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The roads less traveled: What to do and where to go in Orlando

Sure Mickey's cute, but doesn't the Magic Kingdom get old after a while? SearchDomino has an abundance of suggestions to help you turn your stay in the Sunshine State for Lotusphere into a working vacation that you'll remember.

You know what they say about all work and no play. That applies to Lotusphere as well. But if you find the Magic Kingdom less than magical, Orlando has a lot more going for it than just theme parks. Rent a car and turn your stay in the Sunshine State into a working vacation that you'll remember long after you've forgotten all those technical sessions and Birds of a Feather get-togethers.

Playing hooky

If you can get away from the conference for a while, and you just can't stomach one more theme-park ride, check out the local color.

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Visit searchDomino's Lotusphere 2002 Special Events Page for the latest articles and product announcements from Orlando.
Add to your classic comic collection or simply browse the multitude of hard-to-find titles and the signed, limited-edition prints at Coliseum of Comics in Orlando Fashion Square; call 407-228-1210 for hours and directions.

Drive past the cottage where Jack Kerouac lived the year that On the Road made him the official bard of the Beat Generation. You can't tour the house -- it's now a residence and retreat for promising local writers -- but you can at least dig the vibe, man; Kerouac House, 1418-1/2 Clouser Ave.

For the artistically inclined, The Orlando Museum of Art (www.omart.org) offers a varied collection of American art, and currently has several special exhibits, including "Abroad and at Home: Paintings from the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art," featuring works by such late 19th- and early 20th-century American Impressionists as Mary Cassatt, John Singer Sargent, William Merritt Chase, Childe Hassam and Theodore Robinson, and "Of Power and Grace: The Art of Southern Africa, Selections and Gifts from the Norma Canelas and William D. Roth Collection," featuring beadwork, textiles and other objects of adornment; Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sunday, Noon-5 p.m., $6 for adults; 2416 N. Mills Ave., 407-896-4231.

The Mennello Museum of American Folk Art (http://www.mennellomuseum.com/) features a permanent exhibit of primitive works by artist Earl Cunningham. As a bonus, it's located in Loch Haven Park on Lake Formosa; Tuesday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Sunday, Noon-5 p.m., $4 for adults; 900 East Princeton St., 407-246-4278.

Entertain your kids -- or just indulge your inner child -- at the Orlando Science Center (http://www.osc.org), which features hands-on interactive exhibits such as the DinoDigs, the recreation of a paleontological excavation site, and "TechWorks: Imaginary Landscapes," where you can manipulate computer simulations to create your own fantasy worlds; 777 East Princeton St., 407-514-2000 or too-free at 888-OSC-4FUN.

For the ultimate in kitsch (outside Disney World, that is), check out Ripley's Believe It or Not Orlando Odditorium (http://www.ripleysorlando.com/). The self-guided tour takes one to two hours. If this is a must on your list, but you just can't play hooky, don't despair: It's open 9 a.m. to 1 a.m. seven days a week (last ticket sold at midnight); $14.95 plus tax for adults; 8201 International Drive; 407-363-4418.

If you just can't leave home without your RollerBlades, venture over to the West Orange Trail in nearby Winter Garden, Fla. (http://parks.onetgov.net/ParkDetails.asp?ParkID=44), voted the Best Place to Blade by The Orlando Weekly; 501 Crown Point Cross Rd., 407-654-5144.

FOR MORE INFORMATION
For more travel-related information on Orlando and the surrounding area, try the following Web sites:
Spend a leisurely afternoon strolling around historic Mount Dora, a New Englandesque village situated along Lake Harris, and cap off the day with an hour-long sunset cruise on the Rusty Anchor, 400 W. Fourth Ave.; call 352-383-3933 for hours and directions.

Just can't bear to face another Lotusphere mega-event? Then ditch the Wednesday night party at Disney-MGM, and head over to the TD Waterhouse Centre, where the Orlando Magic take on the L.A. Lakers; Wednesday, Jan. 30, 8 p.m., $10-$80; 600 W. Amelia St., 407-849-2020.

CityWalk, a mega-entertainment complex of restaurants, clubs and shops located between Universal Studios' two theme parks, gets good reviews from both locals and tourists, replacing the once popular Church Street Station as an all-purpose party mecca. Restaurants and clubs include Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville, Motown Cafe, Hard Rock Live and Emeril's Restaurant Orlando; 11 a.m.-2 a.m.; 6000 Universal Studios Plaza, 407-363-8000.

Take an advantage of the mild weather and see Orlando on two wheels with an afternoon of biking around town (http://www.cityoforlando.net/planning/transportation/bikeways/tourmaps.html), and get links to local cycle shops that rent bikes at: http://www.cityoforlando.net/planning/transportation/bikeways/bikshops.html.

If you just gotta see some gators before you leave Florida, check out the Little Econ Greenway (http://parks.onetgov.net/ParkDetails.asp?ParkID=25), a nature trail in Jay Blanchard Park; 2451 Dean Rd., 407-249-4586.

Before and after

If you're arriving in Orlando before the conference begins, or staying after it ends, escape the theme park madness by trying some of these local events:

Friday, Jan. 25

Mozart Gala: Genius of Youth, a concert by the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by George Manahan and featuring pianists Steven Lin and Han Inn Chang; 8 p.m., $12-$50; Bob Carr Performing Arts Centre, 401 W Livingston St., 407-849-2577 or 407-426-1700.

