Physically, celadon porcelain from the Ming and Qing Dynasties and a 13-foot skeleton of the giant ground sloth don’t have too much in common. But both explore how our world has evolved and how we perceive it—making both perfectly suited for display in the eclectic exhibits of the Museum of Arts & Sciences. The 100,000-square-foot museum—which perches on a 90-acre nature preserve—houses a planetarium alongside myriad exhibits that delve into art, history, and science.
The museum’s particularly impressive assembly of Cuban art draws visitors through 300 years of history with more than 200 rare maps, paintings, and ceramics. Nearby, the exhibit of Chinese art glimmers with gemstones, bronzes, and cloisonné. Visitors also peruse crafts made closer to home in the 4,000-square-foot gallery of American art, where portraits by Gilbert Stuart and landscapes by George Bonfield hang on walls, rather than on the traditional horse’s withers. In addition to its traditional art galleries, the Museum of Arts & Sciences also hosts more fragile objects inside the Helene B. Roberson Visible Storage Building, a 4,400-square-foot glass-fronted space designed to maintain exhibits in a climate-controlled state.
Younger museum-goers can gaze longingly at the 800 teddy bears on display in the Americana-focused Root Family Museum before heading to the Charles and Linda Williams Children’s Museum to explore ever-changing, hands-on science exhibits. In addition to assembling and testing model racecars, whippersnappers strum the 16 laser beams of a laser harp and try the "Pull Yourself Up" exhibit. Daily shows in the planetarium continue scientific education by unlocking the night sky’s mysteries, such as why stars don’t go out when you blow on them.
Historically, women artists have often struggled to find a space to express themselves in a field dominated by men. The Florida Museum for Women Artists works to change that by offering 7,300 square feet of facilities and galleries dedicated to promoting and showcasing women artists and their work. Three different galleries allow visitors to gaze upon a selection of contemporary art in exhibitions that rotate ever 10 weeks and include juried shows, selections from collections, and traveling exhibits. Previous and upcoming exhibitions include a variety of ceramic, sculptural, and painted works, along with photographs and textiles. Past shows have even included the innovative exhibit Witness to Creativity, which allowed viewers to watch live as artists created installations over the course of a week. The facility also includes a museum shop and café and also hosts fused-glass jewelry, wineglass painting, and mosaic classes.
The Central Florida Zoo swings open creaking gates to intrepid adults for a spooky evening of dancing, dining, and revelry. Ghouls and guests over 21 years of age can swill $1 beer and $2 wine and mixed drinks while nibbling on a selection of bizarre foods. Participants don disguises to compete in the costume contest, challenge partners to a selection of carnival games, or scream soprano arias on haunted train rides. Live bands and Venue 13 DJ Paul Vaine send music echoing through the zoo, to which guests jig at a zombie ball. Guests recall their fright night with a skull mug and skeleton-hand shot glass to take home as well as with a picture from the photo booth that captures both grins and ghosts giving bunny ears.
Teaching hips to swivel to new circumferences, dance instructors impart their masterful moves unto students in the respected tradition Arthur Murray schools have upheld since 1912. Students can bring a partner to their lessons or fly solo and dance with the instructor. Protégés may find their new moves applicable in a number of settings, such as when prepping for a wedding dance or when blending into an airport crowd that breaks out in the cha-cha. Embodying the three-count time of a stately waltz brings partners in close, and rumba moves or swing steps add vibrancy and playfulness to a repertoire.
The Orlando studio provides a warm, aesthetically sound environment for engaging in private and group dance lessons. The full class schedule is well suited to teaching feet to slice and dice a rug until it is no longer recognizable.
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The entire sky along Florida's Space Coast is like one giant movie screen, regularly showing the story of rockets—some manned, some unmanned, others guided entirely by dreams. They launch gracefully towards the heavens, where they break through Earth's atmosphere and float out beyond it. It's a mesmerizing display, one that serves as the focal point for Space Coast River Tours's Rocket Tour. The Blue Dolphin, the company's 44-foot USCG-certified pontoon river boat, serves as the tour's mode of transportation. Its retractable roof pulls back to reveal unobstructed views of the sky above for all of its 49 passengers.
Captains Mark and Michele Anderson, who are both certified by the U.S. Coast Guard, have plenty to explore even when rockets aren't taking flight. Specialty tours are available at an additional cost. During the holidays, they show passengers the lights and decorations along residential canals in Sykes Creek, handing out some egg nog or hot cocoa to complete the experience. The Banana River Lagoon Tour, meanwhile, remains a daily feature. For two hours, the boat tours the Banana River and floats into the habitats of the area's many birds, dolphins, manatees, and gators.