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72 Hours in Orlando: A Literacy Lover’s Guide

By Alina O'Donnell
 | Jun 14, 2017

Orlando Though the true origins remain unknown, some speculate that the city of Orlando was named after a character from Shakespeare’s As You Like It. Lending credence to this theory, Orlando’s lover in the comedy is named Rosalind, which is also the name of the main street that traverses the city. 

The reference would be fitting for a city that’s been home to a number of new and established literary icons, including Billy Collins, Campbell McGrath, John Green, Zora Neale Hurston, and Jack Kerouac. Today, Orlando has been called one of the best vacation spots for book nerds.  

Make the most of your time in Orlando by fitting in a few of these local literacy lures before, during, or after the International Literacy Association (ILA) 2017 Conference & Exhibits.

ILA Events

Poetry Olio: This verse and song presentation (to take place Saturday, July 15th at 7:30 p.m.) will feature poets, songwriters, and musicians and include open mic readings, surprise guests, and prizes.

Informal Storytelling Gathering: Listen to factual and fictional stories or share one of your own at the Informal Storytelling Gathering on Sunday, July 16th from 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Featured storytellers will present first at this informal gathering, and any audience member who wishes to speak may sign up to tell his or her story during the second half of the event.

Park Attractions

Literacy Night at Universal Orlando Resort™ caps off the first day of ILA 2017 on Saturday, July 15th beginning at 7:00 p.m. and going until the park closes. Attendees will receive discounted admission to Universal Studios Florida™ and the literature-themed Universal's Islands of Adventure™ as well as free shuttle service to and from the parks. 
 
Diagon Alley at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter™: One of the most popular attractions in Universal Studios, Harry Potter fans can wander through 20 acres of cobblestone streets, detailed facades, and labyrinthine passageways, breaking to drink butter beer, shop for magical wares, or exchange money at Gringotts Wizarding Bank.

Seuss Landing at Universal's Islands of Adventure™: You won’t find a single straight line on Seuss Landing—even down to the curved palm trees—which are replanted survivors of Hurricane Andrew. Attractions include the Green Eggs and Ham Café, the All the Books You Can Read bookstore (which offers every Dr. Seuss book ever written) and Oh! The Stories You’ll Hear! a regular live performance of Dr. Seuss books.

Marvel Super Hero Island at Universal's Islands of Adventure™: A draw for graphic novel, manga, and comic book lovers, the architecture on Marvel Super Hero Island looks like pop art. Visitors can meet Marvel heroes and villains and an impressive Comic Book Shop stocked with single-issue comic books, trade paperback collections, action figures, and other collectibles. 

Events

S.A.F.E.! Words! Poetry! Slam!: A raucous biweekly spoken-word event hosted by local writer Curtis Meyer. In the weeks between slams, he hosts a live, open-to-the-public writing and performance workshop series where two guest speakers share tips on the craft.

Orlando Shakespeare Theatre: This theater company produces classic, contemporary, and children’s plays, including several Shakespearean comedies.

Shops

A Comic Shop: Voted Best Comic Store by the Orlando Weekly, beyond its massive selection A Comic Shop serves craft beer and comfort food, and hosts weekly events including trivia, karaoke, dance night, and movie premieres. 

Literary Landmarks

Zora Neale Hurston National Museum of Fine Arts: Located just outside of Orlando, Hurton’s hometown of Eatonville was the first African-American town to be incorporated after the Civil War. The Zora Neale Hurston Museum of Fine Arts features works by artists of African descent. At the museum visitors can obtain maps for self-guided tours that will lead them to Hurton’s last home, the school where she taught, her church, and her unmarked grave.

The Jack Kerouac Project: Kerouac sought seclusion in a cottage in Northwestern Orlando from 1957–58 while completing On the Road and starting Dharma Bums. Today the house (which still contains several of Kerouac’s personal belongings) is run by the Kerouac Project, which has renovated and opened it to writers who are selected for a three month-long residence. The nonprofit occasionally opens the house to the public, or visitors can make a donation to arrange a private tour.

Alina O’Donnell is the editor of Literacy Daily.

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