Orlando Downtown Walking Tour, Orlando

Orlando Downtown Walking Tour (Self Guided), Orlando

Orlando, Florida, the county seat of Orange County, is also known affectionately as the "Sunshine State's Crown Jewel".

The history of Orlando dates back to the mid-19th century when the area was inhabited by Native American tribes. In 1838, during the Second Seminole War, the US Army built Fort Gatlin in the vicinity. The settlement around the fort eventually grew, and in 1857, it was renamed Orlando.

The etymology of the name "Orlando" is somewhat debated. Some claim it was after certain Orlando Reeves, a US Army soldier, who had been killed in the area during the war. The name was reportedly chosen by a local resident who suggested that since this place is often spoken of as 'Orlando's Grave', let's drop the word 'grave' and let the county seat be Orlando.

The city experienced slow growth until the late 19th century when the arrival of the railroad spurred its development. Over time, Orlando evolved from a rural citrus-growing region into a thriving city known for its tourism industry, entertainment, and economic diversity.

Orlando's economy is driven by various sectors, with tourism being a significant contributor. Primarily, the city is renowned for its world-class theme parks, such as Walt Disney World Resort, Universal Orlando Resort, SeaWorld Orlando, and others. Beyond these, however, Orlando offers a vibrant cultural scene. The Downtown area, an enchanting urban nexus, embodies a fusion of sophistication, cultural verve, and dynamic allure.

Among the notable local attractions is Wells' Built Museum. Originally a hotel for African Americans during the era of segregation, today this landmark highlights the struggle for civil rights and equality.

Another popular location, the Church Street Station, is a former railroad depot. First built in the late 1880s, during the 1970s and 80s, it served as an entertainment complex but today resumed operation as a commuter rail stop once again.

The Orange County Regional History Center is a museum that offers a comprehensive look into the history of Central Florida and the Orlando region.

Amid the bustling city streets, the verdant oasis of Lake Eola Park beckons weary souls to find solace and serenity. This park is home to the iconic Linton E Allen Memorial Fountain, which is beautifully illuminated at night.

As twilight casts its mesmerizing glow upon the city, Downtown Orlando transforms into a pulsating hub of nocturnal energy. If you wish to indulge in its rhythms, both day and night, and explore the vibrant and bustling core of the city, take your time and enjoy yourself in Downtown Orlando on this self-guided walking tour.
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Orlando Downtown Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Orlando Downtown Walking Tour
Guide Location: USA » Orlando (See other walking tours in Orlando)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 4
Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.1 Km or 1.3 Miles
Author: brian
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Wells’ Built Museum
  • Church Street Station
  • Orange County Regional History Center
  • Lake Eola Park
Wells’ Built Museum

1) Wells’ Built Museum

The Wells' Built Hotel is a historic establishment that has been transformed into an African-American museum. It's situated in the heart of Orlando's historic Parramore district. The hotel was originally constructed by Dr. William Monroe Wells to cater to African-American visitors to Orlando. This was during a time when segregation was rampant, and African-Americans were not allowed to stay in Florida's segregated hotels.

Dr. William M. Wells was a prominent African-American physician in Orlando during the early 20th century. He arrived in Orlando in 1917 and in 1921, he built the hotel to provide accommodation for African-Americans who were not welcome in the racially segregated hotels of Florida. Shortly thereafter, he also constructed the South Street Casino, an entertainment venue designed to host black performers on tour. Together, these establishments became central symbols within the African American music community.

The Wells' Built Hotel played host to numerous famous African-American artists who stayed there and performed at the Casino. Some notable names include Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie, Ray Charles, Cab Calloway, Ivory Joe Hunter, B.B. King, Louis Armstrong, Guitar Slim, and Bo Diddley. Many other prominent African Americans also visited, including sports legend Jackie Robinson and Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.

Although the Casino no longer exists, the original hotel remains standing and has been converted into a modest museum dedicated to African American history. In recognition of its historical significance, Wells' Built Hotel was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in February 2000.
Church Street Station

2) Church Street Station

Constructed in 1889, Church Street Station is also known as the Old Orlando Railroad Depot. The South Florida Railroad, which connected Orlando and Tampa to the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad, served this station. The railroad was the work of Henry B. Plant, and it brought tourists from up north who developed the area. Church Street Station was Orlando's central train hub until 1926 when traffic was moved to what is now the Orlando Health/Amtrak Station. In the 1970s, the building and property were purchased to turn the area into an entertainment center.

During the 1970s and 80s, the station served as a nightclub complex, where you could club hop through different themed clubs for one admission price. At one time, it was the fourth biggest attraction in Florida. It's success led Disney to create Pleasure Island, which became part of Downtown Disney, and Universal to create City Walk. Among the many attractions were an old west saloon and opera house.

After some crazy turns of events that involved possible ghost sightings and FBI raids, and historic locomotives, the property went through several revivals and declines. SunRail trains currently stop at the station here, and there is a New Orleans-style event venue. The Mad Cow Theater puts on performances to suit every taste and style. Nearby the Amway Center hosts the local NBA team, the Orlando Magic. There are numerous bars and restaurants nearby in what is known as the Church Street district.
Orange County Regional History Center

3) Orange County Regional History Center

The Orange County Regional History Center is known as one of Central Florida’s best museums. Located on Central Boulevard, the center features thousands of unique items that tell the history of Central Florida’s history. The exhibition hall was established in 1927.

The museum contains a wide range of objects. Furniture, toys, dolls, artwork, business items, quilts, hats, military items, and technology are some of the many items you will see. Of most interest are the 16,000 postcards and photographs that date back to the 1870s. The postcards and photographs offer an intimate glimpse into the past.

The center has several programs that are geared towards the needs of patrons. The Passport History Summer Camp, History Holiday Camp, and Spring Break Camp allow children to pursue their interests in history. Exhibits on current events and lectures from university professors occur frequently and programs for schools and organizations offer a unique glimpse into the museum’s collections. Dinners that feature respected speakers and game nights allow adults to participate in the fun.

Visiting hours are Monday through Saturday from 10 am to 5 pm and Sunday from 12 pm to 5 pm. The Docent Program hosts museum expeditions and gives volunteers of the museum’s history center.
Lake Eola Park

4) Lake Eola Park (must see)

Located on Rosalind Avenue in Orlando, Florida, the Lake Eola Park is a popular meeting place for locals and visitors. The attractive and picturesque recreational area is famous for the Linton E. Allen Memorial Fountain, located in the nearby Eola Lake, which changes colors at night. Park visitors will enjoy the 43 acres of sidewalks that allow one to jog or walk while enjoying the scenic views. In addition, there are gondolas and swan-shaped boats available for rental that glide up and down the lake.

There is something for everyone at Eola Lake. A playground for children, a small outdoor terrace café when you need a bite to eat, and the nearby Walt Disney Amphitheatre are some of the treats you will enjoy when you visit. There is also a Chinese pagoda on the grounds.

Many popular events take place in the park. The Spin City Classic features professional and amateur bicycle races every March. Each July, a fireworks exhibit celebrates the Fourth of July, and Fiesta in the Park features arts and crafts, as well as entertainment.

Sundays, with nice weather, are a particularly good time, as there is a farmers' market (10am-4pm), along with food & beer vendors.
There are two quarter feeders if you'd like to feed the swans the bird feed – one next to the pagoda and the other by the playground.
Speaking of which, here you will find one of Orlando's better playgrounds for children. It has slides, juggle gyms, merry-go-rounds and more.

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Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.9 Km or 1.2 Miles