With its vibrant and colorful neighbourhoods, close proximity to some of the USA’s best beaches and a thriving downtown, Orlando is one of the most exciting and promising destinations in the USA. The influence of the large South American population in the city has created a culturally rich and diverse environment that is brimming with opportunity.
Whilst Orlando may be known as the theme park capital of the world, there is so much else to see and do in this stunning piece of tropical paradise. The city has also developed a strong and resilient LGBT+ population that continues to create an inclusive and lively community for gay locals and travelers alike.
Kennedy Space Center
Not just for children, the Kennedy Space Centrer is located about an hour’s drive from Orlando and offers visitors the chance to explore and immerse themselves in the history and continued efforts of space travel and exploration. The centre’s ensemble of high-tech installations, cutting edge digital displays and groundbreaking special effects truly allow visitors to experience space.
At the Kennedy Space Center, you’ll be able to see the Atlantis spacecraft, tour the Astronauts Hall of Fame and experience space-craft take off aboard an immersive and reality-augmented simulator. Your Star Trek related gay dreams will be fulfilled and you’ll be occupied for hours!
Orlando Museum of Art
Founded in 1924, the Orlando Museum of Art seeks to interpret and display the most compelling and moving artworks to the general public in the hopes of inspiring new generations of innovative and creative thinkers and producers. The museum presents a monthly rotation of exhibitions and installations which are comprised of pieces from both the USA and the wider world. A range of workshops, guided tours and interactive classes are also on offer at the museum and many are free of charge.
One of the museums most significant attributes is the permanent collection of art from throughout the African continent. The collection includes numerous fabric works, sculptures and paintings dating back centuries and originating from countless countries.
New Smyrna Beach
Just a short drive from downtown Orlando, New Smyrna Beach promises travelers a slower pace of life to explore and discover. New Smyrna is a charming coastal town that enjoys the same sunny climate and lush landscape as its busier counterpart whilst offering a more laidback and relaxed environment. The area is deeply rooted in its connection with local heritage, arts and culture and is also a popular destination for surfers.
There is an abundance of things to do in New Smyrna Beach, including unique boutique shopping experiences, endless outdoor watersports activities and some of the best eateries and restaurants in Florida.
Orlando has maintained a thriving gay nightlife scene despite the closure of many gay bars and clubs in other parts of the state, and as such is renowned as having one of the best selections of nightlife opportunities for gay travelers in the USA. The gay clubs in Orlando are known for the sense community they provide and they continue to preserve the area’s unique gay culture.
Parliament House is one of the most significant locations for the gay community in Orlando and is a one-stop-shop for gay entertainment in the city. The venue encompasses an expansive mega-hotel, resort and nightclub, offering some of the most liberated and large-scale gay clubbing in the state. The club features a large dancefloor, impressive light and sound systems as well as big crowds.
Dr Phillips Centre for the Performing Arts
Originally conceived as a space for the city’s creative population to meet, perform, share and innovate, the Dr Phillips Centre for the Performing Arts is now a hub of art and culture. Located in the heart of Orlando’s downtown area, the centre’s three theatres play host to some of the most renowned and impressive travelling shows in the world and the venue is also home to the Orlando Ballet.
Visitors are often able to experience more than just a show at the centre, with regular workshops and masterclasses being held by the best performers from broadway, music and screen. There a number of eateries and dining opportunities at the Dr Phillips Centre for the Performing Arts and visitors should also combine their visit with an exploration of the fascinating downtown area.
Harry P Leu Gardens
Orlando isn’t known for serenity, so for travelers looking to escape the bustle of the city’s downtown, the Harry P Leu Gardens offer a welcome taste of zen and calm. The gardens are a paradise of tropical botany, founded in the 1930s by Orlando native and industrialist Harry P Leu. Leu traveled the world in order to assemble his expansive collection of rare plants and seeds.
The gardens span an impressive 50 acres and visitors are encouraged to spend some time wandering the many paths that snake their way through the grounds in order to appreciate the full variety of foliage. With trickling rivers and 200-year old oaks, the Harry P Leu Gardens are a stunning slice of untouched beauty in the heart of Orlando.
Existing at the location of the massacre, the onePulse Foundation Memorial is an interim installation dedicated to the memory of the 49 lives that were taken in one of the largest homophobic attacks in history. The memorial aims to preserve the memory of those who lost their lives whilst a more permanent memorial centre is constructed.
Visitors are welcomed to leave donations to the foundation as well as tributes at the memorial itself. Find out more about Pulse Orlando.
by George Pizani | On: Gay Orlando