Science, History & Art
With world-class theme parks and scene-stealing sunsets, Central Florida’s outdoor attractions rightly get top billing, but the diverse range of museums and galleries in Orlando are sure to surprise many.
Art and culture fans have an amazing choice when it comes to museums, galleries and art spaces. Whether you want to explore the past, see historic artistry with your own eyes, or just immerse yourself in gorgeous paintings and sculpture you’ll not soon forget, you won’t want to miss Orlando’s museums and galleries!
Our local museums and gallery spaces always have something new happening, and you can keep up to date with all the latest exhibitions and more, right here at Gotta Go Orlando Going Out Guide!
We've listed here the top museums in the Orlando area, all are well worth a visit.
Orlando Science Center
For over 60 years now, the Orlando Science Center has welcomed visitors into it's hands-on museum. The museum spanning four floors is full of interactive exhibits, labs, theaters, workshops and more. 3D movies and planetarium shows, towering dinosaur skeletons and the wonders of space, not to mention limited exhibits of all kinds.
The Orlando Science Center an ideal place to spend a day with or without children! Experience the gale force winds of a Category 1 hurricane firsthand, watch a live gator feeding, discover the real life sea monsters that ruled the prehistoric lands. gaze at the Rings of Saturn with Florida’s largest publicly accessible refractor telescope and take in a giant-screen movie or laser show in the Dr. Phillips CineDome.
The Orlando Museum Of Art
The Orlando Museum of Art is one of the oldest and most renowned in the Central Florida area, featuring nationally recognised exhibits, the Orlando Museum of Art was founded in 1924 and continues to be a must-go for locals who want to learn about the rich history within Orlando, while gazing upon historical and modern pieces of art.
Each year the museum presents 10 to12 different exhibitions on-site and 13 exhibitions off-site, so no matter when you go there will always be something new to see, and with collections both ancient and contemporary, the Orlando Museum of Art inspires visitors with its wide array of works. Textiles and pottery from Africa and Mesoamerica, beautiful American paintings and sculpture, fantastical modern graphics and mixed media pieces await. In addition to its permanent pieces, its calendar is alive each year with visiting exhibitions to spark both inspiration and conversation. Its Loch Haven Park location makes it one of a family of cultural venues just steps from one another.
On the first Thursday of each month the museum hosts local artists and live music from 6-9pm.
Orange County Regional History Center
The Orange County Regional History Center is located in a historic building from 1927 that was once the Orange County courthouse. Now the museum is used for documenting and teaching the public about Orlando’s rich history, you'll discover everything from the fun, early days of aviation to the more recent and tragic Pulse Nightclub tragedy,
Visit the Orange County Regional History Center and see various exhibits spread across four floors of the museum. It details around 12,000 years of Florida's history, including some interactive displays about Walt Disney.
The Orange County Regional History Center is affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution, which means several unique exhibitions and events also take place throughout the year from the Smithsonian Institution.
Mennello Museum of American Art
The Mennello Museum of American Art is a rotating exhibition featuring American art of all genres and periods.
A must-see at this prestigious Orlando art gallery is the permanent collection of paintings by self-taught artist Earl Cunningham. You can also explore the Sculpture Garden, which merges into the Orlando Urban Trail bicycle and pedestrian path. Yet another cultural gem of Orlando's Loch Haven Park, the Mennello Museum of American Art is housed in what was once a private home, creating an intimate space for a wide array of exhibitions. The Mennello features American art of all genres and is home to a permanent collection of paintings by "primitive" artist Earl Cunningham (1893-1977). Outside, a lakeside sculpture garden is yet another of its caches, and also where the Mennello hosts the annual Orlando Folk Festival, held the second week in February.
The Mennello has a rich calendar of events; many are appropriate for kids and families. Be sure to give it a look.
Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art
The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art is located in historic Winter Park. The museum houses the largest collection of works by Louis Comfort Tiffany and is home to American pottery, paintings and more.
This impressive museum, located in beautiful Winter Park, houses the most comprehensive collection of works by Louis Comfort Tiffany, including jewelry, paintings, art glass, leaded-glass lamps and more. Personal items from the artist's estate are also a part of its permanent exhibits. A brief but extremely informative video about Tiffany, his life and works, is recommended before touring the museum, offering visitors insight as they move through the gallery.
Rotating exhibits are often in place, as well, plus, free lectures and live music are not uncommon
When you walk into the Tiffany cathedral be sure to sit down and wait for the 'show.' Every few minutes the lights in the room go from bright to dim to show off the different ways the stained glass can reflect color.
Orlando Fire Museum
Want to make history as appealing to kids as it is to adults? Serving it up inside a restored 1926 fire house is a very good start. The Orlando Fire Museum showcases the history of the City Beautiful's bravest along with a host of antique equipment that includes an array of impressive fire engines: LaFrance apparatus from the early 1900s, a 1919 ladder truck and another from 1926 just to name a few. Additional artifacts on display include helmets and other tool along with lithographs. Volunteer guides here are retired Orlando firefighters; they really know their stuff. This free attraction is open on Friday and Saturday; donations for its upkeep are greatly appreciated.
