Some folks down in Orlando have been trying to get the word out for years--"this town isn't just about theme parks, we've got culture, too." And it's true, as I can attest, having seen their symphony, ballet and some of the many museums gracing the city and surrounding area. In keeping with a national trend of growing interest in culture, the Orlando Visitors Bureau has come out with an African-American Travel Guide, highlighting an array of historical information, services, events, and cultural and entertainment opportunities there.
The guide is available free on request, its 24 pages offering insight into special activities, worship, dining, shopping, nightlife, business and personal services, media, local African-American organizations, and maps. There's also a short history of African-Americans in Orlando's past.
Among sites of interest are the following: the Wells'Built Museum of African-American History (in downtown Orlando), a former hotel where guests included Duke Ellington and Ray Charles; Eatonville, a town just north of Orlando, home of the Zora Neale Hurston National Museum of Fine Arts. There is also a festival here, held each January (next on January 23-26, 2003), celebrating (next year) the theme of 50 Years of Black Theater.
According to a 2002 National Leisure Travel Monitor issued by YPB/Yankelovich Partners, 61% of African-Americans surveyed said that visiting arts, architecture and historical sites while traveling for leisure was either "extremely desirable" or "very desirable."
Other events of interest to African-American travelers include several Martin Luther King Jr. celebrations in January, as well as the All Star Gridiron Classic at the Citrus Bowl; Black History Month celebrations in February, and a Festival of Rhythm and Blues; the Winter Park Sidewalk Art Festival in March; the Kissimmee Jazz Fest in April; the Orlando Caribbean-style Carnival in May; Juneteenth in June; Jazz Jams in Central Park (Winter Park) in July; Founders Day Festival in Eatonville in August; the Classic Soul Festival in November; and Kwanzaa celebrations in December.
Get a copy of the guide by phoning the Orlando CVB at 800/352-6244. In Orlando, pick up a copy at the Visitor Center, 8723 International Drive, open 8 to 7 daily except December 25. The Web site is www.orlandoinfo.com.