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Orlando’s Cultural Gems: A Guide for Families

Uncover the magic of Central Florida’s history, art museums and cultural events with your kids.

Beyond the thrilling rides and character meet-and-greets, Orlando offers a sometimes-overlooked cultural scene, providing diverse experiences for kids and parents alike. If you’re looking for something outside the theme park box, check out some of Orlando’s finest cultural spots.

Hit up the vibrant Mills 50 District, an epicenter of creativity and culture! If you’re a boba tea trailblazer, you’ll remember that the Orlando boba boom kicked off at Chewy Boba (chewyboba.com) in this very district. Positioned at the crossroads of Colonial Drive and Mills Avenue, the Mills 50 District has a bustling Asian community with markets and eateries dishing out Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Korean and Vietnamese delights. Over the years, it’s grown into an urban haven full of charm and diversity. Offering everything from family-friendly outdoor dining at Pig Floyd’s or The Brass Tap (where there are plenty of yard games) to local artisan markets and special events like the upcoming Central Florida Dragon Parade in February. Another must: Take your kids on an artsy mural tour through the Mills 50 District and end the day with a 30-inch pizza at Lazy Moon.

Winter Park Library

The Winter Park Library and Events Center is a masterpiece of innovation. Designed by the legendary Sir David Adjaye, this architectural wonder greets you with an eye-catching entrance pavilion and views of Lake Mendsen. Inside, there’s something for all ages and abilities, complete with interactive youth zones, a visionary auditorium, maker spaces and even an entrepreneurship center. Take the kids to enjoy early literacy classes such as Pajama Time, Tales for Twos or Preschool Express.

Rollins Museum of Art | Art Explorers Club

Ready to dive into an art-filled treasure hunt? Look no further than the Art Explorers Club (ages 6–13) at the Rollins Museum of Art. This is more than your average museum membership; kids will embark on creative missions within the museum. As each mission is completed, explorers will collect stamps in a special passport. In addition, the museum opens its doors early on the second Saturday of each month for Family Studio. Guided by museum educators, children ages 5–10 (plus an accompanying adult) get an up-close look at works of art. After a kid-sized tour, they’ll settle in for a story and then make some art of their own.

Make memories at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, a hub for Broadway musicals, family-friendly theater and the best of ballet, opera and classical music. Local families can also enjoy comedy shows, holiday performances and performing arts classes at this beautiful building in the heart of downtown Orlando. Tickets are on sale now to see Annie (October 24–29), Encanto: The Sing-Along Film Concert (November 12), Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse Live in Concert (November 21 and 22), and Coco in Concert on Tour (November 26).

Photo: Roberto Gonzalez

Discover a haven for creativity at The A&H’s Maitland Art Center, the only National Historic Landmark in Central Florida. This hidden gem boasts Mayan Revival outdoor architecture and lush gardens perfect for an afternoon walk or picnic with the kids. Afterward, roam through The Art & History Museums of Maitland’s (A&H) four on-site museums, which include everything from contemporary art to interactive history exhibits. Also, look out for their new family events, which include “Little Creatives & Me at A&H,” Homeschool Days and free entry with themed activities at their seasonal Family Days.

Treat the kids to a picnic at the lakeside sculpture garden at Winter Park’s Mennello Museum of American Art. Upon your arrival, you can’t miss the captivating old oak tree, begging to be climbed, right by the parking lot. The second Sunday of every month is Free Family Funday. Get free admission, take a docent-led tour through exhibits and then create your own masterpiece inspired by the talents showcased in the museum. For those craving more adventure, bring your bike for a ride along the Orlando Urban Trail located next to the museum.

For the best in children’s theater, look no further than the newly renamed Orlando Family Stage. This professional theater for young audiences offers a diverse range of live performances, including theatrical productions, musical acts and interactive shows suitable for all ages. With its welcoming atmosphere and engaging lineup, the Orlando Family Stage is a beloved destination for creating lasting memories and enjoying quality entertainment together as a family.

After you visit the swans at Lake Eola, check out the Orange County Regional History Center next to Heritage Square Park. Inside, you can explore four floors of interactive exhibits showcasing the area’s rich history, covering topics like Central Florida’s cattle and citrus industry, the theme park era, aviation and more. Visit on the first Saturday of the month between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. for History Alive!, a themed event offering hands-on activities. Families with an Autism Society of Greater Orlando (ASGO) membership can enjoy free admission on Sensory Sundays from noon to 4 p.m.

Photo courtesy of the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex

One of the coolest parts of Central Florida’s unique culture is having front-row seats to NASA’S rocket launches. Not only can locals witness rockets breaking the sound barrier, but they also enjoy easy access to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. Spend the day chatting with an astronaut, marveling at the Space Shuttle Atlantis or exploring Gateway: The Deep Space Launch Complex. Plan your next visit during the Taste of Space Fall Bites (October 2–November 5), featuring fall dishes for purchase throughout the complex.

Photo: Jessica Friend Photo Design

Expose even the tiniest tots to the fine arts at the Orlando Museum of Art. Family Highlights Tours, where a docent leads you on a gallery adventure, are offered on the first Saturday of each month at 1 p.m. (September through May). Another option are the Stroller Tours, where parents and caregivers are invited to bring infants and toddlers for a 1-hour tour without worrying about disturbing other museumgoers. This program is offered twice a month through the end of the year.

For the thespians among us, Orlando Shakes produces classic, contemporary and children’s plays. Their 35th Season Children’s Series features entertaining adaptations of family favorites that parents and grandparents will want to share with the little ones in their lives. Purchase tickets now for The True Story of the Three Little Pigs! that runs from October 18 through November 11. All Children’s Series productions are age-appropriate and run approximately 50 minutes.

 

Written by
Heather Reneau

Heather Reneau is an Oviedo mom of two and a graphic designer/art director with a natural flair for writing. Her entrepreneurial spirit has led her down many business paths, including conceiving and producing PLAYGROUND Magazine back in 2007. It's her passion to celebrate local people and spread the word about quality family businesses, services and events in Orlando and beyond.

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Written by Heather Reneau

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