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Brooke Pottery features fine ceramic crafts and a host of handmade doodads from more than 400 American artists. A glazed, tri-colored McQueeny Belt Bowl ($48) offers a fetching soup-holding alternative to cupped palms, while the Heart Coaster Set ($40) lovingly shields countertops from clammy cocktails and over-fizzed sodas. Decorate feng shui–deficient gardens with ash-wood Chi Energy Amber wind chimes ($35), or embellish tree limbs with colorful Aloha Chimes ($42). For kids, the Blues Band Harmonica ($7) provides hours of fun in the key of harmonica.
The seeds of the educational coalition known as the Art & History Museums - Maitland were planted more than seven decades ago when architect J. André Smith founded the Research Studio, an artists' colony that cultivated such creators as Milton Avery, Ralston Crawford, and Doris Lee. The Research Studio eventually became the Maitland Art Center, a place where arts enthusiasts can check out a gallery exhibition, take a class, or practice tilting their berets just right. Next door is the Maitland Historical Museum, where locals can learn about the families who built the city—the Waterhouses, the Galloways, the Dommeriches, and the Hills. And that's not all, either. Next door to the history museum is the Telephone Museum, and further south is the Carpentry Shop Museum, a 19th century building filled with period woodworking tools and materials. Finally, next door to the Carpentry Shop sits the Waterhouse Residence Museum, set in the original building constructed by pioneer settler William H. Waterhouse.
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.
With a collection sprawling across three floors, the Orange County Regional History Center divulges 12,000 years of central Florida history through permanent and limited-run exhibits. Follow Orlando’s transition from small town to Disney command center, or explore aviation marvels including a WWII B-17 bomber and Kennedy Space Center snapshots of NASA’s nighttime sun landings. In addition to unlimited admission, members receive reciprocal privileges, such as free or discounted admission at 208 museums and historic sites across the country. Additional membership perks include access to invite-only events, gift-store and program discounts, and free parking in the adjacent library garage.
When French native Joel Martin was young, his family moved to Africa. While there, Joel learned to stalk many jungle creatures including crocodiles with the help of his Malgache friends. Years later, in 1995, Martin packed up his own family and moved them to Florida, where the heat and humidity reminded him of his beloved childhood in Africa. Today he owns and operates Black Hammock Adventures and charters picturesque airboat rides on the gator-infested waters of Lake Jesup. His boat, equipped with Goliath's desk fan, skims earplugged riders past alligators and other lake fauna at speeds of up to 45 miles per hour. During rides, experienced guides pilot the vessel safely through narrow creeks and shallow wetlands, and help tourists to spot sunning reptiles. After zooming by a congregation of gators, guests can stop by Black Hammock's wildlife exhibit, enjoy a lively libation at the Lazy Gator Bar, or hand over their cameras as they pose for pictures with Black Hammock's 12-foot-long alligator, Hammy, at his dockside cage or barter for an autograph with hunks of raw meat.
The only way to get into Gatorland is to walk straight into an alligator's toothy maw. The giant mouth provides entrance to 110 acres of marshy wildlife preserve––home to a vast ecosystem populated by thousands of alligators, crocodiles, and birds, including rare wading birds and four rare white alligators. Among these, more than 130 gators splash and lounge in the park’s breeding marsh, which visitors can view safely from a three-story observation tower or while sitting on the shoulders of Kareem Abdul Jabbar.
Yet one of the biggest thrills of Gatorland is the reptile's raw power. Visitors can see this on full display during the Gator Jumparoo show, where alligators leap four to five feet out of the water to snag food directly from a trainer’s hands, or during the Gator Wrestlin' Show, where a handler demonstrates survival skills. True thrill-seekers can even dangle over the breeding marsh while riding the 65-foot-tall Screamin’ Gator Zip Line. And to experience the unsettling sensation of stumbling upon a swamp filled with alligators at night, the Night Shine takes participants deep into gator territory armed with only a flashlight and a few hot dogs.