Discovering Orlando’s Historic Downtown Neighbourhoods and Parks

Downtown Orlando offers a welcome reprieve from the purpose-built areas to the south-west of the city that have been created solely to accommodate tourists. In fact, many of the historic downtown neighbourhoods are beautiful, offer a great variety of architecture, and give you a feeling of community where regular people actually live and work.

Right around the downtown core are a number of beautiful neighbourhoods that lend themselves nicely to exploration on foot. Some of the streets are cobble-stoned, making them the perfect destination for a neighbourhood walk.

After visiting Loch Haven Park, on this grey and drizzly day, we decided to drive south, park our vehicle and explore some of the central neighbourhoods on foot. We parked in Lake Cherokee Park, walked all the way around the lake and delighted in admiring the upscale architecture and the wildlife on the lake.

Bird lovers are able to see a great variety of water birds right in the middle of town and we observed one waterbird, as it sat quietly and then catapulted its head forward to catch its winged prey, all within a split second…

On this misty day the atmosphere was even a bit mysterious, with Spanish moss hanging down from ancient oak trees. You could almost see mist drifting off the lake. One of the interesting features of Orlando are its lakes, more than 300 of them, that can be found throughout the entire city, and many of them are equipped with facilities and public parks.

We carried on from Lake Cherokee to Lake Lucerne, which is immediately south of Orlando’s downtown core. Several fountains adorn the middle of the lake and you get a perfect view of downtown Orlando’s architecture.

Orlando has a surprising number of public parks with special facilities that provide recreational opportunities for local residents as well as tourists. With the help of the City of Orlando’s website I have compiled a list of some of the special outdoor public spaces that Orlando has to offer. These places include a very reasonably priced golf course, Loch Haven Park – Orlando’s center of culture and science, the Dickson Azalea Park, a variety of wetland areas, an ecology center, camping and more. In one word, public spaces that offer free or inexpensive recreational and educational opportunities:

Lake Cherokee is bordered by a 3.8 acre scenic park and surrounded by the Lake Cherokee Historic district, a residential neighborhood with architecture representing virtually every significant period of Orlando’s history.

Lake Eola Park is a popular destination in the downtown area, with many people taking advantage of the beautiful surroundings to walk at lunch or in the evenings. The sidewalk that circles the lake is .9 miles in length, making it easy for visitors to keep track of their walking or running distances. Other activities available to park visitors include renting ($10 for ½ hour) swan-shaped paddle boats, feeding the live swans and other birds inhabiting the park, being paddled around the lake on a romantic gondola cruise (www.gondola.com), seeing a concert or a play in the Walt Disney Amphitheater, watching the children play in the playground, grabbing a bite to eat at The Terrace on Lake Eola or relaxing amid beautiful flower beds and a spectacular view of Orlando’s skyline.

Orlando Loch Haven Park covers 45 acres and serves as the region’s premier cultural park. Nestled between three lakes, Lake Estelle on the north, Lake Rowena on the east, and Lake Formosa on the south, the park is located on North Mills Avenue and Princeton Street. The park was renovated in February 2001. With the many museums or theatre groups located in the park, there is always something new to see or do. The lawn areas in the center portion of the park are wonderful places to sit and enjoy the lake views shaded by majestic oak trees. One of Central Florida’s oldest and largest oak trees, “The Mayor”, grows in the park near Orlando’s Mennello Museum of American Folk Art.

Located just minutes from downtown Orlando, Dubsdread Golf Course features the oldest public layout in the area, originally designed in 1923. This classic course has plenty of history attached to it as the former site of the Orlando Open, when it hosted such golf legends as Sam Snead, Ben Hogan, and Claude Harmon. Today, golfers are treated to the same beautiful scenery and challenges of the original course, including narrow fairways and heavily bunkered greens. A full restaurant and bar complete the ultimate golfing experience. Dubsdread is also the home of the Dubsdread Golf Learning Center, a full service teaching facility. Visit “http://www.historicaldubsdread.com” for more information.

