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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 experience begins with a ticket that’s a printed replica of a 1912 boarding pass, complete with the name of an actual Titanic passenger whose identity you’ll assume for the remainder of your voyage aboard the one-voyage wonder. A fully costumed actor, portraying one of the ship’s famed passengers, leads history hounds and treasure seekers on the approximately 75-minute tour through the 20,000-square-foot exhibit. While learning about the ship’s construction and hearing the hidden stories of those who rode on her, you’ll walk through full-scale re-creations of famous spots such as the grand staircase, an opulent first-class passenger suite, the steamy boiler rooms, and a temperature-controlled promenade deck complete with oceanic stars and an April-on-the-Atlantic arctic breeze. You’ll also venture into the Underwater Room, which houses an eight-foot replica of the ship as she rests in her present-day home at the bottom of the ocean. Marvel at more than 200 artifacts, including movie memorabilia from the ship’s various film incarnations. At the conclusion of the tour, the background of the passenger named on your ticket will be revealed, and you’ll discover their fate on the night the ship sank.
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.
Opening in 2000 within the historic confines of the former Orange County Courthouse built in 1892 and renovated in 1927, the Orange County Regional History Center sprawls its curated collection across three floors of ebullient exhibits that highlight the rich history of central Florida. The free audio-accompanied permanent displays are chock full of interesting tidbits about aviation, Florida's natural environment, pioneer homes, and citrus' delicious role in the state's economy. Traveling exhibits stamp historic passports for journeys to places such as Florida during the Civil War, and the center houses myriad artifacts and collections dear to history such as decorative arts, political memorabilia, and player pianos constructed out of marbled orange zests.
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.