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Orlando Science Center
Photograph: Shutterstock

The 10 best museums in Orlando

Enjoy more than just art when visiting the best museums in Orlando, architectural attractions in and of themselves

By Michele Marin
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The best museums in Orlando run the gamut in scope and style, home to some of the most exciting art pieces in the country. When in town, make sure to browse through the world's largest collection of Louis Comfort Tiffany's works at the Morse Museum or opt to get up close and personal with 500 real skeletons at the Skeletons Museums of Osteology.

The best part of it all? Unlike big city museums, housed in large concrete buildings, many of Orlando’s are actually historic dwellings on their own, nestled on picturesque grounds—right by the city’s top attractions and even parks.

So, the next time you need an air-conditioned respite from the congested theme park scene or are simply itching for a dive into a cultural hemisphere, check out these awesome artsy destinations all around town.

RECOMMENDED: Our guide to the best things to do in Orlando

Best museums in Orlando

Orlando Science Center
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Orlando Science Center

1. Orlando Science Center

Things to do Lake Formosa

Open for over sixty years, the Orlando Science Center boasts four floors filled with educational exhibits (and tons of fun) that make for great family-friendly activities and ideal respites from the Florida heat. Teens and adults will love the flight lab, which uses VR technology to put visitors in the cockpit of a plane for a real-world-like training mission. The new 11,000-square-foot Kids Town, on the other hand, is designed to appeal to young children and fosters cognitive development through hands-on creative play.

Cornell Fine Arts Museum
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Cornell Fine Arts Museum

2. Cornell Fine Arts Museum at Rollins

Museums Orwin Manor

Found on the picturesque Rollins College campus in Winter Park, this is the only museum in the area showcasing European art. Featuring both rotating exhibits and an extensive permanent collection, the experience calls for more than viewing: this is a teaching museum that will actually instruct you on how to observe and appreciate works from different time periods and cultures. All at no cost, of course.

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Skeletons Museums of Osteology
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Andrea C.

3. Skeletons Museums of Osteology

Care to see a live colony of flesh eating beetles or explore a Florida swamp? How about an up-close look at over 500 real skeletons? Those are just a few things you’ll get to experience at the Museum of Osteology, located in the ICON360 complex of International Dive. You don’t have to be a paleontologist to enjoy the space: the entertaining exhibits and scavenger hunts appeal to folks of all ages.

Wells' Built Museum
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Denise O.

4. Wells' Built Museum of African American History & Culture

Museums Carolina Florida

The historic Wells’ Built Hotel served as a lodge for African Americans during segregation times. Today, the hotel pays tribute to the city’s African American culture with memorabilia, a room featuring authentic décor from the 1930s and many artifacts. Also explore the nearby South Street Casino, Wells’ take on an organized entertainment area which, back in the day, hosted the likes of Ella Fitzgerald and Jackie Robinson.

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Orange County Regional History Center
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Lyndsey R.

5. Orange County Regional History Center

Museums Downtown Orlando

This beautifully restored 1927 brownstone court house, an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, boasts four floors of history that span from Central Florida’s early days as a Spanish cattle ranching town to the city’s current status as a theme park capital. Don’t miss the touching tribute to the victims of the 2016 shooting at Pulse nightclub and also make sure to walk through the research library, bursting with maps, personal papers and over 17,000 photos and postcards.

The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Richard F.

6. The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art

Museums Winter Park Gateway Center

Most visitors flock to this gem in Winter Park to gaze at its unparalleled collection of Tiffany productions. Most notably, an entire wing dedicated to the designer’s Long Island estate, Laurelton Hall. But the museum offers so much more, including a major exhibition of American art pottery. Complimentary cell phone audio tours will accompany your visit.

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Orlando Museum of Art
Photograph: Courtesy Visit Florida/Julie Fletcher

7. Orlando Museum of Art

Museums Lake Formosa

Orlando’s crème de la crème of museums is home to 10 to 12 rotating exhibits annually, featuring both contemporary and historic works—including 900 art pieces from the ancient Americas. Located on Loch Haven Park’s scenic ground, the area around the cultural institution is also home to theaters, other museums and the Orlando Science Center. Mingle, sip wine and discover local artists on the first Thursday of each month during the Orlando Original Art Party.

Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Melissa N.

8. Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens

Art Orwin Manor

This is the breathtaking, Mediterranean-style home of the late Czech-American sculptor Albin Polasek. Nestled on the shores of Lake Osceola, the gorgeous grounds are brimming with his figurative sculptures. The grounds, which include a chapel and his home, are open to the public and a offer a refreshing break from the resort crowds.

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The Mennello Museum of American Art
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Francesca A.

9. The Mennello Museum of American Art

Museums Lake Formosa

Initially established to preserve the works of twentieth century American folk artist Earl Cunningham, this Loch Haven Park cultural site focuses on both American contemporary and traditional artists. Stop by on the last Sunday and, before perusing the works, kick off your visit with a yoga flow class on the museum’s serene lakeside gardens.

Maitland Art Center
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Kanchan B.

10. Art & History Museums

Originally founded as an artist colony dedicated to experimental art, the destination is one of the only examples of “Mayan revival” architectural style in the Southeast. The museum encompasses five unique entities, including the Maitland Art Center, the Maitland Historical Museums, the Telephone Museum, the Carpentry Shop Museum and Waterhouse Residence Museum, and the 1884 Victorian home of William H. Waterhouse and his family.

Itching to spend time outdoors?

Wekiva Springs State Park
Photograph: Shutterstock

The 13 best parks in Orlando

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Florida is home to a diverse ecosystem—you could be sunbathing at the beach one minute and diving underground in freshwater caves the other minute—and the best parks in Orlando highlight just that. 

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