Everyone knows that Orlando is a magical place where you can enjoy fantastic lands, endless adventures and wondrous experiences you won’t find anywhere else. But with more than 12,000 years of documented history that includes Indigenous settlers, astronauts, African-American trailblazers, artistic visionaries and more, as well as robust regional support for the arts, Orlando has also emerged as a top destination for cultural tourists.
Learn more: Orlando History
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 — including these family-friendly options, all of which are employing enhanced health and cleanliness measures to help keep you safe!
Please note: Depending on the timing of your visit, some experiences may be temporarily modified or closed. Learn more about healthy travel and what’s open in Orlando, and check with your favorite cultural venues for their current status.
Explore Unique History Museums in the Orlando Area
The Holocaust Memorial Resource and Education Center
Located close to Winter Park, about 30 minutes north of International Drive, 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.
Orange County Regional History Center & Heritage Square Park
Housed in a historic, 1927 county courthouse in the heart of downtown Orlando, the Orange County Regional History Center traces 12,000 years of local history through three floors of dynamic permanent collections. Starting in the region’s prehistoric past, you’ll see how we evolved from an Indian settlement, to a small citrus and cattle town, to our modern tourist- and tech-centric metropolis.
Learn more: Downtown Orlando
A Smithsonian Institution affiliate that is accredited by the American Association of Museums, the History Center also hosts limited-run national exhibitions, plus a full slate of events and educational programs for children and adults, including lectures, camps and workshops. The museum grounds also encompass Heritage Square Park, a beautiful outdoor space where you can enjoy sculpture, other artwork and people-watching.
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.
Learn more: African-American Travel Guide
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.
Winter Garden Heritage Foundation
Based in its namesake city, the Winter Garden Heritage Foundation operates three history-focused venues, all approximately 25 minutes west of International Drive. The first of the three, The Heritage Museum, showcases exhibits that explore west Orange County’s rich history.
Learn more: Winter Garden
Literally steps away from The Heritage Museum, the History Research & Education Center further documents the area’s past with an extensive archive. A short walk from there will take you to a facility that is perfect for the young and young at heart: the Central Florida Railroad Museum, which as its name implies celebrates the influence of railroads in Florida’s development. And yes, they have a train. All aboard!
Explore Unique Art Museums & Galleries in the Orlando Area
Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens
Born in 1879 in what is now known as the Czech Republic, internationally acclaimed sculptor Albin Polasek emigrated to the U.S. in his early 20s. During his long career, he created more than 400 works of art — and you can view nearly half of them at the Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens in Winter Park, about 20 minutes north of International Drive.
Learn more: Winter Park
More than an arts venue, the Albin Polasek Museum is actually the artist’s former Winter Park home, in which he lived from 1950 until his passing in 1965. As a result, you’ll literally walk in the master’s footsteps as you tour his galleries and outdoor sculpture gardens, all of which celebrate a wide range of enriching art designed to tell compelling stories.
Art & History Museums — Maitland
Also part of Maitland’s cultural lineup, Art & History Museums — Maitland has so much to offer that it can’t be contained by one building. Instead, it is spread out over two campuses, both of which are on the National Register of Historic Places: the Maitland Art Center and the Victorian-era Waterhouse Residence Museum.
The Maitland Art Center is also a National Historic Landmark, thanks in large part to unique Aztec- and Mayan-influenced architecture and one of the southeast’s only remaining examples of Mayan Revival designs. The campuses feature other examples of unique architecture and lush gardens, as well as diverse collections, ongoing exhibits and educational programming.
The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art
Situated in the heart of Winter Park, The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art is one of the most dazzling unexpected treasures awaiting you in the Orlando area — and we mean “dazzling” quite literally. The reason being, it boasts the world’s most comprehensive collection of work by legendary artist and designer Louis Comfort Tiffany, best known for his leaded-glass lamps and windows.
