For an in depth historical view of Orlando, old and new take a short trip to downtown Orlando’s Division and South Streets where you’ll find the Wells’ Built Museum of African American History and Culture. Added to the U. S. Registry of National Historic Places in February 2000, the hotel and a nearby casino were built in 1926 by one of Orlando’s first black physicians, Dr. William Monroe Wells for African Americans visiting Orlando and to host some of the most famous African American performers of the time. Visitors included Pegleg Bates, Ella Fitzgerald, Roy Campenella, Thurgood Marshall, and Jackie Robinson. While the casino did not survive a 1980’s fire, the hotel remains a constant reminder of early African American accomplishments and contributions to the City Beautiful.
Less than fifteen minutes away from downtown Orlando is the historic Town of Eatonville. It is the oldest incorporated African American municipality in the country and home of the Zora Neale Hurston Museum of Fine Arts and the annual Zora! Festival. Named for the renowned author and anthropologist, Zora Neale Hurston who spent most of her formative years in Eatonville, the festival has been around for almost thirty years. It has been attended by the likes of Ruby Dee and Ozzie Davis (friends of Zora’s during the Harlem Renaissance), Maya Angelou, Danny Glover, Wesley Snipes, Felicia Rashad, Kerry Washington, Bill Cobbs, Russell Hornsby and Brock Peters. Featured festival entertainers include Dr. Bobby Jones, Morris Day and the Time, Frankie Beverly and Maze, Isaac Hayes, and Al Jarreau. Plenary sessions and education programs provide a broad-based study of Zora, the Town of Eatonville, and modern-day influences while street vendors provide a myriad of hand-crafted goods and festival food favorites. The museum is open year-round. It exhibits works by some of the most acclaimed artists of our time and frequently showcases newer, contemporary artists.
Additionally, make your way over to Bronze Kingdom African Art Gallery-Museum to view the more than 2,000-piece collection of rare African bronze sculpture, the largest in the world. Featuring bronze, beaded and wooden sculptures from Nigeria, Cameroon, Mali, Ghana, Senegal, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, this exhibit is open for tours, sales and special events.
No adventure, vacation, or stay-cation would be complete without some world class shopping! Orlando’s Premium Outlets and Mall at Millenia offer designer discount, boutique and department store shopping at its finest. From Gucci to St. John to Macy’s and Nordstrom Rack, we’ve got the deals and steals for your fashion fix. Evelyn’s Creations in the West Oaks Mall provides a unique experience for the shopper who might want to score a one-of-a-kind piece of ethnic clothing or jewelry, a conversation piece of decorative art or a piece of memorabilia to signify their favorite Greek. Three Masks, Inc., an equally unique venue for the discerning shopper, offers art, clothing, and accessories from across the African continent. Located in west Orlando, the venue also hosts community forums, exhibits, and classes.