If classical music puts you to sleep, The Wailers, Bob Marley's former band, offer roots, rock, reggae at The House of Blues; 7:30 p.m., $15 and $17.50; Downtown Disney West Side, Lake Buena Vista, Fla., 407-934-2583.

Make a wish upon a star at The Crosby Observatory at the Orlando Science Center, which offers public stargazing on Friday and Saturday nights. A refractor telescope with a 10-inch lens reveals the planets, the four moons of Jupiter, the rings of Saturn and such deep sky objects as galaxies, nebulas and double stars, according to the Center's Web site (www.osc.org). Smaller telescopes are also available; 7-10 p.m. (weather permitting); 777 East Princeton Street, 407-514-2000 or toll-free at 888-OSC-4FUN. (Note: Saturday hours are 6 p.m.-10 p.m.)

Saturday, Jan. 26

Blues artist Sonny Rhodes, whose singing has been described by critics as both "impassioned" and "gritty," plays the Blues Kitchen at the House of Blues; 11 p.m., no cover; Downtown Disney West Side, Lake Buena Vista, Fla., 407-934-2583. (Note: Rhodes also appears at the same place, same time, on Friday, Jan. 25.)

Thursday, Jan. 31

Leapin' Lizards, Batman! Remember those funky, brightly painted cows that turned up in cities like New York and Chicago a year or two back? It seems Orlando has had an array of over 65 giant, colorful lizards stationed around town, and on the 31st they'll go home with the highest bidders. Check out the fun -- and launch your career as an art collector -- at the LizArt Auction (http://www.lizart.org/auction.htm); 7 p.m. (festivities start at 5 p.m.), free; City Hall Plaza, 407-246-3278. (Note: All 65 lizards will be on display starting Sunday, Jan. 27, in the City Hall Rotunda.)

Friday, Feb. 1

Now don't tell me you've nothin' to do. Get out and see country gospel band The Statler Brothers (best known for their 1960s hit "Flowers on the Wall," featured on the Pulp Fiction soundtrack -- you know, "...smokin' cigarettes and watchin' Captain Kangaroo..."); 8 p.m., $32-$38.50; King Center for Performing Arts, 3865 N. Wickham Rd., Melbourne, Fla., 321-242-2219.

Saturday, Feb. 2

SATURDAAAAAAY!!! AT THE CITRUS BOWL!!! MONSTER TRUCKS!!! SATURDAAAAAAY!!! Admit it -- you always wanted to go to one of these manly-man, dirt-track competitions. Now you can do it without anyone at home knowing about it. The Superbowl of Motorsports, 7:30 p.m., $12 and $14; Florida Citrus Bowl, 1610 W. Church St., 407-849-2020.

Sunday, Feb. 3

If you didn't skip the Wednesday night party to catch the Orlando Magic-L.A. Lakers game, you have another chance to catch the NBA in action when the San Antonio Spurs come to town on Sunday afternoon; 2:30 p.m., $10-$80; TD Waterhouse Centre, 600 W. Amelia St., 407-849-2020.

Day tripping

If you want to extend your stay with an adventure into the great outdoors or a short road trip outside of Orlando, visit one of Central Florida's state parks or wildlife preserves, or drive over to either coast.

To the East, just 35 or so miles from Orlando, visit Florida's Space Coast (www.space-coast.com), home to the Kennedy Space Center, the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame, the Cape Canaveral National Seashore, Daytona Beach and the Cocoa Beach Pier. If you can extend your stay as long as Feb. 5, you can view the launch of Atlas II, NASA's Tracking and Data Relay Satellite.

To the West, about and hour and a half away via the I-4 corridor, lie the pristine beaches of Florida's Gulf Coast, including Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater. For information on outdoor recreation in the area, check out; for a guide to restaurants, attractions and accommodations, try Citysearch: Tampa Bay at http://tampabay.citysearch.com.

Swim with the Manatees in Crystal River, Florida, 90 minutes northwest of Orlando, where every year between November and March some 300 West Indian manatees migrate. You can observe these 3,000-pound endangered creatures at the Fishbowl Underwater Observatory at Homosassa Springs State Wildlife Park, or actually get in the water with them on an excursion with the American Pro-Diving Center in Crystal River (http://www.americanprodiving.com/).

If hiking and camping are your ideal ways to unwind after overloading on Rnext info, Central Florida is home to 16 state parks and wildlife areas, such as Kissimmee State Park, about an hour to the south in Lake Wales, Fla., where you can explore 13 miles of hiking trails and stay in one of 60 camp sites (reservations recommended; call 941-696-1112 for info. The adventure travel Web site GORP.com has the skinny on all 16 parks at: http://www.gorp.com/gorp/publishers/foghorn/cam_fl.htm.

For additional hiking and camping, check out Ocala National Forest, home to the Florida National Scenic Trail, located between Orlando and Gainesville (352-669-3153). Contact the Florida Trail Association in Gainesville for more information on hiking throughout the state (800-343-1882).

Paddle around Central Florida in a canoe at Rock Springs Run in Wekiwa State Park or Juniper Creek in the Ocala National Forest, which tied for Best Canoe Runs on the Orlando Weekly's "Best of Orlando" list. Each spot has a canoe rental business for the amateur enthusiast. For rentals at Rock Springs, call King's Landing (407-886-0859); for rentals at Juniper Creek, call Recreation Resource Management (352-625-2808).


Leslie Jaye Goff, the author of Get Your IT Career in Gear! Practical Advice for Building a Career in Information Technology (2001, McGraw-Hill/Osborne Media, Berkeley, Calif.), is a freelance writer based in New York.

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