There are so many wonderful things about the State of Florida and many of them are just plain free! On this site, I'll be exploring the free side of Florida as well as low cost options for your weekends or vacation. But because I don't want to steer you wrong, I'll post after I visit these places myself. Have a great time on the site and on your own adventures!

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The Orange County Regional History Center

Today I visited the Orange County Regional History Center located in Downtown Orlando. What a cool place! The cost of admission was more than I thought would fit this site, but honestly, I believe the $9 is worth it.

Upon entering the building, the visitor is greeted with the sweet scent of orange blossoms that follows you through all four floors of the Center. To the right is the information desk where admission is paid - be sure to ask for the free audio guide as well. The hand held device is simple to use and accompanies the exhibits as you tour through.

Visitors start on the fourth floor and work their way down - basically, you are taken from prehistoric times at the top down to modern times near the bottom. History starts around 12,000 years ago, but don't worry. It doesn't take you year by year! The Timucuans are recognized as the first inhabitants of the peninsula and lived for hundreds of years as the only people. Eventually, Europeans "discovered" the land and shoved the natives south. Long (but interesting) story short, the Timucuans became the Creek, and the Creek became the Seminole tribe we know today. The displays of these times are fantastic with log structures, statues depicting different people at different times in Florida's history, trees, and even an authentic Timucuan canoe. The ambiance of the floors is comparable to Disney in their attention to detail.

There are even nature sounds complimenting each area you find yourself in!

The European and northern U.S. settlers have their own history at the Center as well. The Spanish were the first to come in and rule Florida for over 250 years. There is only a brief section devoted to them, as the rest is dedicated to settlers' progress. One small part shows a scale model of Ft. Christmas, which I've already visited. **TIP** Visit the Orange County Regional History Center first, then go to Fort Christmas. That way, you can learn the history and then see it in person.

Another section brings the visitor the story of black settlements, the role of black people in the Civil War, and eventually the hardships they went through in order to have homes of their own and property ownership. The first incorporated all-black town in the U.S. is the City of Eatonville, right here in Central Florida. I plan to visit the town during the Zora Festival, so keep an eye out for that post in the future.

Finally, you are brought into the modern time through what I'll call the Orange Room. The room is not orange, but dedicated to the orange grove industry here. I loved seeing the orange crate labels prominently displayed on the wall. Such color and vibrancy!

Other sections that I have not yet mentioned are the sections on flight, Disney, the original courtroom (the History Center used to be the Orange County Courthouse), and for the hungry there are squirrel and possum recipes!

All in all, I highly recommend a visit to the Orange County Regional History Center in downtown Orlando. I spent nearly two hours exploring, but it could easily take half a day. For more information, please visit www.thehistorycenter.org

Click HERE for a map.

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