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History Happens Here!

An view of the exterior of the Orange County Regional History Center.
Interior lobby of the Orange County Regional History Center featuring colorful art displays leading into the exhibit halls.

Some people think of Central Florida as being very young. Perhaps they think things really got started here around 1971 when a certain beloved mouse took up residence, but our history stretches back more than 14,000 years. Luckily, there is a place where you can learn all about it, the Smithsonian-affiliated Orange County Regional History Center.

The History Center’s story begins at the historic heart of the community and is entwined with the county’s series of courthouses – most of which occupied the spot next to the History Center that’s now Heritage Square Park. From Heritage Square, Orlando’s city limits were platted in 1857. In 1927, a neoclassical revival building designed by Florida’s first registered architect Murry S. King became the main courthouse. Today, that majestic building is home to the History Center. The museum’s four floors cover topics from our once booming citrus and cattle industries, adventurous space exploration, and our often-quirky tourism destinations.

Orange County Regional History Center exhibit showing the history of citrus in the state with a gallery of citrus crate labels.

Committed to keeping content fresh, authentic, and engaging, the museum recently installed interactive exhibitions where guests can learn about the first Europeans to land in Florida and learn the lost language of the Timucua who were here long before the Europeans arrived. The History Center offers limited-run exhibitions such as Figurehead: Music & Mayhem in Orlando’s Underground, on display until February 2, 2025. Guests will learn about how an Orlando concert promoter invigorated the music landscape of Central Florida between 1985 and 2001, and how our area had an impact on the industry globally. Visitors will also encounter “pocket exhibits” in the museum, one such exhibit on display until June 9 commemorates the FIFA World Cup coming to Orlando in 1994, and future exhibits will explore our area’s hotel history and recognize the 30th anniversary of local LGBTQ+ publication Watermark.

“This new concept makes use of small empty spaces – or pockets – in the museum and gives us the opportunity showcase unseen collection items,” relates Katie Kelley, Curator of Exhibitions. “Guests should definitely seek these out when the visit.”

A mother and daughter looking at a lighted scale diorama of Central Florida landmarks on display at the Orange County Regional History Center.

Museumgoers of all ages can enjoy live programming on their visits. The month of June includes a “shocking” Lunch & Learn about the history of lightning in Central Florida and the monthly family-friendly History Alive event will look at tourism. The History Center’s Education team offers a variety of programs for nontraditional classrooms, Boy Scouts, and the popular Adventures in History Summer Camp taking place now through August 2.

It’s good to know that, if you aren’t using Local Wanderer for your visit, admission to the Orange County Regional History Center is affordable at $8 for adults, $6 for children 5–12, and children 4 and under free. There are also a variety of discounts available, including $2 off with your OCLS library card. The museum is open seven days a week, 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Monday–Saturday, and Noon–5 p.m. on Sunday. On the third Thursday of the month, admission is free starting at 5 p.m. and it is open until 8 p.m. For more information, visit TheHistoryCenter.org or call 407.836.8500.

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