Cornell Fine Arts Museum
The lovely architecture of the Rollins College campus is enough of a reason to pop in for a peek, but amid its Spanish buildings, art lovers have a haven in the intimate Cornell Fine Arts Museum. The venue is home to over 5,000 exceptional exhibits, including the only European Old Masters Collection in the Orlando area. Its treasures range from antique to contemporary. Traveling exhibits bring with them artistic treats from renowned masters and lesser-known but no less riveting artists in various mediums. Educational programs and gallery talks are offered free of charge and hands-on activities and scavenger hunts are often available for the youngest visitors.
Located in Rollin's College, it's right in the heart of Winter Park and overlooks the stunning Lake Virginia. You'll see over 500 paintings, 1,600 prints, drawings, photographs, and artefacts from the 14th to the 20th centuries.
Albin Polasek Museum and Sculpture Gardens
The stunning home of Albin Polasek, a Czech sculptor, is nestled on the shore of Lake Osceola. The home is currently on the National Register of Historic Places. While walking around visitors can enjoy paintings, sculptures and more that reflect the life and legacy of Polasek, along with other American artists. The outdoor gardens are filled with a variety of sculptures and shouldn't be missed. Lovers of both the art and outdoors will delight in the Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Garden, home to more than 200 works by the Czech-born sculptor. Located in the beautiful Winter Park home that Polasek enjoyed upon retirement, it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Docent-led tours of the museum and chapel are available and informative, and its grounds often attract repeat visitors looking for a quiet place to reflect and enjoy the home's rolling grounds. The gardens are comprised of three colorful acres dotted with works of art, 50 by Polasek and a number by several other sculptors.
The Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary, Queen of the Universe
The Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary, Queen of the Universe is a Catholic place of worship, featuring a majestic 2,000-seat main church. Mosaics, paintings, and stained glass adorn the walls of the church, and a professional in-residence chorus makes up the Basilica Choir. You're welcome to attend mass, which takes place throughout the week, as well see the Rosary Garden and beautiful outdoor chapel, the Museum of Christian Art.
Museum of Military History
Whether you're active duty, a vet or someone with a keen interest in the military or history in general, you're like to appreciate the understanding and awareness you'll have after a visit to Kissimmee's Museum of Military History. Engaging for visitors of all ages, its interactive and interpretive exhibits showcase not only the artifacts of service and wars past, but the soldier's experience, as well. Engaging staff, many veterans themselves, are on-hand to give additional insight and answer questions. Exhibits highlighting individual conflicts including uniforms, equipment, personal effects belonging to servicemen and women and other items are engaging, moving and thoughtful.
Central Florida Railroad Museum
All aboard for a little slice of history and Americana in the historic downtown district of Winter Garden at the Central Florida Railroad Museum. Housed inside a former Tavares & Gulf depot, which was built in 1913, this charming little venue will delight both train and history buffs of all ages. Memorabilia on display includes historic photographs, telephones and telegraphs, dining-car china and silver, uniforms and locomotive bells and whistles, among other things. Outside, an authentic caboose and three-head interlocking signal, along with several switch stands, are sure to inspire wonder or kindle fond memories of a simpler time in transportation.
Mount Dora Museum of Speed
Small museum, big inventory! This automobile lovers' haven is packed to the rafters, quite literally, with beautiful classic and antique vehicles Corvettes to muscle cars to service vehicle to bumper cars and more! Authentic clothing and costumes from various decades, neon signs, autographed guitars, bicycles and black-and-white televisions, gas pumps, Coke machines; the list is near endless.... And of course, if you're a collector or looking to make an investment you might want to check out the inventory in the classic car showroom.
The Holocaust Memorial Resource and Education Center
Located close to Winter Park, the Holocaust Memorial Resource and Education Center doesn’t just teach about the past. It also focuses on a future that’s free of anti-Semitism and all forms of prejudice and bigotry.
One of this museum’s most unique exhibits invites you to don Oculus googles for a powerful virtual-reality experience that will transport you to the secret annex where Anne Frank and her family hid from the Nazis, with Frank sharing her inspirational story along the way. Many other powerful exhibits await, as well as special programming examining relevant topics and historical events.
Wells’Built Museum of African American History and Culture
Built in 1921 by prominent African-American physician Dr. William M. Wells, downtown Orlando’s Wells’Built Hotel offered accommodations to African-American travelers who were barred from Florida’s then-segregated hotels, including famed musicians such as Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Ray Charles and others. The hotel was even promoted in The Negro Travelers’ Green Book, which started publication in the 1930s and inspired 2018’s Oscar-winning film, Green Book. Listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, Dr. Wells’ former hotel is now known as the Wells’Built Museum of African American History and Culture. Inside, you’ll find programming dedicated to Orlando’s African-American community, as well as exhibits about the Civil Rights movement, African art and artifacts, and other items of interest.
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