Culture + Style

Strange Orlando Attractions You Should See

The Museum of Speed (Photo: Rafael Tongol)

For a reason that’s not yet clear, people who collect things — the curious, nostalgic and odd — gravitate to Orlando. They’re eager to share their inventory, often, and open small-time exhibitions to the public. The facilities may lack slick brochures, or even keep regular hours, but they do educate and entertain visitors interested in the inventory. Here are four odd odes to single subjects.

The Presidents Hall of Fame

strange-orlando-attractions-presidents-hall-of-fame-02.jpgThe Presidents Hall of Fame (Photo: Rafael Tongol)

John Zweifel grew up during World War II, a time of overt patriotism. “Everyone was waving a flag,” the proud American says today. This infectious love of country ultimately led Zweifel to create a museum dedicated to the White House. It’s petite and quirky, a love-borne tribute to the Washington, D.C., original and its inhabitants. At its heart are miniature recreations of every room of the White House during each president’s residency, down to curtain fabrics and electrical wires. The displays are rotated regularly, so you’ll see different decors each visit. Animatronic presidents, actual china, original Christmas cards, and a dresser from Caroline Kennedy’s bedroom also serve as windows into America’s royalty.

Fantasy of Flight

strange-orlando-attractions-fantasy-of-flight-museum.jpgFantasy of Flight Museum (Photo: Greg Goebel/Flickr)

Kermit Weeks is a lifelong aviator and airplane collector, and today the fan of flying shares his collection with fanatics at his own personal museum. Fridays through Sundays most of the year, Weeks invites visitors to a one-time maintenance hangar now filled with vintage flying machines. Meander among the eclectic collection, which might include a 1945 Grumman Duck and a 1944 B-24J Liberator, among other sky-soarers far different from the megajet you flew to reach Central Florida. Outside, watch other customers take to the air in old bi-planes. Or, sign up for a spin yourself.

Museum of Speed

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The Museum of Speed (Photo: Rafael Tongol)

Kids 13 and under are banned from Museum of Speed. Be thankful for that so their whining won’t ruin your fun. This weekday museum is an immersion into the past few decades. It’s aimed at parents and grandparents who’ll remember when the featured displays were au courant. Classic autos are crux of the collection, and those are changed out regularly as one sells and another replaces it. Whether you spot your heartthrob muscle car, an old-time ambulance or even a vintage hearse, you’ll unearth plenty of memories. Amusement park bumper cars intrigue, as do retired road signs, 1950s black and white TVs, a 1959 Cadillac sofa, signed guitars … 7,000 square feet crammed with you-never-know-what. To point: antique funeral items like an embalming pump and lobotomy tools.

Gatorland

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Gatorland (Photo: Rafael Tongol)

Orlando embraces its chic new restaurants, speakeasies and spas, sure, yet visitors should certainly seek out the remaining remnants of Old Florida. Gatorland is chief among these kitschy yet charming attractions. After entering through a faux giant alligator mouth, you’ll have encounters — safe ones, always — with thousands of the native reptiles. Weathered wooden boardwalks invite casual viewing. For more action, watch the Jumparoo show and see a pro do some “gator wrestlin’.” Zip line and trainer-for-a-day add-ons enhance the offbeat experience.