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.
Cocoa Beach locals know that it's rare to spot Bill Kowalik on dry land. The Puerto Rico–born seafarer is at home on the water, constantly surfing, kayaking, or leading tours across the Florida Space Coast. Bill’s as passionate about the environment as he is about watersports, enthusiastically exploring the area's diverse waterways while taking pains to leave the least impact on the protected waters. Along with his team of trained instructors, he leads individuals, groups, and families on kayak tours through lush mangroves and island channels, pointing out dolphins, manatees, and exotic birds.
Visitors to Florida EcoSafaris at Forever Florida get a close look at the state's distinct flora and fauna during thrilling outdoor adventures. The Coach Safari whisks riders on a two-hour open-air jaunt through a 4,700-acre wildlife-conservation area rich with streams and forests. Naturalist guides delve into the natural history of the region's nine ecosystems, which house species including alligators, Florida panthers, and herds of roving photo opportunities. Visitors can also take in sweeping views of the nearby wetlands and their many residents, including countless kinds of birds and white-tailed deer. For equestrian adventurers, safaris on horseback take riders through scenic trails used by Native Americans in the 1500s.
Florida EcoSafaris' EcoPark adds to its Cypress Canopy Cycle adventure-which sends visitors rolling along steel cables in a suspended, pedal-powered cart that doubles as a spy machine for squirrels-with five new and recently renovated zipline adventures. Guests fly high through the air at 30 miles per hour with the Peregrine Plunge and Zipline Safari or leap off 55- or 68-feet platforms during controlled-free-fall adventures. No matter what activity guests participate in, Florida EcoSafaris donates a portion of all proceeds to the Allen Broussard Conservancy, an agency dedicated to the preservation of Florida's ecosystems and wildlife.
The fact that the owners of Numero Uno Cuban Restaurant chose a location with a dining room that seats up to 72 people is no coincidence. Embracing their Cuban heritage, they and their kitchen staff put an emphasis on family-style dining, showcasing a cuisine famous for tender, grilled meats, roast chicken, and stewed seafood. Each dish is an explosion of color and flavor, with shredded ropa vieja mingling with tomato and green peppers, and sides of earthy black beans or saffron-tinged yellow rice accenting entrees. Seafood staples such as whole fried snapper and lobster stew come in single or party-sized servings with the restaurant's catering services.
A bald eagle soars above Florida's everglades, its eyes scanning the creatures below—ranging from an alligator to a soft-shell turtle to a large vessel that seems to glide along the water's surface. This is one of Wild Florida's airboats, which journeys deep into Florida's untouched everglades on daytime and evening tours. A Coast Guard–certified captain controls the machine’s massive fan, which propels sightseers across marshes and down rivers, where they search for the 67 threatened species that call the Everglades' 4,200 acres home. As the airboat rounds a bend, its passengers notice a dark-green mass in the water. An alligator peeks it head above the surface, opens its jaws, and reveals rows of powerful teeth that could make any dentist rev a dental drill in excitement.
At the end of the tour, the captain and passengers unload at Wild Florida's 500-foot dock, but their ecological encounters are far from over. At the onsite wildlife park, visitors can hold baby alligators and whisper sweet nothings into their ear openings. It also showcases exotic African creatures, such as zebras, water buffalo, and emu. After a day of exploration, aromas of smoked barbecue lure visitors to the onsite watering hole Pete & Pegs Silver Platter Bar B-Q, which serves everything from pulled pork to gator tails.
During a round of golf in this region, it’s not uncommon for players to see the occasional alligator sunning itself on the banks of a fairway pond. The same, however, cannot be said for miniature-golf courses, unless you’re playing at Congo River Golf, where the civilized sinking of putts coexists with the visceral carnage of live-alligator feedings. More than 25 alligators wait for patrons to feed them morsels of gator food in an exhibit beside the course. Though the course offers no chance for an encounter with the ancient, scaly species, it enchants players with waterfalls, safari-themed artifacts, and towering rock faces. In addition, Congo River Golf encompasses an indoor arcade and a gemstone-mining station, where guests dig through dirt for fossils, arrowheads, and Neanderthal’s kindergarten time capsules.