The Mayor Carl T. Langford Neighborhood Center provides a natural oasis in downtown Orlando. The center is located in a shady oasis of mature oaks, wide sidewalks, green lawns, birds, butterflies and plenty of room for the kids to play. Young children will love the swinging bridge over the creek and the playground . There are a great deal of educational and fun nature programs offered in this beautiful neighorbood center.It offers a yearly summer nature and art camp, as well as family and corporate picnics at a reasonable rate. The Mayor Carl T. Langford Park is a beautiful place to have a quaint wedding ceremony at an affordable rate. The Central Florida Folk, Inc. performs the second Sunday of each month through fall and spring.

The Wetlands Park is a great place to come out, relax and enjoy nature. The most popular activities are bird-watching, nature photography, jogging and bicycling. Nature enthusiasts will be greeted by 1,650 acres of hardwood hammocks, marshes and lakes. There are over 20 miles of roads and woodland trails crisscrossing the Park.

Experience a walk through time as you meander along Fern Creek in historic Dickson Azalea Park located across the street from the City of Orlando’s Mayor Carl T. Langford Park. The Washington Street Bridge was constructed in 1926 and is reflective of many bridges found in South Florida. The lush landscaping, singing birds and flowing water are a treat to many visitors. This park is an oasis for those needing a quiet place to eat lunch or to reflect when this area was a watering hole years ago for cattle ranchers to quench the thirst of their cattle in Ferncreek. The dragonflies, shady trees and quietness of Dickson Azalea Park are a must see for people of all ages to experience.

Enjoy a day of family fun and play in the City of Orlando’s beautiful 300-acre Bill Frederick Park at Turkey Lake. Open year-round, seven days a week this park has something for everyone. A swimming pool is open for those hot summer days, large pavilions for huge group picnics are available for rent and small sun shelters for family gatherings are available on a first come first serve basis. The well stocked lake for fishing is tempting to all anglers from novice to experienced. A children’s farm is on-site as a remnant of the farm era of the property. The Ecology Center has an air conditioned meeting room. The camping area is a reasonably priced destination for people from all over the U.S. and the world who visit Orlando and area attractions. Another area has bunk houses and grills for those nature based group retreats or chaperoned youth groups. Park visitors are offered a wide variety of nature-oriented activities including: hiking, baseball / softball, volleyball, biking, and large playground for the kids. Feel free to take advantage of our Youth Group rates, Family Pass and Individual Pass.

As you can see, in addition to theme parks, Orlando offers a surprising variety of inexpensive family fun and recreational opportunities off the beaten path that offer interesting things to explore for the whole family.

For more information about Orlando please contact the Orlando Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Visiting Chapman Cultural Center in Spartanburg, SC

The Chapman Cultural Center in Spartanburg, South Carolina, is a wonderful place to experience the performing and visual arts, science, and history. It is owned and operated by The Arts Partnership of Greater Spartanburg and is located at 200 E. St. John Street, just east of downtown. The complex consists of three buildings on a five acre campus. The Chapman Cultural Center opened in 2007, but was 17 years in the making.

The Arts Partnership of Greater Spartanburg consists of several agencies. They include the Artists’ Guild of Spartanburg, Ballet Spartanburg, Carolina Foothills Artisan Center, The Music Foundation of Spartanburg, Spartanburg Art Museum, Spartanburg County Historical Association, Spartanburg Little Theatre and Spartanburg Youth Theatre, The Spartanburg Repertory Company, and Spartanburg Science Center.

There are several exhibit and museum areas in the complex. These include the Artists’ Guild Gallery, SAM Art Gallery, Spartanburg Regional History Museum, and the Spartanburg Science Center. A separate admission fee is charged for each museum or gallery.

Three buildings make up the Chapman Cultural Center complex. The Carlos Moseley Building contains the Regional History Museum, Artists’ Guild Gallery, SAM (Spartanburg Art Museum) Art Gallery, and the Ticket Office. The Theater Building in the center of the complex contains the David Reid Theater and the Black Box Theater. The Montgomery Building houses the Spartanburg Science Center and the Spartanburg Dance Center.

Special camps on the calendar for July include Musical Theatre Camp, July 5-9 for grades 4-12 and Advanced Acting Camp, July 12-16 for grades 8-12. On July 10 at 7:00PM the classic movie Jaws will be shown on the big screen. The Artists’ Guild Gallery will host wax and oil paintings by Carol Beth Icard from July 1-28. The Spartanburg Art Museum will be showing the nationally touring bronze wildlife sculptures of Swedish artist Kent Ullberg from July 13-31.

