The city of Orlando might be most famous for its enormous amusement parks, but there’s much more to the city than sunshine and roller coasters. World-class shopping and dining, a multitude of universities, a beloved soccer team, and a budding tech industry all help the city’s heart beat. Another thing that Orlando has no shortage of is museums, with a place to go and learn about almost any subject you might be interested in.
Whether you’re visiting Central Florida for a summer vacation or winter holidays with relatives, it’s a good idea to have an indoor activity planned that’s fun for everyone, from kids to grandparents. Museums are an excellent option, but it can be difficult to decide which one to visit. That’s why we’ve compiled this list of the best museums in Orlando.
World of Chocolate Museum and Café
If you’re looking to visit a museum but also satisfy your sweet tooth, you might be pleasantly surprised to learn that there’s a chocolate museum in Orlando. The World of Chocolate Museum and Café is located near the famous theme parks, making it a great place to visit if you’d like to plan a rest day between visiting those attractions.
The museum tour will take your group through the world of agriculture that produces cocoa, the key ingredient in all your favorite chocolatey treats. You’ll also learn about the history of chocolate and where it originates from, and view spectacular sculptures of world-famous landmarks such as Neuschwanstein Castle and Big Ben constructed entirely out of chocolate. And, when you’re all done with your tour, you’ll get to participate in a luxury chocolate tasting that gives you the opportunity to sample award-winning chocolates from around the world.
If you complete the tour and tasting but are still craving more, guests aged 21 and older can participate in a second tasting in the café, where you’ll receive expert pairings of wine and chocolate. If you’d prefer something non-alcoholic, the café also offers drinking chocolate, hot chocolate, gelato, chocolate pastries, and even chocolate fondue, plus coffee, salads, soups, and sandwiches if you’d prefer something savory after all that sweet.
Orlando Science Center
For the best science museum in Orlando, look to the Orlando Science Center. Visitors will find activities for all ages, from interactive kids’ zones to adults-only nights. With shows, events, and tons of hands-on learning, it’s an excellent place to have fun with science.
The main atrium is a three-story indoor reconstruction of the Florida Everglades, complete with live fish and reptiles. On each floor lie more exhibits that hold things like flight simulators, physics experiments, interactive meteorological displays, and dinosaur bones. On a clear night, the observatory might offer the chance for guests to look through the high-powered telescope with an astronomer.
There are multiple theaters in the museum, and they hold both digital and live shows designed to get visitors excited about science. You’ll even have the chance to watch an immersive film about wildlife conservation, a show in which electricity makes music, or a laser light show. Be sure to check the events schedule as well, as the center often hosts technology conventions, game design competitions, and art exhibitions.
Museum of Illusions Orlando
The Museum of Illusions Orlando is a newer Orlando museum. It opened in the stunning Icon Park in January 2021 and has already boggled the minds of many visitors.
There are plenty of art pieces in this museum that are not what they seem, with 2D images that look as though they’re reaching toward you and still images that look as though they’re moving. Keep your eyes peeled for more illusions as you move through the halls, as things twist and turn and cleverly placed mirrors often hide surprises until viewed from just the right angle.
The most popular parts of the museum are the numerous photo opportunities, where you can take pictures that appear as though you’re floating, shrinking, hanging from the ceiling, or enjoying dinner with several clones of yourself.
If you want some truly one-of-a-kind vacation photos, you’ll definitely want to visit this museum.
Modernism Museum Mount Dora
Another museum located just a short drive away from the heart of Orlando is the Modernism Museum Mount Dora, located in the picturesque streets of downtown Mount Dora. The museum hosts a collection of furniture and artwork designed by artists such as the Memphis group, and has a large collection of pieces from David Bowie’s personal estate.
At the Modernism Museum, the story behind the pieces is considered as important as the pieces themselves, and you’ll get the chance to learn about it in a miniature theater with a video about the art movement. Additionally, knowledgeable museum attendants are happy to tour with guests and chat about the background, crafting techniques, history, and inspiration for each piece, making it one of Orlando’s best museums in terms of customer service.
While it’s easy to spend lots of time admiring the unconventional yet fully functional pieces the museum holds, you might want to plan some time to tour the Museum Shoppe across the street as well. It functions as a museum gift shop, with everything from postcards to jewelry representing the most iconic works in the museum, but it also holds a plethora of other goods created by local craftsmen.
Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition
Nestled just off of Orlando’s iconic and lively International Drive is the Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition, where visitors have the opportunity to view both items retrieved from the famous sunken vessel and recreated objects. Many of the famous rooms from the ship are also reconstructed in this museum, and actors in period-accurate clothing roam the halls.
The museum has several guided tours as well if you’re looking to get the most out of your visit. One focuses on the stories of people who committed heroic acts during the disaster, sacrificing themselves to save others. Another focuses on the rich history of the Titanic, from the ship’s construction to the many missions to recover artifacts from the wreck. There’s also a children’s tour, and during October and November guests can participate in a slightly more eerie experience in which costumed tour guides recount conspiracies and spooky stories about the ship.
And while a Titanic museum in Orlando might not be your first thought for an extra-fancy night out, if you’re looking for an unforgettable date night, consider booking its dinner and show package. Be sure to dress nice, because you’ll be having a gala dinner in the finest seafaring dining hall of 1912, with the experience set in a recreation of the Titanic’s first class dining room.
