Orlando, Florida audio tour: Beyond the Theme Parks: Orlando’s Historical Highlights

Beyond the Theme Parks: Orlando’s Historical Highlights

Walking Tour

60 mins

About the Tour

When you hear “Orlando”, the first image that comes to mind is probably Mickey Mouse and Disney World. While our theme parks are important, the city’s history is much older than Disney’s arrival in 1971. This walking tour through downtown Orlando’s highlights the area’s history, beginning with the Seminole Indian settlements.

As you walk through the city center, you’ll encounter established landmarks, including the Orlando Public Library, Lake Eola, and Church Street Station. Along the way, you’ll meet the cattle barons, citrus farmers, gunslingers and NASA engineers who helped put Orlando on the map way before Disney waltzed into town. You’ll also discover little-known tidbits about our past including:

• The city’s connection to William Shakespeare
• Why the public library is considered both a dream and a nightmare
• The central park that used to house a zoo and even a horse race track
• Florida’s wild west
• Exploding orange trees
• Where serial killer Ted Bundy was jailed

Why would anyone choose to make their home in a place originally called Mosquito County? Take this tour to find out!

Allow an hour to complete the tour. You’ll pass a variety of bars and restaurants during the tour, so feel free to take a brief – or lengthy – pause to enjoy them.

Tour Producer


Michael Perkins

I worked at the Orange County Regional History Center for over 25 years, first as Chief Curator, and then the last six years as Executive Director. During this time I studied Central Florida's history, discovering how rich and fascinating it is. I love to tell these stories, and hope that you enjoy hearing them.

Major Landmarks

  • Lake Eola

  • Historic Downtown

  • Old Railroad Depot

Directions to Starting Point

The tour begins just outside of the parking garage located directly across the street from the downtown Orlando Public Library. There is street parking in the area, but parking in the garage is most convenient. It's best to enter the garage on the Central Boulevard side, and then walk to the outside of the garage on the Central Boulevard side to begin the tour.

Show Directions
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Places to stop along the way

Lake Eola is a great place to walk if the weather is cooler. It's a mile to walk around, and even has swan boats to rent and paddle around. If you are interested in learning more about the area's history, visit the Regional History Center at the end of the tour. The museum has won national awards for its exhibits and storytelling, and tells the entire history of the community. During your tour you will pass a few great restaurants for lunch or dinner as you walk Church Street, particularly near the old train depot.

Best time of day

The best time to take the tour is either morning before 11:00AM or after 5:00PM. Orlando lights up and become much more active in the evening, as the local bars and clubs open.


You may want to bring some water and sunblock, particularly during the summer months. An umbrella is always a good idea. You will be crossing various busy intersections, so be careful.


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Beyond the Theme Parks: Orlando’s Historical Highlights