For tickets call (864)542-ARTS. For additional information visit the center’s website at http://www.chapmanculturalcenter.org

Exploring Orlando’s Loch Haven Park: A Center of Arts and Culture

On this overcast day we decided to explore other areas of Orlando in more detail. About 10 minutes north of downtown Orlando is Loch Haven Park, an area that holds a number of major attractions, including theOrlando Museum of Art, the Mennello Museum of American Art as well as the Orlando Repertory Theatre, the Orlando-UCF Shakespeare Festival, the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Orlando Science Center.

We started our exploration off with a trip to the Leu Botanical Gardens. The centerpiece of the gardens is the Leu House Museum, a restored farmhouse dating back to 1888. It is located on Lake Rowena, one of the hundreds of lakes in Orlando, and surrounded by a 50 acre garden of roses, palms and camellias. The complex also features an orchid house with one of the best collections of orchids in the United States. The Leu Botanical Gardens also offer a new tropical stream garden, a kitchen garden complete with herbs and vegetables and a butterfly garden.

Just 10 minutes away is Loch Haven Park, one of Orlando’s centers of art, culture, and science. One of the main attractions is Orlando Museum of Art (OMA), one of Florida’s cultural gems and a popular destination for visitors from all over the world. The collection features American art from the 19th century to the present, African art and art of the ancient Americas. Outstanding temporary exhibitions are drawn from private collections and those of the world’s great museums.

The upcoming exhibition at the OMA is called the “The Art of the Motorcycle”. Based on the landmark Guggenheim Museum exhibition, it explores the motorcycle as both cultural icon and design achievement and offers a thought-provoking challenge to conventional assumptions about art and popular culture in the modern age. The exhibition will run from Jan. 22 – July 23, 2006 and feature more than 70 historic and contemporary motorcycles.

The Mennello Museum of American Art is centered around the Museum’s outstanding permanent collection of paintings by Earl Cunningham (1893-1977). It also houses special exhibitions, publications, and programs that celebrate outstanding traditional and contemporary Amercian artists. The Museum’s Cunningham collection was donated by collectors Marilyn and Michael Mennello of Winter Park, Florida, and was opened to the public on Nov. 22, 1998.

The Orlando Science Center includes ten themed exhibit halls with a large variety of interactive activities for children and adults. A CineDome Planetarium shows large format films and an Adventure Theater as well as five Discovery Laboratories can keep everyone busy for hours. In total the Science Center has four levels of hands-on exhibits, a 200-seat cafe, 7,000 square feet of exhibition space for national and international traveling exhibits. The Orlando Science Center is open Monday to Thursdays from 9 am to 5 pm, Fridays and Saturdays from 9 am to 9 pm, and Sundays from noon to 5 pm.

The Orlando-UCF Shakespeare Festival is a non-profit professional theater that produces professional productions of Shakespeare, classics and contemporary plays, as well as plays for young audiences. The group also develops new plays from readings through World Premieres and fosters innovative educational programs to serve the community.

As a professional theatre for family audiences in partnership with UCF, Orlando Repertory Theatre (The Rep) opened its doors on October 9, 2003. The theatre focusses on classic and contemporary children’s literature. It is a place where young audiences can come and experience the adventure and creative wonder of watching their favorite characters come to life.

Loch Haven’s cultural offerings continue with the annual Orlando International Fringe Festival of theatrical performances. The 10-day, world-renowned festival showcases original works; premiere performances; and first-class improvisational comedy, musicals, drama, mime and dance in 500 shows by more than 300 performers from around the world.

Sculptures outside the The Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra is Central Florida’s resident orchestra, appearing in more than 105 performances each season. As a fully professional ensemble, the Orlando Philharmonic engages the talents of more than 80 professional musicians from around the globe. The Philharmonic’s mission is to foster and promote symphonic music through excellence in performance, education and cultural leadership.

For general information about Orlando please contact the Orlando Visitors and Convention Bureau.