Central Florida Railroad Museum
Located just a short hop west from the center of Orlando, the Central Florida Railroad Museum is a hidden gem in the beautiful Winter Garden neighborhood. Since it’s a large city flooded with tourism and big companies, you might not expect to find a free museum in Orlando, but this museum charges no entry fee and asks only that you enjoy the slice of history that it preserves.
While the museum’s collection focuses on the life and times of railroads in Central Florida, there are artifacts on display from all across the country. The upstairs depot room has everything from employee uniforms to signage and lanterns and what may be the largest collection in the southeastern United States of dishes and kitchenware from the heyday of high-class dining cars. A model train also cruises around a tiny collection of buildings crafted to reflect the ideal 1950’s American town.
Downstairs, you’ll learn about how railroad companies used stamped nails to label the installation date of new construction and how the design of the rails themselves has evolved over time to accommodate bigger, longer, and faster trains. This museum is full of things both to look at and to read, meaning you can choose to take a quick walk around if you’d just like to take a peek or spend several hours learning if you’d like to indulge your inner history buff.
Rollins Museum of Art
The Rollins Museum of Art is a museum located on the Rollins College campus. It’s another fantastic museum with no admission fee, and since most of the works on display have been donated by either alumni or residents of the nearby neighborhoods, it reflects the interests of many different people and houses a wide variety of art.
The permanent collection holds over 5,600 works produced in time periods ranging from ancient archeological artifacts to 21st century contemporary creations. Of the works at the museum, roughly 2,700 of them are paintings, drawings, prints, and photos, meaning that visitors can enjoy strolling through galleries of two-dimensional artwork hung on walls and laid out for viewing. The museum does also have a significant number of other works, from sculpture to decorative pieces.
If you’re an art lover but not a fan of sedate galleries and quiet hallways, this museum still has something for you. If you head outside, you’ll have the opportunity to take the museum’s self-guided Walking Statue Tour. Visitors can download a brochure from the website that will send them around the block hunting for seven different statues while enjoying the community around the museum.
Madame Tussauds Orlando
Have you ever wanted to take a selfie with your favorite celebrity? While that’s a dream many people have and few get to achieve, you can have the next best thing at Madame Tussauds Orlando, located nearby other entries on this list in ICON Park near International Drive. The Madame Tussauds name is famous for a reason, and this wax museum in Orlando holds figures so lifelike, your friends might think you actually met the people in your photos.
The museum has incredibly realistic figures of beloved stars from television, movies, music, and sports. The people featured span the decades, from Elvis Presley to Serena Williams, many posed with surroundings that reflect the star’s accomplishments. Guests can measure up next to basketball players on the court, walk on the moon with astronauts, and stand in the Oval Office with the current president, whose wax figure is introduced shortly after each new election.
But what if the person you’d most like a photo with isn’t real? Well, Madame Tussauds has a selection of fictional characters, too. The Justice League recently took up residence in this Orlando museum, and guests can take up dynamic poses with Superman, Aquaman, and Wonder Woman. The museum is even home to a life-size Po, the loveable main character in the animated film Kung Fu Panda.
The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art
The Morse Museum in the beautiful Winter Park neighborhood is known to locals as a hidden gem. It has an unassuming front entrance and a low admission fee, offers discounts for seniors and students, and is free for children under 12 years old. However, this establishment is undoubtedly the finest art museum in Orlando, with an expansive collection of American art from many of the country’s different cultures.
The Morse’s main claim to fame, however, is that it’s home to the most comprehensive collection of work by the renowned creator Louis Comfort Tiffany, known most for his artwork made of glass. The museum spans over 19,000 square feet, and every room has another wonder to discover. Visitors will get to tour a hallway of lamps, each one topped with a colorful Tiffany glass lampshade. Other rooms hold more stained glass, along with jewelry, woodwork, and more.
The Morse also offers a small taste of the 1893 World’s Fair. The Tiffany Chapel is the most famous of the works that Tiffany created for display at the fair, and after being moved multiple times and almost falling into disrepair, parts of the 128-year-old chapel are now available to visit within the Morse museum.
Orlando Museum of Art
In a large city with a focus on creativity and a high degree of diversity amongst its residents, there’s no surprise that many of the most prestigious museums of Orlando display works of art. However, while the others on this list focus on preserving and celebrating art with historical significance, the Orlando Museum of Art, or OM°A, is most known for displaying the new works of current artists.
Since the focus is on the new and upcoming, collections rotate regularly, meaning you never know what lies behind the building’s instantly recognizable rounded front entryway. What you can expect are artistic creations that push boundaries and explore new concepts and techniques, presented in high-ceilinged rooms with perfectly angled lighting and plenty of space for guests to gather and admire each work.
The OM°A does also celebrate older works, with collections of Ancient American art and African art on display year-round. Additionally, displays of items from cultures past are often featured, such as European dining ware and Native American clothing, so visitors can see the design and décor that colored their original owners’ everyday lives.
Orlando is filled with unique and interesting people, and their passions manifest in the unique and interesting establishments they have built throughout the city. With so many different museums to visit, you’re sure to find a place that your whole party will find fun and immersive.