Posted by: adventuressetravels | September 9, 2011

Orlando: More than the Mouse

What do you think of when you think of Orlando?

The first thing most people would say is Disneyworld, Universal Studios, Animal Kingdom and its numerous over-the-top theme parks.  Myself, I’m not much of one for the glitz and glam of theme parks so when I found myself in Orlando for a few days I looked around for what else there was in Orlando.

To my surprise and delight I posted on couchsurfing and the recommendations came pouring in.  There were a plethora of things that I was really interested in doing and seeing.  There were just two catches:

I didn’t have a car and I only had one day to explore.

The car problem was rough.  Like most US residents, people in Florida love their cars.  Though Orlando does have public transit, the LYNX, this bus system is perfunctory at best.  It is generally possible to get where one needs to go and to get from one part of the city to another.  However, it can get a bit tricky and my couchsurfing hosts did not recommend it.  Though it would certainly have been more adventurous to navigate I took the easy way out and I found a travel companion with a car…

From the recommendations, Winter Park seemed like the artistic and cultural center.

The Winter Park Scenic Boat Tour Sailed through Winter Park, the scenic preserved district just outside Orlando.   Through channels and lakes, past gorgeous historical architecture I wished the weather forecast had been clear.

Cornell Fine Arts Collection Rollins College is one of the most extensive collections in Florida.  It exhibits 5,000 works of art from antiquity to contemporary

The Morse Museum But the most highly recommended museum was the Morse.  Holding the world’s largest collection of Tiffany glass.

The Bok Tower Gardens Just outside of Orlando, this Florida landmark has lovely gardens and a 60 bell carillon tower.  The gardens are filled with concerts daily at 1 and 3 pm.

As far as outdoor activities a little outside Orlando you can go

Ziplining and eco tourism:

Hot Air Ballooning

Fly in Vintage Airplanes

Monkey Island

In case you want to chill, experience the local artistic or alternative culture, get a little live music, and a little the vibrant Bohemian coffee scene was highly recommended.  These shops and scene seem like they would be more in place in the Pacific North West than Florida, but

Austin’s Coffee – A 24-hour community coffee shop with open mic nights four days a week. (Sunday: Comedy, Monday: Hip-hop, Tuesday: Music, Wednesday: Poetry.  The shop also features multi-lingual scrabble every Saturday.

Stardust Video & Coffee – This coffee shop features live music, organic food, a farmers market on Mondays, events, and much more.
Great community farmers market on Monday eve’s, w/ live music.

Dandelion Communitea Café – This charming organic, eco-friendly coffee shop resides in a converted house.  There is live music featured on weekends and every full moon the café is home to a drum circle.

Drunken Monkey Coffee Bar – This chill coffee shop features food for everyone vegan, veggie, or carnivores alike.  With free-trade coffee roasted at the shop the Drunken Monkey is a great place to hang out or see improv comedy on a Tuesday night.

Whatever your tastes, Orlando has a lot to offer.

Since I only had one day though, I went with must-see Morse museum.  I didn’t know much about Louis Comfort Tiffany, just that his stunning world-famous glass was a part of US history.  The Morse did not disappoint.  The awe-inspiring Tiffany chapel built for the 1893 world fair was truly spectacular, but I enjoyed the recreation of Tiffany’s home, Laurelton Hall more.

The Morse is like a window into another age.  Tiffany’s elegant, light, artistic glass and art spoke volumes of the US in the 19th century.  Walking through the recreated rooms of Laurelton Hall, influenced by Asian, North African, and European artwork, one could imagine the world-traveling elite dining and chatting in these rooms.

Far more than “the Mouse,” the Morse really is a must-see in Orlando.

Sadly, the photography isn’t allowed so you will just have to see it yourself…

Next time I am back in Orlando I have lots to explore….


  1. Well, first of all I think of Ariosto’s epic romance, “Orlando Furioso.” Then the hero of Shakespeare’s “As You Like It.” Next the drum major at my high school, who became a dentist.

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