Do some people seem to raise an eyebrow when you mention historical attractions in metropolitan Orlando, Florida? You can’t blame them, really, considering the abundance of souvenirs, Mickey Mouse memorabilia, and theme parks that make Orlando “famous.” It’s a refreshing change of pace to learn that, if you like history more than thrill rides and huge crowds, you actually will find some places to satisfy your interests.
A great place to start is the museum known as Titanic Ship of Dreams. Years ago when I first visited, I loved anything about the doomed pleasure ship that disappeared under the ocean over 90 years ago. I had books, movies, and even a Titanic t-shirt in my little “collection.” I hoped that I wouldn’t be disappointed with the museum because I had been looking forward to it for a long time; after all, this *was* Orlando; wouldn’t it just be cheesy? How wrong I was! From beginning to end, the museum was beautifully furnished and turned out to be a great experience overall.
Not only were authentic items like chairs, clothing, and menus found at the wreck on display, but each room had a different atmosphere that made you feel as if you were truly on the Titanic. The outside deck, where you could stargaze and hear the terrified voices as the iceberg wreaked its havoc, was strangely cold and very dark, as it must have been that April night when passengers actually walked the deck. The rooms built to resemble the downstairs cargo holds and hallways were especially creepy; the lights kept faltering, blinking on and off the entire time. What a way to get into the story!
Perhaps the best part of the Titanic Ship of Dreams museum is the card you are given when you first pay admission. On it is a name of a real Titanic passenger or crew member; you temporarily “become” this person for the length of the tour. Near the end, you see a huge wall filled with names of those who were aboard Titanic. The chore is to scout the wall for “your” name and see whether or not “you” survived the sinking!
You can find the Titanic Museum at 8445 International Drive in Orlando. Be warned that this is a road notorious for its traffic, so the drive will not be as pleasant as the experience you are about to embark upon. (Actually, of all the roads I’ve ever traveled, this was without a doubt one of the most stressful). It’s well worth the effort, however. The museum is located within a shopping area known as “The Mercado.”
After you’ve “braved” the Titanic, you might want to stop by Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament for an unforgettable meal. This place has it all; a menu from ancient times, great seats and exciting show. And how many times can you actually watch knights jousting while you eat? The costumes alone are enough to visit. After enjoying your meal at the dinner theater, you might want to stop by the attached Medieval Life Village, a recreated medieval village museum. The museum is not very big, but there is plenty to see.
There are rooms made to resemble homes of both the rich and the poor; spacious canopy beds for nobility, and small cots for those less fortunate. The loom exhibition shows two weaving looms that are hundreds of years old, and the indoor kitchen as also beautifully reconstructed. Outside you will find a stable, the well, duck pen, and the restrooms – one for “Lords,” and one for “Ladies.”
Be on the lookout for dressed guides who will be working inside the museum. This is a great way to spend an evening after spending the day at the theme parks. I saw a man making chain mail, and it was very interesting to learn what intricate work it was and how tiring for the craftsman.
There are “rustic” gifts in the gift shop, as well as more whimsical items like authentic flower circlets (think of them as ancient headbands) but I found the prices to be a little unreasonable for such small items. Don’t forget to snap a few photos of the magnificent “castle” nearby that houses the theater complex.
The biggest “problem” I have found about traveling to Orlando is that there is never enough time to see everything that is available to see!
By Lacie R. Schaeffer