida Prize. The work spans genres, from painting to film to photography to installation. It’s a relatively new traditional at the museum but one that keeps attracting more attention.
Throughout the year, there are a number of exhibitions and other events that add educational context to the programming. Exhibits have included The Wyeths and American artists in Maine; artifacts from the ancient peoples of the Americas; The British Invasion including photographs of the Beatles and Rolling Stones, and work by children’s book illustrator Eric Rhomann (“Giant Squid;” “Time Flies;” “The Prairie Train”).
The Orlando Museum of Art, which was founded in 1924, has a rich permanent collection including American art from the 18th century to 1945, plus art of the Ancient Americas and African art. The 2,400 items in the permanent collection are shown in various exhibitions.
For decades, the annual Festival of Trees has transformed the museum into a holiday winter wonderland with glittering trees and other seasonal tableaus. The nine-day event is a city highlight during November. The annual three-day Antiques Vintage and Garden Show is held in February and is also a big draw locally and regionally. The crowded lanes of wares could provide a challenge to wheelchair users or others with mobility issues.
After a few hours of art-loving, you might want to grab something to eat. The White Wolf Café & Bar at the western tip of Lake Formosa is in the Ivanhoe Village District of the city. In recent years, more and more Orlando neighborhoods have been marketing themselves as alternative places to visit in Florida’s ground zero for theme parks, and Ivanhoe is one such place. The White Wolf serves breakfast, lunch and dinner and is open for a popular Sunday brunch. The bistro menu sports a wide selection of salads, but how can you go wrong with Sriracha Chips, garnishes with bacon and blue cheese? Flatbreads, burgers and full-on dinner entrees look good too.
Art and the art of food? Say “yes” in Orlando.
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