The collection also includes Tiffany’s jewelry, pottery and paintings, plus exhibits of American art pottery, Art Nouveau furnishings and objects, late 19th- and 20th-century paintings, and more. You can even look forward to the restored, Byzantine-Romanesque chapel interior that Tiffany designed for the 1893 World’s Fair, as well as a nearly 6,000-square-foot, permanent exhibition of surviving art and architectural objects from Tiffany’s Laurelton Hall estate.
Visit a collective of diverse art galleries under one roof at this unique venue in downtown Orlando. They feature a rotating selection of local and international works of art with new pieces being added monthly. Plus, admission is always free.
Cornell Fine Arts Museum
Art-lovers won’t want to miss the Cornell Fine Arts Museum at Rollins College in Winter Park — and not just because admission is always free. Inside, you can explore a massive permanent collection of more than 5,600 objects, encompassing everything from ancient art and artifacts to contemporary pieces.
The Cornell Fine Arts Museum also hosts rotating exhibitions and ongoing programs, including a children’s education gallery with fun, hands-on activities to encourage creativity and cognitive skills. Want more? Take a short walk to The Alfond Inn. Also operated by Rollins, the hotel’s public spaces feature The Alfond Collection of Contemporary Art, which showcases a rotating exhibit of curated pieces from the museum and is also free to experience.
The Mennello Museum of American Art
A celebrated and self-taught artist, Earl Cunningham was best known for stunning coastal landscapes, not just of those he witnessed in Florida but also in Georgia, Maine, Michigan, New York, North and South Carolina, and even Nova Scotia. Since 1998, his work has been preserved, exhibited and interpreted by The Mennello Museum of American Art, which is part of Loch Haven Cultural Park just north of downtown Orlando.
In addition to its permanent Cunningham exhibit, this museum hosts a rotating lineup of temporary exhibitions, enriching programming and educational initiatives, as well as the Marilyn L. Mennello Sculpture Garden. With a sprawling, 350-plus-year-old live oak tree as its centerpiece, the garden presents numerous sculptures amid Old Florida landscaping and walking paths, the latter of which connect to the Orlando Urban Trail.
Orlando Museum of Art
One of Central Florida’s leading cultural institutions since 1924, Orlando Museum of Art, aka OMART, is part of Loch Haven Cultural Park close to downtown Orlando. With a stated mission of inspiring creativity, passion and intellectual curiosity by connecting people with art and new ideas, OMART curates and presents a wide range of compelling artwork.
Every year, OMART hosts a rotating selection of 10 to 12 on-site exhibitions, in addition to presenting 13 off-site exhibitions, art-enrichment programs, gallery tours, lectures, classes and other services. It is also accredited by the American Alliance of Museums and is a member organization of the Association of Art Museum Directors. Last but not least, it is a Blue Star Museum, which is a collaborative program between the National Endowment for the Arts, Blue Star Families and the U.S. Department of Defense.
At their downtown Orlando headquarters and gallery, aka Snap! Space, this organization exhibits more than 100 international photographers and multimedia artists. Their mission focuses on discovering and cultivating emerging talent while promoting appreciation of photography and art worldwide.
Snap! Orlando’s most unique offering is CITY unseen — and you don’t need to visit their physical space to enjoy it. Available via a free mobile app for Android and Apple devices, this augmented-reality (AR) experience pairs internationally famed artists with cutting-edge AR technology, resulting in a plethora of unique “[AR]t” installations throughout the downtown area. Options include murals that come to life, imaginative projection-mapping artwork, a 360-degree visit to an artist’s studio, and much more.
Zora Neale Hurston National Museum of Fine Arts
Historic Eatonville is one of the oldest African-American communities in the United States, and you’ll find it just 25 minutes north of International Drive. Incorporated in 1887, the town also served as the childhood home of seminal author Zora Neale Hurston (Their Eyes Were Watching God).
Today, Eatonville honors Huston’s legacy with the annual ZORA!™ Festival, which takes place each winter, and the Zora Neale Hurston National Museum of Fine Arts, aka The Hurston. In addition to spotlighting Hurston’s contributions to literature and Eatonville history, the museum provides gallery space for artists of African descent. There is no set admission fee, but donations are always welcome.